Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sugar tax could save 1600 lives, raise $400 million, Australian research shows

This is complete and utter rubbish founded upon unproven and improbable assumptions.  We all eat huge amounts of sugar. If sugar were bad for us we would all be dead. Instead our life expectancy continually improves.

Robert Lustig for years demonized sugar while other medical researchers pointed out how the evidence did not support him.  So what has changed?  All that evidence has not gone away.  It's still there.

What has happened is the need some people seem to feel for sounding alarms.  They like to dramatize themselves as wiser than the herd. So when the decades-long demonization of dietary fat finally foundered on the rock of actual evidence, a new boogeyman had to be found.  And sugar was elected. 

The only evidence anyone has about the badness of sugar is a few epidemiological studies, which intrinsically CANNOT identify the cause of anything and are regularly misinterpreted

A 20 per cent tax on sugar-sweetened beverages could save more than 1600 lives and raise at least $400 million a year for health initiatives, new Australian research shows.

The study, co-written by the Obesity Policy Coalition and the University of Queensland's School of Public Health, is the first of its kind to model Australian population data to assess the impact of a sugary drinks tax.

In the first 25 years of a sugary drinks tax there could be 16,000 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes, 4400 fewer cases of heart disease and more than 1000 fewer cases of stroke, according to the study.

"This sort of study ... provides the evidence base needed to support policy decisions by government, like taxing sugary drinks," said Obesity Policy Coalition executive manager Jane Martin, who co-wrote the study.

"It's quite hard to have a policy that is likely to reduce body mass index, because it is quite hard for people to lose weight. This is a policy proposal that would support people to consume less sugary drinks, leading to reduced BMIs, reduced incidences of disease and then reduced deaths."

According to the study, a tax in Australia could lead to a 12.6 per cent reduction in consumption of sugary drinks, the largest contributors of added sugars in Australians' diets.

The biggest consumers are among males aged 19 to 30 years, consuming up to 1.5 litres per day, while the top 10 per cent of consumers drink more than one litre a day (including diet drinks). In 2015 Australians purchased around 1.1 billion litres of sugary drinks at a total cost of $2.2 billion, excluding those purchased at fast-food outlets, vending machines and convenience stores.

Ms Martin said Australia's consumption rates highlighted the money that could be raised for health initiatives.

"The tax at one end saves lives, improves quality of life, raises revenue and ultimately reduces healthcare costs."

The research findings come only weeks after the British government announced it would introduce a sugar levy on soft drinks from 2018, a move which prompted calls for the Australian government to follow suit.

Anurag Sharma is a senior research fellow at the Monash University Centre for Health Economics, whose research has outlined the potential impact a tax would have across different income groups.

He said his research showed the burden of the tax was "almost negligible".

"Low-income individuals would reduce consumption the most and they would be the most to benefit in terms of weight reduction."

In 2014, Mr Sharma and his team compared a 20 per cent flat rate sales (valoric) tax and a 20¢ a litre volumetric tax.

Their research showed the average yearly per capita tax burden on low-income households was $17.87 compared with $15.17 for high-income households for the valoric tax, and $13.80 and $10.10 for the volumetric tax.

"We found the volumetric tax to be more effective in reducing obesity, because those heavy drinkers tend to buy multipacks which can be cheaper," Mr Sharma said.


Moron feminist takes two small incidents and hangs huge generalizations on them

Widely-read Australian feminist, Em Rusciano, below, takes two slightly off-colour incidents and claims that they prove what a bad lot "men" are. If that's feminist logic, it sure discredits feminism.  I can find two incidents that will prove anything and everything by her criteria. 

Generalizations need to be founded on representative sampling, not one-off incidents.  If you like unrepresentative sampling, just stand outside a divorce court for half a day and you will find a stream of men who will give you chapter and verse to prove that WOMEN are a bad lot

TO THE people raising the future men of the world: I’ve been forced to contact you, because the level of online douchery and quite frankly predatory behaviour aimed at young women, has this week hit an all time dickhead high score.

By now, I’m sure you’ve read about the man who took a creep shot of a woman doing her fruit and veggie shopping at Woolies. He thought it would be romantic to post it on their Facebook page and then say he’d turn up everyday in the same spot until she acknowledged him.

It was also a huge week for prestigious higher education institutions.

Male students at Sydney’s UNSW filmed themselves on a bus trip chanting the following: "I wish that all the ladies were little red foxes, and if I were a hunter I’d shoot them in the boxes.”

Not since Lennon and McCartney have such lyrical heights been reached.

The delightful Melbourne University crew were found to have a Facebook page that rates female students’ looks, tells you where you can find them, and provides delightful photo captions such as: "I bet some vibrato on her G-string would sound nice”. Hint: the woman they were rating was a musician.

I have two daughters, and when I read these kinds of things, I completely despair as to what kind of world I’m sending them into.

You see, I can teach them all manner of things about life. I can arm them with the tools to deal with certain challenges. But in this particular scenario, I’m completely impotent.

I can’t stop men from taking photos of them without their consent. I can’t teach boys that chanting words that glorify acts of rape and violence against my girls is gross and wrong.

So, I’m asking you to have higher expectations of your sons’ behaviour. I’m asking all fathers to model their own behaviour in a manner that shows their sons how to respect women. Hey, lets not stop there. Why not be respectful of all humans in general?

I’m asking that all mothers be courageous enough to squash any inequality, should it pop up even in the tiniest way. As women, I’m sure you never want to be objectified, so don’t accept it from your sons or their fathers.

Teach them to be in tune with their own feelings. Allow them to explore a range of negative emotions, not just anger.

Tell them that it’s OK to be sad, vulnerable and sensitive. I believe forcing young men to repress emotions leads to frustration and bad behaviour down the track.

I don’t think it’s right that I have to tell my girls that they need to adjust their behaviour and actions to compensate for the possibility of a man not being able to control himself.

Realistically I’m going to have to, but I’d rather not.

Finally, remind them that girls are their equals and are people first. Remind them that no­ one is better than them — or less than them — because of what gender they are.

I have no doubt that a lot of you already do this. I am in no way saying that all your sons will behave in this manner.

I’m just a mother trying to help shape and change the world in which her daughters are growing up, so that they may be the best humans they can be.


Another university grievance mongers’ song and dance

What a marvellously McCarthyesque moment. On the ABC’s 7.30 this week the shamefaced former collaborator admitted to his inquisitors that he saw the error of his ways. James Dunn, a big burly country boy who’s treasurer of Baxter College at the University of NSW, acknow­ledged that even last year he was involved in the college’s annual Boys Night Out activities where they chanted "appalling” songs.

Now that furious students are protesting against these "disgusting songs which glorify rape”, he has seen the light. "I’m condemning my own actions at this time,” he blushingly disclosed.

And the lyrics of the song 7.30 described as "hideous”?

I wish that all the ladies were buns in the oven

And if I was a baker

I’d cream them by the dozen

Crude? Yes, bawdy and lusty, but also a typical drinking song, the type of vulgar sexual ditty that has been part of our culture since before Chaucer’s time. I remember the girls at Ascham School romping through a performance of the Canterbury Tales that included the memorable lines:

And prively he caughte hire by the queynte,

And seyde, ‘Y-wis, but if ich have my wille,

For derne love of thee, lemman, I spille.’

Not so different. But, then, these female fascists probably would like to ban Chaucer too.

The Baxter drinking song speaks not of rape but of men’s desire for sex, an urge some feminist lobby groups appear to regard as reprehensible. Here’s Jocelyn Dracakis, a student rep on the UNSW Council: "It shows lyrics that glorify acts of rape … It’s completely revolting that this kind of behaviour has been allowed to take place in the college.”

Among the lyrics sung by students and replayed on 7.30 was this little gem: "I’d like to tickle their clitoris.” Rape culture? On the contrary. Isn’t this exactly what we women have long been asking for? How it is possible that this nonsense was the leading story on our ABC’s top current affairs program? Let’s hope Michelle Guthrie takes note.

The most depressing aspect of this whole affair is the lobbyists have persuaded the university administration to cave in to their strident demands that such songs be verboten. The university released a statement saying it was "appalled by the sexist and demeaning attitudes and behaviours” and had "taken steps to insure that incidents of this kind do not occur again”.

Surely our intellectual elite should have the guts to stand up to these crazy grievance mongers. OK, young men’s right to sing a dirty ditty isn’t actually a noble cause. But there are important issues at stake in the inability of university authorities to withstand such silly, vexatious campaigns.

This month the University of Sydney Union gave in to protests and decided the 88-year-old Catholic Society at the university should face deregistration on the grounds that it was discriminatory to require senior members to be Catholic — that’s despite the union funding a "women’s room” and a centre for indigenous students. Similarly lily-livered behaviour now characterises some of the world’s leading universities.

Late last year British columnist James Delingpole wrote a marvellous column in response to the decision by Oriel College at Oxford to give in to student demands to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes, British imperial hero and founder of the Rhodes scholarship. Delingpole penned the letter he wished Oriel College had sent to the black South African student demonstrator. It included some memorable statements:

"Of course, you are perfectly within your rights to squander your time at Oxford on silly, vexatious, single-issue political campaigns … We are well used to seeing undergraduates — or, in your case, postgraduates — making idiots of themselves. Just don’t expect us to indulge your idiocy, let alone genuflect before it. You may be black — ‘BME’ as the grisly modern terminology has it — but we are colourblind.

"We do not discriminate over sex, race, colour or creed. We do, however, discriminate according to intellect. That means, inter alia, that when our undergrads or postgrads come up with fatuous ideas, we don’t pat them on the back, give them a red rosette and say: ‘Ooh, you’re black and you come from South Africa. What a clever chap you are!’

"No. We prefer to see the quality of those ideas tested in the crucible of public debate. That’s another key part of the Oxford intellectual tradition, you see: you can argue any damn thing you like but you need to be able to justify it with facts and logic — otherwise your idea is worthless.”

Where’s the logic in claiming a song about tickling the clitoris contributes to the rape culture? A trivial issue, perhaps, but symptomatic of a wider malaise.


Degrees are more necessary than ever before, but the rewards aren’t as great

HAVING a degree has become a basic prerequisite for most careers. Those without a degree are more likely to be disadvantaged in career and economic terms.

You could think of this as somewhat like mobile phone ownership. Twenty years ago, those of us without a mobile phone got by just fine — having one was a status symbol. Now, even though the phones are much, much better, having one is nothing special. And those without one will really struggle.

Yet widespread participation in higher education has implications for individuals. On the one hand, the more people who have a degree, the more this becomes a basic expectation for employers. On the other hand, the more having a degree becomes a basic expectation, the less "special” it is and the lower the premium, in terms of pay, that can be gained.

We can see this clearly in shifts in graduate starting salaries. Since the mid-1970s, median annual starting salaries for bachelor degree graduates have deteriorated steadily.

In 1977, when a minority of people completed high school, let alone went to university, graduates of engineering, education, computer science, social work, veterinary science and agricultural science all had starting salaries above male average weekly earnings (MAWE) — the long-term benchmark for salary levels in Australia.

In 2011, only graduates of dentistry, optometry and earth sciences had salaries above MAWE. Even medicine, perhaps the most sought-after degree, has taken a tumble, from a starting salary of 138.5 per cent of MAWE in 1977 to 91.4 per cent in 2011.

This diminution in monetary value of having a degree corresponds to steep rises in participation in higher education over the same period.

Three decades ago, only around 40 per cent of young people completed high school (46 per cent in 1985, for example). Today, around the same proportion complete a university degree.

What all this shows is that we are experiencing credential creep. The level of educational credential needed to stand out from the crowd has risen steeply. This is compellingly demonstrated by the steep increases in participation in the highest degree levels.

Australian universities graduated nearly 8000 doctorates (PhDs and professional doctoral degrees) in 2013, more than double the number graduating in 1999.

Of course, higher education is about much more than the piece of paper received at the end.

Remarkably, in the face of such steep increases in participation, graduates’ satisfaction with their experience at university is extremely high. It has remained high over the past decade, at well over 90 per cent. Similarly, more than half of Australia’s universities rank in the prestigious Academic Ranking of World Universities top 500.

Data such as this flies in the face of anecdotal concerns about a decline in the quality of higher education in Australia.


Universities today enrol an exceptionally diverse community of students, of varying social, academic and cultural backgrounds. That this has been achieved without plummeting satisfaction levels or widespread loss of institutional standings — despite static or declining public funding — is remarkable.

But these increases in participation and diversity create social tensions.

Australian tertiary education is now characterised by a lack of clear purpose. This stems from policymakers’ failure to conceptualise the tertiary education landscape and the role of the institutions that comprise it, as well as the lack of any instrumental view of objectives based on need.

It has become unclear what differentiates the vocational, education and training (VET) sector from the university sector and, in turn, from private tertiary education providers. Enabling, bachelor and sometimes postgraduate-level education is available from all three kinds of institution.

Despite this, funding and regulation of VET and higher education are undertaken by state and federal governments respectively. The regulation of private, international and postgraduate coursework education has been developed ad hoc rather than planned.

The result is a series of policy and legislative artefacts formed on the hop, rather than a coherent and systematised sector serving clear societal needs.


Having a degree is no longer a quality status signal in itself. What counts now is what institution? What course? What extra-curricular activities?

The more ubiquitous holding a degree becomes, the more we will see status signals and classing structures strengthening their place within the higher education system, with a more nuanced differentiation of the credential as capital.

This raises important questions about social equity.

Today, young people are pressured to go to university even if they may not be particularly interested in scholarly pursuits.

Many end up in institutions or courses that are unsuited to them, despite their ability, for selection measures remain tightly correlated with social class.

Large employers (banks and the like) no longer focus their recruitment on school leavers and train them up. Now they recruit university graduates and complain that they do not have the required skills. Similarly, students forgo earning while they are learning, and the costs of gaining a qualification are high.

Pressing inequalities in early education and schooling that lead to inevitable inequalities at the tertiary level; credential creep that is pushing all the way to the PhD; increasing stratification in the status of institutions, disciplines and modes of study — these are the contemporary frontiers for equity in Australian tertiary education.

We need a new conceptualisation of the purpose of tertiary and higher education, of training, of skills. And it needs to be supported by policy and funding mechanisms that recognise new realities rather than perpetuating old stereotypes.


Fatuous 50 has no idea of real world: think tank

A high-profile group of unionists, academics and former public servants who oppose a corporate tax cut in the budget has been dubbed "the fatuous 50" by a conservative think tank.

Institute of Public Affairs chief John Roskam said many in the group had "spent so long on the public teat and no doubt have ­defined benefits superannuation schemes and won’t be affected by changes to superannuation".

"Their real world experience, for so many of these people is limited to the university common room. They have little idea about what it takes to run a business, ­employ people and create wealth," he said.

Mr Roskam’s jibe sparked an immediate backhander from the progressive Australia Institute think tank, which declared the group spoke for most Australians who wanted a clampdown on tax concessions for "the big end of town”.

In an open letter published in Fairfax newspapers, the group urged Malcolm Turnbull "not to cut tax at this time — and certainly not for companies".

The letter comes as the government debates income and company tax levels as a proportion of GDP, which next year is set to rise above its long-term average of the past 30 years, and bracket creep puts more workers into higher tax brackets.

The group said data from the OECD, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank made clear "Australia is a low taxing country. To have world-class health, education and transport services we need to collect the revenue to fund them". It said real tax also required "fairness".

The group included former ­Reserve Bank governor Bernie Fraser and Keating government health minister Carmen Lawrence, academic and author Robert Manne, ACTU president Ged Kearney, and GetUp! founder Simon Sheikh who runs superannuation fund Future Super.

Mr Fraser dismissed the growth arguments for cutting the corporate tax rate.

"The argument that comes from supporting such a move is based upon very discredited trickle-down ideology," he said. Another signatory was Josh Bornstein, whose law firm Maurice Blackburn has recently been criticised over slow payments to Victorian bushfire class action clients, and who previously headed the progressive Per Capita think tank.

As a Maurice Blackburn principal, Mr Bornstein last year shared in a $16 million dividend as a result of the action, while Black Saturday victims are yet to receive a cent.

Australia Institute executive director Ben Oquist, who organised the letter, said: "Given all the scandals about corporate tax evasion and a constant hectoring about living within our means, the 50 community leaders and economists look like they are on the money."

The Centre for Independent Studies said the letter was "inconsistent and misguided". Centre economist Michael ­Potter said OECD statistics had company tax in Australia raising 4.9 per cent of GDP in 2013 (the latest year available). The unweighted OECD ­average was 2.9 per cent.


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