Freedom of Speech – only applies to some

Some people just don?t get it ? especially the troughers, who continue to be hell bent on trying to stop anyone questioning their ideas.

Take 2013/14 Trougher of the Year Boyd Swinburn, who penned a letter to the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

Troughers love to bleat on about the need for sugar taxes, bans on fast-food and labelling of what they call ?unhealthy? products.? They just can?t stand the fact that if you watched what you eat, stop eating crap and did a bit of exercise the level of obesity would fall.

Instead, they think what?s needed is:

Society needs strong voices to promote public health and the integrity of policy- making processes. This is especially critical given the dominant paradigm of market- based solutions and the increasing conversion by transnational corporations of their economic power into political power. Nicky Hager?s recent book Dirty Politics exposed an apparent systemic approach being used by the tobacco, alcohol and processed food industries in New Zealand to attack prominent public health advocates

Society needs strong voices on both sides to hold these taxpayer funded troughers to account.?

Public health researchers ?troughers exist by getting their names in journals and by publishing papers on their pet subjects. The more they do this, the more they can report back to their taxpayer-funded paymasters with requests for yet more funding for research.

Take ex-Ministry of Health official Louise Signal who is a classic example of this with her toughing from the Health Research Council. Signal is currently hoovering through hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funding? on the ?feasibility and likely acceptability of selected food taxes? by interviewing 15 ? 20 people.

Meanwhile Swinburn is positioning himself as the protector of troughers, and calls Big Alcohol and Big Junk Food as ?disease vectors?. He?s also very upset.

A blanket of suppression is insidiously descending upon the voices for public health. Transnational corporations are pulling down on one side of the blanket to quieten the voices calling for regulation of their products and their behaviours while unfortunately some governments are pulling down on the other side.

The warning bells should be ringing for public health. Tactics from government and vested commercial interests range from subtle to brutal, from blogs to contracts, and from chill to denigration. It is not time to allow these to go unnoticed and unchallenged. They diminish the foundations of science, democracy and freedoms of speech that our society depends upon.

Oh boohoo. But here?s the rub. Further down Swinburn?s ?letter? he says:

Protecting freedoms of speech as far as possible in personal contracts

Seems the only freedom of speech is when its accorded to what they have to say. So when Swinburn and others start saying ?strong public health invariably means being effective politically? I say game on.

Politics is the best game in town.