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Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 252

Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 252

Maxim Institute - real issues - No 252 10 May 2007 www.maxim.org.nz

An old vision for a new France Diabetes, obesity and a home-cooked meal 'Springtime' for family at World Congress

IN THE NEWS Lowering the bar for genetic screening Helping those on the lowest incomes Submissions into housing affordability


Conservative UMP candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, has won the presidency of the French Republic, beating Socialist candidate, Segolene Royal, 53 percent to 47, in the final round of voting. His victory may mark a rejection of recent French habits and a return to more traditional ideas.

Mr Sarkozy is expected to introduce changes to France's ailing economy and rigid labour laws, having campaigned strongly on issues such as crime, unemployment and immigration. In his victory speech, Mr Sarkozy promised change, but also reached out to urge his political opponents to 'join with' him, saying: 'beyond the political battle, beyond the differences of opinion, for me there is only one France.' Appealing for unity, Mr Sarkozy said that he would manage change in the 'spirit of union and fraternity . . . [so that] everyone . . . feels respected within their dignity as citizens and men.' This appeal for unity and vision of 'a fraternal republic' show that he is conscious that far-reaching economic and social reform of the kind he promises can only occur with the consent, the support, and the 'understanding' of the whole country, and not just the partisans of one party.

With political parties from the fringe running candidates for President, (including the Revolutionary Communist League and the National Front), it is pleasing that a moderate conservative has won who will bring about change, but in a manner that does not ignore the history of France. During the campaign Sarkozy promised concrete and far-reaching reform, appealing to an 'ideal' and 'love' of France: 'The French people have spoken and have chosen to make a break with the ideas, the customs and the behaviour of the past. I am thus going to restore the status of work, authority, standards, respect, merit.'

And while he is departing from 'the past' in some ways, his emphasis on dignity, opportunity, respect and nationhood appeal to an older moral ethic, and a conception of France which, at least in theory, recognises the common good. The change he is promising rejects the pieties, policies and attitudes of rigid socialism (such as the 35-hour working week) which have perplexed and paralysed France since they began their rise in the 1960s. Mr Sarkozy has mapped out a bold new road for the French people, calling for ' . . . all the French, irrespective of their party, their beliefs, their origins, to join with me to ensure that France gets moving again.' The challenge for Sarkozy, and for France, will be delivering that vision.


Diabetes New Zealand has released a new report highlighting the growing problem of type 2 diabetes. They suggest that by 2021, 15 percent of health spending could be spent on illness related to type 2 diabetes. The disproportionate rates of obesity amongst those from the poorest backgrounds could be an indication of how the collapse of intergenerational support affects a family.

The report Type 2 Diabetes - Outcomes Model Update calls for immediate action to be taken in an attempt to curtail the escalation of this 'epidemic'. Diabetes impacts people across all sectors of society, but family breakdown and its associated problems may compound the difficulties those on lower incomes face. Latest estimates suggest that in 2006 there were well over 200,000 people suffering from type 2 diabetes, substantially more than the number predicted in 2001 of 178,950 people; and the soaring numbers show no sign of slowing.

Type 2 diabetes is mainly lifestyle induced, and is by far the most common type of diabetes in New Zealand. A contributing factor to this problem is New Zealand's high levels of obesity, which is a direct cause of type 2 diabetes. Obesity has been associated with low socio-economic status, suggesting families who face financial hardship are more likely to suffer from obesity.

A multitude of problems tend to bombard those with low socio-economic status. These compound as family breakdown can be made more likely by stress, which can, in turn, be caused by a low income. If a family breaks up the problems can worsen, with a family's income plummeting and their support network weakening. It is easy to see how all this makes the path to obesity more likely, as single parents end up working long hours on low wages, just to pay the rent. This kind of lifestyle leads to quick and easy meals, less fresh foods, and no time for cooking. The transmission of knowledge which usually occurs between generations through spending time together learning basic skills, such as cooking, does not always have the opportunity to take place, and children miss out on learning about healthy eating and nutrition, the problem then becomes intergenerational.

Before we consider pumping yet more money into prevention and early detection of diabetes, we should think about how we can encourage people to take ownership of their lives and responsibility for those around them. The factors in our society that play a large role in the cause of this disease can not necessarily be fixed by money.


This weekend pro-family leaders from around the world will gather in Warsaw for the 4th World Congress of Families. The Congress is increasingly gaining profile as it gathers support from more and more organisations concerned with strengthening families as the 'seedbed' of society. It has become a significant voice in defence of the natural family in a challenging world.

This year, the theme for the Congress is the family as 'a source of social renewal and progress', reflected in the slogan 'The Natural Family: Springtime for Europe and the World'. Topics range from peace, to democracy, education and entertainment to marriage. A common thread is the important role that family plays in nurturing children and ensuring that they grow up to become responsible citizens able to work for peace in the world and for the good of society.

The Congress brings together grassroots organisations from many countries, who, whatever their diverse beliefs and individual goals, value the family as the 'fundamental social unit', and are committed to supporting it. The results of the Congress, as in the previous meetings in Mexico City, Geneva and Prague, will be contained in a Declaration to be voted on at the conclusion of the Congress.

The Doha Declaration formulated at the end of the last Congress sets out that 'We commit ourselves to recognizing and strengthening the family's supporting, educating and nurturing roles, with full respect for the world's diverse cultural, religious, ethical and social values.' This Declaration was endorsed by 149 countries, but New Zealand, the European Union and Canada, among others, dissociated themselves from it.



British newspaper The Times has reported a 'significant shift' in the use of preimplantation screening of embryos for genetic disorders, as consent has been given to test for 'cosmetic abnormalities'. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has granted approval for a London clinic to screen for a genetic disorder that causes pronounced squinting, using Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis. The condition is not life-threatening, but causes the eyes to look only downwards or sideways. Professor Gedis Grudzinskas, from the London clinic, suggests that 'we will increasingly see the use of embryo screening for severe cosmetic conditions.'


Peter Costello and the Australian Federal Government appear to have delivered a Budget that is both fiscally responsible and attractive to voters in the upcoming election. One of the major changes is a decrease in personal tax rates, including moving the tax-free threshold from A$6,000 to A$11,000, and the lowest tax bracket from A$25,001 to A$30,001. Funding for higher education also gets a shake-up with a move towards greater private endowment funding for universities. Addressing climate change is one area in which people expected greater expenditure but it appears that the Australian Government is looking to the private sector and the market to be the catalyst for change in this area. Overall the Government has promised A$31.5 billion in tax cuts, and this means more money in the hand for the average worker.


The Commerce Committee has asked the public for submissions on an inquiry into housing affordability in New Zealand. The purpose of the inquiry is to look at 'all components of the cost of housing for first home buyers in New Zealand and examine significant shifts over time.' The Committee is interested in feedback on all aspects of housing, including the availability of and access to land, how households manage to meet the debts involved with owning property, and the impact that investor demand has on the market. Submissions can be made to the Committee until Friday 15 June.


'Charismatic political leadership arises from passion grounded in principle, coherent analysis and a clear vision of what power is for.'

Melanie Phillips

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