Topics


We will continue to load information about special topics relating to natural medicine, especially research demonstrating the extensive international evidence base of natural medicine as well as the potential benefits to Australia from having a national system of integrative medicine where the community has equal access to the best of natural medicine and pharmaceutical medicine.

In addition we shall load essays and scholarly articles about other topics pertaining to the five pillars of the Health Australia Party: healthy people, healthy economy, healthy environment, healthy democracy and healthy society.

These essays represent the opinions of the authors, and some are suggesting policies (like the three final essays from a supporter of the HAP who prefers to remain anonymous), and are not policy statements of the HAP. However we greatly appreciate their contributions in stimulating discussions.

Articles and Essays

These articles and essays reflect the opinions of their authors, but are considered a valuable addition to the national discussion which the Health Australia Party wishes to commence with all Australians.

Prof. Kerry Bone: WHO Vision for Future Health Care Resonates with HAP Policy

According to the AMA website and an opinion piece in The Medical Journal of Australia, the health policies of the Health Australia Party are “dangerous” for health care in this country. Contrast this with the recommendations from the eminent and prestigious World Health Organization (WHO), which resonate strongly with HAP policies. In their recent 76-page global strategy paper for Traditional and Complementary Medicine (T&CM) entitled WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023, the WHO writes (we have added italics for emphasis):

 

“T&CM is an important and often underestimated part of health care. T&CM is found in almost every country in the world and the demand for its services is increasing. TM, of proven quality, safety, and efficacy, contributes to the goal of ensuring that all people have access to care. Many countries now recognize the need to develop a cohesive and integrative approach to health care that allows governments, health care practitioners and, most importantly, those who use health care services, to access T&CM in a safe, respectful, cost-efficient and effective manner. A global strategy to foster its appropriate integration, regulation and supervision will be useful to countries wishing to develop a proactive policy towards this important – and often vibrant and expanding – part of health care.”

 

The WHO then goes on to recommend 5 key strategic actions for member states (which of course includes Australia). These are as follows:

  1. Acknowledge the role and diversity of T&CM within their health care system.
  2. Define the scope of the sector through the use of data identifying the number of people using specific forms of T&CM, their reasons for using it, the most popular (important) forms, whether use follows advice from a health professional, and whether health care professionals know about patients’ use of T&CM.
  3. Implement and integrate T&CM policies and programmes as integral components of their national health system, where appropriate.
  4. Foster communication and partnership between stakeholders.
  5. Prioritize and determine actions to be taken in line with national priorities, capabilities.

Compare these extracts from the WHO strategy paper with current HAP policy:

(a) Recognise that a broad, integrative approach to health care is required based on what is best for patients and free from corporate or personal vested interests.

(b) Support a national system of health care which encourages collaboration between general practitioners, specialists, allied health professionals and natural health care practitioners.

(c) Recognise that the present epidemic of chronic diseases in Australia needs to be managed using a different paradigm which includes natural medicine…

(d) Fund methodically appropriate, objective, independent research into all aspects of natural and pharmaceutical medicine to reliably inform citizens and political leaders of the relative proven costs and benefits to the community.

 

The similarities between HAP policy and the WHO strategy are striking! The dinosaurs in Australian health care should take heed of the WHO, which is clearly not shackled by vested interests and outdated policies in its approach to natural therapies.

 Professor Kerry Bone

24.6.16

 

 

Dr Isaac Golden: Response to the AMA (NSW) President

Response to the AMA(NSW) President

The Press Release by AMA (NSW) President Prof Brad Frankum on 13.6.16 (reproduced below) contains the following errors of fact.

ERRORS:

1. The Health Australia Party (HAP) is a one-issue political party”: Clearly the Professor has done no personal research, and has not read the 5 pillars of the Party, or read our extensive policies on a wide range of issues. The HAP has policies to develop healthy people, a healthy economy, a healthy environment, a healthy democracy and a healthy society.

2. He claims we want to “put unproven alternative health products on equal footing with thoroughly-researched medical practices”: Pharmaceuticals and many medical practices are largely unproven. Prof John Iaonnidis showed this in a paper titled “Why most medical research is false” [1]. BMJ Online found that half of over 3,000 medical practices it studied had no evidentiary basis [2]. Harvard University exposed corruption in the pharmaceutical industry showing much medical research has been tampered with [3]. And so on. So it is clearly false to claim that most medical practices are thoroughly researched. Many natural therapies have an extensive internationally accepted evidence base, some developed over hundreds of years of consistent results. Claims by the NH&MRC to the contrary in series of reports on 17 natural medicines provide an example of how bias and selective methodology can compromise what appears to be a thorough review – and provide a timely example of the Harvard University findings referred to above.

3. The Professor claims that GPs “prioritise encouraging people to be healthy to combat chronic disease”: How can they do this in 5 or 10 minute consultations, most of which time is spent writing prescriptions for drugs? The result speak for themselves: Australia has an epidemic of chronic disease. The CBS shows 40% of our children under 15 years have at least one chronic disease. The current paradigm has failed to prevent, or treat chronic disease. We need to change.

4. The Professor has produced his own (incorrect) conspiracy theory that the HAP is “anti vaccine”: The Professor at least acknowledges that “its members have denied it is an anti-vaccination party”. In fact our policy clearly states that the HAP supports safe and effective immunisation. Our opposition to the No Jab No Pay legislation is on the grounds clearly stated on our website. It makes us a Party who stands for civil rights, and for the Nuremberg convention concerning informed consent in invasive medical procedures. It does not make the Party “anti-vacc”.

5. The Professor complains that “The Party also says it will seek out corruption in medical research”: Presumably he does not expect us to turn a blind eye to corruption in medical research. Once again, the Harvard University analysis above shows that at the best the Professor’s view that research failings are rare is naive.

6. He concludes that “despite their name they are not experts, doctors, or particularly qualified to be advocating for people’s health”: Given that he does not know how many doctors are members of the Party, he could have looked at the Advisory Board to see a couple of distinguished names. Given that others on the Board have had decades of practical clinical experience and are internationally recognised experts in their fields, his condescending statement will ring hollow for those who have cared to investigate those backing the HAP.

The HAP supports Integrative medicine, where patients can receive the best of all forms of treatment according to their needs. This includes pharmaceutical treatment where appropriate and natural medicine where appropriate. This is happening around the world. I have seen it first hand in Cuba and India, and the winners are the patients. It should happen in Australia. Instead, Integrative medicine doctors are harassed. We stand with them against the non-science approach currently taken in Australia.

The HAP has no dispute with doctors, and certainly not with nurses, paramedics, and ambulance officers etc. who all do outstanding work. Many doctors support what we stand for in advocating for a health-creation system rather than a disease-management system.

But we do object to the type of ill-informed unscientific claims put forward by the AMA as seen in this Press Release. One would expect a Professor to make arguments based on research and evidence, not personal prejudice and conspiracy theories.

[1] Ioannidis JPA. Why Most Published Research Findings Are False. PLoS Med. 2005; 2(8): e124. Doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0020124. 30.8.2005.

[2] The editors, BMJ Clinical Evidence. What conclusions has BMJ Clinical Evidence drawn about what works, what doesn’t based on randomised controlled trial evidence?

[3] Press release, Cambridge, MA, September 30, 2013. JLME Issue on Institutional Corruption and the Pharmaceutical Industry. A special issue of the Journal of Law Medicine and Ethics. http://ethics.harvard.edu/news/jlme-issue-institutional-corruption-and-pharmaceutical-industry (accessed 20.6.16).

AMA (NSW) President: Health Australia Party misses the point

Posted by Lachlan Jones, On June 13, 2016, Media

AMA (NSW) President Prof Brad Frankum says the Health Australia Party is missing the point and should leave healthcare policy to people better suited to the task.

“I am concerned that a one-issue political party has sprung up around wanting to put unproven alternative health products on equal footing with thoroughly-researched medical practices.

“The Health Australia Party wants to promote people’s health but it is going about it in entirely the wrong way and is actually ignoring the great work that people like GPs already do.

“It says it wants to prioritise encouraging people to be healthy to combat chronic disease, when that is exactly what people like GPs and their practices are already doing.

“One of the biggest chronic disease threats facing Australia is the rises of diabetes and it is outright dangerous to be espousing the idea that a disease like that can be treated with alternative therapies,” Prof Frankum said.

“Unfortunately, in its policy document, the Health Australia Party descends into the conspiracy theory usually associated with the anti-vaccine movement.

“While its members have denied it is an anti-vaccination party, it certainly gives all the appearances of being part of that movement.

“It talks about the need for a thoroughly-researched vaccination program – as though the Australian immunisation schedule isn’t – and confuses the issue by saying this will help manage chronic disease.

“Immunisation is very effective in preventing the spread of infectious disease but can’t really help against conditions like diabetes, epilepsy, or other chronic diseases that come to mind.

“The Party also says it will seek out corruption in medical research, another hallmark of anti-vaccine-style conspiracy theory.

“Medical research is not incorruptible but it is very robust and people who are doing fraudulent research are rare and there are checks and balances that wind up exposing them.

“For instance, the work of disgraced former doctor, Andrew Wakefield, whose debunked research forms one of the bases for the anti-vaccination movement was found out.

“Unfortunately, the anti-vaccination movement is blinded by its own ideology and holds up this corrupted research as evidence and at the same time it throws unfounded accusations at good research that disagrees with its point of view,” Prof Frankum said.

“It’s unfortunate that this party has secured the first spot on the Senate ballot paper.

“Even if you are dissatisfied with the performance of the major parties, please don’t vote for the Health Australia Party.

“Despite their name, they are not experts, doctors, or particularly qualified to be advocating for people’s health.

“While it may be the case they want to improve people’s health, their ideas will not be at all helpful.

“They should leave health advocacy to people better suited to the task like doctors, nurses, and health policy experts,” Prof Frankum said.

 

Prof. Kerry Bone: Why is there a need for the Health Australia Party?

Why is there a need for the Health Australia Party (HAP)?

Many Australians rely every day on natural medicines and/or the services of a natural health practitioner to maintain their health. Yet this significant contribution to the well-being of grateful ordinary Australians goes largely unacknowledged by politicians, the news media and mainstream medicine. Rather instead we see an extraordinary bias against these therapies, to the point where its practitioners are often demeaned and even vilified by the news media and the vested interests of the current model of ‘disease care’. In tune with this unjustified prejudice, the HAP is being painted as a group of lunatic, anti-science extremists who have dangerous policies. For example, recent postings, including those on Wikipedia by hostile contributors, have claimed that the HAP is anti-vaccination. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have always supported vaccination where it can be safely and effectively used, and that is also the HAP’s policy.

In fact, the HAP is not ‘anti’ anything credible in the health sphere. We believe that what is needed is a positive, pluralistic approach to true health care. One that embraces, rather than discredits, models that seek to understand human health in its broader social and environmental context, rather than just viewing the human body as a biochemical machine. True freedom of choice in health care, facilitated by a supportive and empathetic government and informed by balanced media representation, is what we seek.

Over the past decade, the situation in Australian health has become even more polarised. Ironically, this is happening at a time when biomedical research is making new discoveries that are validating core natural health principles, such as the benefits of a healthy diet, optimum body weight and physical activity. The advice that many doctors give their patients today would have been viewed as radical naturopathic propaganda three decades ago. I believe we desperately need the HAP in order to ensure that this unnecessary hostility or misunderstanding towards natural modes of treatment does not continue, as this will be detrimental to everyone’s shared goal of improving our community’s overall health.

Most current politicians do not understand the important role played by natural healthcare practitioners in keeping Australia healthy. They are particularly unaware of the significant budgetary health savings that results from the privately funded daily work of numerous dedicated therapists, often helping people suffering problems that mainstream medicine could not. There is no better example of this bias than the recent announcement by the Australian Labor Party that they intend to stop the health fund rebate for natural therapies. Said to save $180 million over four years, surely this sum speaks to the important and widespread role played by the many chiropractors, acupuncturists, herbalists and naturopaths, to name a few. The HAP will work to ensure that this short-sighted and misguided policy will not be passed by the Senate.

By and large the news media is unjustifiably biased against natural health. The recent Four Corners program aired by the ABC contained numerous misrepresentations. This was a US documentary about the US situation and not at all relevant to Australia, but the ABC ran it nonetheless. The documentary made much of a damning herb quality study conducted by the New York Attorney General using DNA barcoding. This technique has since been discredited by recent scientific studies, including one by the US Food and Drug Administration that concluded that DNA barcoding on its own is not suitable for assessing herb quality. Yet there was no opportunity afforded by the ABC for interested parties to counter this and other misrepresentations. At the end of the program the journalist made a point of saying the ABC was interested to hear from people who were harmed by natural medicines. Sadly missing was a similar invitation to those who had been helped.

The vested interests against natural healthcare are organising in an unprecedented way. It is time for everyone who wants to protect their freedom of choice in health care to make a stand. We need to make sure that the approach taken by Government to natural healthcare is not only supportive and respectful, but is truly proportional to the significant service it provides in keeping Australia heathy. No other political party will be working to ensure this very important objective.

Kerry Bone, President HAP.

Dr Isaac Golden: Response to the SMH/Age claims about HAP policies

Response to the SMH/Age claims about HAP policies

A recent article by Michael Koziol titled Federal election 2016: Vaccine sceptics land first spot on NSW Senate ballot paper [1], contains a number of errors that need to be addressed.

The title of the article describes the HAP “vaccine sceptics”. This is incorrect. Our policy states clearly that we “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”.

Is Koziol really suggesting that the HAP should support immunisation that is unsafe and ineffective?

Because we do not support the No Jab legislation does not make us vaccine sceptics, it joins us with the many people who questioned this punitive legislation. And this legislation has been questioned by medical experts as well as groups such as the Law Institute of Victoria, “while saying it supports efforts to increase childhood vaccination rates, cites the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to express reservations about the government’s new “no jab, no pay’’ rules” [2].

Koziol continues “But its policy manifesto reveals a preoccupation with homoeopathy, home birthing and conspiracy theories about medical research”. Taking these claims in turn:

  1. The policy document dated 1.6.16 contains 7,651 words. There is not one word “homeopathy” or any derivative in the policy. One could not be less preoccupied than that. The statement is simply false.
  2. The HAP has a strong policy on Maternity and Birthing. It is consistent with the Cochrane Collaboration assessment of home birth, which concluded “Increasingly better observational studies suggest that planned hospital birth is not any safer than planned home birth assisted by an experienced midwife with collaborative medical back up, but may lead to more interventions and more complications”.[3]. Women have reported feeling more relaxed in their own homes, which in turn reduces stress levels, and enhances the ease and experience of birth.
  3. The HAP has a very strong policy regarding medical research: “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”.    In no way is there any conspiracy theory involved in this policy statement, as explained in my article Corruption in the Pharmaceutical Sector: Why the Health Australia Party is needed, which relies totally on evidence collected by Transparency International and by Harvard University researchers. Our statement is based on established fact, not conspiracy.

We understand that Pharma trolls are used to spread misinformation against any individuals or organisations that question the dominance of pharmaceutical medicine in our increasingly expensive disease-management system. And we understand that many journalists simply repeat their statements without independent investigation. But this weakens the quality of debate in Australia.

The HAP also has the following media policy:

“The HAP will encourage the free expression of views by all Australians, and encourage balanced debate on issues that affect us all. The HAP will support media that does not market negative stereotyping and separation, but which advances positive ideas to unite the nation, and reports on what we share with each other and the Earth we inhabit, rather than what divides us.

The HAP will promote a media that is balanced and represents all opinions without fear or favour. To that end the HAP strongly supports an appropriately resourced national broadcaster.

The impact of the decreasing range of media ownership will be studied, as will be the possibility of establishing an independent body that scrutinises the media, and assesses independence and performance, and which has the ability to level penalties for breaches of established media performance”.

Dr Isaac Golden

14/6/16

[1] http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/federal-election-2016/federal-election-2016-vaccine-sceptics-land-first-spot-on-nsw-senate-ballot-paper-20160612-gph8f6.html#ixzz4BVygsuW0.

 

 

 

 

[2] Stefanie Balogh. Lawyers warn on ‘no jab, no pay’ immunisation bill. The Australian. October 29, 2015.  http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/health/lawyers-warn-on-no-jab-no-pay-immunisation-bill/news-story/f6e1ac508af2c9f242888a2790de7bf1 (accessed 14.6.16).

 

 

 

 

[3] The Cochrane Collaboration. Benefits and harms of planned hospital birth compared with planned home birth for low-risk pregnant women    http://www.cochrane.org/CD000352/PREG_benefits-and-harms-of-planned-hospital-birth-compared-with-planned-home-birth-for-low-risk-pregnant-women (accessed 14.6.16).

 

 

 

 

Dr Isaac Golden. Attacks on Natural Medicine: A Need to Respond

The Health Australia Party: A necessary response to a serious threat to all natural medicine

1. Background

The Health Australia Party (HAP) was formed in 2015 to respond to the well funded, sustained and coordinated attacks on natural medicine in Australia which have placed our homeopathic profession at risk, as well as all natural therapists.

Homeopaths have felt the brunt of these attacks, beginning in the UK in 2005 and imported to Australia by sceptics groups, and since 2011 by the FOSM. Because of their influence on health bureaucrats and politicians, as well as on peak medical institutions, we have seen the NH&MRC concoct a conclusion in 2015 that homeopathy is ineffective, followed by a finding that 16 other modalities from naturopathy to massage are unproven, which was then used by the Natural Therapies Review Advisory Committee which suggested discontinuing Australian government rebates on natural therapies for private health insurance.

In 2016 the new Victorian Health Complaints Bill was passed allowing any individual or group to lodge a complaint against a practitioner, reversing the onus of proof thus requiring practitioners to substantiate their treatments which will be difficult due to the NH&MRC findings, meaning that all natural therapists are now at risk of malicious complaints by sceptics and FOSM members that could seriously compromise their businesses. This legislation is being rolled out to all States in various forms. Everyone is at risk.

2. Response

Our profession needs committed representation at the highest political level, which is why the HAP is standing Senate candidates in NSW, Qld, Vic, and hopefully WA and SA in the 2016 election. We also intend running candidates in coming State elections, but for now there is a single goal – Senators in 2016.

The HAP website is www.healthaustraliaparty.com.au. You will see there a comprehensive set of policies built around the five pillars of the Party: healthy people, healthy economy, healthy environment, healthy democracy and healthy society. We are not a single issue Party, but the issue of protecting peoples’ rights to choose the methods of healthcare they want into the future is at the heart of the HAP.

The HAP believes that IF we can have one or more Senators elected on July 2nd it will be a game changer. We will have advocates able to speak directly to fellow politicians and expose the deceit and non-science that lies behind the attacks noted above.

3. What You Can Do Now to Protect Your Future, and Patient Choice

We have a genuine chance of having Senators elected IF we can let people who use natural medicine know what is happening and the need to act, and give them a centre-based and ethical political Party to support in the Senate. You can make a difference by doing the following:
i. Join the HAP as a Member or just as a Friend. This means we can keep you posted of what is happening in your State.
ii. Let your patients know about the HAP. We have posters and patient handouts on the Resources page our website which you can print out, or if you email inquiries@healthaustraliaparty.com.au and ask we will post materials to your clinic.
iii. If you are able, spread the word about the HAP in other ways – through social media groups, through colleagues at seminars, to your local health food store, etc etc. If you wish to volunteer on election-day please contact your State branch of the HAP. If you would like to make a tax deductible donation, please do that via the website.

Your actions will make a difference. Help us to help you, the profession, and our patients. We must respond!

The World Health Organisation: Traditional and Complementary Medicine

Writing about Traditional and Complementary Medicine (T&CM) the World Health Organisation has stated in their “WHO traditional medicine strategy: 2014-2023”.

“T&CM is an important and often underestimated part of health care. T&CM is
found in almost every country in the world and the demand for its services is
increasing. TM, of proven quality, safety, and efficacy, contributes to the goal
of ensuring that all people have access to care. Many countries now recognize
the need to develop a cohesive and integrative approach to health care that
allows governments, health care practitioners and, most importantly, those
who use health care services, to access T&CM in a safe, respectful, cost-efficient
and effective manner. A global strategy to foster its appropriate integration,
regulation and supervision will be useful to countries wishing to develop a
proactive policy towards this important – and often vibrant and expanding –
part of health care.”

This important document is worth reading to show how many countries successfully incorporate T&CM into their health systems.

Dr Isaac Golden: CORRUPTION IN THE PHARMACEUTICAL SECTOR: Why the Health Australia Party is needed

CORRUPTION IN THE PHARMACEUTICAL SECTOR: Why the Health Australia Party is needed

 

Transparency International is a global movement with one vision: a world in which government, business, civil society and the daily lives of people are free from corruption.

 

In June 2016 they released a major report titled Corruption in the pharmaceutical sector

Diagnosing the challenges. The full report is available online at http://www.transparency.org.uk/publications/corruption-in-the-pharmaceutical-sector/.

 

 

The Executive Summary stated:

“The launch of the Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015 signals a more comprehensive global development agenda. This plan specifies that all governments must fight corruption. For the health sector, this will mean integrating good governance into policy making and implementation to reduce the risk of corruption.

 

Within the health sector, pharmaceuticals stands out as sub-sector that is particularly prone to corruption. There are abundant examples globally that display how corruption in the pharmaceutical sector endangers positive health outcomes. Whether it is a pharmaceutical company bribing a doctor for prescribing its medicines irrespective of a health need or a government employee facilitating the infiltration of substandard medicines into the distribution system, public resources can be wasted and patient health put at risk.

 

For policy makers to implement successful anti-corruption measures there is a need to identify and understand corruption vulnerabilities in the pharmaceutical sector. To support this task this paper identifies key policy and structural issues in selected activities of the pharmaceutical value chain, along with relevant anti-corruption policies. This analysis showed that anti-corruption policies are needed throughout the pharmaceutical value chain to increase transparency around key decision points and strengthen the accountability of actors.

 

Four overarching challenges derived from structural issues and anti-corruption policies across the selected activities of the value chain have been identified. These are:

  • A lack of objective data and understanding of corruption inhibited by environmental context, the complexity of issues in the sector and policy makers not viewing corruption as an issue.
  • A weak legislative and regulatory framework because of poor investment, a lack of oversight and national regulatory frameworks that are often decentralised and reliant on self-regulation for key decision-point.
  • The potential for undue influence from companies due to a high degree of autonomy over key decision points and unparalleled resources, on policy and regulation so profit maximisation goes beyond ethical norms and negatively impacts health outcomes and public health objectives.
  • A lack of leadership committed to anti-corruption efforts from all actors. National leaders often only implement reforms after a crisis, with their inaction regularly hindering other actors.

 

Similarly, three key action areas to mitigate corruption vulnerabilities in the pharmaceutical sector are examined. These include establishing leadership committed to addressing corruption, adopting technology throughout the value chain and ensuring accountability through increased monitoring, enforcement and sanctions.

 

These overarching challenges and action areas are neither novel nor resource-intensive, stressing the lack of effective action in the past; as well as the difficulty of dealing with corruption in a sector that is extremely complex, has a high level of government intervention and often has regulatory systems in place that are inadequate to properly govern the value chain. Only by overcoming these challenges and focusing on these action areas will the global health community be better able to meet the health Sustainable Development Goals”.

 

This report lends weight to the most thorough examination of the integrity of the pharmaceutical sector and the impact that has on every aspect of modern medicine, which was published in July 2013 by Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Centre for Ethics.

 

The Press Release announcing the report dated 30th September 2013 is available at http://ethics.harvard.edu/news/jlme-issue-institutional-corruption-and-pharmaceutical-industry, and stated that:

“The systematic corruption of medical knowledge, ranging from clinical trials and new diagnostic categories through practice guidelines to physician prescribing practices, is highlighted in a special fall issue of the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics(JLME, 41:3). In the seventeen articles of this JLME symposium issue, Institutional Corruption and the Pharmaceutical Industry, Lab Fellows from the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University present findings from their in-depth, multi-disciplinary investigations of corruption in pharmaceutical policy, and propose methods to mitigate these critical problems. Their research shows that widespread practices in the medical and pharmaceutical industries can lead to doctors who are psychologically, financially, or intellectually dependent on drug companies, a phenomenon which has resulted in insufficiently tested drugs, many of which cause harmful side effects.

Their research also reveals how top medical researchers can be financially tied to drug firms. For example, researchers have been found to conduct clinical trials on medications while simultaneously calling for their consumption and guaranteeing that insurance companies will pay for them. Doctors who take such misleading information at face value prescribe drugs that are often unnecessary, harmful to patients, or more costly than equivalent medications. Fellows uncovered how pharmaceutical marketing also distorts medical practice, and how drug firms are even funding social network websites for doctors in order to quietly track their opinions on issues that affect their bottom lines.

Drawing on insights from law, medicine, behavioral psychology, economics and finance, business, sociology, political science, and philosophy, the Fellows’ research also shows how lawmakers and patient advocacy organizations can be dependent on money from drug companies, resulting in representation that serves the interests of big pharma rather than the public. The pharmaceutical industry’s own mission and purposes are often undermined, the investigation concluded”.

There are numerous articles across medical and other professional journals that quantify the extent of pharmaceutical industry corruption and its systemic effect on regional and national health systems. However these two major investigations on their own provide sufficient evidence to show that change is urgently needed.

 

The Health Australia Party was created in 2015 largely in an attempt to expose and counter the damaging effects of this insidious influence on Australian healthcare systems.

 

We are not suggesting that there is widespread deliberate corruption on behalf of Federal and State politicians. They are given advice by their bureaucrats, by directors of national research institutes, and by highly medically-credentialed individuals. We are not suggesting that the majority of all these people giving this advice to politicians are intentionally corrupt, although a few no doubt are. And we certainly are not suggesting that the vast majority of health professionals working in clinics and hospitals are other than caring people who have a genuine desire to help others.

 

What we are saying is that the above reports make clear that bias and tunnel-vision are instilled into these individuals from University to the workplace, and that the conduct of our bureaucracies, institutions and medical industry leaders is designed to maintain the dominance of the pharmaceutical medical model in Australian healthcare. And the intent of the pharmaceutical model is simple and obvious – keep as many people alive for as long as possible, whist building a dependence on pharmaceuticals to maintain a sufficiently adequate quality of life that will delay patients from demanding a better deal.

 

However a growing number of Australians have realised that this model is bereft of integrity and value, and are choosing to take responsibility for their own vitality and wellbeing. The Health Australia Party supports these people, and is committed to changing our health system from a disease-management system into a health-creation system. To do this, we need representatives in the Senate who can convince other politicians to look and to listen.

 

This change may take decades to fully implement, but along the way the positive budgetary effects of reducing drug-dependence will mean that an improving health system remains affordable (in contrast to the dire economic predictions relating to the future unaffordability of the present system). Along the way millions of Australians will start experiencing a better quality of life than what they currently can look forward to. Along the way Australian society will reap the benefits of a population better able to make calm and balanced and caring decisions, all consequences of better individual health.

 

But we must start now. We must ensure that Australians are told the truth about our health system, about why we have an epidemic of chronic disease in this country, about how billions of dollars could be saved once the disease-centred pharmaceutical system is exposed and changed forever to a health-creation system, and how every Australian stands to benefit from these changes.

 

We can do this with your help. Please support the Health Australia Party at the 2016 election.

 

Dr Isaac Golden

Health Australia Party

3/6/2016.

Web:    www.healthaustraliaparty.com.au

Email:  inquiries@healthaustraliaparty.com.au

The Wellness Manifesto

The Wellness Manifesto – please visit http://www.wellnessmanifesto.org/

We have been asked to share this beautiful statement – and it is our honour to do that

Professor Marc Cohen: A world of chemicals

A world of chemicals

by Prof Marc Cohen http://profmarccohen.com/

We have reached a turning point in evolution. Humanity has finally come up against the constraints of a limited planet, and rampant consumerism and self-interest are fuelling wealth inequality, financial instability, climate change, ozone depletion, deforestation, species extinction, environmental toxicity and an epidemic of lifestyle-related chronic diseases in an ageing and increasing human population.

We now live in a world where one third of all people are starving, one third are well fed and one third are overfed, and everyday 25,000 children die from malnutrition-related disease while 75,000 people die from the results of over-consumption of sugar, fat, salt, alcohol and tobacco. In addition to voluntary consumption of toxic substances, the entire human population is being involuntarily exposed to a toxic cocktail of industrial chemicals, which are routinely found in our food, air, water, soil, breast milk, human tissue, and indoor and outdoor environments.

While chemicals can be toxic, they can also be extremely addictive and profitable, and our global society has become addicted to cheap, readily available fossil fuel and the 120,000 commercial chemicals derived from it. Chemical industries currently run the world with a handful of Big Oil, Agriculture, Pharma and Food companies controlling the majority of the world’s energy, food, health and security. Control of the media has further fostered a culture of rampant consumerism and conspicuous consumption, with a focus on economic growth at the expense of the environment and quality of life.

Our body burden: suffer the children

Our widespread use and dependence on industrial chemicals has contaminated the entire biosphere including our own bodies. We are all chronically exposed to a toxic cocktail that traces our life history and living environments, and vast human populations and geographical areas have been inadvertently exposed to toxic materials through catastrophic accidents that have occurred in every stage of chemical processing including extraction (BP oil spill), transport (Exxon Valdez), manufacture (Bhopal), use (Chernobyl and Fukishima) and disposal (Love Canal).

The world’s most comprehensive environmental chemical biomonitoring study is the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted by the Center for Disease Control in the United States. The most recent report examined 212 chemicals and found chemicals such as PBDEs and BPA in nearly all participants tested. This study also confirmed previous reports suggesting that children bear the brunt of the toxic burden, with children being found to be more toxic than adolescents, who are in turn more toxic than adults [1].

Children are not just little adults; they have higher food, fluid and air intake per kilogram of body weight and a higher metabolic rate and higher absorption of toxins than adults, as well as having immature detoxification and immune systems, developing organ systems and a longer latency period in which to develop chronic disease [2]. Children are also exposed to higher levels of environmental toxins with exposure beginning in utero with multiple carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting chemicals being delivered through umbilical cord blood [3]. Toxic exposure continues after birth through residues in breast milk (which is still the best possible food for infants) as well as in food, water, indoor and outdoor air and contaminated house dust.

Children’s exposure to environmental toxins is compounded by their frequent hand-to-mouth activity and the products and environments surrounding them. Toxins such as BPA and phthalates are found in everyday items such as cleansers, computers, toys, lotions and perfumes, cookware, clothing, and carpets [4] and are features of childcare environments, children’s toys, feeding implements, clothing and play environments [5]. Children also reside closer to the ground and play on grass where pesticides have been applied, or on floors and carpet where they are exposed to toxins from dust, cleaning chemicals, fire retardants and out-gassing from synthetic materials.

Understanding our toxic legacy

It is undeniable that we are leaving a toxic legacy for future generations; yet the full impact of toxic chemicals on human health is unknown. Of the thousands of environmental chemicals used, most have not been tested for their impacts on human health or their particular impacts on children and the developing foetus. We do know, however, that many toxins can directly interfere with biochemical pathways and organ function and induce genetic and developmental abnormalities and cause endocrine disruption with epigenetic and transgenerational effects [6]. We also know that fat-soluble toxins undergo biomagnification up the food chain and bioaccumulate as we age and that chemical cocktails may be synergistic and produce harmful effects even when the level of each contaminant causes no effect by itself. Furthermore, we know that chemicals such as pesticides and plasticisers (such as BPA and phthalates) can have non-monotonic dose response curves so that extremely small exposures can lead to the development of latent chronic diseases such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, many cancers, asthma, ADHD, and learning and behavioural problems [7].

While knowledge of the mechanisms by which toxin exposure can lead to chronic disease is accumulating, the measurement of the body’s toxic load is still in its infancy. Measurement of various toxins such as organic solvents, herbicides, pesticides, heavy metals, phthalates, polyfluorinated compounds, BPA and PCBs can be performed in different body tissues including blood, urine, hair, sweat, fat, saliva, breast milk, and semen, yet very few laboratories have facilities to perform these measures and they are seldom used clinically. It is also difficult to interpret their clinical meaning, for although the signs and symptoms of overt toxicity are known for some compounds, the relationship between toxic load, clinical symptoms and chronic disease is far from being understood.

Detox: science or sales pitch?

While it may be difficult to determine a person’s toxic load and its clinical significance, in recent times a growing community awareness of environmental toxins has led to ‘detox’ becoming a consumer buzzword, and consumer demand has led to the proliferation of many untested commercial detox products and practices including juices, diets and nutritional supplements, saunas, scrubs, purging, fasting, colonics, exercise, oral, rectal and intravenous chelating agents, and the emergence of detox programs and retreats that combine multiple modalities [8]. Such products and practices are supported by the Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) consumer market and form a significant part of the burgeoning $2 trillion wellness industry which continues to expand rapidly in a climate of global economic downturn.

Despite the abundance of commercial detox measures, none is yet based on any clinical scientific evidence. No studies have yet examined the ability of detox measures to reduce toxins and improve measurable health outcomes. Some studies, however, do demonstrate that reducing or removing toxins is possible through simple lifestyle measures. A recent study reported that families eating fresh unpackaged, organic food for only three days were able to drop their BPA levels by 66% and phthalate levels by 55% [9]. Similarly, American toddlers eating mostly organic food were found to have one sixth the pesticide residues in their urine [10, 11], and reduction in urinary excretion of antibiotics and phthalates is reported with consumption of a vegetarian diet [12].

Food for thought

We are what we eat: thus our greatest exposure to toxic chemicals is likely to be through our diet. The greatest impact we have on the environment is also through our food choices. The globalised industrial food system uses more fossil fuels than any other industry and is the largest global contributor to water contamination, deforestation, soil depletion, and climate change.

There is a growing realisation, however, that there is another way and that a SLOW (Seasonal Local Organic Whole) food diet offers solutions to growing food insecurity and reliance on chemical fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, plastic packaging and excessive food-miles. Such a diet will require a radical reorganisation of the current food system, which is possible if we embrace biodiversity and sustainable ecological farming practices and support local food economies through cooperative social networks and community supported agriculture.

The way of wellness

We are begging to learn that everything is interconnected, that individual actions have planetary consequences and that if we are to survive we must adopt conscious consumption patterns that transform corporate behaviour and create communities of informed and engaged citizens. It seems ironic, however, that at a time when mobile devices give us unprecedented ability to connect with the world, we have never been more out of touch with the earth and each other. Yet there is cause for hope; for while the need has never been so great, the tools at our disposal have never been more powerful.

It is said that the currency of wellness is connection, but if wellness results from connection between internal and external worlds, how can we be well in a toxic world? Certainly knowledge of the devastation that our current chemical-dependent lifestyles is having on our health, the earth and future generations can easily lead to despair. It is possible, however, to use knowledge of the tragedy unfolding around us to inform and motivate positive responses and join with others in devoting our lives to effecting positive change. In doing so we can fully embrace our human potential and work together to break our addiction to industrial chemicals and become saviours of our world. Such actions can imbue our lives with purpose and meaning and, through reconnecting with the earth and each other, we can be well.

References

1. Calafat, A., Ye, X., Wong, LY., Reidy, JA., Needham, LL., Exposure of the U.S. population to bisphenol A and 4-tertiary-octylphenol: 2003–2004. Environ Health Perspect, 2008. 116: p. 39-44.

2. Landrigan, P., Garg, A., Children are not little adults, in Children’s health and the environment: A global perspective – A resource manual for the health sector, J. Pronzczuk de Garbino, Editor. 2005, World Health Organization: Geneva.

3. Environmental Working Group, Body Burden — The Pollution in Newborns: A benchmark investigation of industrial chemicals, pollutants and pesticides in umbilical cord blood. 2005.

4. Lloyd-Smith, M. and B. Sheffield-Brotherton, Children’s environmental health: Intergenerational equity in action – A civil society perspective, D.O. Carpenter, Editor. 2008. p. 190-200.

5. Product Safety Australia. Phthalates in consumer products. 2011; Available from: http://www.productsafety.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/972486.

6. Guerrero-Bosagna, C. and M. Skinner, Transgenerational epigenetic actions of environmental compounds. Anim Reprod, 2010. 7(3): p. 165-167.

7. Vandenberg, L., Colborn, T., Hayes, TB., Heindel, JJ., Jacobs, DR., Lee, DH., Shioda, T., Soto, AM., vom Saal, FS, Welshons, WV., Thomas Zoeller, R., Myers, JP, Hormones and Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: Low-Dose Effects and Nonmonotonic Dose Responses. Endocrine Reviews, 2012. 33(3): p. 1-77.

8. Cohen, M., ‘Detox’: Science or Sales-pitch? . Australian Family Physician, 2007. 36(12): p. 1002-1004.

9. Rudel, R. and J. Gray, Engel, CL., Rawsthorne, TW., Dodson, RE., Ackerman, JM., Rizzo, J., Nudelman, JL., Brody, JG., Food packaging and bisphenol A and bis(2-ethyhexyl) phthalate exposure: Findings from a dietary intervention. Environ Health Persp, 2011. 119(7): p. 914-920.

10. Curl, C., Fenske, FA., Elgethun, K. , Organophosphorus Pesticide Exposure of Urban and Suburban Preschool Children with Organic and Conventional Diets. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2003. 111(3): p. 377-382.

11. Lu, C. and K. Toepel, Irish, R., Fenske, RA., Barr, DB., Bravo, R., Organic diets significantly lower children’s dietary exposure to organophosphorus pesticides. Environ Health Perspect 2006. 114: p. 260–263.

12. Ji, K. and Y. Lim Kho, Park, Y., Choi, K., Influence of a five-day vegetarian diet on urinary levels of antibiotics and phthalate metabolites: a pilot study with “temple stay” participants. Environ Res, 2010. 110: p. 375–382.

Resources:

http://www.minddisrupted.org/

http://www.bioneers.org/

http://www.commonweal.org/new-school

http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/

http://www.ewg.org/

Marc Cohen is a medical doctor and Professor in the School of Health Sciences at RMIT University where he leads an online Master of Wellness Program and conducts research into detoxification, organic food, yoga, and various complementary therapies (see http://www.rmit.edu.au/wellness).

Dr Michael Ellis: A Challenge to Australia

A Challenge to Australia
Dr Michael Ellis

An enlightened democracy should provide the people with a sense of purposeful participation. But above all its function should be that, regardless of ideology, the common good should be served first and foremost

Our future is dependent on manufacturing, employment, the quality of education, climate change, our relations with China and security policy. It is also dependent on the promotion of multi culturalism in a secular society. We are habitually treated to a stream of repetitive clichés from all governments. On these and other areas of policy, the major parties seem unwilling or unable to lead a serious conversation that can engage the nation.

We need a government who really listens and answers to the people. They should have policies and management tools which are carefully thought out on a holistic, cultural, social, and environmental and economic basis .The questions could be sought from publically funded think tanks and then prioritised and refined to give the best possible sustainable outcomes which create quality of life socially, economically, culturally and environmentally for all.

This becomes then a sustainable civilisation into the future.

Australia needs a realistic infrastructure for the future based on the ordinary person`s needs for stability and quality of life .The current government is creating a hierarchical, exploitative economy based on a neoconservative Washington consensus model which is unsustainable. We do not have infinite resources, and the Australian citizen should be valued and not seen as a disposable economic entity. What is happening now in Australia is a reflection of what is happening in the rest of the world. We have to set our priorities here as an example to the rest if the world.

A book, Challenge to Australia, written in the 1980s by Sir Mark Oliphant, Sir Alistair Burnett and Sir Barton Pope said that Australia with its magnificent environment could be a leader to the rest of the world in terms of water supply, agriculture and the harnessing of the energy of the sun. Compared with most countries in the world, environmentally, Australia is relatively unspoilt. We suggest the following priorities to create an Australia which is a truly democratic sustainable civilisation

Economics goes hand in hand with environment, people and sustainability. By developing a best-practice utilisation of agriculture and water supply we could enhance agricultural productivity and make Australia the bread basket of the world. A lot of Australia is still underdeveloped and has tremendous capacity for the production of sustainable energy; production from wave power, geothermal and wind energy. Germany’s renewable energy sector is among the most innovative and successful worldwide where wind, biogas, and solar combined accounted for a larger portion of net electricity production than brown coal.

The basis for a sustainable civilisation is education, health, community and culture. Economics tends to put money before people and yet people are our most valuable commodity. The huge incidence of depression in society shows we are putting financial priorities ahead of cultural and social requirements

It is essential we shore up the health and social determinants of a healthy population to create a productive and viable economy. The foundation of Australia is mateship and the predominant values are within the context of the love for ones neighbour.

The essential nature of The Australian Nation and the character of Australian civilisation and mateship are being eclipsed by the rule of the free market understood as the free flow of goods, services and capital; the emphasis on deregulation to allow market forces to act as a self-regulating mechanism; privatisation of public enterprises to reduce inefficiencies; and lower taxes and balanced budgets which require periodic curbs on public spending, whether in health, education, social security, environmental protection, or support for the not-for-profit sector.

It is essential that we have in Australia the expression of true democracy articulated in the separation of state from Religion and the true representation of people by the government. With increasing automation and artificial intelligence, a proportion of society will become unemployed unless new kinds of work are found in this information age. We face tremendous challenges of water and food resource depletion unless we get our act together.

The world needs new ways of thinking and new technologies to help people survive in a time of refugees, marginalisation and unemployment. We have to think creatively and strategically to build an Australian civilisation which responds to the needs of a world traumatised by shrinking resources, control of people, an elite global consensus of powerful transnational companies and individuals, increasing terrorism and wars engendered by a loss of true values and ethics based on the sacredness of life.

Rodger Savory: Why Australia needs an holistic agricultural policy

Why Australia needs an holistic agricultural policy

Rodger Savory, Director of Savory Grassland Management

“Why Australia needs a holistic agricultural policy with all portfolios and all parties involved in it’s creation and implementation”
Since moving to Australia in 2011 I have been working with many good people, concerned people and caring people trying to figure out how to get Australian agriculture onto a stronger footing.
Here is some background information gleaned over the last few years.

A century ago there were 300,000 commercially viable farms that were fit enough to be handed down to the next generation. Today there are only 12,000 farms that are financially viable enough to be handed down to the next generation.

Whilst on financials here is another exciting figure. Since 2008 agricultural properties in the North have been devaluing at roughly 15% per annum. Here is a further scary figure the banking industry has reported that 98% of properties in the North are 67.5% debt to equity ratios BEFORE a devaluation of their land is included.
So agriculture is in a mess a huge mess.

The best description of agriculture in Australia financially is it is a giant Ponzi scheme. As long as new investors can be found it is propped up. Currently those new investors being wooed are the Chinese. This is the situation because no one knows how else to keep things going.

So that is the financial outlook for Australian agriculture local families cannot make a go of things and there are almost no farming families left.

Now the fact that staple food sources have been kept low priced to feed the masses in the cities does not help. There has been NO INCREASE in price paid to farmers for staple foods such as beef and wheat for over 60 years. In fact if inflation is put in then there has been a net reduction in the price paid for staple foods.

All governments need this to continue as when food prices spike governments lose elections in democracies. As such they continue to destabilise farmers to allow them to stay in power. Be this a live export ban, or a duty charged or a foot and mouth outbreak, whatever they need to do this all are tools of destabilisation.

Socially in Australia the rural towns are dying, there are no sheep left, no shearers left, no income left. There are lots of suicides each year and the figure is around 1 per week among the farming community. So towns and farmers are dying, and most importantly parents are convincing their children to NOT return to the farms when they graduate from school.

Environmentally things are not much better, the amount of sediment flowing out to smother the reefs is truly scary. The bare soil, dead croplands decreasing yields are all indicative of a large problem. There used to be 2 billion sheep in Australia and now there are less than 400 million. So the carrying capacity has decreased dramatically.

Now if we look at the problem we realise that Australia has never had an agricultural policy for the nation. Australia has had lots of policies towards addressing perceived problems in the industry. However the nation has never said we as a nation will do this this and this agriculturally, with these goals in mind for these purposes.

Which is very strange and without agriculture “the production of food, fibre, fuel from the land and waters” we cannot have civilisation and cities.

So why would we have a city based civilisation in Australia and not have an agricultural policy for the nation. It does not make any uncommon common sense.

Could it be because the nation started off with farmers and gradually changed to urban without anyone noticing the shift. Or is there a deeper issue?

Could it be because farmers have no voice in our urban based democracy?
I will argue that it is because Australia has no Holistic Context as a Nation.
What does this mean?

Well when we manage complexity we need a context within which to make decisions towards. Managing a nation is complex. We need to have a method of creating policy to allow for the management of that complexity.
We need decisions to be made to create policy which has few unintended consequences.

We need policy to assist us to live the lives we desire thousands of years into the future which are socially as we ALL desire, economically as we ALL desire, and environmentally as we must have to allow us to live the lives we desire thousands of years from now.

This context would cover all portfolios of government as complexity cannot be managed in isolation. Agriculture being one of the most complex things that can be managed. Labour is vital for agriculture, transport is vital for agriculture, imports and exports are vital for agriculture, environment, infrastructure, water, power are all vital for agriculture and as such none of these can be managed in isolation.

Now as all I have mentioned so far is about the doom and gloom of agriculture why do all parties need to be involved.
In politics you never draw attention to a negative otherwise you lose the election. Hence as for at least the last 60 years there has been no positive message in Agriculture no party has even mentioned it. However after 60 odd years the chickens are now coming home to roost. We have 1 billion hungry people on the planet and in the next 24 years an additional 2 billion people will be born. The world has shrunk and a hungry man knows no boundaries. So we have no option we have to get farming and get farming fast. For our national security alone.

To do this we actually need a policy that is bankable. That policy needs to have ALL parties involved and this is too important to have a fight over as if we fight we all go down. It is of vital national security interest that we create a context in which to write a policy for agriculture and as neither party will want to write one ALL stakeholders will need to contribute so that the entire nation has ownership in the context and the policy that will need to be created to be able to achieve all the goals within the context the nation desires.

And here is the kicker. It is not farmers who must demand it. It is each and every person who relies on agriculture to live who must demand it. So if you are clothed in cotton or wool and live in a house with wood and eat 3 meals a day you are the person who must demand a National Holistic Context and a National Agricultural Policy written to achieve the goals desired. It is you the people reading this article who must make waves politically in your party as your very survival depends on it.

Bill Pearson: Thoughts, general and specific, on Natural Medicine within primary health care

Thoughts, general and specific, on Natural Medicine within primary health care

Introduction

At the moment Australia ranks 32 in the world regarding a health service for its people.
Some countries which are ahead of us you may not have heard of!
Indeed it has often been stated that we (and some other western nations) spend more on providing a sub standard health service than some countries spent on providing an excellent service.

Until natural medicine is a part of primary health care and available to all who may need the varied modalities then primary health care is sadly lacking.

To add to the argument

The diversity of cultures and people which make up Australia means we have to include not only natural medicine but also the traditional medicines of the countries which make up this nation and consequently a health system which embraces all.
Not just those who can afford it, not just those who are privileged, not just those who are considered young or agile and not just those with a particular skin colour but a health system for every Australian.

Some examples which may be familiar:
• One-in-eight Indigenous people reported having a long-term heart or related condition
• Aboriginals have the worst health of any identifiable group in Australia. They carry poor health and a mortality rate greater than any other proportion of our population. They die up to 17 years earlier than other Australians. Most of the diseases they suffer are preventable and have been eliminated in the non indigenous population
• Refugees are recognised as one of the most vulnerable groups in Australia. With specific health care needs yet disrupted access to health care.
• One in 5 Australians have a mental illness yet there is evidence of serious lacking in support services.

But let’s not forget that beyond those groups mentioned lies a host of ordinary citizens who, the medical establishment agrees, will die of old age before they are seen about their actual medical problem.

Natural Medicine practices saves the Australian health system millions of dollars each year and wherever you read about health you will be aware that the health care system must focus on prevention and the better management of illness.

Surely it’s cheaper to aim for health than to spend on disease:
It is estimated that for every $1 spent by a person on natural health medicine or products there is an estimated $4 saved on our public health expenditure.

It would be nice to think that the federal government saw natural medicine as preventive and lifestyle medicine seeing that we help prevent and maintain health outcomes for many thousands of Australians every year, through the provision of primary and quality health care.
Australians spend over $3.5 million annually on therapies and medicines to assist with diseases and overall improve health and wellbeing.

Despite scare mongering and downright untruths from some people within orthodox medicine there has been in the past and continues to be a growing wealth of scientific knowledge regarding the efficacy, mechanisms, actions as well as advances to ensure quality and standardisation of materials and products within natural medicine.

One of the greatest (free) natural health activities occurs every year, on the last Saturday in April, which is when the world unites to celebrate World Tai Chi Day.
This event brings together people from all races and beliefs in a celebration of health and wellbeing.
The motto is “One World – One Breath”.

Harvard Health Publication has called Tai Chi “moving medication “and have just published the book The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi.

Written for the Health Australia Party, December, 2015

Considerations Towards a New Banking and Finance Policy

 Policy summary:

  1. Good Bank, Bad Bank
  2. Financial Transactions Tax
  3. Commission of Inquiry into the Property Bubble
  4. Legislate to promote Community Banking
  5. Create a National Community Bank
  6. Consider the following:

 

Introduction

A healthy banking and finance sector is essential to a healthy economy and a healthy society. Is Australia’s banking and finance sector currently contributing to a healthy economy and healthy society?  The Health Australia Party doesn’t think so.

 

Australia’s financial sector – a snapshot

Consider the following:

  • The four Big Banks are the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 8th most profitable banks in the entire world.[i]
  • Australia’s banking sector is the most concentrated in the world.[ii]
  • Australia’s Big Banks are almost twice as profitable as the banks in the United States and the United Kingdom.[iii]
  • The Big Banks currently make a yearly profit of around $1,500 for every man, woman and child in the country.[iv]
  • The banking and finance sector represents 9.3% of the Australian economy. Retail trade represents only 4.8%.[v] In other words, the financial sector is the size of all of the retail businesses in Australia put together, twice over.
  • The average wage in the banking and finance sector is $162,000, more than twice the average wage in the rest of the economy.[vi]The picture that emerges is a banking and finance sector that outrageously large and profitable, having accrued far too much wealth and power. This situation has come to pass because the Big Banks and their associates are so powerful that they can induce whichever major party is in power to pass legislation to make their businesses more profitable at the expense of everyone else. They hide this process under the label of ‘deregulation’.

 

A law unto themselves: a brief history of Deregulation

Deregulation of Australia’s banking and finance sector began in the 1970s, and continues to the present day. Before deregulation, many aspects of banking operation, such as interest rates on loans and accounts, liquidity ratios and reserve account levels, were controlled by the government.  The floating of the exchange rate and relaxing of capital flows into and out of the country took place in the 1980s, accompanied by the creation of dozens of new merchant banks and the entry of foreign banks into the local market.  The predictable result of these ‘reforms’ was a period of legendary financial excess and mismanagement during the 1980s, and in 1990 the bubble inevitably burst.  As the former governor of the Reserve Bank, Ian MacFarlane, put it in his 2006 Boyer lecture: “the financial excesses of the 1980s reached such a scale that the 1990 recession was inevitable.”[vii]

The 1990s were characterised by bank mergers and increasing bank profitability.[viii]  During this period the Big Four absorbed many smaller banks, including all of the former State Banks.  Deregulation continued into the 2000s under both Labor and Liberal.  The Rudd Labor Government was so keen on deregulation that in 2007 it actually renamed the Department of Finance and Administration as the Department of Finance and Deregulation. Deregulation allowed banks to expand their profit-making activities well beyond the traditional lending and account keeping into arbitrage, derivatives trading and speculative investment, and to take increasingly greater risks in such activities.

Perhaps the most startling statistic illustrating the consequences of deregulation is the face value of banking sector ‘off-balance sheet’ business. This business includes interest rate, foreign exchange, and credit derivative trading.  In September 1989 when the Reserve Bank started collecting this data, the total exposure was slightly less than $1.5 trillion dollars.  In 2009, the figure was around $13 trillion dollars.  The most recent figure, for December 2015, is a staggering $31 trillion dollars.[ix]

When the Big Banks defend the practice of keeping financial transactions off the balance sheet they usually point out that the face value is not necessarily the actual financial exposure. What they fail to disclose is the reason that this business is off-balance sheet in the first place is because it is impossible to determine what the actual exposure would be if a financial crisis occurred and these transactions had to brought on to the balance sheet.  The Big Banks claim that these transactions are about hedging, or balancing risks.  But should the Big Banks even be taking these risks?  What is the benefit to the Australian economy and Australian society of this risk-taking?

 

The Inevitable Financial Crisis

According to the most recent figures, the annual turnover (being the face value of all of the trade in financial instruments) of the financial sector was $124 trillion dollars.[x]   Figures like this mean that when a country’s banking and finance sector is in trouble, the whole country is in trouble.

In 2008 the US banking and finance sector secured a huge bailout with public funds withdrawn directly from the US Treasury. A small number of firms were allowed to collapse, but dozens more were rescued and allowed to continue trading.  These institutions were labelled “too big to fail”.  They were too big to fail because had so many subsidiaries and interconnecting financial arrangements that it was not possible to wind up their affairs in a timely fashion.  Their financial affairs were a knot that couldn’t be untied.  Hence, they had to be bailed out.

The European Union is currently in the midst of a financial crisis. Several European states have resorted to negative interest rates, a previously untried monetary experiment, in order to stave off financial collapse.  This is on top of the European Union policy of monetary easing, a policy whereby money is injected directly into bank balance sheets with the supposed goal of encourage lending and stimulating economic growth.  The US and Japan have also resorted to monetary easing, which has resulted in an explosion in asset prices across the developed world.

These financial crises have occurred as a direct result of deregulation of the financial sector. That is, the removal of restrictions on the activities of banks and other financial sector firms in the pursuit of profit.  It would be naïve in the extreme to expect that Australia is immune from financial crises caused by risky activities in the financial sector.

If there is a financial crisis in Australia and Australian banks are threatened, under current arrangements the Australian taxpayer will have to bail out the banking and financial sector, as has happened all over the world. The bursting of the Great Australian Property Bubble, discussed below, could trigger for a financial crisis.  We need to be prepared for this eventuality.  Fortunately, there is a solution which has been proven successful in other countries.

 

Policy 1 : Good Bank, Bad Bank

This is the “Good Bank, Bad Bank” (GBBB) concept. There are many variations, but at its most essential the GBBB concept requires that an insolvent bank separate its core banking activities from troubled assets related to its speculative trading and other ‘off-balance sheet’ activities.  The Good Bank is funded to keep operating, and the Bad Bank is allowed to trade out of its difficulties and and if necessary is wound up in the normal fashion.  This policy means that if the solvency of a bank (or banks) is threatened in a financial crisis situation, ATMs will still dispense cash, and people and small businesses will still be able to access funds and, most importantly, the banks will not be able to use the threat of public chaos to extort a bailout, as happened in the United States in 2008.

The GBBB concept has been successfully implemented in one form or another in the United States, Great Britain, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Portugal and Indonesia. The Health Australia Party will vigorously promote the GBBB concept if elected.

 

Policy 2 : A Financial Transaction Tax

In order to reign in the activities of the financial sector and make an Australian financial crisis less likely, the Health Australia Party proposes to introduce taxes on the face value of financial transactions. These taxes would be very small, only fractions of a percent.  This kind of tax is popularly known as a Tobin Tax, and was first suggested by Nobel-prize winning British economist James Tobin in 1972.  Tobin suggested that the tax apply to speculative currency trading.  The Health Australia Party proposes that the Tobin Tax concept be extended to speculative financial transactions in general, and in particular off-balance sheet transactions, in order to discourage the practice and to raise revenue for worthwhile purposes.

 

The Great Australian property Bubble

Is there a property bubble in Australia? Anyone suggesting the possibility in Australia is publicly ridiculed, but plenty of international experts think so.  One international expert recently described the Australian bubble as “one of the biggest housing bubbles in history.”[xi] Property bubbles have burst in recent years in the United States, Spain, Ireland and other countries.  Is Australia immune from this trend?  A quick look at the numbers suggests not.

Consider the following statistics:

  • Australia’s household debt is more than 130% of GDP, compared with a developed world average of 78%.[xii]
  • The Australian banking sector is more exposed to mortgage loans than any other OECD country. In 2011, nearly 63% of Australian banks loan books were made up of residential mortgages. This compares with 36% in the United States, and 16% in the United Kingdom. [xiii]
  • In 2008, total mortgage debt in Australia was $638 billion. In 2015 it was a staggering $1.4 trillion. In other words, in just 7 years mortgage assets on the books of Australian financial institutions has doubled.[xiv]
  • Research from International consultancy Fitch shows that Australia’s house prices have risen more since 1997 than any other country in the world.[xv]
  • Bank lending practices have caused sky-rocketing residential property prices and soaring mortgage debt.

There are many triggers which could burst this bubble. For example, a recession could occur at the same time as a rise in interest rates.  Whatever the cause, the consequences of the coming property collapse have significance for the whole country, but most of all for the people who were induced by the Big Banks to borrow too much money to buy over-valued property.  Many of these people, particularly those who took out loans in the past few years, face the prospect of being in a position of negative equity.  That is, their property will be worth less than the amount they owe the bank.  For these people, the Australian dream is poised to become a financial nightmare.

 

Policy 3: A Commission of Inquiry into the Property Bubble

The usual response to any financial disaster or bank collapse is to create a Royal Commission to investigate what happened. Undoubtedly after the property bubble collapses there will be some kind of commission of inquiry into how it occurred and who to blame.  The Health Australia Party believes that a commission of inquiry is necessary now, before the bubble bursts, in order to fully investigate and report on possible political solutions.  There are many obvious policy responses which could cool down the property market.  The usual solutions trotted out by the financial sector are about reducing demand by removing tax incentives for property investment, or streamlining planning laws.  A commission of inquiry would look not just at options for reigning in demand for property, but also at predatory and opportunistic bank lending practices.  The unpopular political decisions which will have to be made in the near future will be more palatable if they are supported by recommendations by an independent commission of inquiry.

 

Policy 4: Legislate to promote community banking

Australia needs a truly healthy banking sector, and that means returning banking activities to where they belong – in communities, as part of a healthy economy and healthy society. Fortunately much work has already been done in establishing models for community banking, where the bank is owned in one way or another by the community it serves.  Community banks are act in the interests of the community they serve, rather than the interests of bank executives and shareholders.  This means more loan funding for local projects such as medical centres and sporting clubs, and greater support for local businesses.

Customer-owned credit unions, banks and building societies have customer satisfaction well above that enjoyed by the big banks, and with mortgage rates and credit card rates lower than the big banks.[xvi]

In every respect, these customer-owned institutions are providing a better service than the big banks, but only 1% of Big Bank customers switch banks in any given year.[xvii] Why is this the case?  Partly because the Big Banks have more money to spend on advertising. The Big Banks spend annually more than $1 billion on advertising, more than it costs to run the entire ABC.[xviii]  Partly because their employees are usually earning commission on the financial products they sell.  And partly because the banks discourage customers from changing banks by charging extortionate account closure fees.

All that the community banking sector needs to truly thrive is greater legislative support. Australia is the only G20 nation which does not have specific legislation for community banks.[xix]  The Health Australia Party will promote legislation to support community banking and hybrid banking models such as the franchise model developed by Bendigo Bank.  This will include removing barriers and creating incentives for customers to move their loans and deposit accounts from the Big Banks to community banks.

 

Policy 5: Create a National Community Bank

The Health Australia Party will promote the creation of a publicly owned 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]http://www.smh.com.au/business/big-four-on-top-of-the-world-for-profitability-says-bis-20140629-3b2c6.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[ii]http://www.tai.org.au/node/1926, 2012, p 7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[iii]http://www.rba.gov.au/publications/fsr/ 2014 [via APRA, check actual source][iv]http://tai.org.au/node/1926 , p 19

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[v]http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/5206.0  2 September 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[vi]http://www.bankers.asn.au/FSI/ABA-submissions/ABA-submissions, Submission to Financial System Inquiry, page 39.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[vii]http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/boyerlectures/lecture-4-the-recession-of-1990-and-its-legacy/3353124 Ian McFarlane, ABC Boyer Lecture 4, 3 December 2006.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[viii]http://www.rba.gov.au/publications/confs/2000/pdf/gizycki-lowe.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[ix]www.rba.gov.au/statistics/tables/xls/b02hist.xls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[x]http://fsi.gov.au/consultation/submissions20140520,/ Australian Centre for Financial Studies, submission to Financial System Inquiry, p 15.  [find more recent figure if possible][xi]Jonathan Tepper, report to clients, reported in Fairfax media, February 25 2016.http://www.afr.com/real-estate/these-charts-suggest-the-housing-bubble-is-out-of-control-20160223-gn20y0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[xii]http://www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/australian-households-awash-with-debt-barclays-20150315-1lzyz4.html  (Barclays Banks report, via Australian newspaper, Mar 16 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[xiii]http://fsi.gov.au/consultation/submissions20140520/ Australian Centre for Financial Studies, submission to Financial System Inquiry, p 32.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[xiv] http://www.apra.gov.au/statistics/Pages/default.aspx , 1602 QAPS, December 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[xv]http://www.businessinsider.com.au/this-chart-shows-how-ridiculous-australian-house-prices-are-on-a-global-scale-2015-2 Fitch via Greg McKenna,  27 February 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[xvi]http://www.customerownedbanking.asn.au/media-a-resources/submissions-download-submissions-and-sign-up-for-alerts COBA, p 9. http://fsi.gov.au/consultation/submissions20140520/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[xvii] http://fsi.gov.au/consultation/submissions20140520/  Mortgage Finance Association, submission to Financial System Inquiry, p 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[xviii]Australia Institute, Rise and Rise, p 16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[xix]Customer Owned Banking Association, submission to Financial System Inquiry, p 6, 13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Considerations Towards a Chronic Disease Policy

(Please Note: these thoughts are not policy positions of the HAP, but issues that we need to discuss to formulate the best policies for Australia)

 

Policy summary:

Policy 1:          Taxes on unhealthy food, subsidies for fresh food

Policy 2:          A public health campaign against screen entertainment

Policy 3:          Make marketing of junk food to children illegal

Policy 4:          General Practitioners required to advise upon Physical Activity Requirements

Policy 5:          Restore the Australian Preventative Health Agency and Re-establish the National Partnership Agreement on Preventative Health

 

Introduction

Chronic disease is responsible for 9 out of every 10 deaths in Australia.[i]  50% of Australians live with chronic disease.[ii]   Australians are also suffering from multiple chronic diseases.  For example, in 2011 heart disease was a main cause of around 15% of deaths, but it was a contributing cause of 50% of deaths. Kidney failure was a main cause of only 2% of deaths, but was a contributing case of 25% of deaths.[iii]

At the same time, Australia’s life expectancy is one of the highest in the world. In other words, most of us are living long lives whilst suffering multiple preventable diseases which eventually kill us.  How have we allowed our society to decline to the extent that half of us are chronically diseased, and that nearly all of us die from chronic disease?

Could it be something to do with our weight?

  • 63.4% of Australian adults are overweight or obese. In 1995 the percentage was 56.3%.[iv]
  • Around one in four or 27.4% of children aged 5-17 years are overweight or obese.[v]

Could it be our diet?

  • Only 7% of Australian adults eat the recommended amount of vegetables, and only 49.8% eat the recommended amount of fruit. Only 5.1% meet both guidelines.[vi]
  • Only 5.4% of Australian children eat the recommended amount of vegetables, and only 68.1% eat the recommended amount of fruit. Only 5.1% meet both guidelines.[vii]

Or perhaps we aren’t getting enough exercise?

  • 29.7% of Australian adults do not meet physical activity guidelines, and 14.8% do no exercise at all in an average week.
  • Eight in ten Australian children do not meet national guidelines of 60 minutes physical activity per day[viii]
  • Nearly 70% of Australian adults are either sedentary or have low levels of physical activity[ix]

Or are we too sedentary?

  • Australian adults sit for nearly 9 hours per day[x]
  • Children and adolescents spend approximately 60% of the school day sitting, despite official guidelines recommending that children not be kept sedentary for more than 1 hour at a time[xi]

It is all of these factors, together with modern medicine’s focus on treating symptoms with chemical drugs (see our Medicines Policy) which has led to Australia’s parlous state of public health.

 

Chronic diseases are preventable

The leading cause of death in Australia is heart disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that at least 80% of all heart disease is preventable.[xii]   Preventable obesity and physical inactivity are also causal factors in stroke, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, arthritis, osteoporosis and colorectal cancer[xiii]

The Health Australia Party believes that it is time for government to take some serious measures towards public health. Australia’s investment in public health is poor by world standards.  New Zealand spends 7% of its national health budget on prevention and public health.  In 2010-11, Australia spent just 1.7%.[xiv]

But the current parlous situation in Australian public health wasn’t caused just by a lack of money. This is the result of successive governments ignoring the obvious: a massive campaign against preventable disease is required.

 

Profiting from illness

The National Tobacco Campaign over the last two decades has resulted in reduction of adult smoking rates from 35% in 1980 to 13% in 2013.[xv] The campaign was a combination of restrictions on advertising, public awareness measures, and higher taxation of tobacco products.

Some other successful public preventative health campaigns have been the Life. Be In It campaign against sedentary behaviours, Slip Slop Slap against sunburn, the Grim Reaper AIDS awareness campaign, and most recently Vegie-Man to encourage children to eat fruit and vegetables.

It is worth noting that the campaign against smoking is the only large-scale public health prevention campaign that has been directed squarely at corporate interests. One of the consequences of the anti-smoking campaign has been that tobacco companies are a lot smaller and less profitable than 10 or 20 years ago. The results of a preventable disease campaign would be similar. Pharmaceutical companies would make a lot of less money than they do now. The fact is that good health is bad for business, and illness is good for business.

As the Australian Health Policy Collaboration puts it: “chronic diseases generate billions in avoidable health expenditure every year.” These billions in avoidable expenditure go mostly to the pharmaceutical industry to pay for chemical drugs. Any public health campaign focussed on prevention you can expect to be vigorously opposed by the pharmaceutical industry. But not only the pharmaceutical stands to lose out from improvements in public health. Sugar companies would make less money. Supermarkets would make less money selling packaged and processed junk food.

This is the fundamental problem in chronic disease and medicine policy under the major parties. If every Australian suddenly started to look after their health, those sectors of the economy which profit from illness would shrink just as the tobacco companies have shrunk under the National Tobacco Campaign.   A public health campaign along the lines of the National Tobacco campaign will be strenuously opposed by big business. This is why neither of the major parties take any serious action on these fronts. The major parties are in the pocket of big business, and big business profits are more important to the major parties than Australia’s public health.

The Health Australia Party believes that further public health prevention campaigns and regulations are necessary and that they should directly target the corporate interests which are profiting from the continuing decline in Australian’s health. Voluntary codes of practice and industry guidelines are useless. Company directors have a legal duty to make decisions in the best interests of company profitability. If they don’t make decisions in the interests of the company, they get sacked. Ultimately this boils down to a single factor: whatever it is they are selling, they have to sell more. For this reason, no voluntary code of practice or industry guideline is ever going to make any difference. These companies have to be regulated or they will keep on doing what they have been doing for decades: profiting from the decline in Australian health.

Whenever there is talk about regulating corporate Australia in the interest of public health, various big business organisations inevitably mount a campaign, speaking of the “nanny state” and how governments should not influence people’s consumption choices.   Behind closed doors, complaints will be made directly to the executives of the Australian Labor Party and the Liberals. Threats to end donations, for example. And so corporate Australia gets richer whilst Australians get fatter and sicker with the tacit approval of whichever major party is in power.

The Health Australia party sees three major avenues for addressing chronic disease: these are taxation, regulation, and education.

  • Taxation of processed foods
  • Regulation of advertising
  • Education about exercise, healthy eating, avoiding screen-based entertainment, and other aspects of preventative health

 

Policy 1: Taxes on unhealthy food, subsidies for fresh food

The World Bank has pointed out that tax increases on tobacco were the single most effective measure in discouraging smoking.[xvi] The United Kingdom recently passed legislation increasing taxation on sugary drinks, and this approach has been well researched all over the world.

The HAP believes the same approach should be applied to junk food. This could easily be achieved by increasing the rate of GST applied to processed foods which are high in sugar and fat.  At the same time, to encourage fresh food, a subsidy should be applied so that every Australian is rewarded for taking measures to improve their diet.

 

Policy 2: A public health campaign against screen entertainment

A survey by the National Heart Foundation and the Cancer Council of Australia found that:

  • 77% of Australian teenagers spend more than 2 hours using electronic devices on school days, and 89% spend more than 2 hours on weekend days
  • 82% of Australian teenagers do not get the recommended 1 hour of physical activity per day
  • 58% of students have at least 3 televisions at home
  • 40% of students have a television in their bedrooms[xvii]

Other than diet, consumption of electronic media entertainment is the key factor which has resulted in the increasingly poor health of the Australian people, simply because consuming screen entertainment is sedentary behaviour by its very nature. To watch a screen in any form, whether it be a television screen, computer screen or iPhone screen, is to refrain from physical activity.

Unfortunately there is a lot of money being made keeping people in their seats. A public health campaign against screen use is going to offend many corporate entities.  This is why no major party will ever fund a campaign against screen-based entertainment.  The Health Australia Party does not accept donations from large corporations, and so it is free to promote policies which benefit the health of all Australians.

The Health Australia Party believes that all media organisations (whether they are free-to-air TV, pay TV, internet movie or internet service providers) should be required to screen public health announcements that sedentary behaviour and consumption of electronic media entertainment is a health hazard. This could be described as an “electronic warning label” approach.  The warning label approach was applied successfully with tobacco products, and would work equally well to reduce electronic media consumption.

 

Policy 3: Make marketing of junk food to children illegal

Australian children consume a great deal of screen-based entertainment. With screen-based entertainment comes advertising.  There is also advertising and marketing of junk food in public places, and even in schools.  Most advertising directed at children is for processed junk food high in sugar, fat and salt.  Junk food makers employ child psychologists and marketers to exploit vulnerable young Australians in the ruthless pursuit of profit.

This is one of the reasons for the frightening rate of obesity amongst Australian children. Other childhood health problems caused by consuming processed junk food include dental caries, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

The companies that pay for this advertising are profiting from the ill-health of Australian children as well as setting them up for a life-time of chronic disease. The Health Australia Party believes that there is no place for this kind of corporate behaviour in a healthy society, any more than there is a place for tobacco advertising in a healthy society.  Policies regulating the advertising of junk food to children have been in place in Norway, Sweden, Ireland and the United Kingdom for many years.  Australia needs to follow suit.

Banning the advertising of junk food to children is consistent with the World Health Organisation’s 2013 Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases.

 

Policy 4: General Practitioners required to advise upon Physical Activity Requirements

Simply by getting its citizens to exercise more, Australia could drastically reduce the burden of chronic disease. For example, physical exercise can reduce deaths due to heart disease by up to 35%.[xviii] Australia desperately needs a public health campaign to encourage physical fitness, as a matter of national emergency. Australia already has official physical activity guidelines, but they are not currently being promoted with any vigor. Australia’s 2014 Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines[xix] are as follows:

  • be active on most, preferably all, days of the week
  • accumulate 150 to 300 minutes of physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity
  • do muscle strengthening exercises on at least 2 days per week
  • minimise the amount of time spent in prolonged sitting
  • break up long periods of sitting as often as possible
  • children and young people to limit electronic media entertainment to no more than 2 hours per day

Half of all Australians currently do not meet these physical activity guidelines.[xx] However, most Australians visit a GP in any given year. The Health Australia Party believes that GPs should be more than just the sales desk for the big pharmaceutical companies. They have a role to play in promoting health rather than just treating symptoms. According, the Health Australia Party will promote a policy of requiring GPs to inform patients about the Australian Government’s physical activity and diet guidelines as a part of normal consultations

 

Policy 5: Restore the Australian Preventative Health Agency and Re-establish the National Partnership Agreement on Preventative Health

This policy is also included in our Medical Research Policy. The current Liberal government’s attitude to preventative medicine is no secret. The Australian National Preventative Health Agency was abolished by the Liberal Government to save a paltry $6.4m over 5 years. Furthermore, the National Partnership Agreement on Preventative Health was also abolished by the Liberal Government. It is not as if the current Liberal government is not aware that prevention is better than cure. But the fact is that prevention of illness is bad for business. There simply isn’t any money in it for their medical research industry mates. This is the real reason behind the government’s decision to abandon preventative medicine.

 

 

[i]Australian Health Policy Collaboration, Chronic diseases in Australia: the case for changing course, p iv, https://www.vu.edu.au/sites/default/files/AHPC/pdfs/Chronic-diseases-in-Australia-the-case-for-changing-course-sharon-willcox.pdf

[ii]Susan Ley,  Media Release, 12 August 2015, “New stats reveal 50% of Australians battling chronic disease.” https://www.health.gov.au/internet/ministers/publishing.nsf/Content/health-mediarel-yr2015-ley100.htm

[iii] Australian Health Policy Collaboration, Chronic diseases in Australia: the case for changing course,  p 3,  https://www.vu.edu.au/sites/default/files/AHPC/pdfs/Chronic-diseases-in-Australia-the-case-for-changing-course-sharon-willcox.pdf

[iv]Australian Bureau of Statistics, National Health Survey 2014-15, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4364.0.55.001

[v]Australian Bureau of Statistics, National Health Survey 2014-15, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4364.0.55.001

[vi]Australian Bureau of Statistics, National Health Survey 2014-15, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4364.0.55.001

[vii]Australian Bureau of Statistics, National Health Survey 2014-15, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4364.0.55.001

[viii]Heart Foundation, Blueprint for an active Australia, Second Edition, p 4, https://heartfoundation.org.au/images/uploads/publications/Blueprint-for-an-active-Australia-second-edition.pdf

[ix]Department of Health, Research and Statistics, physical activity and sedentary behaviour, http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/pasb

[x] Heart Foundation, Blueprint for an active Australia, Second Edition, p 40, https://heartfoundation.org.au/images/uploads/publications/Blueprint-for-an-active-Australia-second-edition.pdf

 

[xi]Heart Foundation, Blueprint for an active Australia, Second Edition, p 39, https://heartfoundation.org.au/images/uploads/publications/Blueprint-for-an-active-Australia-second-edition.pdf

[xii]Australian Health Policy Collaboration, Chronic diseases in Australia: the case for changing course, p iv., https://www.vu.edu.au/sites/default/files/AHPC/pdfs/Chronic-diseases-in-Australia-the-case-for-changing-course-sharon-willcox.pdf

[xiii]Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australia’s Health 2014, p 81, http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=60129547205

[xiv] Heart Foundation, Blueprint for an active Australia, Second Edition, p 7, https://heartfoundation.org.au/images/uploads/publications/Blueprint-for-an-active-Australia-second-edition.pdf

[xv]Australian Health Policy Collaboration, Chronic diseases in Australia: the case for changing course, p iv, https://www.vu.edu.au/sites/default/files/AHPC/pdfs/Chronic-diseases-in-Australia-the-case-for-changing-course-sharon-willcox.pdf

[xvi] World Bank (1999), Curbing the Epidemic: Governments and the Economics of Tobacco Control, http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/8/2/196.full

[xvii] Heart Foundation and Cancer Council, “Increase in teenagers’ screen use a new threat to long-term health”, media release, http://www.cancer.org.au/news/media-releases/increase-in-teenagers-screen-use-a-new-threat-to-long-term-health.html

[xviii]Heart Foundation, Blueprint for an active Australia, Second Edition, p 4, https://heartfoundation.org.au/images/uploads/publications/Blueprint-for-an-active-Australia-second-edition.pdf

[xix] http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines

[xx] AIHW, Insufficient Physical Activity webpage, http://www.aihw.gov.au/risk-factors/insufficient-physical-activity/

Considerations Towards a Medical Research Policy

(Please Note: these thoughts are not policy positions of the HAP, but issues that we need to discuss to formulate the best policies for Australia)

 

Policy summary:

 

Policy 1:          Restore the Australian Preventative Health Agency and Re-establish the National Partnership Agreement on Preventative Health

Policy 2:         Make scientific validation of natural medicines and therapies a National Health Priority Area of the NMHRC

Policy 3:          Require the NMRC to spend 10% of its budget on complementary medicine research

Policy 4:         Establish a Centre for Research Excellence in Natural Medicine

Policy 5:          Fund a natural medicine vs conventional medicine study

 

Introduction

The medical research industry is big business. Very, very big business.  Consider the following:

  • Between 2005 and 2015 the National Health and Medical Research Council spent $6.7 billion of public money on funding the medical research industry.[i]
  • The medical technology industry had a turnover of $10.2 billion in 2012-13. By way of comparison, the automotive industry had a turnover of $11 billion in 2011-12.[ii]
  • In 2014, the Australian Listed Life Science Sector was worth $53.8 billion. The biggest companies were CSL ($33 billion), Resmed Inc ($6.7 billion) and Cochlear ($3.2 billion).[iii]
  • In 2010-11, Australian manufacturing of medicines was worth $9.7 billion
  • Australian medicines industry turnover was $22.46 billion in 2010[iv]

 

The Medical Research Industry – The chase for patents and profits

If you take the time to browse the websites of the various medical research industry bodies, such as Medicines Australia and the Medical Technology Association, you will see publications about industry size and profitability, tax concessions, intellectual property, commercialisation, and so on. Business talk, in other words.  What you will not find is anything about how medical research is improving the health of the average Australian.  That is because the medical research industry has nothing to do with health.  It is simply about money.

The medical research industry doesn’t bother to hide its focus on money. For example, a publication from AusbioTech (formerly the Australian Biotechnology Association) loudly proclaims that “cash is the life-blood of the industry”.[v]  Its publications are precisely the same kind of glossy propaganda that one gets from the mining industry, the manufacturing industry, the forestry industry or any other big industry.  The fact that this industry deals with health care is scarcely relevant.  What is relevant is the money.

The Annual Reports of the various medical research institutes are invariably filled with images of smiling researchers, happy children, and benevolent-looking administrators, creating an impression of an institution devoted to health and working to rid the world of illness. Don’t be fooled by the marketing.  The real business of these institutes is hidden under the labels “commercialisation of research”, or “management of intellectual property”.  All of these institutes have at least one executive and more often an entire executive committee solely devoted to commercialisation.

Nearly all of these institutes receive the majority of their funding from the NHMRC and State Government funding programs. In fact, 60% of medical research industry funding comes from government sources.[vi]  What this means is that research which primarily benefits private corporations is being mostly funded by the Australian taxpayer.  If any of the research funded by the NHMRC is later commercialised, it is private corporations which benefit when a new chemical drug or a new diagnostic machine is brought to market.

One of the most salient features of the pharmaceutical drug industry is the fact that drugs can only be protected by patent for a certain number of years. Once a pharmaceutical drug is “off-patent”, anyone can manufacture it.  Consequently pharmaceutical drug companies cease promoting a drug the very moment it goes “off patent”, and start promoting newer drugs that are still protected by patents.  This is the reason why research institutes are constantly conducting expensive research to find applications for the newer compounds cooked up in the laboratories of the pharmaceutical drug industry and protected by patents.

The same trend is present in diagnostics. Diagnostic equipment companies must keep coming up with more sophisticated diagnostic equipment for the same reasons that pharmaceutical drug companies must come up with new drugs.  That is, the patents on their equipment eventually expire, and from that point anyone can manufacture that equipment.  So they come up with a new type of device which incorporates new patented technologies.  And the cycle repeats… and repeats… and repeats.

This is what drives the medical research industry. It is not driven by a desire to improve the lot of the person in the street, nor a noble quest to ease the disease burden, as defenders of the system will tell you.  It is a research effort driven by pure, naked, self-interested capitalism.  It is not enough that the Australian public is subsidising the end-user cost of the products of the pharmaceutical and medical diagnostics industry via the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and Medicare, but we are paying their research bill into the bargain.

Anyone who defends the current system by suggesting that the cost of research should be borne by the public due to the health benefits of the research should have a look at our Health and Medicine policy. Because despite all of this research, all of this innovation, all of this public money thrown at the medical research industry, Australians gets less healthy with every passing year.

On the other side of the ledger, natural medicine and natural therapies are ignored by the medical research industry. There is a simple reason for this: by their standards, there is no money in it.  They can’t patent plants, so they don’t conduct research into plant medicine.  They can’t patent massage, so they don’t conduct research into it.  They can’t patent prevention, so they ignore it.

 

Government attitudes to natural and preventative medicine

The government, as the handmaiden of private industry, also largely ignores natural medicine and natural therapies. Despite high levels of usage of natural and complementary medicine amongst Australians (see our Health and Medicine Policy), public funding for natural medicine research is almost non-existent. The government sings from the same song sheet as the medical research industry. In 2010, it released a report called “Clinically Competitive: Boosting the Business of Clinical Trials in Australia”.[vii] The report was full of recommendations about how to make an already big business even bigger, and did not include a single recommendation about health outcomes. The only patient-focussed recommendation was about “faster consumer access” to new pharmaceuticals. This is a lie you often hear from the pharmaceutical industry when it lobbies the government to make drug approval processes even faster than they already are. What they are really lobbying for is not faster consumer access, but that their chemical drugs get to market quicker, so they can make as much money as possible before the patent expires.

It isn’t just natural medicine that is ignored by whichever major party is in power. They also ignore preventative medicine, or worse, are actively hostile to it. The current Liberal government’s attitude to preventative medicine is no secret. The Australian National Preventative Health Agency was abolished by the Liberal Government to save a paltry $6.4m over 5 years. Furthermore, the National Partnership Agreement on Preventative Health was also abolished by the Liberal Government. It is not as if the current Liberal government is not aware that prevention is better than cure. But the fact is that prevention of illness is bad for business. There simply isn’t any money in it for their medical research industry mates. This is the real reason behind the government’s decision to abandon preventative medicine.

 

Policy 1: Restore the Australian Preventative Health Agency and Re-establish the National Partnership Agreement on Preventative Health

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)

The Australian Government funds medical research largely through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). It would be logical to expect that the top research funding body for Australia would have the health of Australians as its main concern.  But the NHMRC doesn’t even pretend to have health at the top of its list.  The official top of the list of the NHMRC’s major health issues relevant to the next four years, ahead of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and all the other major health issue areas, is to “create stronger pathways to capture the economic value of research discoveries.”[viii]

The NHMRC makes only a token effort towards funding natural medicine and natural therapies. Between 2005 and 2015 the NHMRC spent $6.7 billion on research.  During this period only $88 million was spent on all forms of complementary medicine combined.  Only $2.7m was spent on traditional and herbal medicine.[ix]

The NHMRC has the following National Health Priority areas: arthritis and musculoskeletal health, cardiovascular health, asthma, cancer control, dementia, diabetes mellitus, injury prevention and control, mental health and obesity. There are natural medicines and therapies for all of these categories, but since it is not possible to patent them, they are ignored by the medical research industry.  We think this should change.  The Health Australia Party believes that scientific validation of natural medicines and therapies should be a National Health Priority Area.

 

Policy 2: Make scientific validation of natural medicines and therapies a National Health Priority Area of the NHMRC

The Complementary Medicine Council has argued in submissions to government that the NHMRC should devote 10% of its budget to complementary medicine research.[x] The Health Australia Party fully endorses this proposal as an important step towards a healthier Australia.

 

Policy 3: Require the NHMRC to spend 10% of its budget on complementary medicine research

The Australian Government, via the NHMRC, currently funds several Centres of Research Excellence (CREs).[xi] There is a CRE for Stroke Rehabilitation and Brain Recovery, a CRE for Severe Asthma, a CRE for Twin Research, a CRE for Kidney Disease, a CRE for Emerging Infectious Diseases, and so on. Each receives approximately $2.5m in funding. There is no CRE for any specific natural therapy. The Health Australia proposes that at least one CRE be funded to explore Natural Medicine, and preferably more than one.

 

Policy 4: Establish a Centre of Research Excellence in Natural Medicine       

Which is healthier, conventional medicine or natural medicine?

 As every natural medicine practitioner and natural medicine consumer knows, it is far better to achieve and maintain good health than it is to wait for illness to strike and then seek treatment. As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure.  Any natural medicine practitioner knows that his or her clients are in better health than the clients of conventional medicine practitioners because their clients follow basic common sense in maintaining their health.  They eat well, exercise regularly, and take natural medicines to maintain and improve their health.  When illness does occur, they are more likely to seek a natural medicine cure than a Medicare-subsidised pharmaceutical medicine cure. It follows logically that natural medicine consumers will cost Medicare less money than conventional medicine consumers.  What is required is a properly conducted study to establish beyond doubt what natural medicine practitioners and their clients already know.

The Health Australia Party will push for funds to be made available immediately for a comprehensive study comparing the cost of Medicare services incurred by natural medicine and conventional medicine consumers respectively.

Such a study would be easy to carry out. Firstly, a statistically significant group of people who prefer natural medicine over conventional medicine would have to be identified and agree to give the researchers access to their Medicare records.  Secondly, each natural medicine consumer’s Medicare record would need to be matched to a random, anonymous Medicare record from someone of the same age and gender, and the Medicare costs of both groups compared over a period of (for example) ten or more years.  This simple exercise would establish whether or not consumers of natural medicine are costing Medicare less money than the random sample.  The study would need be large enough to include statistically significant numbers of people in all age groups, because it is reasonable to expect that consumers in both groups will suffer more health issues as they get older.

The Health Australia Party is confident that a study such as this would establish beyond question that natural medicine consumers cost Medicare less than conventional medicine consumers. The case for funding natural medicine research at Federal and State levels would then be established, as would the case for promoting natural medicine to the public at large via a public health campaign as part of the ongoing effort to manage the Medicare budget.

 

Policy 5: Fund a natural medicine vs conventional medicine study

 

Conclusion

Medical research in Australia is hopelessly corrupted by the influence of big business and has been for decades. With only a handful of exceptions, every medical research institute and every medical research project is focused towards research which ends up commercialised as expensive surgical procedures, expensive diagnostics, or expensive pharmaceutical medicines marketed for profit. The Australian public pays for most of this research, but all the profits from it go to private corporations. Preventative medicine and natural medicine barely rate a mention and receive only a token amount of public money for research.

And where has the situation landed us? Australians are amongst the unhealthiest people in the developed world. Read more about that topic in our Health and Medicine policy.

 

Policy summary:

Policy 1:          Restore the Australian Preventative Health Agency and Re-establish the National Partnership Agreement on Preventative Health

Policy 2:         Make scientific validation of natural medicines and therapies a National Health Priority Area of the NMHRC

Policy 3:          Require the NMRC to spend 10% of its budget on complementary medicine research

Policy 4:         Establish a Centre for Research Excellence in Natural Medicine

Policy 5:          Fund a natural medicine vs conventional medicine study

 

 

[i] https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/file/grants/dataset/2015/research_funding_burden_of_disease_and_health_issues_datasets_2005_2014_150701.xlsx

[ii]Medical Technology Association of Australia, Response to Boosting the Commercial Returns of Research Discussion paper, 29 November 2014, p. 2, http://mtaa.org.au/docs/submissions/mtaa-submission-crc-review.pdf?sfvrsn=2

[iii]Health and Medical Research economic facts and figures, http://www.bionicsinstitute.org/news/Documents/HMR%20economic%20facts%20and%20figures.pdf

[iv]Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes, Fast Facts, http://aamri.org.au/health-medical-research/fast-facts-on-medical-research/

[v]Ausbiotech, Biotechnology Industry Position Survey Map 2015, http://www.ausbiotech.org/userfiles/File/_data/reports/2015%20BIOTECHNOLOGY%20REPORT%20-%20FINAL.pdf

[vi]Australian Society for Medical Research, 29 February 2016, submission re. R&D Tax Incentive, http://www.business.gov.au/grants-and-assistance/innovation-rd/RD-TaxIncentive/Documents/RandDSubmission-ASMR.pdf

[vii] http://www.industry.gov.au/industry/IndustrySectors/PharmaceuticalsandHealthTechnologies/ClinicalTrialsActionGroup/Documents/Clinical_Trials_Action_Group_Report.pdf

[viii]NHMRC Strategic Direction 2015-16 to 2018-19, https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/nh168_NHMRC_corporate_plan__2015_2016.pdf

[ix] NHMRC Research Funding Dataset, 2004-2015, https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/file/grants/dataset/2015/research_funding_burden_of_disease_and_health_issues_datasets_2005_2014_150701.xlsx

[x]Complementary Research Council, submission to NHMRC Research Translation Facility National Case for Action, p 3  http://www.cmaustralia.org.au/Resources/Documents/Submissions/CHC%20Submission%20NHMRC%20Research%20Translation%20Faculty%20National%20Case%20for%20Action%2030%20November%202013.pdf

[xi] https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/grants-funding/apply-funding/centres-research-excellence-cre