Health Research?

From ’s newsletter:

Lobbyists Scam Health Budget
Amongst the apparent beneficiaries of yesterday’s Budget was an outfit called the Health Council, originally established to award grants for valuable scientific research in the health sector. In the last financial year it received nearly $70million from the nation’s taxpayers. And yesterday Dr Cullen announced that health research would be boosted by $4 million. The Council is part of a wider portfolio of science funding totalling $550 million, accorded critical review in previous editions of this newsletter. And this week it is the turn of the Health Research Council to receive such constructive scrutiny.

Members of the Health Research Council are appointed on the advice of the Minister of Health. The primary function of the Council, according to S6 of the Health Research Council Act is “to advise the Minister on national health research policy…” So the Council is, through the Minister, responsible to Parliament and it is funded through an appropriation granted by Parliament.

Last year the Health Research Council decided to approve a grant of $701,000 to a group of researchers from the Wellington School of Medicine, a branch of Otago University, to study “policymaking to reduce smoking around children. The fact that said group of researchers might accurately be described as anti-tobacco activists is underlined by the fact that the application discloses over $1.8 million in grants to members of the group for tobacco-related research over the previous three years.

The summary makes clear what the research will actually involve: “Smokefree policies can be expanded by government policies,” we are told. “So as to help advocates, this research aims to determine obstacles/opportunities within policy processes, for interventions appropriate to specific population groups.”

The subsequent detail makes it clear what the thrust of the research involves: “recorded face to face anonymous transcribed interviews will be conducted with at least 55 past/current politicians…” In addition to researching “policy statements, official advice and party policies,” the project will include “searches for relevant voting records and statements by politicians during the period from 1996 to the present. All of this, a bargain at $701,000.

So it works like this: a Research Council that is being funded by Parliament to provide quality research for Parliament in the area of health science is instead spending that money researching the Members of Parliament themselves, their speeches, their advisors and their voting records. And the purpose of this exercise is not to come up with new scientific discoveries that might benefit the health sector, but, in their own words, “to help advocates.”

So taxpayers’ money that should be advancing the health of New Zealanders by funding new scientific breakthroughs is instead funding the preparation of resource material for lobbyists about the Members of Parliament who gave them the money in the first place. Which will presumably be useful because those same lobbyists will also be able to lobby for increased health science funding which can then be diverted into further . Which of course, is what our foolish Government has just done to the tune of $4 million a year. Isn’t that just the scam of the century?

So basically this was a $700,000 grant paid to anti-smoking activists for them to research on how they can be more successful activists!!

I’d like to get a grant from the Health Research Council so I can interview people on how I could be a better blogger!

There have been other examples in the past of how the Government funds lobby groups to lobby Parliament. It is quite simply wrong. Lobby groups should not be taxpayer funded for their lobbying. It is fine to be funded for other activities but it is the thin end of a corruption wedge to have the Government fund lobbying of MPs.

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