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It's life, Jim, but not as we know it, Part One

 

Despite a clear and substantial increase in the amount and quality of information available to the modern consumer through globalisation, and communication advances, we still don’t always make decisions that are in our best interests, particularly in the areas where politicians and lawyers seem to spend a lot of time, such as financial, telecommunications, and even competition policy. So what can policy makers do to at least create an environment of better consumer outcomes?

Osama bin Laden: What Indonesia told the US but the US did not tell Indonesia, or anyone else

The world of intelligence – spying to you and me – is by definition shrouded in secrecy, so that often what we know is limited or partial and the rest is, hopefully, what makes sense based on building up a longer term picture of events. The question of who knew what and how that was handled in the tracking of Osama bin Laden is a case in point.

It is known that the US had been tracking Osama bin Laden closely for the last few years, had known where his hideout was since last August and had been planning how to neutralise him since that time. We also know that massive bombs were considered as one option, but that a highly detailed raid by two units of special forces operatives was chosen instead.

A Novel Romance

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend;
Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.
        Groucho Marx.

 

Cigarette brands and the plain truth

Cigarette packages have become the last bastion of advertising for cigarette manufacturers.

The new plain package cigarettes will be presented in olive green packaging, with the only visible logo a graphic health warning. The brand of the cigarette appears in plain type and small font.

Cigarette companies promote and sell through colours, logos and images. To this end, cigarette packets are designed to reassure smokers about risk and to reinforce smokers’ self-image.

Research has shown that changing the message, picture and colour of packaging has a significant influence over choice by younger consumers.

Importantly, the research showed that changing the size of the graphic warning picture, the size and number of brand elements, and the colour of the packaging has been linked to promoting cessation of smoking amongst young adult smokers.

Why plain cigarette packaging will change smokers... incrementally

 

When it comes to branding and advertising, much of what we are exposed to creates only marginal difference. But even small differences can tip the balance toward a particular choice, and plain packaging of tobacco products will make this kind of difference.

 

This is because small differences build up into larger differences, and in marketing, the game is all about increments rather than dramatic changes in behaviour.

 

So, if we are serious about reducing the number of smokers in our population, the removal of branding, logos and promotion on the packages of tobacco products is a small step in the right direction.

Shall we talk about whales and whaling? (5)

Whales and geisha girls

 

Whether or not whaling and eating whale meat is a genuine part of Japanese culture is one of the hottest points of debate between a pro-whaling camp and an anti-whaling camp.  The former claims that whaling and whale-eating culture has existed in Japan since the ancient time and is, therefore, a part of Japanese culture.  

 

     On the other hand, the anti-whaling camp asserts that Japan’s cultural claim is a fraud, as whale meat consumption is not a nationwide practice and there are a lot of Japanese who have never eaten the meat.  Pointing to whaling, they insist, specifically referring to the Japanese scientific research whaling in the Antarctic, that the pelagic whaling with big ships and sophisticated equipments is a modern practice and not at all traditional.

 

Eek! I've turned into a health dinosaur

Something terrible happened.

When I studied health in the post-revolutionary but pre-reunification early 1980s I looked up to the authors of the classic texts in health critique. Vicente Navarro. Howard Waitzkin. Ivan Illich. David Mechanic. Perhaps even Ilona Kickbusch. But certainly the Boston Women's Health Book Collective.

It seemed that in the nearly three decades since those inspiring days things started to balance out. Health, not disease, became the centre of the discourse. What was advocated as a fringe perspective (the 'social model of health' and even more radically, 'salutogenesis') became part of the global mainstream. We moved on.

I thought.

Last week our reference librarian sent me an announcement that they were presented (freebie!) with an e-book. 'Health' was its title. Nice, I thought. Our librarian added:

Australia's asylum seeker policy dying a death of a thousand cuts

The Australian government’s ‘East Timor’ asylum seeker solution is dying a death of a thousand cuts. It is a slow and painful process and unedifying to watch it writhe in agony. The plan has not yet been killed outright, but only an unreconstructed optimist would now suggest its fate is other than sealed.

 

The Bali Process ministerial forum has been one of the more damaging cuts to the ‘East Timor solution’, even if the decision by East Timor Foreign Minister Zacarias da Costa not to attend was not a snub to Australia, as presented by some. Rather, East Timor has correctly pointed out that it has much more pressing priorities than Australia’s domestic concerns with asylum seekers and its half-baked plan about where to process them.

 

Shall we talk about whales and whaling? (4)

Japan March 11th 2011: For the record

 

In the evening of 22 March, I boarded Qantas flight 22 bound for Sydney via Hong Kong from Narita International Airport.  It was a familiar flight for me which was usually a direct flight between Tokyo and Sydney.  However, the flight route of the QF22 had been changed due to the disaster in Japan.  Qantas wanted to make sure the safety of their crews.

 

Although I was unhappy and slightly anxious about the change of the route, the flight turn out to be the most memorable and, maybe, the safest flight I have ever had.  72 crew members of the Australian rescue team returning to Australia from the disaster zone were on board.

 

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