Sunday, 10 April 2011
"Plain paper packaging"
is the government's latest idea for trying to reduce tobacco consumption. I doubt it will work. I detest cigarettes. I have never as much as tried to smoke a cigarette but I have consumed far too much of other people's cigarette smoke in my lifetime. Now it is much more acceptable than it used to be to politely ask other people not to smoke in confined spaces or to move away from children etc. But will plain paper packaging really do anything? The legislation will be challenged in the courts on the grounds that it is a restraint of trade. It is legal to consume tobacco therefore it must be legal to advertise it runs the argument. No doubt there will be much said and done before any decisions are made. All this however made me wonder about another sort of "plain paper packaging" though. The sort of plain paper packaging that goes under the name of "political correctness". All those decisions which have been made by governments in an attempt to modify our behaviour and thoughts about issues like smoking, drugs, race, religion, sex, climate change, home ownership, internet use etc etc. Plain paper packaging, we are told, is for our own good. It is plain paper packaging which has set one of our outspoken columnists on a collision course with the Racial Discrimination Act. Was what he had to say really insulting to a group of people many others see as political opportunists? If the court decides in their favour there will be major implications for freedom of speech in Australia. That the case is politically motivated is without question but the courts will have to decide what is allowed within the law and not what the motivation of the complainants might be. Plain paper packaging has already seen apologies made and ransoms handed over to those who see an opportunity to benefit. Plain paper packaging legislation allows governments to do great deeds. We now have Equal Opportunity Acts and Racial Discrimination Acts and laws relating to alcohol and cigarette consumption and homosexuality. Climate change is now a political issue rather than environmental one and more people have mortgages so they will be within physical reach of the wonders of in-home entertainment via the planned National Broadband Network. But it is all just the packaging - and things may be decaying underneath.