Edited by Gary E. Marchant, Kenneth W. Abbott and Braden Allenby
Chapter 8: The hare and the tortoise: an Australian perspective on regulating new technologies and their products and processes
The role of government and the limits of state action are often highly controversial. Debates over the so-called “appropriate role” of such intervention, and the limitations of individual rights that such intrusions may give rise to, are woven throughout geography and time. Such controversies have often fallen within the sphere of public health. As highlighted by Jochelson, “[r]egulations we now take completely for granted have sparked fierce controversy in their time”; instruments designed to, for example, govern activities relating to sewage, cigarettes and alcohol consumption. Regulatory instruments designed to alter individual behavior for the purposes of protecting one’s own wellbeing, such as mandatory seat-belt and helmet wearing, speed limits, so-called “soda taxes”, and the plain packaging of cigarettes continue to be the subject of much debate. As Formula One driver Mark Webber so eloquently reminded us when pulled over by the police for speeding in the state of Victoria in 2010, jurisdictions that adopt a paternalistic approach to public health activities are often negatively labeled as a “nanny state.” This chapter draws upon Webber’s critique of Victoria – and Australia in general – as a nanny state when addressing public health problems.
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