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Jun 20, 2014

The letter to the editor The Australian wouldn't run

When public health expert Professor Mike Daube wrote to the Oz about their 'exclusive' plain packaging yarn, they refused to publish his letter in full. Here's what it said.


The Australian‘s plain packaging “exclusive” is a story that just won’t go away. Christian Kerr’s story, which used research funded by Big Tobacco to argue that the number of cigarettes sold in Australia had gone up since plain packaging was introduced, was torn apart on Media Watch on Monday night. The next day the Oz doubled down on its original allegation, devoting five new stories to the claims. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics further debunks the premise of The Australian‘s yarn.

But the story gets even stranger. Mike Daube, professor of health policy at Curtin University — who was quoted on Monday night’s Media Watch segment, and was attacked in Tuesday’s Oz — sent the following letter to The Australian‘s letters pages.

He was told by letters editor Graeme Leech that the Oz didn’t have the space to run the whole thing and he could have only 150 words — despite The Australian devoting several pages to the issue over the previous few days.

Letter to the editor

As part of The Australian’s campaign against plain packaging, [Tuesday]’s editorial refers to Friday’s front-page article as a “perfectly reasonable report”. That article was based on a secret report apparently provided by tobacco interests with comments only from the tobacco lobby. The report remains secret, so it is impossible to analyse it or to understand why the conclusions differ from official figures.

The Australian asked me for comment on Friday morning — after the article had appeared — but refused to provide the report. On Tuesday afternoon, after the ABC’s Mediawatch segment, a reporter and photographer from the Australian arrived at my office without warning, saying they wanted to ask questions about statistics. I said that I would comment if I could have a copy of the report, but they were unable to provide this. An hour later, the reporter ‘phoned to say that he could send me the report. Half an hour after this he ‘phoned back to say that he had been told he could not provide the report — only a graphic that had appeared in The Australian.

Even setting aside the rest of The Australian’s campaign (so far three front pages, two editorials and multiple articles), it is hard to see how all this can be described as “perfectly reasonable” journalism. It is also hard to understand why The Australian persists in claiming failure for plain packaging after 18 months in the face of not only encouraging official figures, but crucially the reality that, as Nicola Roxon emphasised from the outset, “Of course we’re targeting people who have not yet started, and that’s the key to this plain packaging announcement — to make sure we make it less attractive for people to experiment with tobacco in the first place”.

A related article refers to me with phrases including “political involvement” and “Gillard government adviser”. I was Deputy Chair of the National Preventative Health Taskforce and chaired the tobacco expert committee. It is ridiculous and offensive to describe that as “political involvement”, or to imply that membership of expert health committees somehow makes one politically partisan. I have enjoyed working for and with governments and Ministers from both sides of politics, have no political links, and was indeed publicly critical of the last government on various issues. My last “political involvement” was as a member of the British Young Conservatives in the 1960s.

Professor Mike Daube AO
Professor of Health Policy
Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia



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42 thoughts on “The letter to the editor The Australian wouldn’t run

  1. Dallas Fraser

    Graeme Leech’s minders don’t have any such rules when it comes to those on its favoured side of the political fence. I have had many letters offering an alternate view than the paper is pushing and they invariably end up in the bin.

  2. The Hood

    Is The Australian run by Bastards Incorporated? What is it with the Oz, is its task just to represent the personal scewed and warped opinions and interests of Rupert Murdoch?

  3. The Pav

    Just when you thought the Oz couldn’t get more pathetic,hypocritical and base they manage to

    It would seem that their view of free speech is only if you agree. I think we should petition to have them change their name.

    The Oz is neither a newspaper or Australian in its values.

    ANd tehy had the unmitigated gall to complain about the Chaser skit……….WTF!!!!

  4. Andrew McIntosh

    Murdoch’s minions strike again. The world’s had decades of this kind of crap.

  5. Electric Lardyland

    Yes, Pav, but what should the name be changed to?
    The Australian Animal Fanciers Digest?

  6. Electric Lardyland

    But it is truly surreal and Kafkaesque though. That is, an academic asks to see a report that he is being asked to comment on, is then told that he can’t and then is condemned for being biased.
    No wonder that the modern right wing narrative, seems to be just that little bit more unhinged every day.

  7. jackp

    Jack Philpott

    as a chest specialist who works with people and families who’s lives are destroyed by this drug I find the Oz’s position a danger to peoples health. I invite the editor of the Oz to spend a day with me and see people suffocating. The best advise i can give to people is don’t smoke and don’t buy the Oz

  8. rhwombat

    Thanks to Mike Daube (and Crikey) for fighting the good fight. Next will come the full page spread in the Ex-Australian (“Rupert’s Little Organ”) pointing out the gross hypocrisy of biting the hand that starves you.

  9. SusieQ

    Amazing how stupid an organisation can become when its market share is falling. Instead of trying to improve the quality of its journalism and the stories it prints, it heads further down the muckraking road.

  10. The Pav

    Electric L @5

    I’d say “TOILET PAPER” but I have too much respect for my ar*e!

    How about “the Lying Toe Rag’s Rag”

  11. The Pav

    Or it could be

    The Sheltered Workshop for Those Lacking Ethics, Honesty and Critical Thinking”

  12. Yclept

    Surely ACMA will sanction the ABC over this one! That would only be fair…

  13. AR

    It’s Class Warfare on the job creators!

  14. fractious

    I began to wonder what hidden connections there might be between the Oz (and/ or NewsCorpse) and Big Tobacco, then realised I was being terribly cynical. I mean, really, of course they wouldn’t, would they…

  15. TheFamousEccles

    @ The Hood,

    Um, yes.

  16. Gregory Grasshopper


  17. Electric Lardyland

    Yes, Pav, I know, I wouldn’t want their thoughts contaminating my rectum.

  18. Patriot

    If you don’t like it, don’t read it. Live and let live. I recognise the right of Professor Daube to stand on any street corner with a sandwich board advertising his views.

  19. Liamj

    No wonder advertisers are fleeing even faster than readers. Given that the public charters of many charities and health orgs wont allow them anywhere near pro-smoking propaganda, and plenty of others simply think its damaging to their brand to be associated, it makes one wonder about the business model for News Corpse: can Ruperts vanity & the IPAs uglier clients really fund the whole thing?

  20. John Anders

    Mike Daube poses as the impartial, benevolent observer. Puhhh-leeeeezzz!!

    Daube is a rabid antismoking zealot. He has been with the current neo-prohibition crusade from its early days (late-1960s) – see the Godber Blueprint. He was the first head of the UK Action on Smoking & Health back in 1971. He has been a key player in all of Australia’s antismoking measures, including the propaganda to back them.

    Daube is, at the very least, ideologically compromised. He espouses the doctrine:

    When people agree with antismoking measures, it’s because antismokers are right.
    When people disagree with antismoking measures, it’s because antismokers are right.
    Antismokers are always right.

    Can’t get more scientific than that.

  21. zut alors

    The Oz appears to be on a bender to undermine itself in general. Seasoned newspaper readers can remember back in the day when it was a credible source of news and commentary – that ended sometime after the death of the telegram in Australia and, ever since, has been on a steady trajectory downhill.

    Despite a history of innumerable fine writers at The Oz, the current survivors are seen to toe the line and kowtow to fearful editors who live in a nervous state of hoping to satiate their master – rather than serve their readers/customers with factual, accurate reporting.

  22. rhwombat

    John Anders: Poe or Patriot?

  23. rhwombat

    John Anders:…or IPA?

  24. stephen dolan

    Looks like the revenue challenged over at Holt street have found themselves a new revenue stream. Big tobacco has unlimited marketing funds and all of it goes to “PR”.

    If not for cash, why is this in Rupert’s interest ?

  25. okramesh

    “The ANUS of the Nation” i believe is the the correct title for the rag, Pav.

  26. rhwombat

    @23: Even Rupert is a Koch-sucker.

  27. AR

    Henceforth let the euphemism (in that they, in trtuh, do worse)for all trolls, astroturfers & denialists be Koch-sucker.

  28. Rubio Diego

    The Oz could be called ” Smokes and Mirror.

  29. kathryn Barnsley

    Of course there is a long history of News Limited association with Philip Morris as described in their own documents that can be found on the Legacy website. See here. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/nyd37b00;jsessionid=797A39839A06CC642CE1D41F42E773A8.tobacco04

  30. paul holland

    Censorship. That is all it is. It makes the claims against the ABC, many of which originate from the Australian and other related rags, that is what they are, look trivial. Here is a media organisation, which dominates the media world, telling us what to think.

    When will we get rid of self regulation and put some decent rules in place to get the real truth. Not that of the News Corporation.

  31. The Pav

    John Anders @ 19

    He position is that smoking kills…Somewhat supported by science ( you know that thing that the Abbott govt doesn’t beleieve in).

    I think trying to stop people dying needlessly, painfully, husrting their failiies and wasting scarec medical resources is an admirable objective but then this is just me.

    Of course you are entitled to hold an opposite view such as killing people for profit is good but personally I am gald the anti smoking campaigners are so committed. At least he is motived by the well being of people not by profit

  32. John Anders

    The Pav @ 28

    And you must be…… Daube’s PR agent?

    I suppose you also believe the [physician-led] eugenicists of early last century in America and Germany were a wonderful, benevolent lot. After all, they were only trying to eradicate poverty, crime, and disease, with “prevention” as their primary motivation. (BTW The eugenicists were also rabidly antismoking).

  33. John Anders

    The Pav @ 28

    Pav, you’re doing what antismokers typically do – antismokers are benevolent and anyone who disagrees with them is [obviously] malevolent.

    This, too, is a long-time contrivance by antismokers. It’s a “strategy” (i.e., con job) that was suggested by the rabid antismoker and master propagandist (i.e., professional liar), Simon Chapman way back at the World Conference on Smoking & Health in 1983, and has been used incessantly ever since.

    “Such a list could be added to considerably, but most entries would be characterized by being somehow cast in a mythological good versus evil battle in an arena observed by mass numbers of people. The good (health/clean air/children) versus evil (cancer/uncaring, callous industry) dimension is the ineluctable bottom line in the whole issue and a rich reservoir for spawning a great deal of useful social drama, metaphor, and symbolic politics that is the stuff of ‘news value’ and which is almost always to the detriment of the industry.” p.11 (see The Godber Blueprint)

    You see, Pav, the zealots cast themselves (natch) in the role of the “mythological good” (health/clean air/children) battling the “mythological evil” tobacco industry (cancer/uncaring, callous industry). The zealots, being the “mythological good”, are always right, benevolent, and virtuous. Therefore, anyone who disagrees with them is “obviously” wrong, malevolent, and wicked, and most likely, according to the “mythological good” zealots, a shill….. an emissary of the “mythological evil” tobacco industry. Anyone who disagrees with antismokers is “obviously” a promoter of cancer, a promoter of poisonous air, and a corrupter of children. Welcome to the fantasy world of rabid antismoking zealots.

  34. Slomo

    @john Anderson 29.

    I think it’s possible that science has come a long way in a hundred years. Not to worry..Rupert is doing his best to take it back to the 19th Century..or perhaps the 12th?

  35. The Pav

    Dear John Anders @ 29

    Are you really that lacking in intellectual capacity that you make such an argument.

    What you have said is that as Daub is anti smoking he is a eugenicist as they were anti smoking. What a ridiculous connection. I don’t know wheter Daub is a eugenicist or not ( although I greatly doubt it) but in any way it woulod not invalidate his opinion in a totally unrelated area. In any event just because somebpdy is wrong or believes something about one subject then they must be wrong about everything…What absolute tosh.. It staggers me that somebody who can swithch on a computer and is literate ( or at least can write a comment)shpould make such an irrational and illogical statement. It defies credibility.

    All I can say is that kind of stupid and irrational comment means you are eminently suitable to for a senior position in the Oz

  36. John Anders

    “I think it’s possible that science has come a long way in a hundred years.”

    I assume you’re referring to tobacco? If you believe that all or even most of the antismoking claims over the last 40 years reflect an advance in science, then you’d be wrong. Don’t confuse the slogans of antismoking activism with science.

    A question for the sanctimonious Pav.

    Early last century, in all of the countries of the world, there were only 2 countries that had high-profile antismoking crusades – America and Germany. Could you explain to us why? Or did they pop up out of thin air? If you can properly answer that question, you’ll be able to explain why the current antismoking crusade was allowed to proliferate.

    Antismoking is not new. It has a long, sordid, 400+ year history, much of it predating even the pretense of a scientific basis or the more recent concoction of secondhand smoke “danger”. Antismoking crusades typically run on inflammatory propaganda, i.e., lies, in order to get law-makers to institute bans. Statistics and causal attribution galore are conjured. The current antismoking rhetoric isn’t new. It has all been heard before. All it produces is irrational fear and hatred, discord, enmity, animosity, social division, oppression, and bigotry. When supported by the State, moralizing zealots seriously mess with people’s minds on a mass scale.

  37. John Anders

    Do you think Mike Daube has ever heard of a contraband market (created by extortionate taxes)?

    That’s industrial-scale cultivation.

  38. AR

    JohnAndroid – WOW, so much confected bilge & bile – did the BAT cheque bounce?
    Just for larfs, ” Antismoking crusades typically run on inflammatory propaganda, i.e., lies” -go on, giz some examples.

  39. Deipnosoph

    Anders panders to the cigarette-in-handers’ commanders.

  40. The Pav

    Dear John Anders

    I think that any product that is used as directed and kills you or at least causes significant ill health should be opposed by the most strong legal methods available. I would want people to be zealous and committed. This is not a sin. I mean would you want players in your football team not to be committed?…

    The science is unarguable. Smoking kills. It is bad. Surely this is a concept even someone as challenged as you can grasp. Given the power of the Tobacco Lobby fierce resitance is required ( read the novel Thank You For Smoking).

    The you ask the asinine question to answer why there was so little opposition to smoking 100 years or so ago.

    Can there be a more stupid question?

    Well How about as some answers

    100 years ago the knowledge wasn’t there
    100 years ago the anti smoking lobby was just out gunned and miniscule ( from litle acorms etc)
    100 years ago lots of things were different. Afro Americans couldn’t ride on the front of buses. Are you suggest that white americans should now call afro- americans Nigger because that was OK back then
    100 years ago there was no inter-net so do you want have have this discussion by snail mail and handwritten.

    Just because something wasn’t there 100 years ago doesn’t invalidate anti-smoking camapigns that fight the tobacco lobby lies and promote the truth that smoking kills not only the user but harms otherwise innocent bystanders.

    That is is absolute unvarnished truth. For you and The Oz to ptry and perpertrate any other position is corrupt

  41. klewso

    Someone in GB is going to quote “The Rent-seekers Oz” as an “authority”? Good luck with that?

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