Wednesday 26 September 2012

Queensland stands up to the sock puppets

Finally, some encouraging news from Australia, where it seems the Queensland government has got tired of spending taxpayers' money on the astro-turf lobby groups of 'public health'.

Any NGO receiving 50% or more of its funding from the state will be precluded from advocating for state or federal legislative change – even from providing website links to other organisations’ websites that do so.

An excellent idea and not a million miles from what I recommend in Sock Puppets.

The pampered public health NGOs/quangos/fake charities are not taking the news at all well, of course. With delicious irony, these demagogues of public health are now worried about the slippery slope...

NGOs justifiably fear that the 50% figure is just a starting point, and that this censorship may ultimately apply to any funding.

Don't worry chaps. Remember the words of that perennial grant recipient Simon Chapman: "Look, if the slope is slippery, it's the most unslippery slippery dip I've ever seen in my life."

The irony gets sweeter when you consider that the article above was written by Mike Daube, a dyed-in-the-wool nanny-stater and one time director of the original fake charity ASH (UK). Now, thirty-odd years later, is this a sign that the doors to the bank are starting to close?

Not if Daube can help it, it won't, and he's not going down without a fight...

So what justification has the Queensland Government offered for its descent into the dark ages?

A little hysterical that, isn't it, Mike? The article appears on the advocacy website The Conversation and is full of special pleading, but the hyperbole gets worse...

Censorship is the hallmark of a totalitarian regime; censorship in health sends out the signal loud and clear that the government neither understands public health nor cares for the future health of the community.

"Totalitarian"? "Censorship"? "Dark ages"? They don't like it up 'em, do they?

This talk of censorship is nonsense. The reality is that these groups wouldn't have a voice in the first place if it wasn't for the involuntary contributions of the taxpayer. They'll still be free to lobby and campaign as much as they like, they'll just have to do it on their own dime (or 49% of the taxpayers' dime, which is still extremely generous).

First, they [the government] assert that NGOs should focus on their “core activities”, not advocacy. But seeking action that will protect the health of the community is the most fundamental core activity for public health organisations. 

They're politicians, Mike. They do the policy-making. If they want advice, there are plenty of experts who will happily give them it for free. The fact that you think that the core activity of 'public health' is lobbying the government for things like plain packaging and graphic warnings on booze says it all. You have become obsolete, your methods don't work and you are a threat to liberty. The government should not be financing professional wowsers.

Second, they state in relation to funded groups that “we would expect that organisation to conduct itself with the political impartiality of any other government sector.” This verges on the bizarre, given that by definition NGOs are not part of the “government sector”.

The definition lost all meaning when the sector became dependent on statutory funding. I'd say that any organisation that gets most of its money from the government is part of the government sector. Some of these groups are 100% state-funded. They are sock puppets. They are the government in drag. If they insist on being part of an extended bureaucracy they should act with the impartiality of a civil servant and that means not going around demanding that the drinking age be raised to 25 or that the price of wine be quadrupled.

A third rationale now offered is that this condition will prevent abuses, such as the “Fake Tahitian Prince” scandal, and funding of NGOs to pursue political agendas. But any concerns in these areas should be addressed by protocols common to all governments (and indeed other funding agencies) about proper, well-monitored use of funds.

It is entirely an issue of the proper use of funds. Using public money to lobby the government is wasteful, deceitful and unethical. The Queensland government is absolutely right to take a lead on this (isn't that what public health advocates like to see—Australia "taking the lead"?)

The fourth rationale is that the government is seeking “health outcomes, not political outcomes or social engineering outcomes”. The government is entitled to seek health outcomes from activities that it funds: but that is no justification for gagging the non-government sector.

You're not being gagged. The government can grant or withhold money as it sees fit and it has chosen not to give it to political pressure groups. If you wish to continue your political activity, you are free to do so on the back of voluntary donations from the public.

It is desperately depressing that any health minister should use pejorative phrases such as “social engineering” to describe the aims of health organisations, and, by implication, the aims of his own and other health departments around the country.

No, it's not. It's accurate and deeply heart-warming. Well done Queensland, you little ripper.

You can read my IEA report about the glut of state-funded pressure groups here.


Ivan D said...

Stone the bloody crows! Have the Aussies grown a new backbone?

Anonymous said...

Gosh, Snowdon, have you not had quite a few 'brainfarts' (as Pat Nurse would say) today!
More information is appearing every day. ASH, for example, is clearly nothing other than 'an advertising agency'. It was created in the 1970s by the Royal College of Physicians as a pressure group. Recently, it became a marketing group with the sole objective of finding the best words and phrases to exaggerate and lie about and propagandise any anti-tobacco 'evidence' which the RCP constructed.
The McTear V Imperial Tobacco case blew the whole artifice apart (if only people would take note). Tobacco Control refused to present their evidence for tobacco harm to the court. Having discovered the McTear Case only recently by my own efforts alone, I have been absolutely amazed that freedom-loving MPs have not DEMANDED a full public enquiry into the McTear Case.

Dick Puddlecote said...

The irony is think on the ground, isn't it? This related article talks of public health being forced into "a fairly drab standard of conformity and obedience that must be saluted by those who accept government funding". Hey, at least they are being paid by the government for drab obedience and conformity, what about the rest of us?

JohnB said...

True to the Godber Blueprint, Mike Drab does what a “good” antismoking zealot should do – keep a high media profile.

Drab was in the news just last week calling for a drastic reduction in the number of tobacco outlets:

Drab’s ego will be reasonably massaged if he manages to get his dictatorial snout into the media at least once a week. The other pathological attention seeker, i.e., spotlight addict, Simple Simon Crapman, may need at least two media fixes a week to satiate the ego mania.

We’ve all heard the anti-tobacco sound bite – our [baseless] anti-tobacco measure must be “good” because the tobacco industry is protesting. Well, there’s an application of their own “test” to their own conduct – the screech or squeal test. Question any of the fanatics’ conduct, let there be talk of their [ill-gotten] funding being reduced or their access to political decision-making curbed, and the zealots come out screeching/squealing “Totalitarian”, “Censorship”, “Dark ages”. The zealots’ squeals should sound like sweet music to people of sensibility and tolerance.

Pat Nurse MA said...

James - and please correct me if I'm wrong Chris - but I think the RCP was used as a Govt front group when it was set up by Sir George Godber who approached the RCP and asked them to set it up to givbe an appearance of "concern".

The Tobacco Control Industry has always been a front for political social engineering and behaviour changes according to the ideology of the party in power at any given time. Look what Labour did, for example in manipulating the ONS survey which found the majority preferred choice to outright socially exclusive bans.

It was never about health but hysteria from a tiny minority which frankly always hated smokers - ie not tobacco but just the people who smoke it. They had to wrap it up in health concerns or it would never have got past the starting point. It is only since the blanket bans and the hysterical denial of choice for both sides that the real motivation of these sock puppets has become abundantly clear.

Wiel said...

Imo, funding is no problem if government would fund groups on both sides of an issue equally.

It's either all or none.

Ivan D said...

” They can manage without cigarettes on aircraft, in cinemas, churches and in a whole host of circumstances,” he said. “Work is no different. Staff are employed to work.”

Mike Daube attacking smokers in the work place

It would be nice if such criticism came from a person who had ever done an honest days work in his life, Daube hasn't. He has been paid by the taxpayer to sit on his backside dreaming up new ways of indulging his personal prejudices for four decades. He typifies all that is vile in our society and I would love to hear from a political party that promises to end the lucrative and incredibly lazy careers of professional advocates like him.