Skeptics survey: party policies for Federal election

vote-balloe-paper

As a guide to the Federal election, Australian Skeptics Inc asked the major political parties for their views on a range of topics of relevance to Skeptics.

We approached the Liberal-National Party Coalition (LNP), the Australian Labor Party (ALP), the Greens, and the Australian Sex Party (ASP). We approached the latter, in addition to the three major parties, because of its strong statement on vaccination (see below). All parties were approached some time ago, and then followed up when no response had been received.

To date, we have only received a full response from the ASP’s Darren Austin, Senior Policy Advisor. The LNP Coalition simply pointed us to its main website, and the ALP and Greens have not responded despite indications that they intended to provide the relevant information.

Following are the views as submitted to us or discovered through searches – the complete response from ASP, and relevant portions of the published policy position (where available) from the other three parties. Where no response from a particular party is given, then there is no readily accessible item published in their policy papers. (We are happy to amend listings if informed of specific policies that we may have missed.)

Full party policy documents can be found at Liberal Party website; Australian Labor Party website; Greens Party website; Australian Sex Party website.

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Vaccination, including legislation to ensure high levels of immunisation:

ASP: In response to a question re the No Jab, No Pay legislation from the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network, ASP said: “The Federal Government’s No Jab, No Pay measures aim to reduce the spread of preventable disease. Knowingly and willingly putting one’s own child and others at risk of dangerous and preventable diseases is irresponsible, reckless, and antisocial. The Australian Sex Party does not believe that those who choose not to participate in our collective enterprise of disease prevention should be rewarded with tax benefits or rebates. … We at the Australian Sex Party would like to encourage parents who are questioning what’s right for their children, to follow the advice of the scientific and medical communities, rather than charlatans and conspiracy theorists.” A full copy of the ASP response can be found here.

LNP: “To protect children from diseases, our ‘No Jab, No Pay’ rule is removing access to family and child care payments for parents who don’t vaccinate their children.”

GREENS: No official policy statement can be found, but the following is from the Greens submission to the No Jab, No Pay inquiry, 2015: “The Australian Greens strongly support vaccination as an evidence-based approach to population health. Immunisation is one of the great success stories of modern medicine and public health. Vaccinating against illness and disease is the easiest way a GP can protect all ages of society from vaccine-preventable infectious disease.”

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Alternative and complementary medicine – legislation/regulation:

ASP: “We do not believe in alternative medicine. There is only medicine and non-medicine. If an intervention has been shown to work, it is medicine. If it has not been shown to work, it is not medicine. All treatments should be subject to the same standards of evidence.”

GREENS: Not specifically on alt med, but “A comprehensive food labelling system that is strongly enforced, mandates full contents and nutritional disclosure, and allows only scientifically-verified health and nutritional claims.”

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Alternative and complementary medicine – Medicare subsidy:

ASP: “As mentioned in the response above, all treatments should be subject to the same standards of evidence (ie science). Those which fail to demonstrate efficacy should not be subsidised by Medicare.”

ALP: “The Review of the Australian Government Rebate on Private Health Insurance for Natural Therapies, which was initiated by the former Labor government, found that there was no clear evidence that the natural therapies that were covered by the review were clinically effective. … The Private Health Insurance Rebate will no longer be available for natural therapies from 1 July 2017.”

GREENS: “The redirection of funds from subsidising private health insurance to the public health system, including public hospitals.”

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Alternative and complementary medicine – what specific modalities do you find of concern or feel should have some specific regulation re practice and practitioners (eg chiropractic, naturopathy, homeopathy, alt med products – cf TGA regulation):

ASP: “We are concerned with any and all claims regarding medical treatment that are not backed by scientific evidence. Quack medicine of any form is unacceptable.”

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Dealing with climate change:

ASP: “Climate change is the greatest issue facing humankind. It’s not an issue we can afford to drag our feet on. The Australian Sex Party supports immediate action, and opposes any efforts to downplay the urgency and importance of this issue.”

LNP: “To protect our environment for future generations, we need to tackle climate change. As a country, we are playing our part in the global challenge on climate change. Australia has signed the Paris Climate Change Agreement. We are on track to beat our 2020 target by 78 million tonnes, and have set an ambitious target of reductions of up to 28% by 2030 based on 2005 levels. That is equivalent to reducing emissions per capita by up to 52% – the second largest reduction of any G20 economy. We are investing $2.55 billion to incentivise business to reduce their emissions through our Emissions Reduction Fund. We are also implementing a National Energy Productivity Plan, reducing emissions from ozone-depleting gases and supporting investments in new technology such as solar storage.”

GREENS: See detailed policy.

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Various forms of energy generation:

ASP: “Our reliance on dirty fossil fuels needs to end as soon as possible. Ideally, our energy would be provided by renewable sources, but until renewable technology is advanced enough to provide baseload power, clean energy alternatives such as nuclear power should be considered. We cannot afford to rule out any potentially useful technology. The Australian Sex Party supports drastically increased funding for research and investment into renewable energy technology. Please see our policy document.”

LNP: “The Turnbull Government will double renewable energy in Australia over the next four years. Under the Renewable Energy Target, more than 23% of Australia’s electricity will come from renewable energy by 2020. We are supporting large scale projects, while at the same time making solar more affordable for households. We are encouraging new technology to assist in the transition to clean energy, through the $1 billion Clean Energy Innovation Fund. This Fund will target projects such as large-scale solar.”

ALP: The ALP “will ensure that 50% of the nation’s electricity is sourced from renewable energy by 2030 … Labor’s 50% target includes not just large-scale renewables but small and industry-based generation. The existing LRET and SRES schemes will continue to operate to 2020 as per current legislation.” The ALP has also announced that it will abolish the National Wind Farm Commissioner and the Independent Scientific Commission on Wind Farms. “A Labor government will not continue with a position that is little more than a sop to reactionary views about renewable energy. The National Health and Medical Research Council has previously found there is no consistent evidence that a problem exists.”

GREENS: See detailed policy.

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Genetically modified organisms, particularly crops:

ASP: “The opposition to genetically modified organisms seems to stem from an overextension of the precautionary principle, combined with a lack of understanding of genetics. All organisms are genetically modified; that’s how we evolved. Intentional modification by humans, to make crops pest-resistant or to have a higher yield – thus reducing the amount of land needed for crops – is an important part of our collective efforts to survive together in this world.”

GREENS: “Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), their products, and the chemicals used to manage them may pose significant risks to natural and agricultural ecosystems. Aim: A moratorium on the release of GMOs into the environment until there is an adequate scientific understanding of their long term impact on the environment, human and animal health. This includes the removal as far as possible of all GMOs from the Australian environment and food supply while the moratorium is in place.”

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Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education at primary, secondary and tertiary education levels:

ASP: “STEM education is critical. We’d particularly like to see the philosophy of science being taught, to give young Australians an understanding of how and why science is more reliable and useful than other ‘ways of knowing’.”

LNP: “Our National Innovation and Science Agenda is leading the way in promoting learning in science, technology, engineering and maths. The Agenda will help prepare our children for the jobs of the future by boosting participation in STEM in schools. The Agenda will drive stronger university collaboration with industry through an additional $127 million in targeted research funding and new research impact measures. Simply put, we are connecting our academics with industry in order to build commercial capacity and create jobs in Australia.”

ALP: “Labor will establish a five year STEM teacher training fund that will support 5000 primary and secondary teachers a year to undertake professional development in STEM disciplines. Coding and programming will be a key focus of this program. The training fund will ensure the upskilling of around 25,000 existing STEM teachers in primary and secondary education, with these teachers taking their new skills straight to the classroom.”

GREENS: “The Greens will set up an Innovation Commissioner, invest in STEM in schools, and support social innovation. … The Greens have committed $678.9m over four years to increasing STEM uptake in our schools and universities. These initiatives will include STEM professional development for primary school teachers.”

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Education in broader philosophical and critical thinking issues, including teaching specific religious perspectives (as opposed to comparative religion studies) in schools:

ASP: “As mentioned above, the Australian Sex Party would like the philosophy of science to be a part of every student’s education. This would include skepticism, critical thinking, and basic epistemology. We would like to see religion taught as a part of history, social studies, and philosophy classes, but there is no place for special religious instruction (proselytising) in schools. Please see our policy document.”

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Regulation and prosecution of those peddling unproven or disproven pseudoscientific products and services (may be a State issue):

ASP: “The Australian Sex Party has no tolerance for charlatans who peddle woo-quackery (for want of a better term). Those who claim to provide medical services, but in fact provide pseudoscientific sham treatments, should be investigated by the ACCC; but we’d really like to see people being educated about the difference between science and woo, which should hopefully reduce the demand for pseudoscientific products and services.”

2 thoughts on “Skeptics survey: party policies for Federal election”

  1. The Australian Sex Party certainly comes out well in this survey. They seem to have a no-nonsense approach to most issues and a courage on issues like genetic modification that the other parties lack. The Greens’ response on GM crops is disappointing but not unexpected. The Sex Party, of course, can speak without fear of ever finding themselves in government, but to have a strong voice like theirs in the Senate would be a plus. It would also have been interesting to hear Xenophon’s responses to these questions. He may well have more senators elected than the ASP.

    Now back to the chore of deciding which dinosaur party to put last…

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