“Obese could be paid to lose weight under Rudd proposal”

I want to address the articles that were published yesterday by News Limited: one in The Daily Telegraph/AdelaideNow and one in Herald Sun.

Some clarification for international readers: News Limited is the media company owned by Rupert Murdoch. In Australia it operates, among many others, the Daily Tele, AdelaideNow and the Herald Sun – all tabloid newspapers. Their equivalent in tone and style would be UK’s The Sun (but with fewer boobs), which is also owned by Murdoch. ‘Rudd’ refers to the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.

The articles had two different tones. Daily Tele/AdelaideNow ran the headline “Subsidies for people to lose weight and get fit: Overweight people could be paid to lose weight under a radical plan to combat the nation’s obesity crisis” while Herald Sun ran the much more alarmist “Obese could be paid to lose weight under Rudd proposal: Fat people could be paid to lose weight under a radical plan to combat the nation’s obesity crisis commissioned by the Rudd Government”.

The articles led to predictable responses from both sides. The anti-fat brigade exclaimed that Kevin Rudd was rewarding obesity (obesity = evil, natch), discriminating against healthy people, that they should not expected to pay for the problems fat people bring on themselves. On the other side, fatties were blasting Rudd for failing to recognise health at every size.

When I saw the headlines, I expected to jump on the side of the latter. Until I actually read the article. Now I am convinced that the ‘FATTIES = BAD’ tone is more due to dodgy reporting rather than a fault with Rudd or within the actual report.

Not one of the expected recommendations is explicitly targeted at the obese and backs up these ridiculous headlines. The articles outline:

  • Tax breaks or subsidies for gym membership, fitness equipment and/or sports club membership
  • A ban on junk food advertising during children’s programs
  • Nutritional information displays for fast food outlets
  • Increasing the cost of cigarettes
  • Restrictions on opening times for venues serving alcohol

Leaving aside whether these measures will even be effective, all the recommendations listed in the articles stand to affect everyone.

The most disappointing thing about the Taskforce is that one of the goals they have set is to “curb the nation’s growing waistline.”

Though the attitude that obesity automatically equates to unhealthiness is frustrating, I don’t blame Kevin Rudd and I am not worried that this will be entered into policy. Rudd commissioned a report from an independent taskforce who will make a series of recommendations that the government is under no obligation to implement. I think that, for now, the fatties are safe from the Australian Government.

Edit: The ABC also covered this story. Apparently one of the recommendations could be that “overweight people would be given subsidies for gym membership or fitness equipment”, which was not explicitly outlined in the News Limited articles. Sigh. The National Preventative Health Taskforce was due to report on their recommendations this week but so far nothing has been released. Watch this space.


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