Sunday, January 08, 2023

At last: An infuential voice against medical censorship

Dr Kerryn Phelps AM has been a household name in Australia since the 1990s. I remember well her frequent appearances as a guest on television, in her role as the then President of the AMA, the Australian Medical Association. In a career of advocacy that few medical professionals will ever have, the former MP has combined a sharp intellect with a concern for the community and a stage presence where necessary.

On Tuesday, however, she was trending for quite different reasons, following a bombshell article regarding her submission to the federal government’s Long Covid Enquiry. Phelps described the ‘devastating’ experience of her wife, Jackie Stricker-Phelps, who suffered multiple persistent neurological symptoms following her first Pfizer dose. Unfortunately, Phelps went on to suffer a cluster of difficult cardiovascular symptoms with her second dose of the same. Judging by the way her message resonated with large sections of the online community, although some predictably interpreted her honesty as dangerous ‘anti-vaxx’ sentiment, it is clear that Phelps was giving a voice to many whose similar suffering has been compounded by isolation and lack of acknowledgment from doctors. She frankly identifies what could be the root cause of this hesitancy on the part of doctors: ‘Regulators … have censored public discussion about adverse events following immunisation, with threats to doctors.’

The protracted crisis brought about by SARS-CoV-2 has revealed much to everyday Australians about how government and health care interact in Australia. But if our situation is indeed that medical censorship has been impacting on the care of patients, the condition of Australian Medicine is both serious and complex. At AMPS, the Australian Medical Professional Society, we believe that is indeed the case, but it is necessary to dissect back to some core issues and first principles.

With very few exceptions, the doctor has the greater share of knowledge in the doctor-patient relationship. However, this asymmetry is balanced out by the doctor’s fiduciary duty to put the interests of the individual patient first, together with the fact that the patient holds the power to accept or reject any advice. The concept of free informed consent also entails a duty of candour and disclosure on behalf of the doctor, who must therefore be free of any conflict of interest.

As many have clearly identified, a culture of fear has entered into Health Practice in Australia, which directly relates to a Joint Statement from AHPRA [Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency] and the National Boards on March 9, 2021. Our thoughts were expressed in a letter to AHPRA CEO, Mr Martin Fletcher, dated April 14, 2022: ‘AHPRA’s gag orders impede professional health advice and patient advocacy based on individual patient risk/benefit assessment by labelling such professional advice “the promotion of anti-vaccination statements”, “health advice which contradicts the best available scientific evidence” or “seeking to undermine the national immunisation campaign”.’

Whether your GP or Specialist, Nurse or Chiropractor, has analysed the Joint Statement is not necessarily relevant: it is impossible for clinicians to be unaware of the dangers posed to them by what Phelps calls ‘threats to doctors’. Compounded by other cultural factors in the pandemic, this becomes the basis for understanding the conflict of interest which has been created in practitioner-patient relationships across this country, which may play out in different ways. For example, if the health practitioner has clinical concerns from a critical appraisal of Covid vaccinations, formulated through his or her knowledge or experience, then that health practitioner risks damaging consequences through regulatory action every time he or she exercises their clear duty of candour, inherent in the practitioner-patient contract. Alternatively, that practitioner may elect to not disclose their concerns, which is potentially breach of their contract.

A further scenario must be discussed also: a clinician who is aware of the dangers to his or her career, may elect to never to engage with any material or discussion in their personal research or interactions with colleagues and patients, if that material or discussion seems to go against the thrust of the national immunisation campaign and related public health goals and directions. This may absolve the clinician superficially. However, it is an outworking of a culture of censorship and a conflict of interest, in which many patients will feel frustrated and undermined in the therapeutic relationship, for example when trying to deal with vaccine adverse events or persistent problems which they attribute to vaccination.

Hence, although many of us believe the Joint Statement of AHPRA and the National Boards to be unlawful, it is at the root of a dangerous shift in Australian Medicine. Furthermore, AMPS believes that Australians need to be aware of changes to the National Law for Health Practitioner Regulation introduced in October in the Queensland Parliament. We believe these changes further supplant the place of the individual in Australian Medicine and distort the clinician-patient relationship. To step up our advocacy in this matter, our members are speaking out on the ‘Stop Medical Censorship’ National Tour.

Public health considerations should always be weighed appropriately, but once a therapeutic relationship is entered into, the individual can never be supplanted by any notion of public health. However strongly this notion is appealed to, it can never outweigh a doctor’s duties of candour, disclosure and informed consent. The doctor-patient relationship cannot lawfully be redefined by any interest or priority that conflicts with the best care of the patient, in that doctor’s best assessment. If conditions producing a serious compromise or conflict of interest become embedded in the long term, then a cultural shift in the Australian Medicine will have taken place, to the detriment of doctor, patient and public alike.

With these things in view, the honesty of Dr Kerryn Phelps, coming as she does from the Medical Establishment of this country, could not be more critically needed. The issues highlighted by her courageous submission, most especially the assertion of medical censorship in Australia, should be afforded the attention of all who care about this country and should transcend the left and right of politics. As difficult as her own journey as a patient must have been, together with the devastating experience of her wife Jackie, given the far-reaching implications of medical censorship, this could prove to be the most significant piece of advocacy of her career.


Complete Renewable energy is impossible

The replacement of fossil fuels (and nuclear) by wind and solar is said to be a ‘transition’ implying, like that from sail to steam and horse to motor power, that this is being inexorably pushed by consumers adopting a lower cost technology. In fact, the ‘transition’, wherever it is taking place, is due to government subsidies and regulations. Not one significant unit of wind or solar power generation anywhere in the world has been installed without such assistance.

Moreover, a wind/solar-rich electricity system requires expensive features that are naturally present or available at a trivial cost in systems dominated by coal, gas, or nuclear generation. Among these are ‘system strength’ and frequency control, both of which are automatically present in the ‘synchronous’ spinning machines in coal, gas, and nuclear plants but need to be carefully managed and separately arranged for the ‘asynchronous’ wind and solar facilities.

A solar/wind system also requires considerably more transmission – probably at least four times as much as conventional systems – in order to bring electricity from the inescapably less dense solar and wind facilities. Compared to the current value of the national transmission system of $21 billion, the government has stated that $100 billion (an additional ‘$20 billion direct investment unlocking $58 billion of private co-financing’) will be needed to make a renewable rich national transmission system fit for purpose.

But the greatest cost is how to ensure a system based on variable wind and solar energy can operate to the standards required of a contemporary society. The solution is first, to overbuild the variable facilities in the hope that this will offer a geographic spread to iron-out erratic supplies of sunshine and wind, and secondly to arrange for storage through batteries or pumped hydro facilities like the Snowy 2.

For Australia, a ballpark cost estimate is offered by CSIRO’s Chief Energy Economist Paul Graham, who reckons Australia will need to spend $500 billion to convert the current (coal-based) system to renewables. This is half the cost he estimated five years ago.

$500 billion is twice the value of the current system, (offset by coal and gas fuel savings that amount to perhaps 5 per cent of total costs). Even so, the CSIRO appear to have massively understated the cost.

David Wojick examined the estimated costs of batteries for America. Noting that at present Tesla charges $US650,000 per megawatt hour for the batteries themselves and that a ‘fantastically low estimate’ of future costs offered by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory speculates this may fall to $US143,000 per megawatt hour, the battery costs for the US would be $US150 trillion and $US36 trillion respectively. That is for a $US23 trillion economy.

Batteries have only a ten-year life. Thus, without even counting their progressive deterioration, this means in the US the energy ‘transition’ element of electricity storage alone would cost somewhere between 24 and 60 per cent of GDP per year. On top of this we have the poles and wire costs and the costs of the wind/solar generators themselves.

Such extraordinary estimates should come as no surprise in Australia.

Paul McArdle, head of the highly regarded consultancy WattClarity, showed that even if there was an overbuild resulting in up to 20 per cent of the wind having to be wasted at any one time, with a perfectly planned and operated system 9,000,000 megawatt hours of storage would be needed. This is equivalent to 25 Snowy 2 installations or 70,000 of the original Hornsdale batteries at a price tag of $6.3 trillion or close to three times the Australian GDP. With a ten-year battery life, this would require an impossible annual expenditure on the battery element of supply equivalent to 30 per cent of GDP each year!

This estimate has received corroboration.

ARENA is funding eight batteries costing $2.7 billion and totalling 2,000 megawatts (power output capacity) with 4,200 megawatt hours (energy storage depth). That is just two hours of full output to flatten the batteries. 2,000 megawatts is five per cent of total grid demand in 2030, when AEMO’s forecast maximum demand is 44,000 megawatts.

Most experts believe a seven-day storage depth is the bare minimum to back up a reliable renewables grid. One week of 168 hours and multiplied by maximum demand means 7,392,000 megawatt hours in 2030. Given the announcement’s cost of $2.7 billion per 4,200 megawatt hours of storage, this is $643,000 per megawatt hour. Multiplying this ratio by the total storage required gives an eye-watering cost estimate of $4.7 trillion in 2030 or, with a ten-year battery life, 22 per cent of GDP each year.

Subsidies to wind and solar have resulted in them replacing coal to gain a 20 per cent share of electricity generation. This has already resulted in a trebling of wholesale prices. But the costs of accommodating wind and solar increase exponentially and continuing along this path will cripple the economy.


Victimized men

Bettina Arndt

It was 2014 when I first heard from Andrew, a young Queensland dad, who was being denied contact with his two young girls. From then on, he wrote regularly updating me on his eight-year Family Court marathon, where he lost round after round, despite his wife being declared an unfit mother after a court-ordered psychiatric assessment. She very effectively used false violence accusations to get away with moving with the children interstate and endlessly dragging out the legal proceedings.

Two weeks ago, he killed himself. Since I heard the tragic news, I’ve been trawling through his old emails, so sad that this good man had lost all hope.

I also recently learned that last month another of my correspondents took his life. He first wrote to me a few years ago after being shocked by his treatment at an ACT police station when he tried to report an assault by his partner on him and his young daughter. He was told by police, ‘You don’t really want to report it. Go home and sort it out.’ When he tried to talk to his wife, she left with his daughter and took out a violence order against him. ‘You cannot believe the despair that fathers of this country are in,’ he said.

I’ve been haunted by the deaths of these two men, wishing I could have done more. The last message I received from Andrew earlier this year ended this way: ‘Your blogs are a ray of sunshine to me. In a very foreboding, stormy ocean you’re a beacon of hope and of understanding.’

Despite our despair at the overwhelming stormy ocean, we can’t afford to give up. I am more convinced than ever that we need to give men reason to believe that one day things will change. While it’s true there’s no hope of swiftly bringing down the mighty feminist edifice currently making life intolerable for so many men, I have to believe that by exposing the injustice eventually we will win over the huge majority of men and women who care about fair treatment of men and boys.

For now, that means taking solace even in small victories, savouring every sign of the slightest breakthrough. It is critical we get organised, bringing together all the small organisations working to help men, to work together to chip away at the current anti-male prejudice and injustice.

This year, we saw the first sign of a concerted international fightback against the feminist domestic violence industry. DAVIA (Domestic Abuse and Violence International Alliance is a new coalition of organisations promoting domestic violence and abuse policies that are science-based, family-affirming, and sex-inclusive. Launched late 2021, this has expanded from a handful of participant groups to 70 organisations from 24 countries coordinating campaigns to challenge the anti-male bile around domestic violence being promoted by international bodies across the world.

The United Nations is a classic example. This year DAVIA actually managed to block passage of two typically anti-male UN resolutions after issuing a press release which exposed their crazy thinking. Like the claim that ‘women are 14 times more likely to die in a climate catastrophe than men,’ – a nonsense statistic included in a UN resolution allegedly exploring ‘the nexus between the climate crisis, environmental degradation, and related displacement, and violence against women and girls’. Days after the DAVIA issued their worldwide press release highlighting what the UN was up to, the resolution was removed from the agenda.

No big deal? Arguably there’s little cause for concern about the UN’s posturing. As UK journalist James Delingpole writes, ‘The UN is a terrible organisation: a bloated talking shop for technocrats, bureaucrats, kleptocrats, third-world beggars, globalists, socialists, and other overindulged, grasping cry-bullies, meddlers, and no-hopers.’

But Delingpole points out that, despite UN founding articles requiring equal rights for men and women, the organisation persists in ‘picking on men and blaming them for everything that is wrong’.

That matters. These big international organisations are helping create the zeitgeist that pushes lawmakers into passing more and more draconian legislation targeting men, that prevents judges from allowing fathers contact with their children after cooked-up violence allegations, that green lights propaganda into our schools presenting boys as villains and girls as victims and that encourages despairing men to give up hope.

That’s why DAVIA’s work is important. Just last month DAVIA coordinated activities celebrating November 18 as The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Men, with activities and media events in Argentina, India, Ireland, Lithuania, Northern Ireland, Peru, Spain, United Kingdom, the United States, and in Australia.

A global Twitter campaign was launched to promote the hashtag, #StopViolenceOnMen with over 36,000 tweets sent out over a four-day period. In India, the #StopViolenceOnMen hashtag trended, ranking in ninth place among all hashtags.

Then there were the women in Argentina who invaded the offices of the Minister for Women protesting for Falsely Accused Day on September 9, another event coordinated internationally by DAVIA. I loved the feisty language – here translated from Spanish – in their letter to the Minister: ‘Even so, you, Madam Minister, together with your cohort of ideologues, officials, and communicators, will surely insist on denying that false complaints exist, that thousands of men are victims of them, and that the infamous judicial industry that feeds this order, is causing unparalleled harm to the rule of law.’

Making this all happen is Ed Bartlett who has been working for many years promoting fair treatment for men. He’s the one who started the ball rolling to put together an international coalition to tell the truth about female violence.

Under Ed’s guidance, DAVIA is currently launching an ambitious project in January to block the expansion of the Istanbul Convention (IC) in Europe, a treaty ostensibly intended to combat violence against women in Europe. You may remember the fuss two years ago when the Hungarian Parliament rejected the ratification of this dreadful treaty declaring that the measure promoted ‘destructive gender ideologies’.

Too right. The IC treaty reeks of feminist ideology, promoting the usual tired dogma about domestic violence being caused by power imbalances that favour men over women. As Stephen Baskerville explains, ‘The Convention has nothing to do with violent crime. It is a political innovation that promotes radical political ideology. Under the guise of protecting crime victims, it institutionalises sexual ideology and transfers dangerous powers to activists engaged in gender warfare against the family, religious freedom, men, and civil liberties.’

Now it looks like the Convention is in trouble. Nine years after the IC came into force in 2014, Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia have not ratified the treaty, Turkey withdrew in 2021, and Poland has announced its plan to withdraw.

Ed Bartlett has firm plans to ensure this is only the beginning. His recent email announced DAVIA is in communication with the groups in Bulgaria and other Eastern European countries that led the fight to block the Istanbul Convention in their countries. He’s also learned that, in Israel, the powerful Likud Party has agreed to not join the IC.

Not bad, eh? Here’s DAVIA’s latest summary of everything that is wrong with the Istanbul Convention. And if your organisation would like to join forces with DAVIA, you can get more information here:

If we pull together, there’s much we can do to ensure the New Year brings better times for men


Chinese ban on Australian coal about to end

China’s state-owned companies have begun reaching out to Australian coal exporters to revive trade within months, as Beijing moves to end its two-year ban amid worries about winter energy shortages and mounting costs on China’s steel industry.

Trade Minister Don Farrell did not comment on the unravelling of China’s coal black-listing – the centrepiece of a $20bn economic coercion campaign against Canberra – which was conveyed to Chinese industry at a private meeting in Beijing and has not been made official.

But industry sources told The Australian that traders had been approached by a small number of Chinese state-owned enterprises in recent weeks, inquiring about the availability and price of cargoes of Australian coal.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday said “stronger efforts should be made to ensure safe and stable energy supply”, a further sign that President Xi Jinping had greenlit the backflip.

“As the momentum of economic recovery and stable growth continues, energy demand is on the rise,” Mr Li said in comments released after a meeting of the country’s State Council.

China’s National Development and Reform Commission told three central government-backed energy companies and the country’s biggest steelmaker, Baowu, on Tuesday that they would be allowed to resume Australian coal imports, according to separate reports by Bloomberg and Reuters.

The unwinding of the ban – which comes amid reports of power failures in Heilongjiang, in China’s freezing northeast – would be the first backdown in Beijing’s trade coercion campaign against Australia, which spanned coal, timber, lobster, cotton, beef, barley and wine. Most of Beijing’s black-listing was never official.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was aware of reports about lifting of the ban, but indicated it had not received confirmation by Chinese officials.

“It has been the Australian government’s consistent view that the resumption of normal trade across the board between Australia and China would be in both countries’ best interests. That is true also of coal,” a DFAT spokeswoman said. “Meanwhile, the Australian coal industry has been highly successful in finding alternative markets.”




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