The ‘F’ Word

One of the major drawbacks of political correctness is its multitude of contradictions.  Because it is based on state-sponsored authoritarianism rather than dispassionate reason, it has to forever change as the last ‘correct’ view turns out to be incompatible with the next rigidly enforced one. 

For example, it is politically incorrect to expose our children to any form of risk.  Hence some schools in the UK have banned girls making daisy chains for fear that the flowers expose them to the risk of germs, banned hand-stands in the playgrounds and banned yo-yos and conkers. Whilst up in Queensland, one school banned all contact sports.  As a result, children have nowhere to play, so stay indoors and get fat. Which is very incorrect. Although to point this out, is also incorrect.

A truly chilling story in The Australian last week highlighted the heart-breaking story of two perfectly healthy and well cared for children who were forcibly removed by NSW DoCS workers from their parents last September.  Their parents’ crime?  Smoking the occasional joint.

Thirteen weeks later a judge ordered their return to their parents, who he described as

“loving, sensitive and … well able to provide for the safety, welfare and wellbeing of their infant children”. 

adding that there was

“no evidence whatsoever that [DoCS] had any concerns at this time as to the wellbeing or safety of the children.”

Their real crime?

“Last September, after the woman had given birth to the baby boy, the couple missed a meeting with DOCS officers, who promptly visited their home. According to a DOCS report of the incident, the mother was “making a hot drink” when officers arrived. “Her hair was messy and knotted. She appeared to have lost a lot of weight. Her clothes were hanging off her and her bones were protruding.” The DOCS officer said to the woman: “You look like you’ve lost a lot of weight.” The mother replied: “You look like you’ve put on weight.” “

Yes, the mother accused the DoCS worker of being a little fat.  For this, her two young children were removed from their parents for 13 weeks. 

However, across the water in equally PC Britain, prospective carers with a BMI of more than 42 have been banned from becoming foster parents.  They are considered unsuitable human beings.

As Spiked asks, who will be the next group to be considered unsuitable parents? 

 Smokers? Climate change sceptics? Libertarians?

67 thoughts on “The ‘F’ Word

  1. Heh… I love that photo. Sadly, it’s often used by people wanting to bash Macca’s rather than take responsibility for themselves (and Macca’s is actually one of the healthier fast-food options)

    Your implication that people are getting fatter because of reduced activity may not be correct. I seem to recall a report recently that children are more active than in the past (or at least, play more sports). I suspect the biggest factor in (apparent) increasing weights is simply that people are eating more.

    Of course, different people have different body types, and the definition if obesity is somewhat arbitrary. There are many people classified as obese, who are fitter and healthier than those who are not.

  2. fleeced – i prefer KFC.

    the post is not really about why people get fat, more about the stupid contradictions inherent in political correctness.

  3. Pommy,

    I have some insight into this as my better half works for the dreaded Docs. This whole story smells rotten. There is a lot of red tape that goes into a removal. The case worker can’t simply go in there and take peoples kids. If they remove a child then they need to make damned sure that all the boxes are checked as it will go before a judge.

    The problem with reporting on a docs case is that docs are bound by law and simply cannot discuss these matters to defend their actions. It makes sense as it protects the parents and the children but it also means that unscrupulous reporters can get away with slinging mud at docs and know that it won’t come back to bite them.

    The major problem with docs is that it is woefully managed and frighteningly understaffed. Case workers simply do not have the time to go removing kids out of spite.

  4. KFC’s good, but has a lot more fat than Maccas. Though if you’re in NSW, then you gotta go Oporto (actually, I believe they are in other states as well now). Damn – look at the time, and I’m already hanging for a Bondi burger… I think they have a secret (addictive) ingredient.

    I realise your post was more about PC than reasons for fatness – I just thought it was worth pointing out.

    BTW, that policy on becoming foster parents is astonishing. I hope we don’t go that far, but some of the 2020 summit ideas regarding weight were pretty whacky.

  5. Ben – i sincerely hope you are right. if indeed it is this simple to remove a child from their family, then we have a massive problem.

    i suspected there was more to this case than meets the eye and would love to know more details.

    however the judge did specifically ask NSW DoCS to confirm whether smoking cannabis was a reason for removal. they gave a very noncommital answer.

  6. Ben — every area of government believes they are understaffed. If they had it their way, everybody would be a bureaucrat.

    And some people always find time for spite. I find it hard to believe that bureaucrats are somehow all nicer than the rest of the population.

  7. Believe it, John, believe it! Us bureaucrats are benefactors of humanity! My Lands office is practically a love-in all the time!

  8. this is just fat people looking for someone to blame for their own weaknesses

    I’ve lost 3kg this year. Just put down the fork and get on the treadmill. It’s not rocket science. If you dont have enough will power to ignore the maccas adverts then you’ve probably got bigger problems in life than just your weight

  9. I suspect that the over worked issue is in part a product of laws that compel police and doctors etc to report all evidence of child abuse. Where they once applied judgement and discretion they now feel compelled to report even the most doubtful of evidence. Thus creating a mountain of investigative work for the DOCS. Child abuse is a horrible thing and we should try and reduce it. However we need to be careful in the policies we apply. I don’t think the additional rules are helping.

  10. “every area of government believes they are understaffed”

    JH — that might be true but DOCS really is since it has a massively high staff turnover — you can just search for vacancies if you want. As one of the people I work with said to one of our students — if you can’t a job anywhere else and you need to get experience, you can always get a place at DOCS.

    This is of course not surprising, since you are basically dealing the scum of the Earth in many situations, and just checking up on these people is stressful enough, let alone trying to take children away or being powerless even though you know some child is subject to regular abuse. In addition, since it is such a stressful and hard job, the type of people that would be suitable for it of course can get jobs doing rather less stressful stuff (and it’s hard to think of jobs that arn’t) or simply don’t want to do it there whole lives. This makes the problem worse, since DOCS is basically forced to take people who are not necessarily cut out nor well trained for this type of work.

    You might like to compare that to any other government department — I can’t think of any off hand which would have more difficult work circumstances, and those that have similar are granted far more powers or work in environments that allow these types of problems to be more restricted (i.e., prison guards and police)

  11. Nice article Pommy.

    In the US it’s currently popular to ban trans-fats.
    I’m surprised they haven’t done that here actually. Of course the government won’t advertise the fact that it was the government’s own nutritional propaganda eg/ food pyramid being taught to primary school kids, and other measures such as farming subsidies that greatly encouraged the replacement of saturated fats with vegetable oils generally – which consequently led to increased levels of trans fats in food.

    Read a few news stories last year about school canteens around Adelaide having to shut down altogether because of junk food bans.

    Whenever a government immorally suppresses human freedom by regulating voluntary interactions there will be negative unintended consequences in practice. Unfortunately people don’t generally recognise fundamental principles and politicians are obsessed with either achieiving the impossible regulatory dream of actual overall benefit to society – or they are in the business of evading reality and spouting propaganda about the alleged “successes” of their paternalistic control freak dreams.

  12. Conrad: You are right.

    Although they don’t do themselves any favors taking so ridiculously long to fill positions. It takes an average of six months between them posting the position and filling it. Crazy.

  13. they are. at my daughter’s school anyway. no crisps or chocolate allowed.

    actually i can sympathise with the ‘no chocololate’ order, as it does make kids go crazy 🙂

  14. I think it’s more what the kids DON”T have in their lunchboxes(2 pieces of fruit unsweetened juice yadda yadda)that is the focus.

  15. Oh god… not nough to ban stuff, they want to mandate foods as well? Do they sit and watch the children eat it? Personally, I used to chuck the fruit.

  16. Remember Jamie’s Lunches?Mums would go down to the school and give their kids chips through the fence.Jamie had a hissy fit.People don’t like to be bossed around.

  17. The serious issue with this case as described by the mother, is echoed far and wide in the testimony to the Wood Inquiry, which by and large was ignored.

    Many people gave testimony of the brutality of the system and how it works on utterly wrong information, yet when it discovers this, rather than admit the error and move on the work moves from child protection to department saving face and litigation.

    The NSW Law Society’s submission was exceptionally illuminating. It states that DoCS regularly works on 4th hand information to remove children. 600+ submissions from the public were suppressed outside the published guidelines.

    DoCS seems to be digging a digtal hole and moving it, so as to be too busy to deal with the REAL serious cases. There are plenty of examples in fact where a relatively minor infringement is summarily punished meanwhile at that exact same time children reported again and again by neighbours have had their calls in the exact same region ignored.

    Once the neighbours got fed up and called the police, those children got instant attention. DoCS then denied that a number of neighbours had called at all, which the neighbours strongly disputed.

    It has only just been revealed that nits is worthy of notification. So if your child plays with or sits near a child with nits, you could be next victim of this dreadful system. Nits can jump 40 feet remember.

    Too many kids are ignored then dying while the Stasi tactics on false positives occurs. As the mother said in this story when asked why her children were taken?
    BECAUSE THEY CAN…and she’s right!

  18. Cathy would you mind linking us to the law society submission? I can’t seem to find a link to it. From what I understand it would be quite an odd event to act on 4th hand information as they need to interview the parents the kid and siblings etc. before they can do anything. In short it sounds like rubbish and I’d be keen to see the report.

  19. Its over at the Wood Inquiry website submissions page, Ben. “From what you understand”? Really? I look forward to your publicly eating your words once you track this fine submission down yourself.

    But given that your partner works for, in your own words the “dreaded DoCS”, I feel sure with this amount of “informed understanding” that you know exactly where this website is.

    As the Wood Inquiry was merely to hold a cattle call of interested parties coming forward to gain funding and issue the faintest criticism possible, so as not to affect their slice of the pie, most of the submissions published must be weighed against their motives and conflicts of interest in gaining funding.

    The NSW Law Society is one of the few frank and fearless assessments that were published, though again I would reiterate that 600+ submissions were officially suppressed contrary to the stated guidelines.

    The NSW Law Society is not funded by NSW DoCS in any shape or form, but sadly deals with the trail of broken lives through the constant systemic downfall of this odious govt dept.

    It will prove the measure of you, Ben whether you ARE capable of tracking this down the submission yourself and then publicly admitting that you have been largley mislead by your partner in this regard or not.

    Remember that it is illegal to tell the truth as a NSW govt employee, especially when the truth is unpalatable to the powers that be, yet worse when it is in the public interest to know.

    Shall we then discuss the equally odious answer to Parliamentary Question 2297 Ben? I look forward do it as it relates heavily to this topic.

    In short Ben, would I trust your word as a largely uninformed blogger on 2nd hand information/ or possible govt spinner, over a well respected institution that has its core business protecting the vulnerable in legal context for this entire state? I think not

  20. Cathy,

    I’m a little surprised by your personal attack just because I asked you to provide a handy link. I crawled through the Law society website prior to posting my last.

    I’m interested to hear your opinion on what needs to be done with docs to fix the problems they have. That is of course unless my making this humble request precipitates another spate of breathless jibes raining down on me from you?

  21. Here (PDF) is the submission from the NSW Law society. I have read it now and unfortunately I am unable to prostrate myself at this stage as I have failed to find the portion of the submission which states DoCS act on 4th hand information.

    The main changed the Law Society advocates in this submission are the removal of 14 day extensions to emergency care and protection orders, advocating more use of ADRs, that mandatory reporting terms be more clearly defined and a suggestion that mandatory reporting fines be either removed or used more frequently.

    I am sure I must have missed something in the report. Cathy, I hate to trouble you but could you be so kind as to point out the portion of the submission I missed that deals with the matter of acting on 4th hand information?


  22. Ben,
    Breathless jibes this time? rubbish last time?
    This is curiously similar to the way that DoCS employees address any criticism whatsoever including
    [b]”you’ve put on weight”[/b]

    Thank you very much for pointing out to me that the 162 page original report at the website has curiously been substituted for another shorter less informed report.

    Very interesting indeed! Just as well that the original report is preserved on some computers apart from the governments!

    Also interesting is the fact that a vital transcript of a key player does not load at all from the Wood Inquiry site- the judges transcript. For a while it opened a different transcript, but now it opens nothing at all.

    I guess that the email address of the original 162 page submission needs to be contacted and made aware of the changes.

    I quote from page 52 of the ORIGINAL REPORT
    “As we have pointed out above, the Act specifically states that the rules of
    evidence do not apply to child protections matters before the courts. Further,
    the standard of proof in care proceedings is the civil standard of “balance of
    probabilities”, a much lesser standard than is applied in criminal proceedings.
    Together, these provisions mean that “establishing” or “determining” that a
    child is in need of care and protection (which determination then gives the
    court jurisdiction to make any final orders that might be required in regards to
    the child) is not a particularly demanding exercise. For example, in making a
    determination, courts often rely on second, third or even fourth hand hearsay
    (ie, a mother says something to or does something in front of a nurse, the
    nurse reports it to the DoCS helpline, the DoCS helpline worker summarises
    the report on DoCS computer system and the DoCS caseworker summarises
    the computer record in his or her affidavit in support of the care application).
    In our survey of care matters that finalised between January and mid-March
    2007 (discussed further later in this submission), not a single case was
    dismissed by the court at the threshold “determination of need of care” phase
    of the case. Indeed, in all but one of the 24 care application cases surveyed
    by LANSW, the “determination” phase of the case was consented to by the
    parents, meaning that they did not see any point in contesting this aspect of
    the case.”

    You have done me an enormously good turn by pointing out that the submissions have been switched Ben, many thanks for that! I’ll try to post the orginal submission somewhere and will advise again should I be successful.

  23. Cathy, whilst we frown on most public servants here (except those who work in the Lands Office!), we clothe our venom in moderate tones, so that onlookers are beguiled into reading the articles. For instance, any future items by Jarrah are going to bias me against whatever is in them, because of his style of presentation. GMB is also heavy on the invective. Just a word of caution about how you say things, not what you write about.

  24. Cathy,

    You are a very frustrating person to deal with. Why not just give me the blessed link instead of calling me an idiot when I can’t find the thing you are talking about? You also accuse me of being a public servant which…. is just the worst insult thank you very much.

    You also have me confused with the enemy. What have I said that makes you think I don’t believe DOCS is in need of serious reform?

    It is the worst kind of intellectual impostor that would claim victory in a debate simply by hiding the evidence she is bringing to the debate.

  25. Spot on Nicholas, stick with me and JC and you will always be thought of as a nice person. Perhaps you would like to join me over here for a decent shitfight on a subject dear to our hearts.

    There is nothing wrong with allowing discretionary power, it allows for some flexibility. If however it is allowed the people using it need to be tolerant types who understand that other people are different ind that those differences don’t necessarily translate to bad.

  26. OK, I didn’t proof read it very well, I’ll cry mea culpa now before the resident pedants get on my back. It should have read: “different and that those …”

  27. OK Cathy,

    Having calmed down about being called a government stooge I can talk about the portion of the report you have been so kind as to furnish here. The way you put it, it sounded like the report was stating that caseworkers will remove a child without even interviewing the parents. That was what I found hard to believe. The report does not state this. Yes they will of course investigate evidence given from mandatory reporters (teachers etc) and the mandatory reporters call the helpline initially.

    The caseworker will then contact the parents, interview them and put the allegations before them before the matter goes before the children’s court. What specific problem do you have with DoCS acting on this type of information?

    For fear of getting called a government stooge again, let me present my own credentials. I am a Voluntaryist in that I find all forms of coercive government morally repugnant. I feel that all of human interaction should be done on a voluntary basis. However we have this burden of government at the moment so we may as well use it’s coercive force in ways that are beneficial. Preventing children from being raped and beaten seems to me a pretty decent use of this coercive force. It’s just a matter of striking a balance that means the good guys don’t get there kids taken from them for no good reason. I don’t see how a teacher hearing something awful and reporting it to DoCS is a bad thing.

  28. Jim, thanks for the kind comments. Did you turn up at the LDP shindig? I must have missed you. I was sitting behind Terje, but had to leave at four because of other commitments.
    Ben, I think that ‘Voluntarian’ looks better than ‘voluntaryist’, though both mean the same thing.

  29. Hey Nicholas,

    I agree Voluntaryist looks gross but a) I didn’t come up with it and b) Voluntarian sounds like dudes who volunteer to do stuff; like doctors without borders or something. Not that theres anything wrong with that. It’s just not the same thing.

  30. Cathy,

    I think an important distinction you are missing is that DOCS (who are massively regulated) are just following government orders which they themselves don’t create. If you don’t like the way the government uses evidence that DOCS happens to collect or powers given to DOCS by the government, then the problem is not with DOCS, its with the legal system and the government (The same is true of the police). Complaining about DOCS is like shooting the messanger.

    I might point out too that this is of course a no-win situation for DOCS and the government. In terms of the nasty stuff DOCS has to do, in case they don’t act and some kid gets killed/molested etc., then they get the blame for not acting. In case they do act, then they get the blame for acting to prevent a situation that might not ever have occurred. The alternative is that the government could just give up on this sort of thing and wait for events to occur and just keep the “happy” end of DOCS (i.e., education to at-risk groups). However, since children arn’t adults, can’t speak until they are certain age, can’t give admissable evidence in courts until they are certain age etc., this is not unproblematic.

  31. I think an important distinction you are missing is that DOCS (who are massively regulated) are just following government orders which they themselves don’t create.

    Maybe… but I’ve seen the nicest seeming coppers turn full nazi, simply doing “make busy” work. Seriously… they start our so nicely – helping old people out, etc… but the less they have to do, the more trouble they find. It isn’t intentional – it just happens. I’m not one of those people who hate coppers (at least, I wasn’t), but after a recent incident (or three) at Mt Druitt station, I’ve began to pay more attention. I even hovered around closely for one incident – in case the one (albeit, argumentative) victim needed a witness (and he was a victim, make no mistake)

    I’ve started carrying my camera around with me… between the “real” cops and the NSW rail cops (ie, f*cking a*sehole wannabe, SS cops), I’d have plenty of footage had I already had it available. Sooner or later, I’ll have something on youtube.

  32. >> DOCS (who are massively regulated) are just following
    >> government orders which they themselves don’t create.

    Really? Just following orders like a nazi concentration camp executioner?

    Tell me, why do someone’s actions become somehow justified (or even excusable) just because ‘someone else told me to do it’? Does it become excusable because someone told them to do it, or because someone paid them to do it? Is a mob hit-man morally justified in murder because someone pays him $5000 to do the hit?

    Let me point out an uncomfortable truth:

    If you are the one initiating force, then you are guilty of initiating force. The policeman who arrests you for the victimless ‘crime’, the social worker who kidnaps your children, the bureaucrat who threatens legal action against you if you chop down a tree in your own yard – they are all guilty. None of them become innocent because ‘someone told me to do it’ or because ‘the government paid me to do those things’, or (especially) because ‘the decision involved due process’.

    The henchmen of oppression are also the oppressors. Please stop hiding behind your mother’s skirt.

  33. “Maybe… but I’ve seen the nicest seeming coppers turn full nazi”
    “Just following orders like a nazi concentration camp executioner”
    No doubt there are problem people with these organizations (or any organizatons). Either you get rid of these organizations, or you think of ways to stop this type of behavior. So if you want a police force or a DOCS, then the main problem is trying to work out how to get them to act within reasonable bounds. Simply complaining that some of them happen to do bad things some of the time is not exactly helpful in this respect and the sorts of examples at least strawman is giving are basically stawmen. If some worker from DOCS, for example, kidnaps your children, then it’s the rules governing DOCS which are the problem, not the person doing it.

  34. conrad — I think strawman was directly challenging your last point. And I agree with him to some extent. People are responsible for their own actions. The fact that they are paid to take those actions doesn’t absolve them of all responsibility for their actions.

    Pointing out that people are responsible for their own actions, and encouraging them not to be violent/coercive, is important.

  35. Thanks JH, I think my brain is still trying to recover from the last few days of overheating, so I’ll excuse myself if I’m missing the obvious of late :).

    I agree with that (Eichmann being the famous case), but it’s hard to relate it back to, say, the aspects of DOCS we are talking about or the police. For example, it’s no doubt the case that oftentimes the person that actually does the nasty work is not aware of the full circumstances (police snipers would be another good example), and it’s hard to see how they ever could be in some situations. Now it’s possible to sit here arguing forever about personal responsibility for actions you take, but I think that’s somewhat missing the point. In the end, there is going to be a case where someone is going to have to do something unpleasant to some party to help another party, and it is not going to be possible for everyone involved to to be fully informed — things often happen quickly and are often almost impossible to predict (psychotic episodes, for example). In the end, I see the problem as trying to restrict the bounds of the operation of these organizations so they can still provide the function they are supposed to without allowing them to end up as a government harassment tool (or for that matter, allowing people to turn into thugs that can act with impunity). In this case, no person working for these organizations should be in the situation where their actions are arguable. If these rules are transparent, it should allow the scope of these organizations to be obvious.

    My personal opinion on this is that at least for the police, a partial solution to this would be to simply massively scale back their operations via the legalization of all things that don’t create externalities upon others (like drugs, for example). DOCs is more tricky. Part (most) of their function is education of high risk groups, which is not generally controversial (you could privatize that if you really wanted). As for the other part, it’s extremely hard to work out constraints that allow them to operate effectively since you are basically trying to balance the rights of the child with the rights of the other parties involved. Sometimes this can be crazy (like the fat-kid example), but other times it can be quite reasonable.

  36. >> If some worker from DOCS, for example, kidnaps your
    >> children, then it’s the rules governing DOCS which are the
    >> problem, not the person doing it.

    Frankly, I am astonished to see this from an intelligent person. If you murder, assault, rape, kidnap, steal or otherwise initiate force, then you are responsible for your actions – regardless of whether ‘the government told me to do it’ or not. The only excuse is if someone were threatening you (or your family) with force if you didn’t comply.

    For example, the actions of the nazi prison guard are justified if his superiors threatened to send him off to the Russian front for not following orders. Policemen, bureaucrats and social workers in the modern age have no such excuse. There are many other jobs they could do which do not involve initiating force. And they can walk out of their jobs at any time.

    Governments are bureaucrats are very good at setting up complex systems in which they can argue ‘no-one is responsible’ because ‘it’s, like, you know, the system man’. Sorry, but you don’t get to shirk your responsibility that easily.

    The Left tries to make me responsible for all manner of ills which I had nothing to do with. But they take no responsibility for their own actions.

    Let me reiterate this point: you are responsible for your own actions. Whether someone encourages you, or offers material incentives (eg money) to do something does not absolve you of your responsibility.

    It’s not complicated.

  37. >> In the end, there is going to be a case where someone is
    >> going to have to do something unpleasant to some party to
    >> help another party, and it is not going to be possible for
    >> everyone involved to to be fully informed — things often
    >> happen quickly and are often almost impossible to predict
    >> (psychotic episodes, for example)

    Cute, but you have changed the argument.

    Clearly there will be cases where people have to make decisions with incomplete information. Based on the information they have, they may be doing the right thing, but they may later discover (or in some cases never discover) they are doing the wrong thing.

    An real example:

    A policeman sees a man chasing a screaming and naked woman down the street. He runs up to the man and knocks him out with a single blow. He later discovers that the woman has mental illness, and the man is her brother (and carer).

    (this is a real world case, and I’m not going to elaborate due to personal connections with the people concerned).

    The officer did the right thing based on the information he had. He turned out to be wrong. He has a reasonable excuse. The same policeman, when he arrested people for victimless ‘crimes’ had no such excuse. He knows (or should know) the actions are victimless, and he is knowingly initiating force.

    The sniper who believes he taking out some psychotic terrorists is justified – if (based on the information available to him) his belief is justified.

    The social worker who genuinely believes that a child is in danger from their parents acts correctly. The social worker who takes children away because she doesn’t like being called fat is a kidnapper.

    The principle is sound. You are using the same techniques that the bureaucrats use: ofuscation to avoid responsibility for their actions.

  38. I didn’t quite get that Stawman. I’m quite happy to admit people have responsibility for their actions, whether paid on not. But you still can’t say when actions are or are not reasonable. Of course you can come up with simplistic vignettes, but these are not the way real life operates, and nor do they provided a basis for which the average person could determine what course of action to follow with limited information. Hence the problem of when the average DOCS worker on the street does or does not happen to overstep the mark remains unknown. What is your suggestion here?

    For example, you say:

    “The social worker who genuinely believes that a child is in danger from their parents acts correctly. The social worker who takes children away because she doesn’t like being called fat is a kidnapper.”

    Except if there is a law against fat kids, then neither of these are kidnap. It’s just the social worker following what they might well be correct:

    [From Merriam Webster:
    “to seize and detain or carry away by unlawful force or fraud and often with a demand for ransom”]

    or more likely both are actually kidnap, since your vignette is too simplistic. It’s quite possible (and common) for kids to be in danger and for it to be against the law to do anything. Just ask how many times they have done nothing due to various restrictions, and the abuse has continued until it was legal for them to do something.

  39. In fact, here’s a better vignette to highlight the problem:

    “You have 50 cases of people who believe their children should be fed strange diet X.

    However, you have extremely good reason to believe that children fed strange diet X will get seriously sick, get serious life-long developmental problems etc.

    Now, to try and stop this, you have 30 DOCS workers. In the first instance, you get them to explain to the parents how bad this diet is.

    As it turns 20 decide to take this advice, but 30 flat-out refuse.”

    You now have two problems:
    1) What do you do with the 30 children you know, in the future, will get sick from this diet.
    2) How to get your 30 workers (one for each child) to proceed in a manner whereby their actions are consistent with each other?

    If you want a more recent real example, you can take the case of the religious groups out that won’t let their kids have life saving operations for one reason or another. If you want a more complex case, you can change life-saving to life-improving (say, where if you didn’t give your kid the operation, they would end up with major medical problems — kids born with seriously misaligned hips/legs would be a mild example of this — if it isn’t fixed early, you end up with horrible arthritis later in life).

  40. >> >> The social worker who takes children away because she
    >> >> doesn’t like being called fat is a kidnapper.”

    >> Except if there is a law against fat kids, then neither
    >> of these are kidnap.

    I suggest you read what have written:

    ‘if there is a law against fat kids then it’s okay for a
    social worker to take someone’s childen BECAUSE THE SOCIAL WORKER WAS CALLED FAT’.

    Read the context again – this is the logic you are following.

    Let me point out several things:

    1. Someone calling a social worker fat does not make their own kids fat. My kids to not gain 20 kilos if I call someone fat. It doesn’t work that way. People become fat because they eat (or are fed) too much – not because their parents call other people fat. If you don’t understand that, then we don’t have much in common.

    2. Whether something is (or is not) _illegal_ has absolutely no bearing on whether it is _immoral_. Some laws are moral (eg don’t murder) some are immoral (eg don’t gamble). You can’t justify using force against someone because their actions are _illegal_. Force is only justified if their actions are _immoral_.

    Then you mention grey areas in order to obfuscate. Of course there are grey areas. There always will be. The grey areas do not change the principle, they merely make it harder to determine the correct course of action. The principle is that you are responsible for your actions regardless of whether governments, policemen social workers or bureaucrats agree with them.

    Frankly I am shocked to see people on a libertarian forum abdicating their morality to government regulation. It’s just weird.

    You are a human being. You are not a sheep. Learn to think for yourself.

  41. >> [Kidnap:] to seize and detain or carry away by unlawful force or
    >> fraud and often with a demand for ransom”

    So by that definition, no government can ever kidnap?

    Truly a Leftist definition.

    .. kind of like the definition of ‘taxes’ which makes them non-mandatory.

  42. Ben at #3: “I have some insight into this as my better half works for the dreaded DOCS.”

    Ben at #26: “You also accuse me of being a public servant which is just the worst insult..”

    Must be an interesting relationship.

    My mother was a social worker. My wife and my brother are both social workers. Social workers do have considerable discretian in how they choose to act and therefore are responsible for their actions.

    On a more general point, I’m a believer that the government/citizen relationship should be viewed along the lines of citizens giving government power in certain areas to better organise society and not governments having domain over every aspect of our lives and giving us certain freedoms as they see fit. Out of this I believe what we put in our children’s lunch boxes is entirely our own business and we’ll not concede any role for schools in policing what our children eat. There is virtually no science behind the notion of junk food, just ill-informed statements along the lines of: chocolate makes kids go crazy.

    If people here have not yet discovered the excellant Sandy Szwarc they should go here:

  43. Ah — the old semantic trick of saying “x isn’t x if it’s done by government”. That can be literally true based on some definitions, but it entirely misses the point. It is the action that is being judged, irrespective of whether the actor is black, gay, greek, fat, quirky or government employed.

    But I agree with conrad’s basic point that many of these problems can be avoided by simply winding back the roles of government. Not only would that restrict the scope within which the government can screw up, but it would allow the bureaucrats to concentrate on more important issues… and perhaps do those better.

    [And a subtle general comment: please remember to play nice. A good rule of thumb is that you should try not to type things that you would not say to the same person if you met them in real life.]

  44. >> And a subtle general comment: please remember to play
    >> nice. A good rule of thumb is that you should try not to
    >> type things that you would not say to the same person if
    >> you met them in real life.

    Point taken, John (and Conrad). It’s just that having just read KRuddie’s idiotic statements on our need to replace ‘liberal capitalism’ with ‘social capitalism’, I don’t cope well with supposed libertarians abdicating their morality to the government.

    Frankly it makes me want to drop out of society and go and live in a tent in the bush somewhere and live on beef made exclusively from sacred cows or something. Let them try to tax that to build their socialist utopia.

  45. If a school wants to ban chocolate and assuming that you’re not compelled to send your kids to that school then I don’t see any significant problem. Regulating clothing (ie rules regarding school uniform) is more invasive than banning chocolate. Schools, pretty much like every organisation in society, are going to have rules. The key issue in terms of liberty is whether you are allowed to leave such organisations not whether these organisations are allowed to make rules to govern themselves.

    Most childcare centres we have used over the years ban lollies and it has never bothered me in the slightest. If lollies are central to a childs wellbeing they can always have them when they get home. And the lollie bans seem very pragmatic in my view.

  46. “Then you mention grey areas in order to obfuscate.”.
    Now it’s cooler and my brain is working better, I think we talking about slightly different areas. I’m simply trying to find a utilitarian solution such that organizations given special privledges can produce consistent behavior across their employees (who would often believe different things), which is quite different from talking about morals. So it isn’t obfuscating — it’s just a suggestion about the type of problems you have deal with, and I wonder what type of methods you could use to solve these. I don’t see the black-and-white case as very interesting, because almost everyone agrees on them.

  47. Conrad,

    I realize you are trying to find a pragmatic solution. We all are, because we have to function day to day in this rationality-free zone called social democracy.

    However you may wish to read through the postings again when the heat-wave is over. You write:

    >> I’m simply trying to find a utilitarian solution such
    >> that organizations given special privledges can produce
    >> consistent behavior across their employees

    Consistency and utility are not the same thing. Letting one child die so that a thousand can live is utilitarian, but is probably not consistent (not all children are treated the same anyway). In a single statement, you have tried to equate two inconsistent goals. This is the kind of muddy thinking that pervades all of government policy and therefore all government organizations. This is why principle is important. If we can agree on principle, then the arguments about the best actions in particular cases becomes easier because we have a common framework.

    The alternative is to just chant slogans at each other like some leftist ‘action’ group.

    .. and by the way, if you think that we can have a discussion about the role of DOCS without talking about morals, then I for one will disagree with you. The role of DOCS is all about morals. If DOCS is not following a moral agenda, then I suggest that should be disbanded immediately.

  48. I’d have thought, and hoped, that libertarians take the stance that public institutions should make rules for good reasons and not on a whim. I can think of no valid reason why a school should regulate or have the right to regulate what we put in our children’s lunch box. The healthy argument (quite apart from the fact that it is entirely bogus) is negated by your point, TerjeP, that the state doesn’t, yet, regulate what our children eat at home.

  49. DocBud

    I can think of no valid reason why a school should regulate or have the right to regulate what we put in our children’s lunch box

    If it’s a private school, then they can ban whatever they like.

    Also, i support my childrens’ schools decision to ban chocolate. Chocolate makes kids go nuts and that aint fair on the teachers or the other kids. Only when food choice impacts on others does it become any business of the schools.

  50. If it’s a private school, then they can ban whatever they like.

    …and if it’s a public school, it should be private 🙂

    In the case of private schools, it would mostly have a degree of parental involvement to decide these rules – and even if it doesn’t, the marketplace should provide competition.

    Except that public schools are the majority, and even private schools receive a significant degree of funding. A lot of the school’s rules are based on directives from higher up – some of them, implicit rather than explicit (such as the implied threat to preschools many years ago not to celebrate Christmas, or to risk losing funding)

  51. I can think of no valid reason why a school should regulate or have the right to regulate what we put in our children’s lunch box.

    I agree. I also don’t think a private school has any more right than a public school to ban whatever they like. Children are not property and parents do not sign over all their rights when their kids go to school. If the school purports to claim such a right via contract, they would be taking on any unanticipated consequences.

    In my view, what goes into a kid’s lunch box is exclusively the responsibility of parents unless it impacts on others. Even then it shouldn’t be whimsical, such as banning chocolate. Good science is essential.

  52. I think DOCS is about morals, but I don’t think that, excluding the obvious cases, the DOCS workers should be forced to make constant moral decisions.
    The reason for this is obvious. If you look at my rather realistic and not especially tricky examples, then it’s clear that if you gave the same problem to different workers and they decided what to do based on their own morals, then people would do different things based on the same event. This is clearly what you don’t want in organizations like DOC (or the police). You want consistency in decisions. We put up with this sort of thing all the time for better or worse incidentally (car accident laws being a good example).
    So basically you need to minimize their scope and make sure how they should react is clear. For example, it would be simple just to allow them to react to immediate serious danger (most people would agree to that). But then all these other long-term cases would never get caught. That might be fine — because on the flip-side, you don’t need to worry about long term consequences. Thus the trade-off might be decent. However, as it turns out, there is public pressure to do something about long term consequences (like fat kids, or kids with fixable disorders such as poorly aligned hips who represent the opposite end of the spectrum on this type of problem), and I think this is where the problems stem from.

  53. Pommy,

    Please supply a link to support your assertion that chocolate makes children go nuts. We’ve had four children and none of them have gone nuts as a result of eating chocolate.

    With regard to private schools. Firstly they receive taxpayer funds so are not entirely private. Secondly, surely libertarians would only support any restriction on freedom that has a rational basis. If our children’s school tried to ban chocolate, I’d expect them to provide a strong case for doing so. Let’s be clear, those who would be behind such a ban would be people whose beliefs are the very antithesis of what libertarians stand for, i.e. they would be people who sincerely believe that they know what is best for us and our children, and are comfortable in their determination to impose their beliefs on everyone else.

  54. Secondly, surely libertarians would only support any restriction on freedom that has a rational basis.

    Not necessarily… if it were a free market system, I would still expect plenty of irrational rules – but should be able to find a school suited to my needs. Of course, is isn’t, and they all seem to have the same nosy arseholes who want to control other people’s lives.

  55. Back on topic, this doctor wants DOCS to kidnap fat kids:

    Parents should have their children seized if they failed to do enough to address diet problems, says Dr Shirley Alexander from The Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Sydney.

    Admittedly, he was concerned about a 4 year old girl weighing over 40kg… though is it surprising that parents have no ability to look after kids, when they’ve never had to take responsibility for themselves?

  56. Where is the rationality in saying your kid can’t wear a spotted t-shirt instead of the mandatory uniform? Regulating the content of the lunch box is no different to regulating the fashion that our kids wear. If you don’t like the schools rules then either change school or join the P&C.

  57. I agree with pommy — any private individual or institution should be able to set their own rules. Then people can decide whether they want to be associated with those people/institutions.

    If a school wants to have an anti-chocolate, or a only-christian, or a mandatory-uniform rule, then that is up to them. If you don’t like their rule, don’t send your kids to that school.

    This is a basic issue of private property rights. A person must be able to set the rules for use of their own property without government interference… or they don’t have complete private property rights.

    The same issue is also at the heart of the smoking in pubs debate. The pubs should be able to make whatever rule they like. Or the “mens only” clubs or “womens only” gyms. Again, those clubs/gyms should be able to make whatever rules they like on their own property.

  58. One difference is that pubs and gyms are genuinely private institutions, very few schools in Australia, if any, are truly private as they depend on taxpayers’ money. Which is why I have aways opposed the pub smoking ban but oppose schools interfering in areas of my children’s lives which should be none of their business.

    Another issue is that we have limited choice as to what schools we can send our children to, but we are compelled by the state to send them to a school (for most people home schooling is not an option). We chose not to send our children to one school because when we visited them they were up front about their policy of using corporal punishment. I’d think it unfair of a school to change it’s policy when our children had been attending the school for over six years unless they could come up with a rational argument to support such a change in policy. I don’t believe in school uniforms but since every school we could send our children to have them we don’t have any option to comply, at least, this is an up front policy, not one introduced later on based on the ill-informed whim of a few.

    I fail to see how joining a P&C would help. In Queensland they seem to be fully supportive of the government’s desire to run every aspect of our lives.

  59. DocBud

    The money that private schools receive from the state reflects a small fraction of the money saved by the state by not having to educate those children.

    i would hardly say private schools are dependent on state financing.

  60. The fact that the state saves money by not directly educating children who attend private schools does not mean that those schools’ individual budgets are not heavily reliant on the money they receive from the state.

  61. Strawman
    I hear your point here, which can also be described as Section 8 of the ICAC’s guiding Act.
    This states that corrupt conduct is conduct which is at best knowingly unproductive, does not alert on safety precautions not followed, or protocol and procedures required by law to be followed and yet ignored.

    Using a building analagy if you know that a structure is unsafe and make no move to alert a superior or rectify the problem you are complicit in any accident that occurs to that structure or on that site directly linked to that structure that you ignored its urgent safety reportage.

    In a DoCS situation Section 8 needs to be enforced. There is an enormous amount of bureaucrats yet not enough appropriately trained and skilled caseworkers, yet their ignorance of the Children’s and Young Person’s Care and Protection Act of 1999 is no excuse for breaches of this Act.

    I do know of situations where the child was removed without the proper protocols, nor investigative analysis in accordance with the Evidence Act.

  62. By the way the Kibble Report said that long term homelessness was best achieved by being in the care of the state as a child.

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