Home > Anti-Quackery Committee > Richard Jones MLC
Richard Jones was a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) in the New South Wales Parliament from 1988 to 2003. He was an Independent, and will be eternally remembered for appearing at a nude bathing protest at Reef Beach in Sydney in 1983 wearing nothing but a handful of seaweed. Unfortunately I have been unable to locate a copy of the famous newspaper photograph of this incident, although the image is permanently burned into the memories of everyone who was in Sydney at the time. (He is still referred to as "the nudist politician" by some media commentators, although he was not a politician at the time.)
I am not sure why Mr Jones should be so interested in the support of quackery and medical fraud. Would he renounce his membership of Greenpeace if some quack said that whale oil cured cancer?
Mr Jones made the following speech to the Legislative Council on 13 November, 2002. My comments are interspersed in italics.
The Hon. RICHARD JONES [11.09 p.m.]: Professor John Dwyer has apparently been invited by the Minister for Health to form a committee comprising so-called legal and medical experts to investigate complementary medicine. In an article in the Wentworth Courier of 6 November Professor Dwyer said that there is an endless list of flourishing fraudulent claims that hoodwink Australians into spending more than $1.5 billion a year for useless advice and therapy. Professor Dwyer is well known for his antipathy towards complementary medicine. This committee, about which I asked a question today and the Hon. Alan Corbett asked a question yesterday, is a secretive committee.
However, we have received reliable information that one member of the committee has been using a false name to telephone various practitioners, pretending to be a patient and seeking information. That person is trying to dupe these practitioners into giving therapies by means of entrapment as an agent provocateur. It would appear that Professor Dwyer has been hired by the Minister for Health to conduct an unprecedented attack on complementary medicine in this country. It would appear from Professor Dwyer's various pronouncements that he has a total antipathy towards complementary medicine.
The "agent provocateur" Mr Jones is referring to is assumed to be Ms Cheryl Freeman, who quite legally used an alias to purchase some false vaccines against certain diseases. There is no law which prevents people calling themselves anything they like unless it is done to commit a crime. Ms Freeman was exposing a crime, not committing one, so Mr Jones's concern seems misdirected.
I point out to Professor Dwyer that some 19,000 people die every year from iatrogenic illness. Indeed, today a friend of mine died from contracting golden staph while in hospital. Food in hospitals is absolutely disgraceful. Many conventional practitioners prescribe antibiotics for influenza, which is completely useless, and thousands of unnecessary operations are performed, such as caesarean sections. Perhaps conventional practitioners should put their own house in order before attacking the complementary health industry. Professor Dwyer also attacked the Chinese health industry. Many Chinese practitioners have sought registration in this State but have been denied, presumably because of influence from some medical people.
The "19,000" figure was only 14,000 when it was first invented. But sometimes it is 18,000. And at other times it is 10,000.
A number of Chinese medicines have been used successfully for hundreds—and perhaps thousands—of years. These same people are attacking homeopathy, which has been used in India for hundreds of years and, indeed, for many years the Royal Family has used it with great success. Many of the practitioners practising complementary medicine whom Professor Dwyer wishes to destroy have had enormous success, and that is why people are prepared to spend $1.5 billion to consult them. Apparently Professor Dwyer even questions the use of vitamin therapy. He is out of date and should seek advice himself from complementary practitioners to find out what is wrong with him.
If these practitioners have had "enormous success" then they have nothing to worry about. They just have to produce the cured people.
I ask the Minister to determine the purpose of the committee, its composition, its objectives and what it intends to do over the next six months. Apparently the committee's brief is to provide and develop a plan for the Minister in six months time, if he is still Minister for Health. Apparently it also has a representative from the pharmaceutical industry, so obviously there is a vested interest in trying to destroy the complementary health industry. This is the biggest attack on complementary health that has ever taken place in this State. The Minister for Health should be very careful because many people now use complementary medicine, particularly those who were born overseas, such as the Chinese community. Even acupuncture is under threat from this committee.
Why would acupuncture be under threat? Does Mr Jones think that its effectiveness cannot be proved?
Although 19,000 people die from conventional medicine each year, very few known deaths are caused by complementary medicine. Professor Dwyer referred to one unfortunate death, which was probably caused by a fraudulent practitioner. There may well be some fraudulent practitioners but, by and large, the complementary health industry is very successful and that is why people are turning to it. I ask the Minister to get Professor Dwyer and this member of the committee who is fraudulently phoning practitioners to lay off the complementary health industry.
Mr Jones asked the following question of the Minister representing the Minister for Health in the the Legislative Council on 13 November, 2002.
COMPLEMENTARY MEDICAL PROFESSION
The Hon. RICHARD JONES: I ask the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Health, whether a secretive committee headed by Professor Dwyer is conducting a vicious witch-hunt on the complementary medical profession, including homeopathy, which has been used successfully by the royal family for many years and which has been in existence for 200 years. Is a member of that committee acting as an agent provocateur falsely representing herself as a Michelle Trueblood when contacting practitioners and trying to entrap them? Will the Minister stop this witch-hunt and the outrageous activities of this committee member and make sure that this committee is open and accountable?
The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: One of the things that I will miss when the Hon. Richard Jones leaves this Parliament—which is what he has indicated he will do shortly—is the constant conspiracy theories with which he entertains this House. I will certainly take the honourable member's question on notice. It is a pity that he was not here yesterday because his colleague the Hon. Alan Corbett got in early and asked a more intelligently framed question on the same subject. I will refer the Hon. Richard Jones' question to the Minister for Health.
The Hon. RICHARD JONES: I ask a supplementary question. Will the Treasurer ask the Minister for Health to stop this committee member falsely representing herself as a Michelle Trueblood and trying to entrap complementary medical practitioners, which is what she is up to?
The Hon. MICHAEL EGAN: As I said earlier, the Hon. Richard Jones is famous for his conspiracy theories. He is famous, one might say, for his wackiness, but I actually like wackiness. When he leaves this Parliament I am sure all honourable members will miss him. However, I will treat his question seriously and refer it to the Minister for Health.
The Minister replied
On 13 November the Hon. Richard Jones asked the Treasurer a question without notice relating to the complementary medical profession. The Minister for Health provided the following response:
As publicly stated by the Minister for Health, the formation of the committee is in no way intended to generate a witch-hunt against the complementary therapy industry.
No person known as "Michelle Trueblood" is a member of this committee.
Mr Jones made the following speech to the Legislative Council on 21 November, 2002. My comments are interspersed in italics.
The Hon. RICHARD JONES [9.38 p.m.]: I bring to the attention of the House one more time the severe problems the Government will get itself into if it continues its attack on the complementary health industry. This industry is worth approximately $1 billion in New South Wales, with 70 per cent of the people in New South Wales visiting complementary practitioners. The attack is aimed not just at strange cures peddled by strange people; it attacks traditional Chinese medicine that has been used for more than a thousand years. It has been used by most of the Chinese community and has proved to be effective.
It "attacks traditional Chinese medicine" only when such medicine is unproven, unscientific, or dangerous. Why would anyone object to this? I should point out that the heroin, cocaine and ecstasy industry in NSW probably turns over more than $1 billion, so perhaps we should leave these poor people alone as well.
By attacking the Chinese community in this way the Government could get itself into an awful lot of trouble. The person leading the charge is Professor John Dwyer, who has been saying some extraordinary things in the media, not just about complementary medicine, with which he has a real obsession—he was made a sceptic by the Sceptic Society—but about breast milk. On 2 July 2001 the Inner Western Suburbs Courier reported him as saying that breast milk:
… is wonderfully nutritious in most ways but it contains very little iron, the same is true for cows milk...
Nature expects babies to begin to experiment with food other than breast milk after about six weeks of life.
Professor Dwyer was made "Skeptic of the Year" for 2000 by the Australian Skeptics. (There is no "Sceptic Society"). I would imaging that his intellect and education made him a sceptic.
This came under attack from Dr David Lillystone, Chairman of the Paediatrics NSW State Committee, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians; and Dr Patricia McVeagh, Visiting Paediatrician, Sydney Children's Hospital at Westmead and Tresillian Family Care Centres. The article stated:
We are very concerned about the article that appeared in the Courier on July 2 written by Professor John Dwyer. It contained misinformation and misleading information.
It is important that this is rectified so that parents are not unnecessarily alarmed and so that Courier readers have good, current information regarding children's nutrition.
The header "Breast milk is wonderfully nutritious in most ways but it contains very little iron, the same is true for cow's milk" is very misleading …
The second major concern with the article is the advice that "nature expects babies to begin to experiment with food other than breast milk after about six weeks of life." This runs counter to good nutrition and developmental advice …
This topic is too important to be dealt with by adult physicians—it should be left to the experts, those who work with children: paediatricians and paediatric dieticians.
To quote from a page about Professor Dwyer at the University of New South Wales web site: "During his time at Yale Professor Dwyer was promoted to Professor of Medicine and Paediatrics". See the word "Paediatrics"? See the word "Yale"? Perhaps he has the necessary expertise.
An article appeared in New Scientist on 28 January 1989 that reviewed a book written by Professor John Dwyer called The Body at War. The review stated:
Sadly, as the chapters unfold it becomes clear that Dwyer's biology is not much more accurate than his geography.
The most startling of his errors concerns the chromosomes, which carry our hereditary material …
Confusing the two strands of the DNA molecule with the two chromosomes in a chromosome pair is the sort of mistake for which a schoolchild would fail an elementary biology exam. Kind-hearted readers might be inclined to think that this is a slip of the word processor on Dwyer's part, when it first arises. But the author precludes any such charitable interpretation with two diagrams, illustrating his dreadful blunder with unmistakable clarity …
It is hard to imagine how these diagrams came into being without the author realising the inherent contradictions they contain …
The many other mistakes in The Body at War seem almost trivial by comparison … Even on his home ground, immunology, Dwyer seems to go astray remarkably often …
The Body at War is riddled with the Ghosts of Biology Past. A number of Horrible Mistakes which were given a decent burial years ago, rise again in these pages, to haunt Dwyer's vision of the immune system. He must surely be the only scientist left on Earth who still accepts Haeckel's theory of recapitulation—the idea that the developing embryo slavishly re-enacts the evolution of its species …
This particular piece of biological nonsense leads Dwyer into strange and murky territory, for which he applies it to the question of why cells become cancerous …
The Lamarckian flavour of "trying to improve on the older model" will also strike a chill into the hearts of biologists. It is a theme that runs all through the book, and even the lowly viruses are not exempt from efforts at self-improvement …
These factual and theoretical errors are compounded by Dwyer's unhappy way with words. He uses them with all the precision of a drunk swatting flies—and with a damp newspaper at that. Unsaturated fat is used when he means saturated, and positive result (for HIV) when he means negative. He employs "antigen" in one section, to describe a splinter of wood, while elsewhere he talks of "killing" antigens. Both are wide of the mark, an antigen being a molecule, usually a protein, that antibodies recognise …
In his efforts to explain how the immune system works, Dwyer aims low—and misses.
Dwyer is the man who is heading the witch-hunt to remove the complementary medical industry, a $1 billion industry in this State that employs many people and provides enormous benefit to many people. In contrast, 18,000 people in Australia died because his colleagues practised bad medicine. The medical profession should take a look at itself before it attacks an industry that works in the best interests of the people.
The "18,000" figure (which was 19,000 a few days before) has been progressively increasing from the 14,000 that was claimed when the number was first made up. That was before it became 10,000. You can read some more about these numbers here.
Mr Jones also forgot to mention that Professor Dwyer successfully sued the New Scientist for defamation over the book review and, as the Professor put it to me, "made more money from the defamation action than from book royalties". I have seen the book and the review, and I can only assume that the reviewer had read some other book.
Not that there is a witch hunt going on, of course, but Mr Jones wants every bit of paper related to the committee to be provided to Parliament. It is interesting to note that the deadline for delivering this material is later than the close of the House for the current parliamentary session (which happened at 3:12pm on 10 December), and, as Mr Jones is not standing for re-election, he will not have to take any responsibility for following up the smears and allegations that he has been making under parliamentary privilege. Is it any wonder that the public hold politicians in low esteem and sometimes refer to Parliament as "Cowards' Castle"? (You can see the relevant parts of the parliamentary record here.)
Motion by the Hon. Richard Jones agreed to:
1. That, under Standing Order 18, there be laid on the table of the House by 5.00 p.m. on Tuesday 10 December 2002 and made public without restricted access:
(a) all documents in the possession, custody and power of the Minister for Health for the years 2000, 2001 and 2002 in relation to the development and establishment of the Committee now known as the Health Claims and Consumer Protection Advisory Committee, announced by the Minister for Health on 31 October 2002,
(b) all documents in the possession, custody and power of the Minister for Health in relation to the development of the Draft Terms of Reference for the Health Claims and Consumer Protection Advisory Committee,
(c) all correspondence between NSW Health and Committee members, advisors and the Committee Secretariat including:
(i) Professor John Dwyer
(ii) Dr Greg Stewart,
(iii) Karen Crawshaw,
(iv) John Lumby,
(v) Maureen Robinson,
(vi) Dr Ian O'Rourke,
(vii) Professor Felix Wong,
(viii) Sarah Crawford,
(ix) Dr John Eden,
(x) Si Banks,
(xi) Brian Given,
(xii) Rose Webb,
(xiii) Rusty Priest,
(ixx) Norah McGuire,
(xx) Dr Sharon Miskell,
(xxi) Simon Loveday,
(xxii) Val Johanson,
(xxiii) Karen Bridgman,
(xxv) Mary Crum,
(xxvi) Cheryl Freeman, and
(xxvii) Peter Bowditch.
2. That an indexed list of all documents tabled under this resolution be prepared showing the date of creation of the document, a description of the document and the author of the document.
3. That anything required to be laid before the House by this resolution may be lodged with the Clerk of the House if the House is not sitting, and unless privilege is claimed, is deemed for all purposes to have been presented to or laid before the House and published by authority of the House.
4. Where a document required to be tabled under this order is considered to be privileged and should not be made public or tabled:
(a) a return is to be prepared and tabled showing the date of creation of the document, a description of the document, the author of the document and reasons for the claim of privilege,
(b) the documents are to be delivered to the Clerk of the House by the date and time required in paragraph 1 and:
(i) made available only to members of the Legislative Council,
(ii) not published or copied without an order of the House.
5. (a) Where any member of the House, by communication in writing to the Clerk, disputes the validity of a claim of privilege in relation to a particular document, the Clerk is authorised to release the disputed document to an independent legal arbiter, for evaluation and report within 5 days as to the validity of the claim.
(b) The independent legal arbiter is to be appointed by the President and must be a Queen's Counsel, a Senior Counsel or a retired Supreme Court Judge.
(c) A report from the independent legal arbiter is to be lodged with the Clerk of the House, and:
(i) made available only to members of the Legislative Council,
(ii) not published or copied without an order of the House.
Mr Jones made his final speech to the Legislative Council as part of the Adjournment Debate on 10 December, 2002. He is not seeking re-election at the next election, and there is a tradition of allowing retiring Members to make a farewell speech. Another tradition is that such speeches are essentially non-political and give the Member a chance to reminisce and to thank staff, colleagues and other Members for the assistance and companionship shown over the years. The extent of any politicking is usually limited to retiring members of the Opposition saying how they regret not being able to join their colleagues on the Government benches after the voters come to their senses at the coming election, and Government members wondering who they will talk to next year after the inevitable decimation of the Opposition parties by the voters. Mr Jones chose to break with tradition and make a political speech, settling some old scores and having a final attack on public servants and other people before he loses the protection of parliamentary privilege. The following is an extract of his speech. I have only quoted the parts relevant to this matter, but you can read the entire speech here. (207Kb .pdf file)
Another bureaucracy needing urgent reform is the Department of Health which would be more aptly named the "Department of Ill Health". The department's latest blunder is breathtaking in its implications. It has set up the Health Claims and Consumer Protection Committee under the chairmanship of Professor Dwyer, of all people.
Professor Dwyer has been bluntly outspoken in his attacks on all aspects of complementary health care. His bias is so evident that it is extraordinarily inappropriate to have him chair what can only be termed a witch-hunt. He has roundly condemned traditional Chinese medicine. Traditional Chinese medicine is at least 5,000 years old. The words doctor [yi] and medicine [yao] appear in the written Chinese language at about 2500 BC. Emperor Shen Nong—3494 BC—is accredited with being the first herbal doctor. The Yellow Emperor's Internal Classic or Huang Di Nei Jing, which was written between 200 and 300 BC, included the first explanations of the pathological concept, diagnostic method and treatment strategy.
If Traditional Chinese Medicine only makes claims which can be shown to be true, then it is not in danger from the committee. If, however, its claims are fanciful or outrageous, then it is difficult to see why anyone would want its use to continue.
This 5,000-year-old healing art has been based on empirical data accumulated over millennia at a time when Europeans were walking around naked painted with woad and hitting each other over the heads with the leg bones of mammoths. Chinese materia medica today is the most advanced natural pharmacopoeia in the world in terms of natural substances having medicinal value, whether of plant, mineral or animal origin. Some 5,767 medicinal entries are registered and studied in the three-volume encyclopedia Zhong Ya Zidian published by the Shanghai People's Press.
Acupuncture, which is also under attack, may well have been in place for 10,000 years as acupuncture tools have been found dating to that period. Whilst Professor Dwyer may rubbish acupuncture, the World Health Organisation recognises over 40 conditions that benefit from acupuncture. The Yellow Emperor's Internal Classic is the earliest book describing acupuncture as we know it today. I have benefited from acupuncture, as no doubt have other members of this House.
If acupuncture only makes claims which can be shown to be true, then it is not in danger from the committee. If, however, its claims are fanciful or outrageous, then it is difficult to see why anyone would want its use to continue.
Ayurvedic medicine, which also goes back over 6,000 years, is the oldest known system of medicine. It is referred to in the Rik Veda, the oldest surviving book of the Indo-European language written in 3000 BC. It was placed in written form by Shaktavesha Avatar of Vishnu. In the sixteenth century Paracelsus, who was regarded as the father of modern Western medicine, practised and propagated a system which borrowed heavily from Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a widely and successfully used system of healing in India today. My wife, Jo, and I will avail ourselves of the opportunity to benefit from it on our trip to Kerala early next year.
If Ayurvedic Medicine only makes claims which can be shown to be true, then it is not in danger from the committee. If, however, its claims are fanciful or outrageous, then it is difficult to see why anyone would want its use to continue.
Homeopathy is also under attack, as usual. The royal family has been using it since the 1830s. Use of homeopathy in the United Kingdom is growing at 39 per cent a year. A British consumer organisation surveyed its 28,000 members and discovered that 80 per cent had used some form of complementary medicine and that 70 per cent of those who had tried homeopathy were cured or improved by it. The British Medical Journal recently published a survey of British physicians and found that 42 per cent referred patients to homeopathic physicians. A survey in France revealed that 11,000 French doctors use homeopathic medicines and that 25 per cent of the French public have used or are presently using homeopathic medicines. It use is widespread around the world, especially in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Homeopathy is a crock of nonsense, but if it only makes claims which can be shown to be true, then it is not in danger from the committee. If, however, its claims are fanciful or outrageous, then it is difficult to see why anyone would want its use to continue.
Aboriginal bush medicine, also used for thousand of years, is far more complex and sophisticated than most of us realise. Fortunately, we are all beginning to benefit from those thousands of years of knowledge. Traditional Tibetan medicine, called Sowa Rigpa, has also been practised for over 2,500 years. Professor Dwyer is a Johnny-come-lately when it comes to complementary medicine. He specialises in a small fraction of the total spectrum of allopathic medicine and has no experience whatsoever in traditional medicine. It is true that many of these traditional medicines and practices have not been double-blind tested, but in many cases they have been used for thousands of years and have stood the test of time.
Western medicine, which is relatively new, has made many ghastly mistakes, for example, thalidomide or the current rash of unnecessary operations. The hard dogma of science can blind some people to other valid sources of information and well-tried and tested modalities of health care. The failings of modern allopathic medicine are precisely the reason why so many are turning to traditional medicine. Allopathic medicine is very crude. People with the flu attend a doctor and receive a prescription for an ineffective antibiotic. The doctor almost never inquires about diet, state of mind or why the immune system is down—he or she almost never takes a holistic approach. Thousands of people die every year at the hands of doctors.
I would assume that if Mr Jones had a life-threatening illness, he would avoid the crudity of "Western medicine". As an example, I would imagine that if he ever develops blocked heart arteries (despite his no-doubt vegetarian diet), he will not avail himself of angioplasty or bypass surgery. If Mr Jones should ever have a stroke, he could make use of the work of the late Dr John Whitman Ray, who could fix the damage caused by stroke by the simple process of passing hands over the body to adjust the "Body Electronics". Unfortunately Dr Ray can't provide personal treatment any more, being dead, but his heirs and successors will sell Mr Jones a video so that he can treat himself. If Mr Jones should ever develop cancer, there are myriads of alternative cures. That the theories behind many of these cures are mutually exclusive should not be a worry, as at least they are not crude.
There is an epidemic of multiresistant golden staph in intensive care wards which is killing untold patients and yet ancient Aboriginal bush remedies such as melaleuca alternifolia, tea-tree oil, or backhousia citriodora, lemon myrtle, might well provide the answer. Have they been tried? I doubt it. Hospital food is so bad it beggars belief. No thought is given to what would hasten the recovery of patients. Unbelievably, hospitals have Coca-Cola machines in them as well as machines selling appalling junk food. What we really need is an inquiry into the tragic failures of modern allopathic medicine, not highly successful complementary medicine.