opinion

A few things to know about the "Health Australia Party" before you vote.

Do you believe ‘natural’ medicine – things like ‘homeopathic vaccinations’ (where you give a baby a few drops of herbs under their tongue instead of an actual vaccine) – is the same as science-based medicine?

Do you believe that fluoride is ‘toxic poison’ and shouldn’t be in our drinking water, thus compromising the dental health of generations?

Do you think funds for health research should be allocated equally by the government to science-based medicine and ‘natural’ medicine?

Then you should definitely vote for the Health Australia Party because they are all key policies that they’re taking to this election. There are a lot of micro-parties at the top of your Senate ballot (that’s the really big piece of white paper you’ll get on Saturday), most of which you’ve never heard of, including the Pirate Party.

Do you think funds for health research should be allocated equally by the government to science-based medicine and 'natural' medicine? (Image: iStock)

Vive la democracy.

No problem there.

Vote for whoever you want. However, when the name of a political party or any organisation belies, obscures or fudges its true purpose, that's a problem. For democracy but more dangerously, for public health.

Like when Australia's most vocal anti-vaccination group called themselves the Australian Vaccination Network. Remember that? This deceptive hoodwinkery caused many people who found them by googling "vaccination " to mistakenly believe they were either neutral or pro-vaccination when in fact, they were the opposite.

The outright lies they propagated about vaccinations triggered unnecessary fear and as some health authorities have suggested, outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases like whooping cough in areas where they were most active like around Byron Bay and Lismore in northern NSW.

A court made them change their name. Now they're called the Vaccination-Skeptics Network. And they can be as skeptical as they like. They just need to be honest about their agenda and their beliefs - which are factually incorrect.

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So to the ambiguously named Health Australia Party. Which USED to be called the Natural Medicine Party but have cleverly re-branded themselves to seem more mainstream. And who have managed to secure (via a lucky dip because that's how it works) the first place on the senate ballot paper.

Right here:

The 2016 Senate postal ballot paper. (Image: supplied)

The first place spot on the ballot paper is HUGELY coveted. Every party wants it because it's first, it's easy and lots of voters just put a number in it because it's there. LOADS of default votes go to whatever party has that spot.

And 'Health Australia Party' sounds pretty great, right? Who doesn't want Australia to be healthy!

Wait just a second.

According to actual medical professionals with medical degrees, the name is bollocks. From the ABC: WA president of the Australian Medical Association Andrew Miller said he believed the Health Australia Party was misnamed.

"I think the Australian public are reasonably well-educated, probably more educated than they want to be about the election," he said. "They would be right to be suspicious of an organisation which holds itself out to promote health, and perhaps there would be a few people misled into voting for them thinking that what they're trying to get here is a better health system.

"There should be some requirement of honesty in the way that these party names are put forward and I think this is getting pretty close to the borderline of being exactly the opposite of what its name suggests."

Sure is.

Because 'health' is a very subjective, ambiguous term. There are people who falsely or misguidedly believe that public health initiatives like vaccination and fluoride are unhealthy. They believe that natural medicine is much better and that babies should have chiropractic treatment (including having their backs and necks manipulated and 'cracked') to treat conditions like colic.

They believe that acupuncture and drops under your tongue should be considered as valid as science-based medical treatment like antibiotics and vaccinations. And some of these people have got together and formed the Health Australia Party, which (whatever their official policy statements say - more about those in a sec) has become a magnet for anti-vaxxers. I know this because when I posted about it on my Facebook page last night and the post went viral, they came by their hundreds to abuse me.

Like this (click through for comments, post continues after gallery):

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Note their avatars. I've checked out some of their pages and they have in common a torrent of posts that are anti-vax, anti traditional medicine and in many cases, anti-science.

From the Health Australia Party website section on their policies, here are some you might like to know about before you put a number next to their name on Saturday:

Again, from the ABC:

Doctor Miller was critical of Health Australia Party's push for natural medicine to be placed on an equal footing with pharmaceutical medicine.

"Alternative therapies for anything are accepted by the medical profession where they're proven to work, and at that point, they become 'therapies' rather than 'alternative therapies'," he said. "I understand that people are reluctant to use strong medications and pharmaceuticals, that's a natural tendency, and there can be side effects and that's why people hope there might be some other so-called natural therapy, but the big problem with natural therapies is they don't actually work."

Doctor Miller questioned HAP's position on vaccination. "If they're suggesting that we don't already have proper research and consent then they're wrong, but if they're in favour of proper research and consent then they would support the current vaccination program without question," he said.

But they don't. While anti-vaxxers will rarely come out and declare themselves opposed to vaccination (in fact when commenting online they often try to appear reasonable by stating their children are vaccinated, I think they must teach them this at anti-vax troll school), they talk a lot about 'choice' and 'consent'. Again, this sounds great!

Who doesn't want a choice! Consent is great! Crucial in fact! In all aspects of life!

But nobody is suggesting we start forcibly vaccinating anyone. Simply that we should all do it because it's the only way to protect the most vulnerable people in our community. People like Dana McCaffery and Riley Hughes who both died from whooping cough because they were too young to be vaccinated and there had been outbreaks in the communities in which their parents lived.

Watch Riley Hughes' parents talk about the importance of mandatory vaccinations. (Post continues after video...)

Not everything is as it seems.

So please. Think so very carefully about who you give your vote to on Saturday and don't let names mislead you.

FYI - this isn't just some one-woman bandwagon by me as the anti-vaxxers will have you believe. They'll say I'm being paid by pharmaceutical companies to spread their poisonous lies - they'll call me a Big Pharma Whore (they do this a lot) to try and discredit me. But this isn't actually just me.

I'm just repeating what science and doctors and the Australian Medical Association and the World Health Organisation and every other medically qualified, science-based organisation in the world say.

Don't believe me? You can read about this here on the ABC website which, since they accept no advertising, are, I assume, free of pharma-whore smears?

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