Friday, April 10, 2015

The Greens - Anti-vax? Anti-science?

Following a now-deleted anti-vaccination post on The Greens in Townsville Facebook page, I have only the following to say about the people behind it...

clown shoes cartoon image
I'll add that the Greens in Townsville Facebook page is degenerating into Conspiracy Central (perhaps it always was), populated by apparent nutjobs scavenging blogs, Youtube channels and quack websites looking for any link, no matter how bizarre, no matter how debunked, that could possibly make it look like anti-vaxxers have a point.

The longer that Facebook group stays up, the more irrelevant the Greens look because, as they are fond of saying in politics, "if you can't control your own party..."

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.