Issue 23 / 20 June 2016

BUYER beware. There’s some old stuff masquerading as some new stuff on the Australian political market. And it’s just fluked its way out of obscurity.

In a twist of electoral dumb luck, the ironically renamed Health Australia Party (HAP) has won the first column on the NSW senate ballot paper.

In reality, the HAP is merely a rebadged and reimagined version of the Natural Medicine Party (NMP) – and its renaming is misleading in the extreme.

The HAP could accidentally get over the line by duping voters who think they’re voting for good health policy. This should be a major concern to evidence-based health professionals and the Australian public alike. In politics, perception is everything and so the rebadging of the NMP is the key here.

With the rebadge – they hope – comes legitimacy in a space where they have none.

Delving into HAP policies reveals crucial misunderstandings.

Their policy document begins with the assertion that “Australia is experiencing an epidemic of chronic disease which is rarely discussed by health officials or in the media”. This is a misrepresentation of reality.

Yes, there is a chronic disease “epidemic” in Australia. But no, it’s not “rarely discussed”. And that’s the problem with a group like the HAP. On closer inspection, their policies are a filled with half-truths used to support their fringe health beliefs and mask the fact that their key assertions are not supported by evidence.

Chronic disease has been and remains a major focus for research and discussion in Australian health policy. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare maintains robust data on the burden of chronic disease and the Department of Health via the National Strategic Framework for Chronic Conditions, uses data to form a coordinated policy approach to management.

But chronic diseases aren’t the only area where the HAP is misguided and misinformed.

They’d also like to get rid of water fluoridation. They don’t see a benefit in a public health measure shown to significantly reduce rates of dental decay and improve dental health – one that has also been shown to have no demonstrable negative effects despite repeated and thorough investigations looking for them.

No, the HAP doesn’t like it because they believe fluoride is toxic and causes health effects. No matter what the evidence says. That’s not science. That’s not a good way to make policy.

Similarly, if the HAP had their way they’d repeal the Commonwealth’s No Jab, No Pay legislation. This is the legislation that means that unless a child is fully vaccinated – or a plan is in place to catch up on missed vaccines – parents are ineligible for certain government payments. It’s not forced vaccination and it doesn’t remove choice. It is good policy that demonstrates the importance of childhood vaccination and provides consequences for opting out.

Legislation like No Jab, No Pay is part of the reason why Australia enjoys one of the lowest rates of endemic vaccine preventable illnesses and has a vaccine program that is the envy of the developed world. Getting rid of it would be a backward step.

The HAP’s policies are fundamentally preoccupied with seeing ineffective therapies, including homeopathy and naturopathy, on an equal footing to evidence-based medical practice in Australia’s health policy. In the eyes of Medicare this includes, presumably, valuing homeopathic vaccines as equivalent to the ones that actually work. That is not the way to keep Medicare sustainable.

Having views like those of the HAP isn’t really a problem if they are voiced at dinner tables and discussed in clinics or in Facebook groups.

But with a seat in the federal senate comes a real risk to a healthy Australia. Here the HAP will have the potential to waste public money and senate time debating their own warped view of science at the cost of meaningful discussions.

The HAP is the climate change denier and flat-earth-creationist of the health world and has no part to play in serious conversations about the future of Australia’s health, let alone in shaping Australia’s health policy.

Regardless of the name, a vote for the HAP is not a vote for a healthy Australia.

Dr Simon Hendel is a Melbourne-based anaesthetist and retrieval physician. He is completing his postgraduate studies in journalism.


Poll

Which political party has the best health policies?
  • None of the above (34%, 56 Votes)
  • Labor (25%, 40 Votes)
  • Greens (23%, 37 Votes)
  • Liberals (18%, 30 Votes)

Total Voters: 163

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19 thoughts on “Health Australia Party: buyer beware

  1. Chris Andrews says:

    Some people think the earth is flat too.

  2. GregLuke says:

    This is a good article.

    The new name for this bunch of whacko’s is very misleading.

     

    Buyer beware indeed!

  3. Prof John Corbett says:

    Re “Buyer Beware” Article: Fringe parties have been able for many years to exert undue political influence, and this state of affairs seems likely to persist. Would it not be sensible for the AMA to set up its own political party to contest future federal and state Senate elections? It is very possible that this would result in Medical Practitioners and our organisations having a much stronger political voice in Australia than has traditionally been the case.

  4. Jon Wardle says:

    The fact their business advisor is a former executive of Philip Morris Asia doesn’t really do much for their health cred either

  5. Steve Flecknoe-Brown says:

    Surely this party name is demonstrably deceptive.  

    Please, AMA, approach the Electoral Commission as a matter of urgency; present them with the evidence that their policies are anti-health and seek their disqualification from the election.

  6. Jennifer Heywood says:

    When medical science exhibits consensus then we can talk of the validity of that agreed ‘science’. When it is a  batttleground of opposing conclusions, it becomes something other than ‘settled science’. Call it what you will. 

    Our peak medical research body is at risk of bias in its selection of “evidence”. A case in point is failing to find evidence of effectiveness of herbalism at a time when the Nobel Prize 2015 has been awarded for a malaria cure by extraction from a herb based on ancient Chinese herbal texts.

    There seems to be a  strong move to suppress opposing views in medical debate in Australia today. I understand that the new Party actually promotes “proven, independent research”. I would have thought doctors would welcome that. Is there some other reason to object to the Health Australia Partty? I don’t think anyone disputes that corruption has crept into public life, and this is the time to speak against that disturbing trend, which this Party advocates.

    We must welcome open discussion, not stifle it.

     

  7. Stuart Gunzburg says:

    I think you need to make it publically know that hoemopathy and naturopathy are not evidence -ased and have been proven in a number of studies to have no beneficial effect upon human health. In particular, homeopathic vaccines (water) do not provide any immunological protection to vaccine preventable diseases. Additionally, leaders of this party also consider that planes are spraying toxic substances in their contrail exhaust; the so call chemtrail conspiracy theory.

  8. Stuart Gunzburg says:

    In response to Kalori: you have a complete lack of understanding of science.  Sicence is evidence based, it is not a pick and chose selection of results. Yes there is resistance by the scientific and medical community, but only where there is a lack of evidence.  A good example was the identification of H.pylori as a cause of ulcers. It was rejected until the evidence proved it was the cause of ulcers.  I think you are displaying the tpyical conspiracy theory persona where you expect people to believe because you believe.  This is just a case of cognitive disonance on your behalf. 

  9. Carl Bazergy says:

    What’s interesting in this article is when you click on the link which discusses the evidence for water fluoridation, it takes you to an NHS analysis which describes a prevalence of dental fluorosis of about 50%, considering australia’s current water fluoride content (not to mention discussion of other possible and more serilus adverse effects). How the author describes this evidence as showing “no demonstrable negative effects” is beyond me. I would encourage a healthy debate of some of these contentious issues – I’ll be voting for this party.

  10. Dr Frank Kabourakis says:

    In response to Kalori. You might want to dig a little deeper into the story of Artemisinin. You have esentially parroted the press releases and journalist articles covering this topic which unfortunately were very superficial and pitifully innacurate.

    In contrast to your statement the story of the discovery oif Artemisinin is an epic story of the scientific process. It had very little to do with TCM. Rather it had everything to do with a very pedantic group of researchers who worked their buts off to make something out of almost nothing. The original plant Artemisia annua from which this  drug was ultimately extracted and modified has no activity against malaria in humans. 

    Read the following 2 articles and see for yourselves what modern scientic inquiry can achieve:

     

    https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/no-the-nobel-prize-does-not-validate-naturopathy-or-herbalism/

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/the-nobel-and-chinese-medic

  11. Pamela J Cooke says:

    I commend Kalori for their honest and succinct encapsulation of medical science’s attempts to suppress opposing views of the medical debate in Australia today. They point out that the Health Australia Party “promotes proven independent research”. Why is the medical fraternity so opposed to any material that they see as opposition to their carefully cultivated publications? 

    To quote the British Medical Journal Saturday 29th January 1994, entitled “The Scandal of poor Medical research” by Medical statistics Laboratory, Imperial Cancer Research Head, Douglas G Altman:

    “The poor quality of medical research is widely achnowledged, yet disturbingly the leaders of the medical profession seem only minimally concerned about the problem and make no apparent efforts to find a solution.”

    The issue here is not one of the statistics as such. Rather it is a more general failure to appreciate the basic principles underlying research, coupled with the publish or perish climate.

    As the system encourages poor research it is the system that should be changed. We need less research, better research, and research done for the right resaons. Abandoning using the number of publciations as a measure of ability would be a start!”

    Time for honest debate in Australia not  medical research published and funded by Drug companies.

  12. Jim Patterson says:

     

    Thanks Simon. I think the Health Australia Party (HAP) have been looking at the statistics and seen the expanding levels of obesity, type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases. They could be forgiven for assuming that the medical model was not paying this epidemic much attention.

    I’m glad you made it clear; that the medical fraternity has been so focused on this problem.

    It’s no wonder then that people are turning away from ineffective medicine that is focused on symptoms, by your own admission; failing, and turning towards alternative and natural medicine that actually works.

     

  13. Frank Kabourakis says:

    What on earth are you all talking about? There is nothing alternative about followng a healthy lifestyle. Common sense lifestyle issues are not the domain of alternative health providers. Since when did they co-opt these and make them part of the alternative paradigm?  Current medical apporaches are not just ‘symptom’ based. You must have a very limited understanding of what modern medicine does.

     Advice about healthy living makes up more than half of the average family doctor’s work. Since when does this aspect of health not play a major role in our current medical approach? 

    So when a person makes bad choices and gets sick or they live well but get sick anyway, what do you do now?   What will you do when a  person has had a heart attack, stroke,  pneumonia,bowel cancer? People are often going to get them regardless of perfect lifestyle or not.  Are you going to prescribe a homeopathic solution to dissolve the atheroma away? Are you going to accupunture them so that their Qi flows clearly and the toxins are flushed out and their cancer is cured? Are you going to practice some reiki so that their life energies are ‘balanced’ and their pneumonia is cured or their future risk of stroke is gone?

    Wake up people, we are talking about a political group that uses lifestyle and prevention, something we are already well aware of, as a trojan horse to push their  patently unproven therapies such as homeopathy, reiki, iridology, TCM (the list goes on and on) and their antivaccination agenda. 

     

  14. Sue Ieraci says:

    The HAP is the deceptively re-named Natural Medicine Party, which has been in existence for several years. Its main aims are to promote so-called “natural” remedies. Of course, this “natural” umbrella includes many inert “remedies”, and omits a huge number of life-saving ones.

    One of this group’s candidates is Homeopath Isaac GOlden,whose evidence was ruled inadmissable when he sought to support the business HomeopathyPlus in their federal court case against the ACCC.

    ALmost all purveyors of “natural medicine” directly market the products they recommend. SOme have caused tragic harm by convicing vulnerable people to stop effective treatment and substitute placebo. IN regulated health care professions, people practising in this way would be severely sanctioned, if not deregistered.

    We all know that many therapeutic substances are plant-derived. In order to make safe and effective remedies, though, the active substances have to be purified, statndaridsed and rigorously tested – thereby making them pharmaceuticals. COnventional medicine makes use of Vitamins or plant-derived substances  for evidence-based indications – whether it is Vit K for blood clotting in newborns, thiamine for alcoholics or Digoxin for atrial fibrillation. This is not ‘natural medicine’ – it is evidence-based medicine.

    Meanwhile, there is no evidence at all that so-called ‘natural therapies’ or alternative health care providers have contributed anything to prevent the rise in chronic diseases like diabetes. On the contrary – while expenditure on “alternative” products has excalated, chronic disaese incidence has risen. Association or causation?

     

  15. Sue Ieraci says:

    The person posting as “Sceptic Jim” observes that ” I think the Health Australia Party (HAP) have been looking at the statistics and seen the expanding levels of obesity, type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases. ” Interestingly, expenditure on so-called “alternative” remedies, supplements and consultations with non-science based providers has been escalating for at least a few decades, during the time that they observe chronic diseases like diabetes to be on the rise. Correlation or causation? Perhaps these so-called alternatives are not the answer after all.

  16. Jennifer Hewyood says:

    There are some gaps in the science when it comes to vaccines. Medical SCIENCE has said since 1909 that antibodies do not equate with immunity, but many doctors are still taught that. In 1909 the two warring views of the immune system were jointly awarded the Nobel prize but vaccine theory has continued to promote this disproven theory that antibody titres measure the level of immunity. Vaccine theory is a paradox to  modern immunology, biochemistry and microbiology.

    The science that doctors have been taught to rely on has also suffered from research fraud, sometimes deliberate as in the case of the CDC current employee stating that he and others removed ‘unwanted’ data in order to disprove the link between MMR and autism. They actually found the same disturbing connection as was suggested by Dr A Wakefield. But chose to remove it, and claim the opposite finding. That’s fraud, not science!

  17. Elizabeth Grace Abbottsmith says:

       Thanks for HAP article…perhaps where is the Australian College of Nursing comment ? Nursing leadership….or validly too busy protecting those in aged care ?

  18. Elizabeth Grace Abbottsmith says:

       Where is AHPRA in the HAP debate.?   Hopefully the Senate Enquiry into Medical Complaints ( Terms of Reference now amended to include nurses and midwives ) will continue post Federal Election…as supported by Dr Charlie Teo, Senator Nick Xenophon etc. AHPRA should not be used to suppress ” whistle-blowers ” or others notifying their valid concerns , by vindictive and vexacious use of the complaints system…without even needing to sign a “Submiitted in good faith ” declaration “.

     

     

     

     

     

  19. Sue Ieraci says:

    I don’t know who the person posting as “Kalori” is, but he or she has little chance of debunking the entire field of modern immunology by posting on the blog page of a medical journal.

    Antibody titres MEASURE immunity – whether acquired as a natural immune response to an infection or a natural immune response to a vaccine antigen.

    Wakefield’s tainted case series of only twelve children, referred by lawyers who were involved in suing vaccine manufacturers, has neither proven anything, nor been supported by any high quality evidence. On the contrary. Wakefield’s disruptive work diverted a huge amount of research funds into debunking his suggestion, away from the needs of the children who could benefit from productive research.

    It’s time to move on from that unfortunate episode.

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