Mar 29, 2012

Will the Dukan Diet lose its attraction? - Telegraph

Dr Pierre Dukan: Carole Middleton is the most famous adherent to his diet - Will the Dukan Diet lose its attraction?

Dr Piere Dukan: Carole Middleton is the most famous adherent to his diet Photo: Martin Pope
When Dr Pierre Dukan was asked to account for his diet’s best-selling success in Britain, he replied: “It works, and Carole Middleton.”
Mrs Middleton’s adherence is a matter of record. In late 2010 she said: “I’ve been doing it for four days and I’ve lost four pounds.” She was in the initial phase of the regime – what Dukanians know as the “attack” stage, in which a choice of 72 high-protein foods is prescribed. As Mrs Middleton appears to be naturally slim, observers took it as a sign that a wedding was in the offing. Within a month, an engagement was duly announced and Dr Dukan had special reason to celebrate.
The diet worked for her on the day and it has certainly worked for him, but it has been attacked by the medical establishment, which describes it as dangerous. The Dukan was voted the worst diet of 2011 by the British Dietetic Association. Like his many predecessors who have offered a magic route to weight loss, Dukan has made a fortune. His book The Dukan Diet has worldwide sales of eight million. No group of people, except perhaps evangelists and gurus offering the magic route to heaven, have done so well out of promising redemption to millions desperate to believe.
The American Psychological Association has found that two thirds of people were fatter two years after starting a diet than they were before they began. This only confirms (or indeed probably underestimates) what we all know about ourselves and have observed in others. We also know that the hunger for wonder diets has a long history and shows no sign of abating.
Dukan, in common with many in the magic diet trade, has benefited greatly from the prefix “Dr”, bringing with it an aura of respectability and responsibility. It is an imprimatur he is now in danger of losing. The French College of Physicians this week lodged a complaint against him that could lead to his being struck off the medical register. At the start of this year he proposed that acceptable BMI (body mass index) should become an education qualification and that pupils overweight at the start of the two-year baccalauréat course should get extra marks if they had slimmed down by exam time.
“There is nothing unhealthy in educating youngsters about nutrition,” Dukan said, but the College of Physicians views it as dangerous advice to children and a breach of medical ethics.
Dukan is certainly not the only Frenchman to export dubious dietary fads to this country. William the Conqueror is said to have been England’s fattest monarch. He made Henry VIII look like Victoria Beckham. In 1087, King Philip I of France described him as looking like a pregnant woman; he was too fat to ride a horse. Accounts vary as to the precise details of his fat-fighting diet. Some say he consumed nothing but alcohol; others that he entered an early weight-loss clinic near Rouen and went on to a regime of herbs and medicines. Either way, he slimmed down enough to get on to a horse again but to no good effect. Fighting the French at the Battle of Mantes, he was thrown against the pommel of his saddle and his intestine exploded, killing him.
Nor is celebrity slimming a new phenomenon. Lord Byron described himself as having a “morbid propensity to fatten”. At Cambridge he subsisted on biscuits and soda water or potatoes dressed in vinegar and wore thick-layered clothing to sweat off the pounds. He lost over five stone. Later, living near Lake Geneva, he lived on a slice of bread and cup of tea for breakfast, a light vegetable dinner and drank seltzer with a touch of wine in it.
By the age of 24 he had starved himself into ill-health. Decades after the poet’s death, in words that foreshadow many a modern health warning, an eminent doctor said: “Our young ladies live all their growing girlhood in semi-starvation”, in fear of “incurring the horror of disciples of Lord Byron”. The pilgrimage for moral, spiritual and physical health – often regarded as going hand in hand – gathered strength in the 19th century.
Among the pioneers was John Harvey Kellogg (father of the cornflake) at whose Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan only whole grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables were served; he also recommended daily yoghurt enemas and discouraged sexual intercourse.
Another American, Horace Fletcher, thought the road to dietary salvation lay in chewing. In a nostrum that many British people of a certain age will have had handed down to them in reduced form, Fletcher said that food should be chewed 32 times, or about 100 times a minute, before swallowing. “Nature will castigate those who don’t masticate,” he said. Franz Kafka was a keen adherent, though it seems to have done little to encourage a feeling of well-being.
In 1863 William Banting, a once-obese English undertaker, wrote a booklet entitled Letter On Corpulence – possibly the first modern diet book. He advocated limiting the intake of easily digestible carbohydrates. He was attacked for it, but his book became enormously successful. So popular was his regime that people asked one another “do you bant?”
People do not quite ask each other “do you Dukan? Did you Atkins? Did you Scarsdale? Did you Mayo? Did You Hay? Did you Cabbage Soup? Did you GI?” But well they might. Millions do and have, and plenty have tried most of them, as well as a multitude of others. All of them “bant” – nobody has a good word to say for carbohydrates.
The Scarsdale Diet – a New York Times bestseller in 1980 – was very strict. It advocated grapefruit for breakfast, fruits, vegetables and lean animal fats and offered appetite suppressants. It worked fast but maybe not for long. Its creator, Dr Herman Tarnower, became even more famous in death. He was murdered by his long-term mistress, the headmistress of a fashionable girls’ school. A feature film followed.
The Atkins diet majored in protein and wasn’t frightened of consuming fat. Like many of the others, it started with a blitz then moved into what was intended to be a more sustainable regime. Many swore by it as the weight fell off; most of them will have long forgotten it when the weight piled back on later.
Dr Atkins, who had been his own best salesman in life, became his own worst salesman in death. Aged 72, he slipped on an icy pavement in New York and sustained fatal injuries. Rumours abounded that he had been the victim of his own diet. True or not, the damage was done and the diet has had a much-diminished afterlife.
Prominent among Atkins’s British critics was Audrey Eyton, author of the F-Plan diet, apostle of high fibre as well as limited calories. It is less starry, less hyped and less sensational than the offerings of US and French doctors – starting with Dr Hay and his Hay diet, which involved separating food groups into alkaline, acidic and neutral and keeping them apart. The F-plan diet is also less open to medical criticism. Like many diets, including the Cabbage Soup diet, it is likely to give rise to excessive flatulence. But if you’re desperate to lose weight, what’s a little flatulence between friends?
The Dukan Diet purports to offer long-term weight loss. The first short “attack” phase that gave Carole Middleton and a trillion others a dramatic instant drop is followed by a gentler “cruise” phase of protein and vegetables, then “consolidation” and “stabilisation”, which should see them slimmer for the rest of their days. If only!
However Dr Dukan fares with the French medical establishment and however briefly his diet remains the plat (or non-plat) du jour, one thing is certain: another new, more-magical-than-ever, more celebrity-certified fad diet isn’t far behind. And however demanding it is, however impossible to maintain and however many health warnings it attracts, millions will swallow it.

Dr. Pierre Dukan Faces an Ethics Hearing

Should teens get extra points for being thin? Dr. Pierre Dukan, the French founder of the controversial Dukan Diet, thinks so. The diet guru is now facing an ethics hearing for suggesting that high school students in France be rewarded for not being overweight.
In January, Dukan — whose high-protein, low-carb diet is said to be followed by celebrities like Kate Middleton — suggested that France’s baccalaureate exam, a test that 17-year-olds have to take to finish high school and go onto college, include an anti-obesity option that students may pass by staying within a recommended weight range, the BBC reports.
Health professionals were outraged by the comment, and now the French College of Physicians says Dukan has violated the country’s medical ethics code, which states that “a doctor must be aware of the repercussions his views can have on the public.” According to the College, Dukan’s statements could be harmful to girls who are already overweight or are struggling with eating disorders like anorexia.
“Everything about this is wrong,” Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, told ABC News. “It’s wrong because it invites eating disorders. It’s wrong because weight has nothing to do with academic performance… and the notion that weight is a behavior that should incentivized is just wrong. Weight is an outcome. We should incentivize things people can control.”
In a second complaint, the College of Physicans accuses Dukan of prioritizing moneymaking over medicine, breaching another part of its ethics code, which states that medicine cannot be practiced like a business. Dukan has sold more than seven million copies of his diet books, which have been translated into several languages and have spawned a website providing paid-for weight-loss programs.
This isn’t the first time Dukan has met with controversy or fallen under suspicion. Last year, Dukan lost a libel case against fellow nutritionist Dr. Jean-Michel Cohen, who described the Dukan Diet as dangerous, saying that only the ”slimming industry, doctors, pill salesmen, publishers and newspapers” benefited from it, the Guardian reports.
If found guilty, the BBC reports that Dr. Dukan could be removed from the French medical registry. The hearing will occur in the next six months.
“I think the Dukan Diet is a discredited Atkins diet with a French accent,” said Katz.

Mar 28, 2012

TIBCO BusinessWorks -

Automation of business activities is a goal that many organisations strive for but never really achieve. This isn't necessarily something to be ashamed of. In many cases it's not possible to provide the required links between the various IT systems in use within the organisation, as common interfaces don't exist.
 TIBCO BusinessWorks' aim is to provide a means for applications to interact in order to vastly increase the amount of integration between business applications and thus automate processes where it simply wasn't possible in the past.
The core of the system is the engine that drives the execution of the various processes. This engine is controlled via rules that you define via the GUI-based user interface. You can think of it as a flowchart: when some kind of trigger event happens (an email comes in on the address, perhaps, or a call centre operative places an order on the system) it kicks the process off. Then the system goes through a series of decisions and interactions with other packages until it finishes up at an "end" node. In principle it's a very simple concept – in fact the complexity is largely down to how complicated you want to make your business processes. To define the rules, you basically draw the flowchart in the GUI. For each node you draw you apply rules and decision-making instructions. Because even the simplest business process can turn out to actually be quite complex, the interface is sensibly structured so that you can define sub-flows within your graph into which you can drill for more information. It's a handy way to work, since you can start at the top level with a basic process flow made up of a set of "black boxes". Then you can drill down into these black boxes one at a time and define the detailed functionality in manageable chunks. The fact that you can define these "black box" functions also means you can re-use code as you see fit – the "Check availability" function might be used in any number of places within an e-commerce application, for instance. For each step in the workflow, there's a vast range of actions and decisions you can define. These can range from simple yes/no answers (e.g. check if a product is available and follow a different path depending on whether it is or isn't) to quite complex data lookup or transformation functions (e.g. if the trigger for starting a particular workflow is the arrival of an email message, you may want to parse that message to extract product numbers, sender addresses, etc). Most importantly, though, you may well want to interact with some kind of external application (maybe, for example, you want to check the address of the sender of an email against the CRM system to figure out their name and address – or perhaps you just want to contact an SMTP server to send an order confirmation). It's at this point that we get into the second important aspect of BusinessWorks – the ‘adaptors’ that exist to allow it to communicate with external applications. Many of these are application-specific, such as the interfaces to JD Edwards, SAP, PeopleSoft, Remedy, Siebel et al, but many are simply implementations of protocols (HTTP, LDAP, SMTP, SNMP, SOAP, TCP/IP, etc) which give you the basis upon which you can build your own connectors. Say, for example, that the API to your CRM system is based on an IP socket, with requests and responses presented in XML structures; BusinessWorks does all the nasty IP control for you, and can parse and unwrap the XML in order to extract the data. The list of connectors runs to two pages in the brochure and as far as the application-specific items go, the big names are pretty well covered in fields such as ERP, CRM, relational databases, GIS, trading systems and financial services packages. It's worth mentioning that the external interfaces include the ability to communicate directly with people. For cases where a decision has to be made by a person, BusinessWorks includes the ability to allocate tasks to people or groups and to escalate issues based on predefined parameters (so you can, for instance, escalate a task to a supervisor if it's been sitting in someone's To Do list for more than a given number of hours). Generally, it behaves like a traditional workflow management tool. All this said, BusinessWorks is not for the faint-hearted. The average installation will set you back a six-figure sum, and this is not a toy. If you're going to implement process automation there will be serious quantities of time and money spent analysing, specifying, implementing and testing. It is, however, an incredibly powerful system that provides integration with an alarming range of applications and technologies. When we looked at the product, the sample workflows we used were actually a part of a real company's business processes. In one case it took just a few hours to replicate in BusinessWorks something that had taken a number of days to achieve using traditional programming tools under Windows.

Warning to employers, unions over a slide in productivity

DECLINING productivity and environmental "guerrilla tactics" are threatening Australia's ability to grab the market opportunity presented by Asian growth, Resources Minister Martin Ferguson has warned.
Mr Ferguson urged a “mature debate” between employers and unions to lift workplace productivity amid surging resource project costs.
And he accused the Greens and green activists of attempting to stifle investment by tying up projects in environmental red tape.
“Despite the fact the Greens would have us believe there is some massive fossil fuel conspiracy, it is rather a natural desire for improved quality of life, for jobs and prosperity, that is driving global energy growth,” he said.
Speaking at an industry conference in Brisbane today, Mr Ferguson said Australia was already a high-cost nation and must do everything possible to maintain its competitiveness.
While the importance of energy and minerals exports had jumped to $70 billion a year, projects were becoming more expensive to deliver, he said.
“It concerns me to see our productivity performance deteriorating,” Mr Ferguson said.
He said one company had reported the cost, in man hours, of pouring a cubic metre of concrete had risen from 9.1 hours in 1998 to 11.3 hours in 2012 - a 24 per cent productivity slump.
“With respect to productivity, I welcome the sensible comments from the incoming president of Fair Work Australia, Iain Ross, recognising that we need a mature debate between employers and industrial representatives about our productivity and competitiveness performance as a nation,” he said.
“The world does not owe us a living, and if we don't have a mature debate about some of these issues we will not get the future investment pipeline we are currently so fortunate to enjoy.”
Mr Ferguson said the federal government was committed to ensuring regulation of the coal-seam gas industry was nationally harmonised and world's best practice.
But it was vital to ensure regulations did not choke investment, he said.
“Our environment must be protected, and community concerns must be addressed."
“But we must also recognise that there are some who seek to manipulate those concerns, and use guerrilla tactics through regulatory processes to frustrate economic development and job creation.
“In terms of delivering investment, I am committed to working with industry to ensure that state and commonwealth environmental regulatory processes are effectively protecting the environment, but not being used by those seeking to kill economic development in this country.”

Financial Standard - Flaws in advice system revealed by ASIC report

The results of ASIC's shadow shopping research, which found only 3% of retirement advice was 'good', has revealed flaws in our current advice system, according to some industry figures.  The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) released the full report of its retirement advice shadow shopping research, previously mentioned during the Parliamentary Joint Committee.

Report 279 Shadow shopping study of financial advice (REP 279) investigated the quality of retirement advice provided and people's experience of obtaining financial advice.  The report found that 39% of advice examples were poor, 3% were deemed good quality advice and the remaining 58% were adequate.

Peter Kell, ASIC commissioner, said the results highlighted the scope for significant improvement in retirement advice with several areas where the financial advice industry needs to "lift its game." Kell said the advice was overly product focused and not strategic enough to help clients develop a realistic and achievable plan for their retirement and make the most of their financial resources taking into account their circumstances and attitudes to risk with clients having difficulties assessing the actual advice they received.

John Prossor, director from independently-owned dealer group Synchron, told Financial Standard that while it was a small sample, the results were concerning, yet parts were not surprising.  "Two-thirds of advice in the survey directed towards in-house products, which is no surprise considering 85% of the licensees are owned by institutions. This clear vertical integration is a concern," said Prossor.

AFA chief executive Richard Klipin said the results were disappointing but provides a solid framework for the advice industry to improve. "The headline numbers are disappointing and the industry has to look closely at the data, which points to clear areas of improvement such as FOFA Best Interest and conflicted remuneration in particular. I'm optimistic the next shadow shop will show industry improvement under such areas," Klipin told Financial Standard.

Mar 27, 2012

Offshoring to end, as businesses run out of jobs to outsource

The number of European and US IT jobs sent offshore will decline from 2014, as businesses begin to run out of roles that can be carried out abroad.
Within the next 10 years the flow of IT jobs offshore is likely to cease, as there will be few roles left suitable for moving to low-cost countries like India and China, research by The Hackett Group found.
By 2016 almost 1.1 million IT jobs will have been sent offshore, according to the research, which examined data on 4,700 companies with annual revenue over $1bn headquartered in the US and Europe.
“In the US and Europe, offshoring of business services and the rapid transformation of shared services into global business services, have had a significant negative impact on the jobs outlook for nearly a decade,” said The Hackett Group chief research officer Michel Janssen.
“That trend is going to continue to hit us hard in the short-term. But after the offshoring spike driven by the great recession in 2009, the well is clearly beginning to dry up.
“A decade from now the landscape will have fundamentally changed, and the flow of business services jobs to India and other low-cost countries will have ceased.”
However, the report predicts that IT jobs that have been offshored won’t return to their country of origin, saying “this trend is irreversible”.
The large-scale movement of IT service jobs and supply chains from western countries to offshore locations could see offshore destinations become global hubs for activities like application development.
“As product/service lines, go-to-market strategies and supply chains become more global, the portfolio of business services required to support these global operations must become more global as well. The result is that it is no longer natural or even appropriate for the center of business services delivery to remain in the traditional domestic market,” the report said.
Despite the continued flow of IT roles offshore the report predicts new domestic demand for IT specialists in western nations as IT spreads to a larger number of products.
“These cutbacks aside, as companies embed technology into an expanding range of products, new IT jobs in their product development organizations are being created. Finally, the IT industry (hardware, software and telecommunication) itself continues to grow, creating additional demand for IT workers,” the report said.
“As a result, the picture of the IT job market is not nearly as bleak as suggested by the 15-year trend.”

Mar 25, 2012

MasterCard World Survey on Online Shopping Behaviour

Online retail start-ups looking to spark sales shouldn’t discount older consumers, with a new survey revealing 71% of those aged 50-64 make online purchases from domestic retailers.

The MasterCard World Survey on Online Shopping Behaviour, which includes the responses of 500 Australian consumers, reveals older consumers are comfortable to shop online.

According to the survey, 76% of baby boomers have made an online purchase within the past three months, compared to 79% of those in the 18-24 age bracket.

The survey reveals 75% of all money spent online, by those aged 50 or over, is processed by local merchants, but only 59% of money spent by 18-24 year-olds is processed locally.

However, baby boomers are more concerned with security and customer service, with 95% noting the importance of a secure payment facility, and 92% citing service as a deciding factor.

This has highlighted the need for retailers to ensure easy, fast and safe transactions.

When asked why they prefer to shop online through local retailers, 40% of the consumers surveyed said it is faster, while 33% cited convenience as the chief motivating factor.

Meanwhile, 23% believe buying locally is cheaper than shopping through overseas outlets.

While baby boomers favour local sites, Australians aged 45-49 are the most prolific online shoppers overall, with 83% accessing the internet for online shopping in the past three months.

However, baby boomers have proved to be the greatest online purchasers, with shoppers aged 50-64 buying almost five products online in the last three months alone.

According to MasterCard Australia country manager Andrew Cartwright, the differences in behaviour between age groups is growing, and retailers should respond to these differences.

Cartwright says the findings highlight a “strong underlying desire” – especially among older shoppers – to support the local industry and buy Australian, which is good news for start-ups.

“The rise of eCommerce can sometimes create disruptions and challenges for the local retail sector,” Cartwright says.

“[However,] it also presents lucrative opportunities for local outlets to harness a growing desire to buy Australian whilst online.”

“We are seeing a renewed push by… iconic local brands to reinvigorate their online offerings and cater to the heightened demands of savvy online shoppers.”

Cartwright says shoppers will reward local stores as long as they invest in, and continue to update, their online presence.

“Presenting an innovative and fun experience is becoming a vital tactic for those wishing to gain a loyal customer base,” he says.

Mar 24, 2012

The ill-effects of quackery v scientific evidence

FOLLOWING the untimely death of Steve Jobs there has been continuing speculation about the extent to which his treatment was critically delayed by early efforts to employ alternative medicine.
Fortune magazine reported the Apple founder had tried to treat his condition with alternative therapies for nine months. When these efforts proved futile, he had a Whipple procedure, a liver transplant and surgery to remove a tumour. Walter Isaacson, who wrote Jobs's authorised biography, has said publicly that Jobs understood at the end he had made a mistake.
It's not clear from second-hand reports exactly what Jobs was doing, but it appears to have required at one point that meals be prepared without pans. This may sound like the kind of eccentricity we expect from genius but, disturbingly, a large number of mainstream Australians are putting their faith in unproven health treatments.
Vitamin company Blackmores courted controversy with its launch of a pharmacy-only range of what it described as "complementary treatments", which it proposed would be recommended by pharmacists in conjunction with prescription medication. The company claimed the treatments were "products that are backed by scientific evidence". Facing criticism that these products had no proof of efficacy, Marcus Blackmore argued: "Any criticism of their potential benefit highlights the need for further healthcare professional education." Which basically means anyone who doesn't agree with him needs to be educated on how to agree with him.
Blackmore went on to say: "Consumers are well protected by one of the strictest regulatory systems in the world under which every manufacturer must hold the evidence to support the claims they make."
This claim is certainly true of companies that make actual medicine. It's far less true of companies that sell "alternative therapies" and "complementary medicine". Under Australian law, complementary medicines are not assessed for efficacy but companies must certify to the Therapeutic Goods Administration that they hold evidence of their claims.
Carol Bennett, chief executive of Consumers Health Forum, points out that the National Prescribing Service has reported that most producers fail to meet compliance requirements, 33 per cent have had their listing cancelled by the TGA and 15 per cent of products have been withdrawn when informed that TGA was investigating claims. She wrote in Crikey: "A large number of these products are little more than placebos. Almost all complementary medicines are able to obtain the [TGA's] Australian label, whether they work or not."
Ken Harvey of La Trobe University's school of public health, writing in Australian Prescriber, summed up the problem as "a proliferation of products of dubious efficacy, with promotional claims that cannot be substantiated".
Notwithstanding this, and despite criticism by the Australian Medical Association, most private health insurers cover complementary medicines including, for instance, homeopathy. Leaked reports recently suggested the National Health and Medical Research Council was considering declaring homeopathy baseless and unethical "for the reason that homeopathy (as a medicine or procedure) has been shown not to be efficacious". Homeopathy is based on the principles of "like-cures-like" and "ultra-dilutions". Which, in plain speaking, means you are treated with more of what's making you sick, but in doses too small to have any possible impact. So it's poison - which would be mad - but in microscopic quantities, so there's no chance of you getting sick or, for that matter, better.
A 2010 evaluation of homeopathy by the British House of Commons science and technology committee declared it "scientifically implausible". Not surprising, when the journal Spectrum of Homeopathy cites the use of cheetah's blood for multiple sclerosis and tiger's blood for depression. If people want relaxation services, good luck to them, but when it risks displacing real medicine this presents a serious problem for public health. There are countless tragic cases of people delaying or denying medical treatment in favour of quackery. Jobs is only a high-profile example of a growing problem.
Several industry bodies have recommended tighter regulation. Choice has proposed an independent evaluation on an opt-in, cost-recovery basis where approved products could get a mark of approval similar to the National Heart Foundation's "tick" for healthy food.
The National Prescribing Service has supported the tighter regulation of alternative therapies, saying in a media release: "All health professionals have a responsibility to ensure these products are used safely."
But the argument for greater regulation is flawed and dangerous. With the cost of public hospitals taking up about one-third of state government budgets, we do not have unlimited funds for public health.
Each dollar diverted from efficacious, proven treatment into what can at best be called nutritional supplements is a dollar less for drugs that have been proven to extend life for people with serious conditions.
Regulating products with no evidence base risks giving them a false credibility. Fifty-four per cent of people surveyed about alternative medicines think products listed by the TGA have been tested. Not only have they not, but the industry is marketing to people who risk making choices between real medicine and complementary products.
The simpler, cheaper, more honest solution would be to discontinue listing and regulating these products and confirm under the act that they are not medicine. Alternative medicine is an oxymoron; in the words of Australia's leading sceptic pianist Tim Minchin, alternative medicines that have been proven to work are just called medicine.

Freedom is just another word in the Nanny state

Risk-averse paternalism makes for a perverse reversal of freedoms.
The nanny state isn't a cheap Tory slogan. It is a threat to our free, open, pluralist society. Chris Middendorp wrote on these pages last week, in justifying why governments should increase regulation over individual choice, that opposing the nanny state was ''glib'' and a ''distraction''.

His comments echo New South Wales Greens senator Lee Rhiannon, who argued on the ABC's Q&A last June that she ''often find[s] that this notion of the nanny state, it's trotted out when people are a bit hard-up for an argument''.  Both are poor analyses.

The first modern use of the phrase was not, as Middendorp argues, by British Conservative MP Iain Macleod in 1965. Nor is it particularly connected to free-market thinking. It originated from Dorothy Thompson writing in the June 6, 1952, edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In dismissing aspects of English colonialism, Thompson wrote that ''Britons are turning Britain itself into a Nanny-state''.
The phrase was an evolution from its 1800s predecessor ''grandmotherly government'', used to dismiss laws that coddle workers from the realities of the world. It's a sign of how far the former champions of working people have drifted from their roots that they are now nanny's greatest advocates.

Paternalism places the imperfect knowledge of one-size-fits-all government policy against the diffused knowledge and judgment of individual action and the market.
Middendorp may describe the market as ''brutal, amoral places'', but it is not a place. The market is the decisions of 22 million Australians, each motivated to act in their own self-interest - a process distant government cannot understand. And when it has tried to do so in the past, it has failed with horrible consequences.
Do the people have a government to preserve our freedom? Is any measure justified in protecting us? Nanny sympathies favour the latter.
These questions are central to the preservation of our liberal democratic principles of the primacy of the individual to choose their own life, faith, opinions and how they use their property. Almost all laws that exist stem from these basic principles.
Road laws are often cited as an example of supporters of the positive role of government to act as nanny. They're not. Road laws are necessary because when cars collide at high speeds, innocent people can be robbed of their lives. We have road laws to mitigate that risk. But we also recognise there's a point where road laws offend the founding principles of a free society, so we don't ban cars or people driving them.
But there are exceptions. Laws specifically targeted to children escape the ''nanny'' tag because we recognise the unique vulnerability caused by children's immaturity. Suggesting otherwise, as many nanny advocates do, is, well, childish.
Advocacy for government encroachment is often justified to protect us from ourselves. No one disputes that free people can make bad decisions. Without our mistakes we cannot learn. It's immoral to create a risk-free society that infantilises people.
We also need to recognise that one person's mistake is another's deliberate decision. Nanny's supporters too often confuse their own subjective views with what is objectively right.
Most of us cannot understand why others trade quantity of life for their preferred quality of life by engaging in behaviours that are unambiguously linked to early death, such as smoking. But most of us rationalise away the dangers when we drink alcohol or eat certain foods that have equally undesirable affects.
Nanny's advocates use an incremental strategy to advance paternalism, starting with measures that are small and seemingly justifiable.
If one nanny measure works, advocates argue the government should do more. If it doesn't, then it's because the government didn't do enough. It then becomes a vicious cycle of self-justified laws that defer choice and responsibility from individuals towards government.
No one seems to mind when the product or behaviour targeted is something they don't like. But once a precedent is established it is quickly replicated elsewhere.
Take plain packaging - for videos. In 2009, the South Australian Parliament legislated for plain packaging of R18+ films unless they were separated from other video stock. The justification for this measure was public morality.
It's the same argument used to justify federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's incubated internet filter. Similarly, for some it justifies why same-sex couples shouldn't be allowed to marry.
Contemporary paternalism now also takes the form of anti-social capital local government regulations that make it nearly impossible to hold street parties without fear of a clipboard-holding local government bureaucrat questioning you.
Similarly, my late grandmother wouldn't be allowed to offer firefighters her volunteer-made cut sandwiches because of strict food handling and labelling laws.
Excessive government corrodes civic virtue.
If someone chooses to engage in a risky but legal activity, they are not a victim. Reward requires risk and responsibility. Even if we could abolish risk, it's not a price worth paying - our freedom.

Mar 22, 2012

Big retailers hammered

THE slump in Australian retailing has worsened, with two more of the nation's leading chains unveiling wretched earnings figures that have been blamed in part on the industry's failure to embrace online shopping.
Days after Myer disclosed a 20 per cent profit dive, rival department store giant David Jones has announced its own 20 per cent profit reversal for the latest half-year and shocked the sharemarket by forecasting a 40 per cent full-year slump.
''It's certainly been the toughest retail conditions I've seen in my career,'' said David Jones chief executive Paul Zahra. The announcement prompted an 11 per cent dive in DJs' share price.
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Outdoor clothing retail chain Kathmandu has also fallen on tough times, announcing a 43 per cent collapse in its earnings for the latest half-year.
The stream of poor results coming out of the retail sector has further underlined the worryingly uneven performance of the Australian economy, which has continued to produce respectable headline growth figures thanks to the boom conditions in the mining sector.
Apart from the broader problems in the economy - which have hit consumer spending - analysts have pointed the finger at Myer and David Jones for being too slow to embrace the online shopping boom that has been sweeping the world - and that has been cutting into their revenue and margins.
As he predicted that David Jones' full-year profit would drop by as much as 40 per cent, Mr Zahra admitted yesterday the company had been too slow to move online and was now playing catch-up.
In 2003, then David Jones chief executive Mark McInnes closed the store's online business. It was relaunched in 2009, but the online offering is still meagre compared to overseas counterparts. ''I think it's fair to say in the last decade we have not invested enough in technology,'' Mr Zahra said. ''I think we've lost a little bit of relevance over the last couple of years.''
He made the comments while unveiling the company's new online strategy, which includes increasing its online offering from 9000 products to 90,000 by Christmas, a mobile web store application and a social commerce site.
Commonwealth Bank retail analyst Andrew McLennan said Myer and David Jones were between three and five years behind many of their international counterparts when it came to selling online. ''There is no question that those department stores doing well internationally are the ones with the best online presence,'' he said.
Deakin University retail industry fellow Steve Ogden-Barnes said the race to make up lost ground could be protracted for the big stores. ''Unfortunately these retailers have viewed online as the enemy for far too long and as a result they have missed opportunities and sales.''

Mar 19, 2012

$5 carbon price to halt innovation as clean energy plan at risk

INTERNATIONAL carbon prices are predicted to be as low as $5 by 2020, undermining the ability of Australia's carbon package to force technological changes to cut emissions, one of the world's leading emissions pricing forecasters has told big business.
The research emerged as the energy sector warned that crackdowns on drilling for coal-seam gas also pose a threat to a key plank of the clean-energy package forcing power stations to switch from coal to gas because a regulatory blitz could force up gas prices and reduce the competitive advantage the carbon price was designed to give it over coal.
The $5 carbon price forecast has been produced by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which last week briefed the nation's largest emitters at an Australian Industry Greenhouse Network meeting.
The imminent introduction of Australia's $23 a tonne price from July 1 has sparked concerns from major business groups in the wake of the collapse in the EU emissions trading price to about $10 and a corresponding slump in the value of the UN's Clean Development Mechanism Certified Emissions Reduction units.
Some peak industry bodies are this week expected to discuss a renewed push for a rear-guard effort calling on the government to either drop the $23 carbon price to $10 or delay the scheme altogether, as anxiety about the impending introduction of the scheme mounts.
Trade and Competitiveness Minister Craig Emerson told Sky News's Australian Agenda yesterday the government would "press ahead" with the current scheme.
He said compensation measures in the package included "large offerings" of free permits
of up to 95 per cent, "which means for those most emissions-intensive, trade-exposed industries, the average carbon price is $1.30 per tonne not $23 but $1.30 per tonne".
"Now what we need to do is put in place a sensible carbon pricing mechanism that will actually achieve behaviour change, and calls to put it in at $5 or $10 would not achieve their stated objectives of reducing our emissions," Dr Emerson said.
The government's argument will today be backed by research from the Climate Institute and international energy giant GE, which defends the $23 starting price.
The report warns that Australia is falling behind the rest of the world in its efforts to cut emissions and that many other countries, including Britain ($24-$30), Sweden ($130), Switzerland ($30-$60), Norway ($53) and Ireland ($24-$37) have higher prices than Australia's $23 starting price.
Bloomberg's prediction of a E4 to E5 price for CERs by 2020 is based on an expected oversupply of emissions offsets programs over the course of the decade as big emitters such as the US stay out of the international carbon market.
CERs have broadly followed the trajectory of the EU emissions trading price but have traded at a discount. Bloomberg predicts that the EU price will decouple from the CER price over the course of the decade as tighter European caps and an economic recovery drive the EU price to more than $40.
CERs are likely to remain depressed because Europe will buy less of them because of limits on purchasing offshore units in the EU scheme, and the US is not expected to enter international trading markets, based on the Bloomberg "base case".
Under the Australian scheme, when the price moves to a floating trading system, Australian firms will be able to access 50 per cent of their carbon emissions liabilities offshore. A floor price of $15 will be introduced from 2015 and remain until 2018.
If the European price rose above $40 but the UN schemes were closer to $5, Australian firms would be likely to purchase their offshore credits from the UN scheme to gain access to the lowest cost abatement.
"The main message we have at the moment for our clients is that the international market does not have a huge amount of price support," Bloomberg New Energy Finance Australian manager Seb Henbest told The Australian.
"You have an interesting situation the carbon price right now is low in the rest of the world but initially high in Australia.
"That is likely to reverse when the European price is expected to get a lot higher. The Australian price will be kept low, partly because of price controls in the market but also because of the natural economic forcing of the CER price as firms buy cheap credits and use them for compliance.
"From an economic perspective, carbon could be pretty cheap in Australia for a period of time to come and we ask ourselves if that is a politically sustainable solution. If you've got a price in 2020 of $5, that is not necessarily reflecting the sort of carbon prices that would be needed in Australia to incentivise broad behavioural change in the energy sector, for example," Mr Henbest said.
Amid the Bloomberg predictions, the Energy Supply Association of Australia whose members include Origin Energy and the Australian arm of International Power-GDF Suez has warned that a regulatory crackdown on CSG could hurt energy security nationwide and efforts to slash greenhouse emissions as the government plans for its carbon price to lead to at least a 200 per cent increase in gas-fired electricity by 2050.
Coal-seam gas is cheaper to produce than gas from some conventional sources such as the new offshore gas fields in Victoria's Gippsland Basin, while in Western Australia there are fears of domestic gas supply shortages as early as 2015 because most supplies are exported as lucrative liquefied natural gas to Asia, the group said.
In a submission to the government's draft energy white paper, the ESAA urged governments to refrain from further regulatory interventions that would spook investors, saying there was an extra $240bn of investment required in the sector by 2030.
Investors were already plagued by uncertainty because of the continued failure of the major parties to reach an agreed position on greenhouse policy, while the failure of most state governments to scrap retail price controls on energy was a further barrier.
On top of this, the $10bn Clean Energy Finance Corporation could crowd out the private sector and small government-mandated climate-change schemes, including the convoluted Renewable Energy Target, were causing price hikes, the group said.
As LNG exports to Asia (including from CSG projects) could put pressure on prices and make it harder for domestic buyers such as power stations to lock in long-term contracts for gas, the ESAA argues in the submission that this makes it important to allow access to the "widest range" of sources.
"The massive rebuild and re-investment required to modernise infrastructure and transform to a lower emissions footing presents Australia's energy sector with an investment challenge bigger than ever before," the submission states.
"Investment of this magnitude will not happen by itself. It requires industry to have the confidence to commit to very large investments. Australia must consequently be an attractive destination if we are to raise the volumes of capital required at the lowest cost."

Diet or die: lifestyle changes could hit cancer

Healthy diets and exercise could dramatically cut cancer rates by 2025, according to a new study.  A QUARTER of cancers could be prevented by 2025 through diet and exercise alone, saving hundreds of millions of dollars in the cost of treatment, the Medical Journal of Australia has found.

Taking data on projected illness, and coupling it with published findings on the association between food, nutrition and physical activity in the prevention of cancer, the journal's study found that the incidence of cancer in Australia will rise to 170,000 in the next 13 years, an increase of 60 per cent since 2007.

Intervention to improve health and environmental factors could reduce that by 43,000, or 25 per cent, it says in a report to be published today.

Contributing factors in the nation's poor health include an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, the increasing prevalence of overweight and obese adults, climbing rates of harmful alcohol consumption, and an unbalanced diet.

Pip Youl, one of the report's authors and head of research at Cancer Council Queensland, said that less than 10 per cent of Australians ate the recommended five serves of vegetables a day and only 6 per cent ate two or more serves of fruit a day.

''Ways to encourage better eating are things like improving the number of wholegrain cereals and bread, choosing foods that are low in salt, choosing a low-fat diet, particularly diets that are low in saturated fats,'' she said. ''One of the key things is teaching children to eat healthily. So, getting them interested in cooking and eating healthy foods will give them a really good start in life and enjoying a healthy life.''

Poor health has become an economic and geographic issue, the study suggesting that ''inequities in cancer outcomes vary with remoteness or area disadvantage'' and that ''increasingly the poor are becoming obese faster than the rich''.

With the cost of healthy food higher than that of high-sugar, fat-soaked, nutritionally poor alternatives, Australians on lower incomes are less likely to make healthy food choices.

Programs needed to be designed to accommodate different needs in different regions, Ms Youl said. Even when people know what they need to do to prevent obesity and disease, it is difficult to motivate populations to improve their health and it was incumbent on governments to implement measures and provide support.

Ms Youl said it was critical to have a co-ordinated approach from state and federal governments to spend money on preventive measures to reduce the $3.8 billion a year spent on direct costs to the health system from cancer-related illnesses.

They needed to ''increase the expenditure on preventive health activities, because we know that treating cancer is very expensive, so if we can prevent it before it happens then we'll certainly save some expenditure on cancer down the track''.

While only 2 per cent of the total health expenditure in 2007-08 was dedicated to preventive services or health promotion, spending more on raising the profile of good nutrition and physical activity would save more than $674 million in 2025, the authors found.
Supply-side push for better oil

CAN you have your cake and eat it too? Not when it comes to reducing fat in your diet, and the Heart Foundation is working to reduce the levels of unhealthy oils and fats in the supply side of the food chain.

Foundation spokeswoman Penny Milson said

working on the supply side was an effective way to influence how food is produced and consumed to reduce the 34 per cent of Australian deaths caused by cardiovascular disease.

"We know that coronary heart disease is essentially preventable. A lot of Australians eat way too much saturated fats," she said.

Up to one-quarter of meals come from takeaway outlets, cafes or restaurants and there is a push to educate retailers to use less oil and better types of oil.

"What the Heart Foundation recommends is not that we remove fat out of our diet, that we replace the unhealthy sat and trans fats with the healthier poly- and mono-unsaturated fats."

Mar 16, 2012

State tipped to abandon Geelong port proposal

THE Baillieu government is poised to abandon its plan to move all automotive shipping from Melbourne to the Port of Geelong - putting at risk up to 1000 jobs that could have flowed to the regional centre.  Ports Minister Denis Napthine last night said no decision had been made to drop the plan, first proposed by his government while in opposition.  But government sources, port figures and shipping and automotive industry groups, have said the plan was now extremely unlikely to go ahead.
Melbourne is Australia's largest motor vehicle trading port, with 93 per cent of exported cars leaving from it. In 2010 there were 316,500 cars imported into Melbourne, and 112,500 exported. Last February, the government began a feasibility study into moving this automotive shipping to Geelong. The proposal would free up land around the Port of Melbourne and could cut some West Gate Bridge truck movements.
The plan was welcomed by Geelong because, on the government's original estimates, it would generate about 1000 jobs and boost the local economy.
But it has been met with furious opposition by Toyota, Ford and Holden, who want auto shipping kept at Melbourne. Nissan, which has a component casting plant in Dandenong and exports parts, is also believed to be opposed.
The Port of Melbourne Corporation is also understood to oppose the move, in part because of the revenue it would lose.
Committee for Geelong executive director Peter Dorling said the port was more than able to expand to take the number of vehicles. ''From Geelong's point of view, it's a great opportunity to extend the life of our port,'' he said.
Opposition MP Tim Pallas attempted to obtain a study by engineers SKM into the viability of the proposal under freedom-of-information legislation. His request was refused.
Mr Pallas said yesterday that the government giving Geelong false hope about the likelihood of the plan proceeding was ''a silly thing to do''.
Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries chief Ian Chalmers has lobbied the government on behalf of the automotive companies to stop the move.
He said while it had been a well-intentioned proposal, it had not been thought through properly.
There were significant infrastructure problems at the Port of Geelong that made the proposal unwise, he said, including a lack of space for the volume of vehicles.
The Port of Geelong predominantly handles grain, woodchips and petroleum products.
Dr Napthine was adamant last night that no final decision had been made.
''I'm saying it very clearly and plainly: no decision has been made, and if people are presuming what the decision will be they are jumping to conclusions. It has not gone to cabinet,'' he said.
Dr Napthine said last July that final consideration of the feasibility study would be made early this year.

Victoria the big loser in great jobs drain

VICTORIA suffered huge job losses in the past year as the mining boom states of Western Australia and Queensland posted big gains, new figures confirm.  Employment data from the Bureau of Statistics shows WA gained 54,000 jobs and Queensland 24,000, as Victoria lost 34,000 and NSW 30,000.
Even industries without an obvious connection to mining are doing most of their growth in the nation's west and north. WA and Queensland between them accounted for 45,700 of the 48,700 extra health and aged-care workers taken on in the year to February. Queensland took on 16,900 finance sector workers as Victoria lost 16,300.
Victoria's retail industry lost 38,500 workers while the rest of the nation took on 3400. The state slipped from employing 26.7 per cent of the nation's retail workers to 24.2 per cent.
Victoria's transport, postal and warehousing sectors lost 38,500 workers while the rest of the nation's lost 13,300. Victoria lost 38,500 construction jobs while the rest gained 35,400.
Nationally, mining leapt into second place as the biggest creator of jobs behind health and aged care. Mining boosted its numbers by 44,600 over the year to February, taking its total employees from 205,100 to 249,700. Two-thirds of the new mining jobs were in WA and Queensland, 8700 were in NSW and 2000 in Victoria.
The education and training sector appears to be a bright spot for Victoria, taking on an extra 17,100 people over the year to February. But the figure is inflated by an usually low count in the February 2011 quarter.
Coalition finance spokesman Andrew Robb will tell the Victorian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry today that Australia should radically increase its foreign student intake, educating two to three million Asian students in 20 years instead of the present 250,000.
Despite some high-profile cases of job losses in Victorian manufacturing, employment in the sector overall held up over the past year, rebounding from a 30-year low six months ago.

Nationally, part-time jobs are growing at the expense of full-time jobs and women are gaining at the expense of men. Those Australians with jobs appear to be putting in fewer hours, on average. The bureau has reported that only 10 per cent of full-time workers put in more than 60 hours a week in the latest quarter - the lowest level in two decades. The proportion working more than 40 hours slipped to 40 per cent.
Meanwhile, the head of the National Retail Association, Gary Black, warned the sector would shed 33,000 jobs in coming years because of competition from overseas online outlets.
''The jobs crisis unfolding in retail dwarfs the predicament and dilemmas that are confronted by the demise of the Australian manufacturing sector,'' he told ABC television.

Mar 15, 2012

Want to get lucky at work?

You looking for a lucky break? You aren't alone.

Some 84% of 7,000 professionals surveyed by LinkedIn say they believe that luck plays a part in a booming career. Lucky breaks seem random. It's a tip on a new job; a chance meeting with a prospect that leads to a big sale; overhearing details of a business deal while at the coffee shop.

But oddly enough, the survey discovered that luck is less random than it seems. It's almost like a job skill.  Five factors were named by a significant number of poll takers as contributions to luck, with women and men both saying the single most important factor to luck is hard work.

Top 5 factors that contribute to career luck according to U.S. men:

    Having a strong work ethic:  named by 71%
    Having strong communication skills: 55%
    Being flexible: 44%
    Acting on opportunities: 41%
    Striving to be the best at what you do: 39%

Top 5 factors that contribute to career luck according to U.S. women:

    Having a strong work ethic: 68%
    Having strong communication skills: 65%
    Acting on opportunities: 54%
    Striving to be the best at what you do: 47%
    Being flexible: 44%

The survey also discovered that Japan is the luckiest country, meaning people from Japan rated themselves luckier compared to those from other countries. The U.S. ranked seventh luckiest. But hey, seven is a lucky number...

Reminder of Rudd as Gingrich clings on

It is a fascinating time for the politics of selfishness, for seeing public self-absorption and public vendettas taking precedence over party loyalty and personal humility. Kevin Rudd paraded all of this recently. Now we are seeing the same from the most experienced Republican in the contest to become the next president of the US.
You have to know when to retire graciously from a lost cause, but yesterday Newt Gingrich kept talking and talking and shrinking and shrinking. Gingrich, who once knew glory and power as majority leader and Speaker of the House in the US Congress, was incapable of seeing the obvious.
He had just had his last day as a credible candidate for the presidential nomination, but all he wanted to do was crow about how badly his mortal enemy in the contest, former governor Mitt Romney, had done in yesterday's Republican primaries in Alabama and Mississippi.
In it for the long haul ... Newt Gingrich refuses to quit the race. In it for the long haul ... Newt Gingrich refuses to quit the race. Photo: AP
''He is a remarkably weak front-runner,'' Gingrich said after Romney finished third in both races.
Yes, Romney is a weak frontrunner, but he has a formidable lead in the accumulation of delegates and as a Mormon from Massachusetts his odds were always slim in the heart of the Bible Belt.
The only thing that can stop Romney from winning the Republican nomination is the shock insurgency under way from former senator Rick Santorum, who won both the Alabama and Mississippi primaries yesterday, ahead of Gingrich.
The last time Santorum ran for office he lost his Senate seat, badly, in Pennsylvania in the 2006 congressional elections. He does not have a large war chest and was narrowly defined as a Catholic conservative opposed to abortion and gay marriage.
Yet here he is, the great hope of the conservative wing of the Republicans and the last remaining credible alternative to Romney.
His success yesterday was humiliating for Gingrich. Santorum is a Catholic northerner. Gingrich is a southern Baptist who converted to Catholicism. Gingrich is the self-proclaimed southern candidate, and Alabama sits next to his home state of Georgia, so he was playing on home turf. He still lost.
Santorum, at 53, with seven children and humble origins, has been able to deliver a fresher image and more authentic message than Gingrich, who at 68, campaigns with his 46-year-old third wife, Callista, at his side.
It has not helped that Romney's campaign spent millions of dollars buying attack TV ads that questioned Gingrich's ethics. Ever since, Gingrich has directed a laser-like public disdain for Romney, who he calls the ''Wall Street candidate'' while waging class warfare against him, portraying Romney as an inauthentic plutocrat who is trying to buy the presidency.
But if Gingrich really wanted to hurt Romney he would drop out now. His southern strategy has failed. He is the greatest obstacle to Santorum's momentum because he is splitting the conservative vote that does not want a moderate Massachusetts governor as the Republican standard-bearer.
Asked about this yesterday, Gingrich emphatically confirmed he was staying in the race for the long haul.
Here is deluded selfishness writ large. Gingrich has the most legislative success on his resume among the candidates. But he has only won two state primaries, in South Carolina after committing an enormous amount of his time and resources and then benefiting from a personal attack by his second wife that backfired on the eve of the election. His only other victory was in his home state of Georgia.
In contrast, Romney and Santorum have won primaries across a wide geographic divide and Santorum is building while Gingrich has faded.
Gingrich's inability to see himself as a liability to his greater cause is familiar to Australians because of the vainglorious way former prime minister Kevin Rudd blew up his ministerial career.
Rudd's egoism was far worse. He challenged the competency of his own Prime Minister. He stated baldly that she could not win the next federal election. He nominated himself for the leadership as his party's last best chance for avoiding defeat.
Like Gingrich, Rudd was undone by the democratic process within his own party. Being rebuffed a second time, by a resounding 71 votes to 31, finally proved just how much Rudd had alienated his colleagues when he was their leader. It was the politics of the personal more than anything else.
Watching humility being enforced on former leaders with Napoleon complexes has been engrossing, even enlightening, but not edifying.