Archive for December, 2014

Stop Press: Fat may actually be good for you

December 30th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

More than half a century since nutritionists began their anti-fat crusade, there is still no conclusive evidence that lowering consumption of saturated fats reduces the risk of hear disease, I write in The Australian today.

The story of a hypothesis that simply refuses to stand up is catalogued in The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet.

The demonisation of fat has altered Western diets conspicuously in the past 50 years without any solid evidence that eating less animal fats actually makes you healthier.

There is little doubt that lowering consumption of saturated fat will reduce cholesterol levels in the bloodstream, but scientists have yet to demonstrate that you are less likely to die as a result. Unlike the link between cigarettes, cancer and coronaries, the case against saturated fat is unproven.

Worse still, claims Teicholz, the increased consumption of processed, carbohydrate-laden food that came with jumping aboard the cholesterol bandwagon has made us fatter, increased the likelihood of diabetes and raised our blood pressure. 

Correlation is not causation, and the relationship between nutrition and health is complex. If nutritionists have made a mistake, however, Teicholz says it will have been a monumental one. “Measured just by death and disease, and not including the millions of lives derailed by excess weight and obesity, it’s very possible that the course of nutrition advice over the past 60 years has taken an unparalleled toll on human history,” Teicholz writes.

“It now appears that since 1961, the entire American population has, indeed, been subjected to a mass experiment, and the results have clearly been a failure. Every reliable indicator of good health isworsened by a low-fat diet.”



Offending the politically correct

December 28th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

In The Sunday Times today, I discuss the Prime Minister’s latest brush with modern feminists.

Surveys of social attitudes in Australia suggest Tony Abbott was right to claim that women are more focused on household budgets than men.

The government’s official advice on workplace diversity says women control or influence 72%of spending in the household budget. Paradoxically, however, the percentage of Australians who think that not enough is being done to extend equal opportunities to women has increased substantially in the past 25 years.

A national survey in 1990 found that barely a quarter of Australians wanted more to be done to promote equal opportunities for women. The same survey last year found that almost half the population was frustrated about the rate of change.



Struggling with the I-word

December 23rd, 2014 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

ABC PM presenter David Marks hesitates about calling Man Haron Monis an Islamist but is happy to call him nuts, I write in The Australian today.

“His lawyer believes he was damaged, others that he was possibly mentally ill,” said Mark. “What are we to call this? Was this an act of terrorism or was this just the act of a disgruntled and bitter man, possibly with mental health issues?”

By describing Monis as a man with “issues” rather than a foaming, frenzied lunatic, Mark was clearly treading carefully. Not carefully enough, however, for the mental health sector, which by Thursday was up in arms. “The caricatures about this man as having a mental illness is actually having an impact upon people in our community,” Hunter Institute of Mental Health director Jaelea Skehan complained to PM’sLexi Metherell. “People are trying to demonise not only the person but many other people in the community through their use of language and the assumptions that are being made.”

Demonisation, and the avoidance thereof, has become a trap for young players in the political correctness caper. To avoid offending one minority group — Muslims, for example — we risk offending another; say, the mentally ill. Since the hierarchy of victimhood is such a fraught and complicated business we’re inclined to say nothing at all.



Australians don’t do flowers – so why this?

December 21st, 2014 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments


Peter Parks/AFP/Getty

Peter Parks/AFP/Getty

2013-06-17 05.23.40 pmAustralians are not generally disposed to public displays of emotion, I write in The Sunday Times today.

The thick carpet of flowers outside the Lindt cafe, growing by the hour, is evidence that the arrival of Islamist violence on Australian soil had deeply affected the country.


Three months is a long time in Martin Place

December 18th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

In Channel Seven’s Martin Place studio in September, I was asked if Tony Abbott might be deliberately exaggerating the terrorism threat to take attention from his political problems.

Screenshot 2014-12-18 08.48.42“You can see why some people are cynical,” Weekend Sunrise presenter Andrew O’Keefe argued. “You’ve got 800 cops swooping on houses around the country – one person’s been charged, and now we’re intoroducing new terrorism laws that may even allow certain types of torture.”

His co-host Monique Wright raised a similar point: “It does take all of the emphasis off domestic issues.”

The debate seems surreal after the events of last Tuesday. Here is the scene from the same studio on Monday as Larry Endmur and Kylie Gillies look across Martin Place to the Lindt Cafe:

Screenshot 2014-12-18 08.59.56In September I said the kind of terrorist act that was then being canvassed – the murder of random individuals in Martin Place – was too horrible to contemplate.

It’s easy to be wise after the event.



We know terror when we feel it

December 18th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

The Sydney siege was neither a strike from the Caliphate in the heart of Western civilisation nor a consequence of Western decadence. Man Haron Monis was not a soldier of Islam, much less a helpless victim of neo-colonial oppression, I write in Spiked! today.

He was a malicious and depraved individual inspired by who-knows-what.

Yet to insist that this was not terrorism, to explain away the dread we feel in the pit of our stomachs as the manufactured fear of Islamofascism or Islamophobia, is to deny the genuine emotions of millions of Sydney residents and countless others around the world.

Before mocking the ‘conspicuous compassion’ of tweeting #illridewithyou, or blaming journalists for fabricating hysteria, we must acknowledge a shared anxiety that exists independently of the media or the moral crusaders.


Once more with feeling

December 16th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

The carbon tax should have been confined to the dustbin of bad ideas. So why is Labor insisting on taking an Emissions Trading Scheme to the next election?

In The Australian today I write:

It is extraordinary call… Perhaps the people will come to their senses and realise that if they want to be regarded as good global citizens they will have to pay more for electricity and almost everything else.

Or perhaps they won’t. In 2011, about one in five Australians thought the environment was the most important challenge facing the country; today it is about one in 20, according the Scanlon Foundation’s Social Cohesion report…

This time Labor will not be fixing the price of carbon at $23 a tonne as it did in 2012, a decision that increased the cost of electricity by about 10 per cent. Instead it will tie the Australian ETS to the European carbon price. In May last year it fell to €3.73 or $4.86, a level that would have added a mere 2 per cent surcharge electricity.

The problem with a floating price, however, is it that it floats. Since the Opposition Leader re-embraced this inconvenient policy, the EU has changed the rules. It has altered the mechanism regulating supply in the carbon market to correct the over-allocation that was keeping prices low. At the same time the Australian dollar has been falling against the euro.

The result is the carbon price has risen. A week ago the European carbon price had risen to €6.74, breaking the $10 barrier in Australia. That in itself would be enough to increase power prices by about 5 per cent under Shorten’s plan, and add 0.3 per cent to the cost of living as a whole…

So, to summarise, in 18 months or so, Shorten will campaign to be the 29th prime minister of Australia promising to introduce a tax to fix a problem that a significant proportion of the population suspects does not exist.




What did Britain ever do for Australia?

December 14th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

AUSTRALIA, it is said, inherited Britain’s institutions but not it’s hang-ups. I explore the contribution of Britishness (as opposed to the British colonial administration) in the latest edition of The Progressive Conscience, a magazine published by the quirky British think tank, Bright Blue.

Australia may no longer be a British country, but it is a nation where British- ness – a civic rather than an ethnic concept – remains at the core of public life. Australia inherited from Britain the idea that governments as well as people should be subject to the rule of law. It absorbed the spirit of liberty, it thrived on the spirit of progress that stemmed from the Scottish Enlightenment and inherited civic institutions that were made in Britain.

Few in Australia would consciously call these Anglosphere values, as Daniel Hannan did recently in his book, Inventing Freedom: How the Eng- lish-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World. That, however, is undoubtedly what they are. They produced a
system that, in Hannan’s words, “on the whole rewarded production better than predation.” And that is why Australia works.

“The reason that a child of Greek parents in Melbourne is wealthier and freer than his cousin in Mytilene has nothing to do with race and everything to do with political structures,” writes Hannan. Characteristics the world imagines are particularly Austral-
ian – informality, outspokenness, self-reliance and an inherent suspicion of authority – are extensions of a very British idea of personal freedom.


Triumph of the Barbarians

December 9th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Whichever way you look at it, the persecution of Barry Spurr is another small step in the dumbing down of Australia’s oldest university, I write in The Australian today.

Sturt Krygsman, The Australian

Sturt Krygsman, The Australian

The persecution of the hapless Spurr brings to mind the plight of Coleman Silk in Philip Roth’s novel The Human Stain. Silk is an academic brought down by absurd allegations of ­racism, pursued by his prissy, academic rival Delphine Roux. Roth’s narrator, Nathan Zuckerman, says “everything Delphine Roux does must have virtue as its explanation … By defining you as a monster, she defines herself as a heroine.”

Silk picks up the theme: “Her metier is the stories that peasants tell to account for their misery. The evil eye. The casting of spells. Her metier is folktales full of witches and wizards.”

Learnedness has been superseded by appropriateness; it is not the force of argument or the wisdom of words that takes precedence but their imagined coded ­meaning.

Roth describes “appropriate” as “the current code word for ­reining in most any deviation from the wholesome guidelines and therefore making everybody ‘comfortable’ ”. FULL COLUMN

Michael Warren Davis, a Bostonian studying English at the University of Sydney, writes in December’s Quadrant:

The country’s finest academic institution is happy to let professional rabble-rousers skip class to hijack its campus and insult its most accomplished faculty members.

He says the administration has capitulated to hundreds of caustic 20-year-olds who insult and abuse a 60-something-year-old who has given the better part of his life to that institution.

There would be no University of Sydney without men like Barry Spurr,” writes Davis, “and there would be no Australia without the Western civilisation he defends.

New Zealand forges ahead

December 3rd, 2014 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

The inaugural R G Menzies essay was launched this week by the Menzies Research Centre. The series will provide a new forum for intelligent discussion about policy, progress and prosperity.

Screenshot 2014-12-02 12.41.34Quiet Achievers: The New Zealand Path to Reform is the title of the first essay by Oliver Hartwich, formerly of CIS and now Executive Director of the New Zealand Initiative.

Oliver spoke to Mark Colvin on PM yesterday and Philip Adams on Late Night Live.

Oliver summarised his thesis in Monday’s The Australian.

Order a copy of Quiet Achievers here.