The Health Australia Party may look new — but the political party in favour of “natural” medicine is actually an existing, rebranded organisation which is angering doctors for its stance on vaccines and fluoride.
National party spokesman Jason Woodforth said the party, which is competing for Senate seats, had to change its name from the Natural Medicine Party because it had taken on a broader range of policies.
A central policy is to have natural medicine put on an equal footing with “pharmaceutical medicine”.
The party also supports animal rights, food co-operatives, the Tobin tax system, which supports the taxing of foreign currency transactions, more academic freedom in universities, a Swiss-style national service system, and greater restrictions on herbicides and pesticides.
WA election preview
See what’s in store for WA
Due to the time difference, the fate of the government has usually been decided before counting begins in WA.
But with the economy sluggish compared to recent boom years, the state will take on added significance.
For the first time in a decade the Labor Party could make gains in the west.
In addition, WA has gained a 16th seat for this election, with the notionally Liberal seat of Burt created in Perth’s south-east.
Electorates to watch
The polls have been demonstrating a big swing against the Liberal Party.
The seats in play are Burt (LIB 6.1 per cent) as well as Cowan (LIB 4.5 per cent) and Hasluck (LIB 6.0 per cent).
Burt is probably Labor’s best prospect for victory with Matt Keogh – the unsuccessful candidate from the Canning by-election.
An expected recovery in Labor support should see Labor retain its three seats ofPerth (ALP 2.2 per cent), Brand (ALP 3.7 per cent) and Fremantle (ALP 5.4 per cent).
The Battle for Cowan
Labor has pinned its hopes on counter-terrorism expert Anne Aly to win WA’s most marginal Liberal-held federal seat.
Certainly in choosing Dr Aly the Labor Party is indicating it intends to mount a serious campaign against sitting Liberal MP Luke Simpkins.
Mr Simpkins has held the seat since 2007, winning comfortably at the 2013 election.
WA Premier Colin Barnett has expressed strong frustration with his party at a federal level.
He accused Malcolm Turnbull of showing a lack of leadership on the issue of GST distribution.
Both leaders have denied any riff but a lack of Liberal party campaign stops on the west coast suggests otherwise.
How it’s done in Canning
Liberal MP for Canning Andrew Hastie has been one of the most prominent politicians this election but for all the wrong reasons.
He was dumped from the Army Reserve after refusing to remove photos of himself in uniform from campaign material.
Weeks later one of his campaign banners was vandalised which he paid a graffiti artist to cover with a portrait of him sporting a mullet next to the phrase “That’s how it’s done mate!”
In the area of health, it wants “independent research into all aspects of natural and pharmaceutical medicine” and for potentially serious diseases to be managed “using a thoroughly researched program of immunisation that is both safe and effective”.
It suggests “a different paradigm” including natural medicine should be used to manage chronic diseases, and it opposes fluoride in public water supplies.
Mr Woodforth rejected the suggestion HAP is anti-vaccine.
He said the reason the party was seen as anti-vaccine was because it did not support the “no jab, no pay” or “no jab, no play” policies.
“The Health Party believes in safe and effective immunisation, always has. The problem we’ve got is there’s no adverse reactions register,” he said.
He believed people were not given enough warnings before vaccination, which he said could lead to severe, even permanent health conditions.
Mr Woodforth was the LNP’s member for the Queensland seat of Nudgee from 2012 to 2015 and is a Senate candidate for Queensland in this weekend’s election.
He said Western Australia’s HAP candidates were not allowed to be interviewed by the ABC.
“Media is very tough and when you come into politics, the media are there to try and trip you up,” he said.
“When I was an MP, we were told certain media we were allowed, certain media we were not allowed to do, because of exactly that.”
Mr Woodforth said he believed the candidates would do a fantastic job if elected.
Health Australia Party misnamed: AMA
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.”
Doctor Miller was critical of HAP’s push for natural medicine to be placed on an equal footing with pharmaceutical medicine.
“I think that would be the same as placing witchcraft on an equal footing with scientific investigation, perhaps we could cut down on aeroplane flights if we all went on a broomstick,” he said.
“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.
“We’ve been able to almost eliminate diseases that caused death and disability for hundreds of years amongst humans, diseases such as measles, diseases like smallpox, and more recently chicken pox– and without an ongoing strong vaccination program, these diseases in many cases will return.
“So that’s why we encourage people to get proper scientific advice from their local GP, rather than relying on the internet.”
The AMA President was particularly scathing about any suggestion that vaccination can cause autism.
“It’s being cruel to families of autistic children who’ve done the right thing and had their child vaccinated who now might feel some guilt associated with what has been disproven, discredited and completely rebuked by very large studies.
“People go looking for one or two words here and there to support their conspiracy theories, and that’s what this is, it’s a conspiracy theory, there is no link between vaccination and autism.”
He said HAP’s opposition to fluoride in the water supply was also flawed.
“That view would be out of step with all of the scientific, dental and medical evidence over the last 50 years.
“And these kind of conspiracy views belong in the same bag with the ones that the CIA are monitoring our thoughts, it’s just nonsense.”