Meet the Small Parties – Health Australia Party

Let us now return to where the grass is greener, the farmers markets are brighter, the wind farms more appealing, people chat merrily over coffee cups and sunlight beams inspiringly through the tall trees in the forest – it’s the Health Australia Party.  Don’t we all feel better just looking at that slideshow of inspiring pictures?  Of course we do!  And that is just one way in which the Health Australia is ‘a healthy choice’ and ‘for all Australians’.  I am feeling loved and embraced already.  There is a decidedly crunchy granola feeling about this website.

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.

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.

They sound lovely.  They have five fundamentals – Healthy People, Healthy Economy, Healthy Environment, Healthy Democracy, Healthy Society.  I can get behind this.

Until…

Quality medicine for all people, with access to the best of proven natural and pharmaceutical medicine. Remove the influence of multinational pharmaceutical companies. Affordable medicine – using evidence from unbiased real-world clinical studies and targeted spending. Reform the health bureaucracy. Apply research funds wisely.

Build a health-creation system, not a disease-management system.

The bolds are mine, because I took one look at them, and my heart sank.  Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we have an anti-vaccination party on my hands, and this post just got either a lot longer or a lot shorter, because I suspect you’ve made up your mind about them one way or the other just from that sentence.

(Oh, let’s face it.  You know me by now.  Shorter is not the direction this will take…)

For those who are wondering how I got to ‘anti-vaccination’ from a handful of words, well, my extensive blog-reading experience suggests that a distrust of pharmaceutical companies and the need to emphasise ‘unbiased real-world clinical studies’ are both good indicators, particularly, alas, when partnered with the sort of lovely left wing, environmentally-friendly, compassionate politics that I am very fond of.  However, I didn’t want to slander a political party on that evidence, so I popped over to their board page and started Googling their Board members to see what came up.

I can’t definitively say that this party is 100% anti-vax (in fact, one of their board members, Prof. Avni Sali, has written a textbook on integrative medicine which, from what I saw on Google scholar, appeared to present the evidence against Wakefield and the vaccination-autism link quite fairly), but they do have homeopath Dr Isaac Golden on their board, and he is the brains behind Natural Immunisation Research.  And Natural Immunisation Research is very keen to tell you that “Doctors will not give parents their personal guarantee in writing of the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines they wish to administer,” and to claim that there have been no “comprehensive studies evaluating the long-term health of fully vaccinated and unvaccinated children”. (Instead, he proposes homeopathic vaccinations.)

The statement about comprehensive, long-term safety studies is misleading, I think. If I look up ‘vaccine safety cohort study’ on PubMed, I get well over 1000 hits – not all are immediately relevant, but studies are being done.  And – once a vaccine has been introduced and found to be safe and effective, it’s ethically problematic to do placebo controlled studies of large numbers of people, because you know you are now putting a lot of people at risk of illness by not vaccinating them (not to mention the fact that they can then infect more people around them).  It isn’t really feasible to wait for 20 years or longer before introducing a new intervention in order to be absolutely certain of the long-term health risks (though scientists do continue to monitor long-term health issues for some time after a new intervention is introduced).  Actually, when the polio vaccine was first introduced, they did a blinded placebo-controlled trial of nearly two million children – I’m not sure if anyone has studied the long term health outcomes in that generation, but the information would be available, and probably fascinating.

So yeah, this is looking pretty anti-vax to me.  And I have a problem with that.  Look, I don’t want this post to turn into a lengthy discussion of whether vaccinations cause autism, but it turns out I can’t just walk past this without saying at least a little bit about it.  So first, I would like to refer you to this incredibly thorough and interesting article reviewing studies of vaccines and autism.  It’s long, but it’s also interesting from a purely theoretical perspective, because the author does an amazing job of explaining why some sorts of studies are more valuable than others, and what particular sorts of studies can actually tell you.  Also, it has links to many, many studies that make the scientific argument better than I can, so I might let them do that for me.

Secondly, I’d like to provide a brief personal perspective, because I’m not a Shill For Big Pharma, but I do work at a medical research institute, and I can tell you that the researchers I work with are amazing people.  They work extremely long hours with very little job security (most research in Australia is funded by government grants and the success rate is currently about 13% – we are losing scientists at a terrible rate as a result) in a job that is often very discouraging (I have vivid memories of sitting through a PhD seminar which was an hour long list of all the things they had done over a three year period to try to figure out what a protein did, at the end of which they still had no idea what it did…).  Believe me, they are not doing this just for the money – the money is good, but not outstanding, and, as I said, job security is very poor.  They are doing this because they love it, and because they want to make people’s lives better. I actually feel quite offended and upset on their behalf when their training, expertise and hard work  – and good faith – is dismissed because of something someone said on the internet.

I’d also note that of the things that make money for Big Pharma, vaccinations are low on the list.  Generally, once developed, they don’t cost a lot to produce. This is precisely why a lot of vaccination funding is from philanthropic groups (such as the Bill Gates Foundation) and government organisations – it’s not generally worth the money for pharma to invest in vaccines.  They make more money out of people who are already sick.  And, in fact, I’ve seen a vaccine trial delayed due to lack of funding, when the pharma company a researcher had been working with for years decided not to provide them with the product they wanted to test, because they also produce the current treatment for that particular illness, and a viable vaccination would actually lose them money.

And lastly, for those who would say that vaccination is all very well but there are too many of them and the load on the immune system is too high, and anyway, these childhood diseases are harmless, well, no, that’s not really true either.  When you graze your knee, you don’t get just one bacteria entering your skin and being dealt with by your immune system – you get as many as that particular piece of dirt has to offer you.  And as for harmless, I have worked with a woman who lost the use of her legs to polio.  A girl in the year ahead of me at school died of the flu when I was in Year 8.  And one of my mother’s friends lost a son to encephalitis that was a complication of measles.  He was about my age, and this was in the late 1980s in a first-world country.

Right, now that I have pissed off half of the people who are reading this, let’s move on with the policies, shall we? (I can’t wait to see the comments I’m going to get on this post.  I suppose they will make a nice change from the white supremacists…?  But I really was hoping to not have to talk about vaccination in this round of posts – politics is quite contentious enough…)

The HAP tells me that their policies are still in progress, but the ones they have are available in a downloadable word file which is 19 pages long.

Their first set of policies centre on ‘Healthy People’, and they make the very valid point that “The current medical business model provides no incentive for drug manufacturers to promote good health”.  They are all about making people healthier and doing better at preventative medicine.  They want an integrated approach to health (‘free from corporate vested interests’, sigh), and there is a strong emphasis on natural health and allied health.  They do not, however, throw conventional medicine completely out the window, but yes, here we are being distrustful of vaccinations again – they evidently do not like the ‘no jab, no pay’ laws and they want a ‘thoroughly researched program of immunisation that is both safe and effective’.

Guys, do you have any idea HOW MANY studies have been done on vaccine safety since Wakefield?  PubMed tells me that the numbers are up around 15,000.  Not all of these are around MMR (1280) or even autism (719), but the studies are being done, some of them are enormous, and all of them cost money that could be put into new research, instead of confirming again and again and again what science has already shown, which is that vaccines are safe and effective.

The HAP would like to place natural medicine on an equal footing with pharmaceutical medicine.  I wonder if that means that natural medicines would need to get TGA approval to be used in humans?

And now, this:

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. The HAP will review existing medical institutions to ensure that public money is spent only on objective and unbiased research which benefits all citizens.

You know, there have been studies showing that researchers subconsciously manipulate data in order to get more publishable results, but I don’t think that’s what they are talking about.  They also feel that the NHMRC needs to put more money into natural medicine research – and I’ll agree that putting some actual research into natural medicine would be a fine idea.

I’ve been totally brainwashed by the medical research establishment.  Totally brainwashed.  I am a medical research zombie.

We also have a bit about academic freedom and how it is being stifled by influential lobby groups which I am almost positive refers to this thesis from Wollongong.

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.

The HAP also want to reforms the maternity system, and is big on promoting homebirths and breastfeeding.  They also want to review maternity payments, presumably to make them longer. I have mixed feelings about these policies.  I have friends who have had really positive homebirth experiences, and I have friends who have nearly died giving birth. Births can go from safe to incredibly dangerous very fast, and there is a lot to be said for being close to medical treatment.  And stories such as this one do not inspire confidence.  I think there is a lot to be said for training more midwives better.  I think there is a lot to be said for facilities that allow a woman to give birth in a more homelike environment – but still within easy reach of good medical services in case of emergencies.  I’m a lot more cautious about encouraging homebirths wholesale, simply because of the increased lag-time between something going wrong and someone getting treatment.

The whole vibe I’m getting from this party, incidentally, is that they are lovely, back to nature, hippie types, who are almost certainly going to have a whole raft of policies that I love around social justice, but oh God, Western medicine is not as terrible as they think it is!

Incidentally, they are also worried about medical malpractice, because of course they are.  And they are anti-fluoridation of water.

Medicating a population through the water supply is in breach of accepted medical ethical codes as there is neither informed consent, nor the ability to opt out.

Righty-ho.

They want better healthcare and a good pension for the elderly – with better access to natural medicines – and they are cautiously in favour of euthanasia, but also in favour of high quality palliative care.

The HAP is quite into medical marijuana, and has all sorts of plans for making it into an export earner (presumably not into east Asia), a rotational crop to preserve the soil, and for paper and clothing manufacture.

The grass is always greener…

They prefer a medical/social model of drug addiction, and good on them.

Their policy on domestic violence is quite good, but also weirdly out of left field.

The HAP is encouraged by the growing awareness of the immense damage caused by family violence. Existing efforts to combat family violence should be continued, and further innovative solutions sought. 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.

Yay pharmacists?  But not Big Pharmacists??  I mean, I think that’s a pretty good idea, but it’s weirdly specific and out of left field.

OK, let’s move onto their healthy economy, where the HAP wants to increase competition between banks, cut red tape, protect small businesses, and buy Australian.  They want ‘balanced free enterprise, where ‘neither big business, big unions nor government bureaucracies distort the economic system and prevent economic prosperity being shared reasonably by all.’  Sounds OK.

They want more grants and less bureaucracy for small business, and more infrastructure projects, and they want to consider a National Community Bank.

The National Community Bank will not compete directly with the Big Banks on their terms, but will help drive the transition to a healthier economy by supporting and underwriting the creation of local community banks.

I think the Big Banks would view that as significant competition, actually, but I also think that this is quite good policy.

They are against a rise in the GST – but are considering a transaction tax, which I think has the potential to be just as inequitable.  They don’t want to overtax the wealthy or big corporations, but they do want them to pay their share.  This is definitely straight down the middle of the road, tax-wise.

The HAP wants to promote tourism and support the CSIRO.

We now have a raft of policies under the umbrella of Healthy Environment, and these are all pretty good.  This whole party is pretty good, if you can overlook the anti-vax stuff, but I really, really can’t.  You may have noticed this.  I’m not subtle.

The HAP is against woodchipping, and for renewable energies.  They want a National Agriculture Policy, including seed saving, permacultura, and organic farming, and fewer pesticides.  Of course they do.

The HAP 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 (i.e. sustainable and regenerative farming practices) where our food supply is grown. 

They like food co-ops and food education from the primary school level.

The HAP wants to phase out fossil fuels and invest in susaintainable, clean energy, but they are definitely not into nuclear energy.  They are also not into mining, and they want to keep an eye on its environmental impacts and preserve prime agricultural land.  This last one is turning out to be a popular policy across the board, probably because it actually makes sense.

The HAP’s water policy is quite well-thought-out, and tries to balance the needs of humans against those of the environment.

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.

This scheme will carefully evaluate the full implications of future dam building which on one hand can create water security for some, but on the other hand can destroy large areas of flora and fauna, and change people’s livelihoods in rural communities, both positively and negatively. The Snowy Mountains Scheme can be used as an exemplar of how nation building schemes can benefit of the nation in some ways, but create great disruption elsewhere.

The ground cover idea is an interesting one, and I’m going to use that argument next time anyone comments on the weeds in our garden.  Dudes, I’m preventing sediment movement!

Interestingly, they do trust the scientific consensus on global warming, and want to reduce pollution – but they are also very worried about ‘electro-smog’, and they want:

The establishment of a national Agency dedicated to researching the situation about electro-smog, particularly EMR emissions from electrical and wireless devices that are potentially damaging or harmful to humans.  That national agency, whilst based in Canberra, should have State branches in each of the major cities in Australia.  The Canberra office would act as a clearing house or headquarters, but the real work to be done at the city or state level in the State branches.

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.

I’m getting really confused here.  How do they choose which scientists to trust?  Also, what makes you think interested lay persons aren’t biased in other ways?

(I’m on the fence about electromagnetic stuff.  I don’t think we need cell-phone towers next to schools, but I also don’t think that Smart Meters cause cancer.)

Anyway they do get points from me on more public transport, safer roads, and a rail link to Darwin (my South Australian friends will be happy about that), and architecture with passive solar.

They are worried about foreign ownership of Australian land, like, apparently, every other party I’ve reviewed this week.  (Take note, major parties – Australians of all stripes feel that more Australian land needs to be owned by Australians.  Maybe you should have a Royal Commission about this?  Royal Commissions are also super-popular!)

We now move on to Healthy Democracy.

There is a great need for political leadership which genuinely puts the country first and personal ambitions last. To this end the HAP will a) Promote leadership that helps others to achieve their greatest potential; b) Oppose leaders who dominate or corrupt others in any way; mentally, emotionally, physically or spiritually; and c) Encourage a balance of masculine and feminine participation in government to maximise the co-operative, empathetic qualities inherent in all persons, but which can be marginalised in male-only leadership groupings.

I’m getting a very neo-pagan vibe from this.  This is not me being insulting.  It’s just something in the wording looks familiar.

They are big on grass-roots consultation, and whistleblower legislation, and they are also all about ‘free speech’ and ‘balanced debate’.  Hmm.  Balanced debate is a fine thing, but not if it means pitting the unscientific against the scientific in matters that really are about science, and giving them equal value.  They do support the ABC and SBS, however, and they don’t like media monopolies, so they get some points there.

They are in favour of mutual tolerance and respect, and positive communication between nations, because for all their occasional moments of tinfoil hattishness, these are really lovely, kind people who want to be nice to everyone.

The HAP wants to recognise indigenous Australians in our constitution, and improve indigenous health outcomes.

OK, last of the five-point plan is Healthy Society, and this post is getting epically long, I do apologise.

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.

In summary, the HAP believes that we should: a) Provide Australians with access to high quality, affordable primary, secondary, and tertiary education that promotes intellectual as well as individual achievement and growth; b) Encourage Australians to think clearly and critically in their chosen profession; c) Develop a more holistic national curriculum.

(The drinking game for this website is definitely ‘holistic’, except that you can’t have a drinking game for a website like this, because I’m sure it would blur the chakras.)

The HAP feels that teachers deserve respect – and they do! – and they also want lots of individually tailored, innovative teaching. Also, “Knowledge needs to be a creative response to the natural world rather than attempt to dominate it”.  This is all pretty good so far, but you will need to plug lots more money into the education system.  Which I am in favour of.

They are rather fond of homeschooling, which is another of those things that can work really well or be really dangerous, depending on the children and the parents in question.  Oh dear, and they are worried that research is being unduly influenced by industry – but since their solution for this is more properly funded research grants from the government, and my little beady eyes light up at the thought of my scientists actually getting the funding their need, I’m going to give this one the nod.

The HAP is anti-death penalty, anti-guns, and they feel that war is by and large good for absolutely nothin’, yo, but that we should still have a defence force just in case, and stick to peacekeeping activities generally.  And they want to look after our veterans, by setting aside assets specifically to fund their care.  I can agree with all of this.  They also like the idea of optional military service, à la Switzerland.  Ah, and by optional they might require it for people under 21 who have been unemployed and not studying for 12 months.  That’s not what optional means. And what happened to all the personal freedoms we were into earlier?

They support a vibrant arts culture, and diverse religious practice. “The HAP believes that our society is ready for and needs a reawakening and rediscovery of the central purpose in the evolution of humanity and the planet”.  And now I am going to be singing ‘The Age of Aquarius’ for the rest of the evening.

They support a conscience vote on marriage equality, they want to be kind to animals, but they are not going anywhere near far enough to keep the Animal Justice Party happy.

And they want, on the whole, to be kinder to refugees, and possibly settle them in agricultural regions to work in farming and related industries.

And that’s it.  Overall, this party feels like the hippie cousin of the Greens party.  They are wildly inconsistent about science, and actually slightly more conservative on both tax and social justice than I was expecting, but do have some nice policies in there.  Unfortunately, for me, the anti-vaccination stuff is a deal-breaker – it’s not just about protecting yourself, but also about protecting others who are more vulnerable.  I don’t know where they will be on my ballot – it won’t be the bottom, because I have seen far worse, but it won’t be at the top, either.

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7 thoughts on “Meet the Small Parties – Health Australia Party

  1. “using evidence from unbiased real-world clinical studies ”

    I cannot be the only person who would be happy for them to volunteer to test Koch’s postulates with homeopathic vaccines.

    “The HAP would like to place natural medicine on an equal footing with pharmaceutical medicine. I wonder if that means that natural medicines would need to get FDA approval to be used in humans?”

    That could be entertaining at least. It would also drive the price of natural medicines up quite a bit…

    Putting money into natural medicine research… *sigh* can we get it in writing first that if the treatment shows no benefit it will be discarded?

    With respect to home births I’m all in favour of more hospital run programs with exclusion criteria and clear transfer policies. (And not just because they clean up afterwards!) I would like more counselling available after traumatic births – it should be possible to sit down and have someone go through what happened and why, particularly in cases where it wasn’t possible to do that at the time, and I think this would really help some women immensely. Hospital attached birthing centres are also something I would like to see more of, mostly for the nearby crash carts. I think they’re a good compromise.

    • I’m right there with you on the home births, and the counselling for traumatic births.

      This group frustrates me so much – they really do have some decent stuff in there, and then they go all woo-woo around the edges…

  2. Just as another note here – academic freedom does not mean freedom from being questioned and argued with. Most PhD programs require students to give a seminar on submission, and questions are encouraged (actually if you don’t get any it’s a really bad sign). Academic freedom means that you can present, for example, conspiracy theories involving the WHO, pharmaceutical companies and ninja nurses – but it doesn’t mean that anyone has to accept them without dispute. Having read that particular thesis I agree with the outright fail examiner – it added nothing to the field of knowlege and contained a significant number of factual errors. Still, I hope that one benefit is better thesis review in Australia.

  3. I actually like this party. I think they are a true centrist party and that their aim is to stimulate discussion and support people who want to use natural medicines in their life, and I’m guessing, as their choice of healthcare. They have made a clear statement on their website about vaccinations, and that they support safe vaccinations. Reading the insert of any vaccination lists its side effects – which doesn’t openly suggest it is safe. Taking this approach, reading the package insert for panadol etc also proffers side effects, and we all know these pain killers are neurotoxin – that’s essentially how they provide the pain relief.

    I personally had a very bad reaction to the whooping cough booster when my son was born. I became incredibly sick and it took me over a year to recover.
    I think every person has to be considerate of people who can’t vaccinate – and there are genuine legitimate reasons for this. The current government policy does not take into account these reasons. I have asked a few GPs about vaccine exemptions, and they have all said rarely are they approved – even in the extreme cases. So that is Policy that is endangering people.

    I don’t think you can tar this party with the anti-vax brush. They clearly state they arent anti-vax. They do state that they are anti-fluoride, and are in existence to ensure the health of australians and practitioners right to practice.
    To be honest – if you like going to the gym, or yoga, or raw food, paleo – even taking a vitamin when you’re sick, you are taking natural medicine approaches to living.

    Personally, I want people in government that are going to create change. I want a future for my son. I want a healthy country and healthy environment. I’m sick of short term visions that only take money away from the population and give it to corporate tax dodgers and dirty polluting business. Don’t you think it’s time we had leaders that actually worked for peace and cooperation?

    • Hi Sumfynk,

      Apologies for the delay in approving your comment, I am travelling and have had very patchy Internet access (and still do).

      I’m sorry to hear about your whooping cough reaction. I have a number of friends who are immune suppressed or have allergies which mean that vaccines don’t ‘take’ or can’t be used for them, which is one reason I’m very pro-vax. Also, I grew up with a very strong awareness of the risk of infectious diseases – a girl in the year ahead of me at school died of the flu, the son of one of my mother’s friends died of meningitis secondary to measles, and I used to work with a woman who had lost the use of her legs from polio. I gather that this makes me an outlier for my generation, but I do feel strongly that the risks of these diseases far outweigh the risks of vaccines.

      And, while this group do indeed talk about ‘safe vaccines’ I’m always a little wary of this phrase, because the people I have run across who use it have a habit of shifting the goalposts – the problem is mercury in vaccines, so we take out thimerosol and suddenly the problem is multiple vaccines at once, and so forth. While I may be mischaracterising this group, this is where my mistrust comes from. It frustrates me to see research being done again and again on the same things in order to satisfy the concerns of people who do not want to be satisfied – so much time and effort and money that could be going into lifesaving medical research, instead proving and re-proving what has already been studied.

      But now I fear that I am getting quite lengthy again, and you are probably feeling shouted at, for which I do apologise. We may have to agree to disagree.

      Kind regards

      Catherine

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