Friday 2 November 2012

How the slippery slope works

A year ago this month, the Australian parliament passed the plain packaging law. Critics of the legislation warned that it would set a dangerous precedent and that zealots of every hue would demand the same rules applied to whatever 'vice' obsessed them. The sage of Sydney, Simon Fenton Chapman, assured us that this would not happen.

"Look, if the slope is slippery, it's the most unslippery slippery dip I've ever seen in my life."

This, of course, was a Chapmanism, ie. a fib. It's instructive to look at the chronology to see how swiftly anti-smoking extremism is applied to other activities. In February, three months after the plain packaging bill was made law, evangelical anti-gambling campaigners had already latched onto the idea. This is from the Reverend Bill Crews on 6 February. Although it reads like a parody, it's real.

Now, with the exception of a trial in the ACT, pokie reform has been kicked down the road – past the next election. And that means more lives will be destroyed.

Something has to be done, so how about this for an idea… it’s similar to what's happening with cigarettes. How about the equivalent of plain paper packaging, but for pokies. How about we turn off all the flashing lights. How about we turn off all whistling sound effects and the bells. How about we make the screen a simple black-and-white display with no fancy graphics or icons. In other words, plain packaging for pokies.

We know the lights and the whistles and the bells are what lures in the problem gamblers. It stands to reason then that if we got rid of them we’d go a long way to solving the problem.

Notice the 'something must be done' dog whistle and the bone-headed assumption that bright colours have a Pied Piper effect on feckless Australians. But nothing takes off faster Down Under than new nanny state ideas and, sure enough, the following month...

THE Baillieu Government [in the state of Victoria] has ordered pubs and clubs to install "plain packaging" betting signs in a bid to curb pokies losses.

... Signs promoting Tatts Pokies or Tabaret must be replaced by plain versions, which will simply say "pokies" in white text on a single colour background.

The rules even specify the plain font to be used - Helvetica, Arial or similar.

... The rules ban "decorative ridges or illumination, embossing, bulges or other irregularities". Also prohibited are "words, numbers, symbols or pictures" associated with pokies.

This is simply the cigarette law rewritten verbatim. By April, the Tasmanian Green Party was crusading for the same measure, citing the anti-smoking campaign as their direct inspiration.

TASMANIAN Greens gaming spokesman Kim Booth yesterday called for the Treasurer to urgently trial plain packaging on pokies machines.

Mr Booth said that while waiting for the federal mandatory pre-commitment reforms, the lure of pokies' bells, whistles, dollar signs, gold mines and treasure chests needed to be removed, and it was a possible first step to a solution to problem pokies gambling.

"Plain packaging works for anti-smoking* so it should be investigated to see if it would be equally effective against pokies," Mr Booth said.

The Greens' anti-gambling bill was tabled in parliament this week. At least the Greens are upfront about their prohibitionist agenda and admit that this is just Stage One.

“Tasmanians lose more than $200 per year to poker machines, which is why the Greens support a $1 bet limit, plain packaging for pokies and mandatory pre-commitment, as temporary measures leading to an eventual ban.”

Not bad work in the space of twelve months. Imagine what could be done in the space of twelve years.

It's the same old story. The anti-smoking zealots lead the way and the crusaders against alcohol, food and gambling follow in their footsteps. It has been witnessed time and again around the world for donkey's years. Anyone who claims that there is no slippery slope is not engaging in debate or making a reasoned argument—they are brazenly and knowingly lying.

* Er, actually it hasn't been tried yet.


Michael J. McFadden said...

Chris, I have a LOT of respect for you. Normally I would take just about anything you say as Gospel.

But I *really* thought you must have gotten taken in by a satire. I mean, REALLY, the very phrasing of it was beyond the bounds, much less the idea!

So I followed the link to check....

And you were, as usual, completely correct in your analysis: it was a serious article. True, absolute, unrequited, irrefutable insanity in the Land Down Under -- the same place where they're now arguing that allowing cigarettes to have little 3 letter designations (Similar to what I parodied years ago as "Drink Some Flavorful XQZ Beer Today!") printed on them meets the definition of "brand advertising." (Note: We're talking about 3 letter government codes printed in letters less visible than the logos on most normal cigarettes... not packs mind you, the fags themselves!)

And at the same time the Aussies are having conniptions because there's a Smartphone App that shows a lit cigarette!

Years ago when Stephanie Stahl put together her wonderful page on ASDS: AntiSmokers' Dysfunction Syndrome" I saw it as a fairly extremist parody.

Now, just about five years later it's already become old hat not-quite-up-to-reality. The crazies have not only escaped from the funny farm, but they've dragged a good portion of the population and government officialdom out into the daisy fields to dance with them!



Ivan D said...

I think that lying pretty much covers it Chris. Sadly, we seem to live in a society where soundbites and being seen to be doing something are more important than ethics or honesty. It could be worse of course, some normal people actually have to live in Oz. For anybody who believes in truth, liberty and proportionality that must be really depressing at present.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

"The rules even specify the plain font to be used - Helvetica, Arial or similar"

Well, it could have been worse: they could have insisted on Comic Sans.