I don’t have time to read all of this!
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HealthAustraliaParty/
Themes: Natural medicine, distrust of the scientific establishment, leftish but big on individual rights, pro-environment, pro-Mother Nature. Claim they are not anti-vaccination, just pro-safe-vaccination, but their party leader is a ‘world leader’ in homeopathic immunisation, so…
With friends like these…
The Group Voting Ticket
Once again, we get a mix of parties at the top. Frequent flyers are the Democratic Labor Party, which is in the top five on all but one ticket, the Animal Justice Party, which is in the top five in six of eight tickets, and Fiona Patten’s Reason Party, which is in the top five about in five of eight. The Australian Country Party, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party, Sustainable Australia, Transport Matters, the Liberal Democrats and the Aussie Battlers all make it into the top five multiple times.
To my amusement, Fiona Patten’s Reason Party almost inevitably occurs right before or right after the Democratic Labor Party, and the Animal Justice Party is almost always paired with the Australian Country Party or Shooters and Fishers. This suggests either deep confusion or a perverse sense of humour on the part of whoever put these voting tickets together.
The Australian Liberty Alliance is last on every ticket, and the Victorian Socialists are fifth last. In between, we always have the Coalition, Labor and the Greens, usually in that order, though Labor is first of the three times and the Greens once.
So basically, we don’t like major parties, and we don’t like either the extreme right or the extreme left of politics. And at the top, we have no idea what we want, but I’m guessing that social conservatism and kindness to animals are important to Health Australia.
The Body Politic
Policies, Snark, Terrible Theme Songs and Other Observations
Disclaimer: I am not a scientist, nor do I play one on TV. But I work with a lot of scientists, and they are an amazing group of people – smart, hardworking, kind, and committed to improving the health of Australians. So I do take some of Health Australia’s views on science and medical research quite personally, because those are my friends the HAP is insulting. I’m pretty sure the HAP would call that a conflict of interest. I’ll let you decide.
The Health Australia Party has the tag’ People. Environment. Democracy. Society. Economy.’, and its slogan is ‘For all Australians…a healthy choice’.
‘Choice’ in health can mean many things, but Health Australia were *very* focused on natural health last time, so I have to admit, I’m looking at that ‘choice’ stuff and thinking, hello, antivaxxers. But let’s try to see what they actually stand for before we leap to conclusions.
Actually, no. I’m apparently the sort of person who has to turn to the back of the book to see whodunnit, rather than waiting patiently for the story to unforld, so this is me heading over to their media page to look at their official statement on the No Jab No Pay/Play legislation, and look what we have here:
HAP understands that the overwhelming majority of the huge amount of submissions both Federally, and in Victoria, were against this legislation, and that many of these came from well-respected legal, healthcare, and social justice organisations. HAP echoes their views and opposes this legislation. It is predicated upon several demonstrably false assumptions, and flies in the face of what would be considered best practice in almost any other Western nation except the USA. It is especially disturbing that the Victorian State Health Minister appears to be in a state of denial over the issue of severe adverse reactions…
There is urgent need for a review of the independence of regulation. Monitoring and reportage of adverse reactions is completely inadequate…
These are, of course, extracts only, but the entire statement is here.
There are reasonable arguments that can be made against this law. The primary one is that the ‘no pay’ aspects of the law unfairly targets lower income people – those on higher incomes can afford the penalties of not vaccinating. But that’s not the argument chosen by the Health Australia Party, which heads straight into the land of adverse reactions, shady pharmaceutical companies and biased media.
I am not going to turn this post into a lengthy explanation or justification of vaccination, debunking of vaccination myths, or the need for herd immunity. Others have done this far better than I could.
I will say three things though.
First, the diseases we vaccinate against are not trivial. I’ve worked with a woman who lost the use of her legs thanks to polio. A friend of my mother’s lost a son my age to encephalitis secondary to measles. A girl I went to school with died of flu. (For that matter, this is the 100th anniversary of the Spanish Flu pandemic, which killed more people than the World War it followed. Flu is not something to take lightly.) Mumps can cause infertility in men. Rubella can cause blindness, deafness and other disabilities in developing fetuses. Whooping cough still kills babies (and makes adults very sick for literally months at a time). And so forth.
Second, vaccinations don’t make much money for pharmaceutical companies. They are generally cheap to make (and made cheaper by economies of scale), and, frankly, don’t bring in anywhere near as much income as the diseases they prevent. Big Pharma has no vested financial interest in making people vaccines that will cause horrifying side effects.
Third, it’s horrifically cruel to people with autism when autism is held up as the terrible, horrible consequence of vaccination. This is basically implying that autism is a fate worse then death (and is often accompanied by talking about what a terrible burden it is for the family). How do you think that feels to autistic people listening? Even if you think that this is true (and it has been thoroughly debunked), for goodness’ sake, consider what you are saying here!
But back to their front page, which has pictures of diverse people working together, happy children, beautiful forests, and market stalls full of vegetables. Also wind farms, building sites, and scales with gavels.
The Health Australia Party (HAP) is a true centre party committed to promoting open and transparent Government decision making, balance and honesty of information, and stimulating individual freedom of choice and thought – to ensure we have a genuinely Healthy Australia.
There’s that individual freedom of choice and thought again. I haven’t really analysed their slogan beyond going ‘hello, antivaxxers’, but once again we have the inclusive theme of ‘for all Australians’, and ideas of health and choice.
Only if Australians can come together, rather than fragment, will the ongoing health, affluence and lifestyle of our country be assured. So the HAP is creating a new paradigm:
- A middle ground where Australians can come together, seek consensus and share values and aspirations.
- A new political space based on grass roots consultation, transparency and relevance that aims to improve the health of the Nation starting with the health of individual citizens, through to local councils, to state and territory governments, and finally to the national government and to international alliances.
So this is interesting, because the values espoused here are ones of community and consensus, but in fact, they are pretty strongly individualistic as well, as we will see. We are then told that a ‘Healthy Australia’ must be built on the following five fundamentals:
- Healthy people
- Healthy economy
- Healthy environment
- Healthy democracy
- Healthy society
And they group their policies into these areas.
We are a true centre Party where all Australians, including supporters of the 3 major parties, who are concerned about the erosion of their rights can vote in the Senate to protect those rights, including the right to choose the form of healthcare they prefer.
The bolds are mine. Health Australia Party is pretty focused on individual liberty.
On their ‘About’ page, Health Australia tells us about the history of their party and is Very Disappointed in people like me.
It appears as though the HAP achieved around a 0.5% 1st preference vote, after excluding the so-called “donkey vote” which came with drawing the #1 spot in NSW […] This was despite a relentless media campaign which depicted the HAP as an “anti-vaccination” Party – something which was simply untrue as clearly shown by our policies.
How terribly unfair of me, to misread their policies so egregiously…
I shall be paying close attention to their policies around vaccination, but from memory, last time they were playing the ‘we aren’t against vaccination, we are in favour of safe vaccination’ card, and promoting homeopathic immunisation. Also, they favour individual liberty over social responsibility when it comes to herd immunity, which is a trifle selfish, in my opinion. They may not be saying ‘vaccinations are terrible, don’t get vaccinated’, but they are certainly giving people who don’t want to vaccinate lots of useful arguments against vaccination.
I won’t do a deep dive into the HAP’s candidates, but there are a lot of crunchy natural health types who left the corporate world in a search for Meaning. Words like ‘holistic’, ‘natural’ and ‘the great outdoors’ float freely through their descriptions. Two candidates are of particular note: Dr Isaac Golden, a homeopath and the party’s founder, who is, according to his Facebook page, a ‘world authority on homeopathic immunisation’, and Dr Geoff Pain, who is an anti-fluoride campaigner. (You can read a rather fascinating and not at all positive article about his research here.)
I have to say, I get extra cross when people with actual PhDs start doing fake science in this way, because they really ought to know better. Anyway, the take home message is that this is not a party that has a great deal of respect for science and conventional medicine.
Speaking of which…
Policy development will continue, and a rebranding of the Party to ensure that the invalid “anti-vacc” tag is removed will occur.
The recent attacks on the integrity and evidence base of all natural therapies, led by the scientifically flawed NHMRC 2017 report quoted by other political parties as well as sceptic groups such as the Friends of Science in Medicine, shows that the need for the Health Australia Party remains as strong as ever.
Heaven forbid we have science in medicine.
Anyway, let’s see what these policies are really about, shall we?
The Health Australia party tells us that ‘Australia is experiencing an epidemic of chronic disease which is rarely discussed by health officials or in the media. The current medical business model provides no incentive for drug manufacturers to promote good health.’
I just want to note that the rise in chronic illnesses definitely is being discussed by health officials, and is pretty clear in the research priorities of the NHMRC. And I see articles about this all the time, so I’m not sure what HAP thinks is being hidden here.
They go on to say that the goal should be to keep people in good health, rather than managing health crises as they arise, which is reasonable, and they want an integrative approach to health care that ‘encourages collaboration between general practitioners, specialists, allied health professionals and natural health care practitioners’.
Oh and look…
Recognise that the present epidemic of chronic diseases in Australia needs to be managed using a different paradigm which includes natural medicine, and that potentially serious infectious diseases be managed using a thoroughly researched program of immunisation that is both safe and effective.
Fantastic. Fortunately for us, immunisation has been very thoroughly researched, so we can go ahead and get everyone immunised, right?
(Something tells me that this is not the research they are looking for…)
They want to fund ‘methodically appropriate, objective, independent research’ into all aspects of natural and conventional medicine, and are very worried about the need for ‘informed consent’ before administration of a medication, which they view as a human right.
And no, the HAP are not saying they are anti-vaxx, but anyone who has spent five minutes on the internet recognises the dog-whistles in ‘objective, independent’ research and ‘informed consent’ in this context.
I’ve seen how this works before. A researcher looks into the safety of vaccines and finds that they are safe – and because the natural health community ‘knows’ that this can’t be true, that researcher is deemed to be either in the pay of big pharma or desperately deluded. They can’t possibly be objective and independent – look at the conclusions! Whereas anyone who produces evidence that vaccines are harmful is clearly objective and independent and therefore to be trusted.
Also, the goalposts keep shifting. First, it was mercury in the vaccines, so they took mercury out of the vaccines, even though the amounts were negligable compared to dietary intakes, and then everyone turned around said, oh, no, actually it’s the preservatives. Or getting too many vaccinations at once. Or…
(It’s worth noting that taking out preservatives or separating out vaccines makes them more expensive to make and harder to store, which affects the ability of poorer countries to afford them. So anti-vaxxers are helping to worsen the situation globally. Think global, act local, I guess….)
If the only result you will accept is one that supports what you already believe, you are not approaching the evidence honestly.
(I’d also like to note that this set of assumptions is very insulting to medical researchers, most of whom work very long hours with very little job security because they love science and want to help people.)
Dear lord, I’m barely into their first policy. Sorry about this. I feel very strongly about vaccination, as well as about medical research, and about intellectual honesty, in case you hadn’t noticed…
Anyway. The HAP are pro-homebirth, which they feel is entirely safe, and want to allow midwives to help with homebirths. I’m… not entirely convinced by this, because if something does go wrong, you are a lot further away from medical help.
And they want natural medicine to be put on an equal footing with conventional medicine, which… eek. Also, they insist on calling conventional medicine ‘pharmaceutical medicine’, which is an interesting linguistic choice that has the effect of making it sound more artificial.
Do you know how natural medicine gets onto an equal footing with conventional medicine? Through scientific testing. Someone noticed that willow-bark tea helped with headaches, figured out the active ingredient, synthesised it so that people would know exactly how much of that ingredient they were getting, and hey presto – aspirin! Someone notices that people who drink water mixed with Cinchona bark don’t get malaria so often, and eventually someone isolates quinine and we have tonic water…
It’s not that natural remedies don’t have active ingredients that work. It’s that once we’ve proven that they work and figured out the dosage, we stop calling them natural medicine. Which… would seem to imply that natural medicine is the stuff that nobody has quite proven yet.
Does this sound like a good idea to you?
The HAP recognises that our country suffers when medical research is manipulated to produce results which serve vested interests, but which is then used by politicians to form the basis of public health decisions. The HAP will expose deliberate corruption in medical research using the considerable body of evidence which already exists in professional journals and elsewhere, and will support the recruitment of researchers with proven independence and integrity to undertake needed medical research which will then be published, whatever the findings.
Really? Whatever the findings? Even if you don’t agree with them? I’d like to believe that.
Also, if we are speaking of vested interests, a world expert on homeopathic vaccination does, in fact, have a vested interest in discrediting conventional vaccination (and indeed, getting homeopathy and other natural medicines onto Medicare). Just saying.
The HAP wants more research into natural medicine, and wants it to get dedicated funding from the NHMRC.
Whether this is good or bad policy depends on just what sort of research they want to fund, really. I’m all in favour of trying to work out whether natural remedies work and how, but if you can’t produce convincing preliminary data on this, I’m not sure you deserve research funding to do more.
The HAP recognises with great concern the attempts by well-resourced and influential lobby groups to stifle academic freedom within Australian universities and research institutes. The HAP will expose and oppose such attempts to prevent researchers from undertaking and publishing potentially controversial research, and will support the heads of institutions who stand up against individuals and groups who oppose academic freedom.
Let’s just call this one the Judith Wilyman Memorial Policy, shall we? Here’s an article about some of the issues with said thesis and why academic freedom is not really the question here.
The HAP wants to make sure that senior citizens have good access to healthcare, including natural medicine, and a reasonable pension, and they are worried about voluntary euthanasia and that the state or medical professionals might wind up making choices for people. They are concerned about autonomy of the dying person, and they want to make sure that people have access to high quality palliative care to give them ‘genuine options’. Basically, I think they are somewhat opposed to assisted dying, but don’t quite want to make a ruling on this.
They think that fluoridisation of the water is toxic and talk about ‘medicating a population through the water supply’ in best tinfoil hat fashion.
The HAP is in favour of medical cannabis, and they view drug addiction as a medical and social problem which should be treated as such. At last, a policy I agree with! They are also worried about family violence and for some reason feel that pharmacies are the answer.
For example, pharmacies are usually supportive environments that abused women may already be visiting and it might lessen the fear of partner retaliation if a pharmacist was able to triage a range of help – counselling, police contact, ongoing security patrols, emergency accommodation, emergency food supplies, GP or other health professional referral, etc.
I mean, I have nothing against this, but why are we singling out pharmacies as a Safe Space of choice?
The HAP seems a bit confused about what they want here. On the one hand, they
Support the principles of undistorted free enterprise where government has an important role to play in the provision of potentially unprofitable services and initiatives, as well as to provide reasonable regulations to ensure a level playing field for all participants in the national economy.
But they also
Recognise that the small business sector, including industry, commerce and the farming sector, deserves protection from unfair competition from large national and multinational corporations.
Can you have undistorted free enterprise and protectionism at the same time?
They are pro small business and anti-red tape, as is traditional for small parties, and they want the wealthy and corporations to pay their share of tax. But not be over-taxed. Also, they want the government to ensure that ‘neither big business, big unions nor government bureaucracies distort the economic system’.
I’m pretty sure that isn’t actually free enterprise, though. I thought the idea of free enterprise was keeping the government out of things? Or am I getting confused? It’s been a long day…
They also want more competition in banking, including a publicly owned community bank.Also, they are pro infrastructure, especially public transport, pro tourism (including eco-tourism), and pro-CSIRO, which is a national icon.
Look, I have no objections to any of their economic policies, but I do get the distinct impression that the HAP knows about as much about the economy as I do, which I assure you does NOT qualify them to be in charge. Trust me on this.
This is the bit that cracks me up, because the HAP really cares about the environment and now, suddenly, science is real and important and to be believed!
The HAP believes that there is overwhelming evidence supporting the claim that global weather changes are occurring for a range of reasons. Australia in 2016 has experienced its warmest summer on record and one of the driest, yet many northern hemisphere countries have experienced their coldest and most severe winters.
Whilst there is some disagreement regarding causes, there is no disagreement that the planet is becoming increasingly polluted and that human activity is a major contributing factor.
I think this is because if the HAP has a primary value, it is the idea that what is natural must be good – and what is more natural than Nature itself?
So they have a suite of policies here that even the Greens couldn’t fault.
The HAP is against logging, and also wants to ban the import of illegally harvested rainforest timbers from other countries. They want to encourage environmental rejuvenation, develop clean and renewable energy, and investigate environmental hazards before letting anyone mine anything.
They want a National Agricultural Policy that ’embraces regenerative agriculture, building healthy fertile soils rather than the use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides, and community gardens where organic, spray-free crops are encouraged along with organic mulching and manures to enrich the soils where our food supply is grown’.
They value Australia’s native plant diversity, they believe in food co-ops, and want to support communities to grow food ‘naturally, organically and sustainably’.
My brain temporarily froze on the question of how one grows food unnaturally, but I think this is probably a GMO thing. They also want to protect our arable land, and monitor pesticides and herbicides in the water.
The HAP will promote food education beginning at primary school to ensure that children know what food is healthy and what foods can cause chronic illness, including obesity which is of grave concern amongst children as well as adults. These programs will be based on the latest evidence that is free from commercial influence.
… I’m not sure that any specific one food causes chronic illness, but something about the general wholesomeness emanating from this section makes me suspect that the HAP avoids refined sugars, and probably gluten and dairy too. Also, we may be a wee bit fat-shamey here.
The HAP is worried about water, and opposes water privatisation, and good grief, I think they may actually have a good policy here:
There will be a 3 pronged approach to water security and stability. One will be based on capturing excess run off in large storage dams, the second will be prevention of evaporation and run off by incentives to keep all national and private land covered with ground cover year round thus preventing sediment movement which would fill storage dams, and the third will be a tax and monitoring basis of water quality monitoring at the lowest point on each property to encourage changes in behaviour by land owners.
I don’t know a lot about this issue, but it actually sounds sensible. Quick, someone pass the HAP a Rescue Remedy – they clearly aren’t feeling well.
They want to progressively retire fossil fuel generators, and replace them with sustainable energy systems. They want to progressively phase out subsidies for fossil fuels and redirect them to clean energy. Again, this sounds way too sensible and nowhere near hippy enough for the HAP, and I don’t know what to do with that.
The HAP is cautious about nuclear energy – if it can’t be produced with complete safety and the waste be rendered harmless, then we shouldn’t have it.
They want to address climate change by reducing pollution, including stopping burning of forests to clear land.
Suddenly, everything is about being scientifically-based, and it’s weird. I think they have a different author for this particular suite of policies.
Aaaaand suddenly we are worried about electro-smog and EMR emissions and I suspect it is time to break out the tinfoil hats. Because I may not know much about EMR emissions, but I do know that this is not a good sign:
The Agency would employ and communicate with scientists from different disciplines (physics, electromagnetics, medicine etc.), but also permit input from interested lay persons to ensure its purpose could not be “hijacked” by scientists who wished to maintain the status quo. The agency would ensure relevant information about EMR was made available to the public to encourage public awareness and discussion of the problem.
You know, my husband has been watching 1950s science fiction in the next room while I’ve been writing this, and it is full to the brim with mad scientists and evil schemes. I’m beginning to think that the HAP have been watching the same films. And haven’t realised that they are fiction.
Really, scientists are not trying to maintain the status quo at the cost of the public good. If you don’t trust their ethics, then trust their self-interest. The status quo does not lead to exciting research papers. And you need exciting research papers to get funding. So, if you are absolutely determined to follow the money, it’s going to lead you away from the status quo.
(Actually, you know what is a problem in research? People needing spectacular results in order to get publications in big journals. Negative results, or studies confirming what other people have done just don’t have the same status. So all those scientists who write paper after paper showing again and again that vaccines are safe are probably not doing their careers any favours. Just saying.)
Anyway. The HAP wants a labelling scheme to measure EMR outputs of all electronic devices. Which… look, I have nothing against this scheme. But the reasoning leading to it is just silly.
The HAP wants to make sure there isn’t too much foreign ownership of Australian land (though ‘a calm and rational approach to land ownership is essential’).
The HAP supports Indigenous recognition through either the Constitution or a Treaty, and will support whichever Aboriginal people prefer. They are also concerned about Aboriginal health, and want – naturally – a holistic approach to this.
They want ethical leadership from our politicians, protections for whistleblowers, and a society that promotes ‘personal security, mutual tolerance and respect’. They are big on grass roots consultation and free speech, but they want it to be positive free speech. Good luck with that. They support the ABC, though, so that’s good.
The HAP believes that the future success of the planet will be decided not by survival of the strongest and hardest, but survival of the healthiest, wisest and kindest, and education is the foundation upon which awareness of this truth is built.
They want tailored, individualised education, and more respect for teachers. And a holistic curriculum!
(There’s a drinking game to be had here, with the use of the word holistic, but I think you probably have to drink kombucha to participate.)
They support home education and child-led learning, which is OK up to a point, but I think you do need to regulate it pretty carefully to make sure kids are getting an education that doesn’t put them behind their peers. (Also, you need to make sure that children being homeschooled have enough contact with adults outside the house that it can’t become a cover for abuse.)
They are worried that current policies require universities and academics to rely on industry for funding, leading to corruption. I am not convinced by this theory, but am 100% in favour of more government funding for research!
The HAP is not willing to say anything too definitive about refugees, but they do affirm that every human being is ‘valuable, precious and entitled to freedom and self-determination’, and add that ‘the protection and humane and dignified treatment of anybody seeking asylum once they arrive in Australia or its territories, and regardless of their ethnicity or religion, is fundamental to the HAP’.
They are rather inclined to give them a 7 year visa to live and work in agricultural regions and related industries as a prerequisite to permanent residence.
They are anti-war, but they are in favour of optional military service. They also add that:
Any person under 21 years of age who has been unemployed and not studying for more than 12 months could be given the opportunity to join the national service as a means to assist them to gain self-respect and to improve their employment opportunities.
I’m wondering exactly how optional that option would be.
The HAP is against animal crueltuy, particularly live exports, and they want to help farmers to transition to more humane agricultural businesses.
They are pro-equality, and pro-marriage equality, but also support a conscience vote on marriage equality which… is a bit weak, to be honest. You can’t have it both ways. Also, it’s a bit irrelevant at this point, surely?
The HAP is against the death penalty, pro-gun control.
They are in favour of religious freedom and inter-faith understanding and cooperation.
The HAP will stimulate greater knowledge of, and promote the practice of mindfulness, prayer and meditation as proven low cost and pragmatic ways of improving the holistic health and wellbeing of all Australians.
And that brings us to the end of the Health Australia Party’s policies.
Overall… I think the key value here really is nature. Nature is pure and good and knows what is best. So the HAP wants to protect the environment, values natural childbirth and breastfeeding, trusts natural medicine and distrusts science and electromagnetic waves, and wants everyone to live in harmony with nature.
Which is a lovely idea, but the thing is, nature really isn’t on our side. Left to its own devices, nature kills a lot of women in childbirth, and a lot of children in infancy through infectious diseases. And you can’t cure everything with diet and positive thinking and homeopathy.
Don’t get me wrong; I think there are a lot of allied health interventions that are very useful and ought to be more available to more people, but I like my medicine evidence-based, thanks, and it worries me a lot that the HAP is so reflexively mistrustful of mainstream scientific opinion.
There are better candidates for the very bottom of my ticket, but the HAP is going to be a long way down, that’s for sure.