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Issue #1724      March 23, 2016


An OECD study, “Do Environmental Policies Affect Global Value Chains?”, presented at the London School of Economics challenges the conventional “wisdom” that regulations to curb pollution and energy use hurt businesses by creating new costs. “Environmental policies are simply not the major driver of international trade patterns,” said OECD Chief Economist Catherine Mann. “We find no evidence that a large gap between the environmental policies of two given countries significantly affects their overall trade in manufactured goods. Governments should stop working on the assumption that tighter regulations will hurt their export share and focus on the edge they can get from innovation”. As governments consider ways to tighten environmental regulations in line with new climate change pledges, this analysis offers evidence that doing so would not hurt trade. It bears out theoretical studies showing that factors like market conditions and workforce quality are likely to have much more impact on trade competitiveness. Tough environmental standards may also drive firms to become more innovative, improving both their economic and environmental performance. Good advice – anyone in Canberra listening?

Oh sugar! Britain’s decision to introduce what has quickly become known as a “sugar tax” on soft drinks has opened up a discussion on what Australia should do. There are those who think it is a great idea, there are others who think that more should be done to educate the population and make food manufacturers clearly display a list of all the components in their products on easy-to-read and understand labels. Some time ago Coca-Cola was accused of funding some health organisations in the USA which had stated that the obesity epidemic should be dealt with by mainly focussing on exercise rather than controlling dietary intake. Here in Australia Coca-Cola has disclosed the names of 14 health professionals who had received money for “scientific research and health partnerships”. To use the words “health” and “Coca-Cola” in one sentence is a bit of a contradiction, to put it mildly.

As we all know, submarines and weapons do not come cheap. Something has to give and the coming budget will disclose what it will be. One of the programs that may be dropped in the budget is a $2.7 billion dental program that has provided one million children with free dental care. As a result of this two-year old program many children who had never seen a dentist received dental care. The program is means-tested and nearly all the children were bulk-billed. Eighty percent were treated by private dentists. The Child Dental Benefit Schedule has been underutilised, with only 30 percent of eligible children using it. The federal president of the Australia Dental Association, Rick Olive, urges families to take children to the dentist before it is too late. “What I have to say to people who are eligible, and if they haven’t been to the dentist, they better go and make an appointment with their dentist because likely from July 1, the scheme won’t exist.”

Next article – Culture & Life – Trump really is a fascist

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