Friday 6 October 2017

The Global Alcohol Policy Conference 2017

The Global Alcohol Policy Alliance (GAPA) has been having its conference in Australia this week. You may recall that GAPA is the latest incarnation of the gospel temperance movement which has found a way to gorge itself on taxpayers' money by integrating with the 'public health' racket.

One advantage of being a 'policy alliance' is that you don't have to pretend your conference is about science. Instead you can focus on political activism, which is what most of the academics in the field are really interested in anyway. Sessions at this year's event include...

Advocating for change: the role of community polling

Skilling Youth as Alcohol Advocates Against Alcohol Advertising and Marketing in Botswana

How to defend alcohol taxes: an economic perspective

Alcohol campaigning in the UK: Ten years of ups and downs

Mobilising alliances to advocate for meaningful progress on alcohol and NCDs

'There’s a War On’ winning the battle for hearts and minds

Advocating for effective alcohol marketing regulation via an alternative complaint review process

Monitoring and Exposing Innovative tool to reveal Big Alcohol tactics

Building support for change: the benefits of a national NCD alliance

Advocacy Campaigns for Alcohol Free Portfolios: Norway as a case study

Lessons from 20 years of tobacco control: The FCTC and Bloomberg Initiative

Public Health’s role in Licensing: equipping Public Health to be advocates

If you look at the conference programme you will see that this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a vast number of sessions and a huge number of speakers from around the world, including our very own Colin Shevills (from the Balance Northeast sockpuppet), Katherine Brown (UK Temperance Alliance masquerading as the Institute of Alcohol Studies), Jeff Collin (UKTCAS), John Holmes (University of Sheffield) and Ian Gilmore (Alcohol Health Alliance). You won't be surprised to hear that none of the sessions appear to discuss any social, economic or health benefits associated with alcohol.

Fair enough, you might say. It is a temperance conference, after all. But two things stick in the craw about this jamboree.

Firstly, that taxpayers are being forced to pay for it. When GAPA came to Scotland in 2015, it was the taxpayer who footed the bill thanks to sponsorship by the NHS and Scottish Government. Nicola Sturgeon gave a keynote speech and the organisers paid tribute to her 'political courage'. It is difficult to find the words to describe this nauseating, tax-sponging echo chamber.

This year, the sponsors include the Australian Department of Health, the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, NOFASD, the Public Health Association of Australia and the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), all of which are funded by the Australian taxpayer. For example, FARE was set up by the government with a $115 million grant (!) and spends 50% of its income on 'policy and advocacy', 15% on 'leading change', 6% on 'defending the public interest' and 5% on 'working together'. In other words, it is a state-funded political pressure group.

Other sponsors include the World Health Organisation (taxpayer funded), SHORE (funded by the WHO) and the International Order of Good Templars (funded by the EU). In fact, I can see only one sponsor that probably isn't funded by the state in some way.

It's bad enough that ordinary people have to pay for these fanatics to jet around the world campaigning to make our lives worse. What makes it almost unbearable - and this is the second thing that sticks in the craw - is the delusional vanity of the delegates. For instance, here is Alison Douglas portraying herself as a brave and beleaguered individual fighting The Man.

Who is Alison Douglas? She is the CEO of Alcohol Focus Scotland.

What is Alcohol Focus Scotland? It is a pressure group that gets most of its income from the Scottish government (£472,000 last year).

What is the Scottish government's stance on minimum pricing? It is massively in favour of it. Here is the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, addressing the Global Alcohol Policy Conference earlier this week, explicitly encouraging her paid sockpuppets to keep up the good work.

In what perverse parallel universe can people who are funded and supported by a like-minded government be considered the underdogs? Douglas has been flown out to Australia at the expense of either the British taxpayer or the Australian taxpayer to present herself as some sort of citizen activist. It's a farce. It is ludicrous for these people to present them as anti-establishment. They are the establishment. The First Minister is their client and the temperance shindig Douglas is speaking at is, to all intents and purposes, a government conference.

And so I ask - not for the first time - why are we being forced to pay for these headbangers to discuss how best to lobby their employers?

You can catch up with what the loonies have been talking about by following the #GAPC17 hashtag on Twitter. The tweets - like the conference - seem to have become more extreme since the last one in 2015. The majority of them are about how evil 'Big Alcohol' is and nearly all of them are at least mildly deranged. Here is a sample...

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