2016 Australian Skeptic of the Year:
- Jointly awarded to Mal Vickers and Ken Harvey for their continued and determined efforts which have made a significant impact on exposing malpractice in the chiropractic industry and its governing bodies.
- Update on reform of Australian complementary medicines and advertising regulation
Dr Ken Harvey, Skeptics Annual Convention, Melbourne, Nov 26, 2016.
This talk provided several examples of the craziness and consequences of the current “light touch” regulation of complementary medicines using clips from the ABC Checkout team. It also discussed whether the government’s response to the latest review on Medicine and Medical Device regulation is likely to fix the problems identified (a number of the recommendations made by the review have been rejected or watered down by the government). It questioned whether the complaint system should be taken over by the TGA. An alternative would be giving the ACCC greater involvement, as that organisation has a better consumer protection culture, regulatory expertise and the investigative and enforcement tools required. The talk ended (as did the Friday Skepticamp talk) by encouraging people to lodge submissions on the way forward.
- The Monash SPHPM “Whack-a-mole” project (How to lodge a complaint about unethical promotion of therapeutic goods and services and what to expect).
Dr Ken Harvey, Sasha Hall & Tiana Moutafis (BMedSci/Law students)
University of Melbourne Secular Society, Skepticamp, Nov 25, 2016.
Why “Whack-a-mole”? Because, given the flaws in the current regulatory system, no sooner is one misleading advertisement “whacked” then others immediately pop up. This presentation used as an example the promotion of Blooms Coenzyme Q10 150 Max spruiked by pharmacist Gerald Quigley, “For heart health, stamina, performance and strength, 150mg of Blooms Coenzyme Q10 150 Max each morning is a great way to start the day”
Blooms and Gerald have been the subject of a previous upheld complaint to the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Complaint Resolution Panel (TGACRP) and also a complaint to the Pharmacy Board of Australia. Gerald has also been the subject of an ABC Media Watch critique. But he keeps on keeping on as this presentation will show. The presentation suggested that the current regulators are “paper tigers” and it reiterated the need for regulatory reform.
The purpose of this consultation is to provide an opportunity for interested parties to provide their views on the appropriate body or bodies for the handling of complaints under the design of a new centralised advertising complaints management-process and other recommended reforms to the advertising regulatory framework. Interested parties should respond by close of business Wednesday, 21 December 2016.
Your submission needs to be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org and requires a completed coversheet. The latter is available here.
A submission by my students and myself is now available. It may assist your submission.
News from the Convention
Bent Spoon Award
The Bent Spoon is awarded to the perpetrator of the most preposterous piece of pseudoscientific or paranormal piffle of the year, and is one of the least desirable prizes in the country. Past winners have included Pete ’Paleo’ Evans, the CSIRO’s new head Larry Marshall, the ABC, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, and a psychic dentist.
This year’s recipients are anti-vaccinationist Judy Wilyman, her academic advisor Brian Martin, and the Social Sciences Department of the University of Wollongong for awarding her a doctorate on the basis of “a PhD thesis riddled with errors, misstatements, poor and unsupported ‘evidence’ and conspiratorial thinking”.
“Wilyman continues to defend her degree with endless diatribes to all and sundry. Her university went into defence mode with a pathetic ‘free speech’ argument – which means free to present rubbish and be rewarded for it. Many within the university’s own staff, those who actually know what they are talking about, came out to criticise their own institution. A bad move by a respected institution; an expected move by a noted anti-science anti-vaccination zealot.”
Dishonourable mention goes to the ABC’s now-defunct Catalyst program and former reporter Dr Maryanne Demasi for an inaccurate and alarmist one-sided unscientific report on supposed brain damage from wifi technology, and for being a repeat offender in that respect.
Life membership of Australian Skeptics Inc was conferred on past Skeptic of the Year Loretta Marron, as well as tireless behind-the-scenes workers Margaret Kittson (Queensland Skeptics), John Turner and Kevin McDonald (both Hunter Skeptics).