Monday, March 30, 2015

Free whooping cough boosters

I'm not sure how much weight petitions carry, but if you believe there is value in them, then a new petition should be of interest to you.

Following the death of 4-week-old Riley Hughes in WA, a group called Tiny Hearts Paediatric First Aid is calling on health ministers around Australia to make the whooping cough (pertussis) booster free and accessible.

Pertussis vaccination is currently free for children but, in most cases, not for adults.

Vaccination is a community concern and the community is best served by a large percentage of the population being vaccinated. Free vaccinations, cheap vaccinations, even means-tested free vaccinations, would go a long way to improving coverage among the adult population.

When a government imposes a cost on a something, that cost acts as a deterrent. It's hardly rocket science. Speeding fines are supposed to curb speeding. Tobacco taxes are supposed to discourage smoking.

The cost of adult pertussis vaccination is not trivial and acts as a deterrent to vaccination, even for those who support vaccination as a preventative measure. It's just one more thing to pay for.

The cost of not vaccinating is measured not in dollars, but in lives.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"No tax-free religion": Abbott

In a stunning announcement that left the Canberra press gallery gob-smackingly speechless, Prime Minister Tony Abbott 2 ("The Sequel") today announced that churches and religious organistations would no longer be entitled to the tax-free status they've enjoyed for virtually ever...

"What we can't do is endlessly subsidise lifestyle choices...", he declared.

The change would realise billions of dollars in previously lost revenue as people, businesses and organisations would no longer be able to dodge paying their fair share of tax simply because they claim to believe in fairies and demons.

...and then I woke up.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

UPDATE: A leadership spill has been called for. Better late than never.

Tony Abbott wants us to believe he's listening but then, today, comes out with this, in regards to the nation's healthcare...

"We want to see appropriate price signals in the system,..."

 It's a friggin health system! How do you send a price signal to sick people? What is the price supposed to signal? "Go away, you can't afford to be sick!"?

As much as Mr Abbott might wish otherwise, this is not America.

The Medicare co-payment, thrown into the political conversation in the 2014 May budget following election promises that Medicare would not be messed with, is possibly the single-biggest reason average Australians who voted Labor out of office are running away from the Abbott-led government in droves.

He may be listening, but he isn't hearing.

Mr Abbott today demonstrated how his new "I'm listening" approach will work. He attended a press conference to discuss calls for a leadership spill and, after stating his case in possibly the shortest media conference in history, he walked out of the room, taking no questions at all from the people present. No surprises there really. I doubt anyone expected any genuine change. #ThingsLongerThanAbbottsPressConference

ANOTHER UPDATE: Mr Abbott held another press "conference" today, after making a captain's call (Malcolm Turnbull's description) to bring forward the spill motion, by one day. As before, the "conference" was short - shorter than before I'd estimate - and again, no questions were answered. This conference, like the previous one, was evidence that following last week's announcement that the leader would change his ways, he remains neither collegiate nor consultative and demonstrates his continued refusal to listen or learn.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


I was a Liberal voter at federal level for some time. I am not and never was a member of any political party, but I considered our low-middle-single-income family to be among "Howard's Battlers". I changed my vote when Howard turned toward hardline economic rationalism in his final year, and showed signs of acting against the interests of the working families he'd previously enticed to his side of politics.

I cannot vote Liberal at the moment. The gaping chasm of inequity that exists between the 2013 election promises and the 2014 budget policies is simply too much of a barrier for me to cross.

Problematically, I don't particularly care for Labor or Greens either but, as things stand, my vote would definitely favour them over an Abbott-led party or coalition.

Abbott has not earned my support and will not get it. After his massive about-face on almost every significant election promise last time around, he simply can't be trusted to honestly deliver on any policy promises in the future.

As far as I'm concerned, both Howard and Hockey should be dumped.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Petition to end petitions

This one has to be a parody...doesn't it?

A petition calling for other petitions to be banned - in the interests of free speech, of course.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Vaccination debate? I support Rydges Hotel.

UPDATE: It appears Rydges may no longer be hosting the anti-vaccine event.

I've been watching the Sherri Tenpenny conferences debacle unfold over the last few weeks and felt I had to add my voice into the mix.

To give you some background, in case you've been hiding under a rock, Sherri Tenpenny DO is an American anti-vaccination campaigner who was booked to speak at some "baby health" conferences in South Australia and along the east coast. Red flags were raised very quickly in the medical, scientific and sceptical communities with social media campaigns calling on venues to cancel the bookings and even for the federal health minister to cancel Dr Tenpenny's visa.

This naturally resulted in cries of "free speech" from Dr Tenpenny's supporters, but those cries have been largely drowned out by replies that free speech comes with limitations, and that child safety and community health outweigh anyone's free-speech rights.  The old adage "you can't shout 'fire' in a crowded theatre" has been given a very good work-out this month.

Others have pointed out that free speech is not a constitutional right in Australia but, frankly, I think that's a very weak argument since many of the people who point it out probably wish free speech was a constitutional right, especially when it comes to scientists being sued for defamation when they speak out against quackery. The lack of constitutional free speech is not really something you should crow about, even when it does work in your favour.

As a result of the social media campaign and mainstream media coverage, six out of the seven original venues booked for these conferences have cancelled their bookings, with some claiming they felt misled by the organisers when the bookings were made. The only venue to refuse cancellation to date is Rydges South Park Hotel in Adelaide who stated in a tweet it is not their place to censor conferences.

Long-time followers of this blog might be surprised, but I'm writing today to state my support for Rydges and to agree that they have a right to host whatever they want, within the law, in their hotels.

If Rydges Hotels want to host an anti-vaccination conference, that is their right.

If Rydges Hotels don't feel any need to act responsibly in regards to child health, that is their right.

If Rydges Hotels would rather keep a booking than risk upsetting anti-vax, anti-medicine, anti-science, anti-reality nutters, that is their right.

If Rydges Hotels are willing to risk losing future business in order to support the rights of people to spread misinformation about one of the greatest and safest life-saving procedures in history, that is their right.

If Rydges Hotels think short-term profits trump long-term community responsibility, that is their right.

Rydges Hotels is a business. It can do whatever it wants within the law. If it wants to trash its own brand by siding with science-denying-flat-earthers who risk the lives of babies through their spreading of misinformation, it has that right. If it wants to ignore the backlash happening right now on its Facebook page, Twitter account and on private blogs, it has that right.

Rydges doesn't even need to defend its position with arguments about free speech (which it tried to do, but failed, by linking to a free-speech opinion piece written by someone who it seems does not necessarily support giving a platform to anti-vaccine campaigners.). It has the right to remain defiantly silent and to allow sane and reasonable people to continue to condemn it publicly if that's what it wants to do.

Rydges is under absolutely no compulsion to even give a damn what anyone thinks about it as a company and, through its silence and apparent refusal to take action, it appears to be exercising that right. There is, as far as I'm aware, no law which states that businesses have to act rationally. Businesses make mistakes all the time. Some correct the mistake, some apologise for and correct their mistakes, and some figure it's worth riding the storm on the assumption all will be forgotten soon. Some close their doors.

So, if I may repeat myself, I support Rydges Hotel's right to make it's own decisions, no matter how stupid they appear to be in a world where community response comes hard and fast and loud.

Of course, I'm also here to state my support for the people who are publicly condemning Rydges for their irresponsibility and who are calling on the hotel group to cancel this event. These people are truly exercising their right to free speech and many will ultimately also exercise their right to vote with their feet and to refuse to support Rydges with bookings for conferences or hotel stays in future. Customers and potential customers also have rights, including their (non-constitutional) right to free speech.

In my opinion, if the Rydges Hotel group cares about its image at all, it should waste no more time in cancelling this booking. But I will restate my (largely irrelevant) view that they have a right to remain stubborn and drive their reputation into the ground, if that's what they want to do.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Natural, old-fashioned measles treatments

There is a saying that runs through the modern-day anti-vaccination lobby that goes along the lines of "in the old days, measles was considered a normal part of childhood and the best way to deal with it was to make your child catch it off another child."

I'm sure you've heard it. In fact, the idea is so ingrained, and so pernicious, that some people, today, even arrange "measles parties" while others will send you a lollipop licked by an infected child, so you can transfer the infection, on purpose, to your own child.

The argument from the anti-vax lobby is that the old method of sharing measles only went away when pharmaceutical companies decided to make money from selling vaccines against a variety of childhood diseases. Measles was always considered a harmless disease, they say, until vaccines were invented, at which point we started to be told it was deadly.

But are they right on either count?


I was just searching through the Trove archive of Australian newspapers and came across an article (among a great many articles mentioning measles deaths). I felt this article was especially relevant to the dilemma we face today in combating people who remain staunchly anti-science and anti-medicine.

Measles Deaths. Perth Daily News - July 8, 1916

Here are some excepts from this lengthy article, published almost 50 years before the measles virus was isolated and a vaccine developed.

The old idea that all children must have measles, some time or other, dies hard, and is productive of much mischief. In spite of the progress supposed to have been made in educating the masses during the last twenty years, the practice of putting children who have not yet suffered from the disease to bed with one who has just succumbed, in order to 'get it over,' is not an uncommon one, and many deaths are due to it. It is not at all necessary that children should have measles, and the longer such an attack can be staved off, the better the chance of recovery. For one child who dies of this complaint between the ages of ten and fifteen, 630 die if they contract the affection during the first twelve months of life, 263 if two years old, 142 at three years, ninety-one at four years, and twenty-two if the victim is between five: and ten years of age. If these figures are carefully considered it will be realised how truly fatal the disease is amongst young children, and the wilful exposure of those of tender years to certain infection -- for measles, is the 'most infectious of all the acute fevers -— is nothing short of being criminal.

And on the question of measles being a mild childhood disease, from the same article - published long before "Big Pharma" got their money-grubbing clutches on our children's health...

In England and Wales alone some thirteen thousand little ones die every year from measles, or, rather, from the pneumonia of convalescence.

And if 98 years ago isn't quite old-fashioned enough for you, how about 118 years ago...

This Is a very common disease among children, and some people think that every one ought to have an attack. At any rate, there are mothers who do not take much trouble to prevent one child from infecting others.
In many families it is the custom to avoid medical attendance in eases of this fever, because the attack is often so slight. But this neglect is very often fatal, and leads to the misfortune of an inquest, because if no doctor has attended a case, and yet the patient dies, there is no one to give a certificate of death. Measles is really very often fatal because it possesses an unfortunate tendency to render patients liable to congestion of the lungs, pleurisy, and bronchitis; and the former of these diseases very often leads to death within 48 hours. 

As with most things they profess to be factual, the anti-vax lobby are completely wrong on this issue. Over 100 years ago, before our grandparents were even born, experts were warning against the idea of purposely exposing your children to "normal" childhood diseases and newspapers were littered with stories of fatalities from the disease.

Measles is not a gift. Measles is not marvelous. Measles can kill. Measles is currently working its way through children in Western Australia. Luckily, today, we have a vaccination against it.