Skeptics in (or from) Australia: Contact your MP

Something has got to give.

I’m asking that we each take 15-30 minutes to put together a quick e-mail about Homoeopathy and send it to our local MPs – You can look up your local MP via the ABC’s “Find Your Local MP” webpage.

I recommend outlining the absurdity of the therapy, as some MPs may not be aware of Homoeopathy or may have been misinformed about what it is, what it contains, or the principles underpinning it.

It would be great time to include the fact that the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has drawn up a draft statement about Homoeopathy stating:

“it is unethical for health practitioners to treat patients using homeopathy, for the reason that homeopathy – as a medicine or procedure – has been shown not to be efficacious.”

I recommend outlining these key points:

  1. The proposed mechanism is scientifically implausible and unsubstantiated.
  2. The claimed efficacy is not substantiated by any robust study of homoeopathy.
  3. Systematic Reviews of Systematic Reviews of the evidence for Homoeopathy consistently find it is a product with no effect beyond placebo.

You may wish to bring up issues surrounding homoeopathy such as the harm that can be caused by turning a blind eye to non-efficacious treatments for conditions with potentially serious consequences. For instance, ailments like insomnia and snoring can lead to anxiety and depression disorders, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Both of these can be treated with science-based medicine, yet it is common to find Homoeopathic Remedies for them – and now, even in supermarkets where staff are ill-equipped to inform customers as to what Homoeopathy is.

It may be worth pointing out that:

  • “positive” studies for Homoeopathy almost always comes from within the profession and are generally surveys of how people “feel” rather than actual trials of a treatment;
  • it is common for homoeopaths to cite literature in defence of Homoeopathy, however when scrutinized, they are investigations of poor quality or do not support homoeopathic principles at all;
  • these “positive” studies are treated counter to how science-based medicines are scrutinized; instead of being peer-reviewed by professionals who seek to uncover flaws in testing methodology to encourage best-practice, they are generally published in niche pseudo-journals (or books) with little to no professional credibility.

You may also wish to point out the success of the recent world-wide 1023 campaign launched by the Merseyside Skeptics Society to bring attention to Homoeopathy, and the 2010 conclusion by the Science and Technology Committee (From the UK House of Commons) that the evidence provided by homoeopaths did not support their own claims.

If you are open to it, offer your MP the opportunity to contact you for more information. Do not feel you *have* to answer questions you do not know the answer to; if you feel overwhelmed ask your MP to write an e-mail with their concerns so that you may address them appropriately. If needed, get in contact with someone who you think CAN give them the information they are looking for.

You SHOULD include what kind of OUTCOME you would like to see from your MP, this may be by asking your MP to:

  • Raise the issue at a Party Meeting,
  • Raise the issue with the relevant Minister, Shadow Minister or Portfolio Holder,
  • Discuss the issue with their colleagues, or
  • Request a change in party policy.

You may want to urge your MP to Move a Motion in parliament along the lines of:

National Health Care should be a service that provides only science-based treatments; taxpayers should not be required to pay for, or subsidise the costs of unproven or dis-proven therapies.

Who could reasonably argue against that?

You may decide to be specific, perhaps about the Therapeutic Goods Administration, which despite its comprehensive review will continue to accept products for AUST L listing under a flawed self-assessment programme even though – according to the TGA’s own data – 9 out of 10 products  don’t do what they say they can. [this is a lengthy subject]

And lastly, I recommend inviting your local MP to a local Skeptics in the Pub/Cafe/Meet-up/Event where they can engage in discussions regarding critical thinking, education, reason, and science. This can help in strengthening a relationship to work closer in skeptical activism or outreach campaigns in the future.


If you have some time after that, check out:
FISHBARREL – The Quick way to report Quacks!

Costing a National Broadband Network

For a long time now the ALP has pushed their multi-billion dollar broadband network ever since it was announced by their previous leader, Kevin Rudd.

The $43bn investment seems pretty impressive, but if you look past the fortune cookie price tag, things just don’t add up.

After pondering how much value we’d get for it, I found some numbers to crunch:

Last I read, Australia had about 154,000,000km of copper wire.

This was from a Telstra Source in May, 2010.

The ALP has $43,000,000,000 outlined to spend in making 98% of Australia FTTN (Fibre To The Node); so this would mean that the projected cost is about 0.27c a meter to install; about $279 a kilometer.

But let’s look at the prices they are looking at. In 2007, Telstra was paying it contractors the below amounts to undertake the following services:

# Open trench and laying 100mm conduit – $80 per metre
# Boring 100mm conduit – $50 per metre
# Pits for hauling approx every couple of hundred metres & every change of direction – $250 – $700
# Fibre – $3 – $10 per metre
# Rod, rope & haul fibre approx $8 – $15 per metre
# Re-instatement of concrete/bitumen/pavers – $30 – $60 per m2

The cable alone costs $3,000-10,000 a kilometer.

Simple Question:
Does that seem like $279 a km to you?

Sanely Seeking Asylum

I was hoping to have this post completed swiftly – but; abandoned a quick completion because just after PM Julia Gillard announced talks with East Timor and Indonesia; both countries spat back that no discussions had been opened regarding Asylum Seekers.

Since then, the Liberal Leader, Tony Abbott has met with the President of Naruu. The leader of the country where Australia has spent money to open the same facility the ALP is trying to open in East Timor, a country that doesn’t want it.

The Liberals have even had their Minister fly to Naruu to speak to the opposition leader to confirm their bipartisan support for the Naruu processing facility to be reopened – a facility that allowed it’s detainees to roam the entire island.