A friend from France recently asked me why Australians seemed to have little problem with their governments giving them advice in the form of media and advertising campaigns that urge people to change their lifestyles. Certainly Australia is home to many publicity drives that urge us to stop smoking, to slow down on the roads, to check our superannuation accounts and so on. The French would, at least according to my friend, be far less tolerant of government 'interference' in their private lives.
Are Australians too trusting of their governments? Has the "nanny state" taken over down under? Certainly Australian political history gives less cause for concern than that of most countries. The USA was settled by pilgrims feeling religious persecution at the hands of government in the UK. Later, the civil war there killed more people than all of America's other wars on foreign soil. The Germans have particularly traumatic memories with democratically government that turn themselves into genocidal dictatorships. The French too have been through a famous revolution that went wrong and still have memories of the collaborationist Vichy government during WWII that shipped thousands of French citizens to extermination and forced labour in the Third Reich. Australian politics, in comparison, are, thankfully more like a Sunday kindergarten picnic.
It is not that the legal situation in the USA, France or Australia is radically different. Smoking in indoor public places is banned in all three. Driving when drunk is also illegal. Perhaps Australian governments are more proactive. After all, the point of such laws is to bring about behavioural change. And prevention is the best cure. It is a better outcome for all concerned if people abstain from drink driving before the law gets involved. Similarly, there are financial benefits for nations that have a healthier population. With the skyrocketing cost of medical treatment in most Western countries, this is more true now than ever. So maybe a publicity campaign with a policy objective makes good sense.
Dame Edna Everage is reputed to have said that if Germany was the "fatherland" and England was the "motherland", then Australia was "auntie land". Maybe she meant to say "nanny land".