Memo to Sussan Ley: It’s the cover up not the stuff up II

We have been following the dodgy “3.4% decline in tobacco clearances” claim here at the Cat for some time (here, here, here …). It even inspired a this magnificent clip:

Senator David Leyonhjelm has been pursuing this is the Parliament. Most recently he asked:

Senator LEYONHJELM: I might ask you to take on notice why the calendar year data was released rather than data for the applicable period for the policy implementation. Professor Sinclair Davidson published an article entitled ‘Department of Health telling porkies on plain packaging’ on the Catallaxy Files website on 19 August this year and in the IPA’s FreedomWatch on 20 August this year. In that article, Professor Davidson takes the monthly data on your freedom of information disclosure log to replicate your figures for the 2012 and 2013 calendar years and your calculation of a 3.4 per cent decline between these periods. He also calculates figures for the period starting 1 December 2012 and the year prior to 1 December 2012, and the change from one period to the other is negative 0.8 per cent. Have you done this calculation yourselves? Could you confirm that the 0.8 per cent decline between the periods is correct?

Mr French: I have not seen the reports you are referring to. We are happy to have a look at them.

Senator LEYONHJELM: It is not so much the report; it is doing the calculations yourself.

Mr Heferen: We will take it on notice.

Treasury have now responded:

There was a 0.8 per cent decline in tobacco clearances between the 12 months ended 30 November 2013 and the 12 months ended 30 November 2012 excluding Tobacco Refund Scheme refunds which cannot be allocated to the month when the related clearance was originally processed.

So now Treasury admit that the 3.4% figure is wrong and has reported, at least, the 0.8% decline to be the more correct number. How long will it take the Health Department to update their misleading statement? What about those pesky refunds?

Senator Leyonhjelm also tabled additional questions:

In the context of those tobacco-related questions taken on notice, further questions are as follows:
61. Professor Davidson used the data released on the Treasury FOI log to calculate that tobacco clearances, after accounting for refunds arising from plain-packaging-related product destruction, increased by 0.5 per cent from the year prior to plain packaging becoming fully operational on 1 December 2012, to the year immediately after.

o Can you confirm that this result can be calculated from the data released on the Treasury FOI log?
o Can you advise of any errors in Professor Davidson’s use of the data?

62. Please rank the defensibility of Professor Davidson’s three calculations — a 3.4 per cent decline, a 0.8 per cent decline, and a 0.5 per cent increase — as indicators of the change in legal tobacco consumption from the year prior to plain packaging becoming fully operational, to the year immediately after.

Reasonable questions, I would have thought, yet notice how Treasury doesn’t actually answer then. Of course, they have already conceded that the 3.4% figure is wrong – but watch how they try to avoid revealing that tobacco clearances actually rose in the first 12 months of plain packaging:

61. It is not correct to attribute all plain packaging related refunds to clearances processed by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (Formerly the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service) between December 2011 and November 2012.
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (formerly the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service) has advised Treasury that refunds paid under the Tobacco Refund Scheme cannot be linked back to original clearances which in some cases may have occurred before December 2011. This is why the information is disclosed separately in the document released under FOI request 1703.
62. While tobacco clearances are an indicator of tobacco volumes in the Australian market, there will be lags between clearances, entry into the market, purchase by consumers and eventual consumption.

In English: “Somebody somewhere told us something vague and we’re just repeating it here”.

Again we are being invited to believe that the federal government wrote a cheque to refund excess tobacco excise that had been paid and the government doesn’t know why that refund cheque was issued? That it can’t determine where and when the tobacco excise was over-paid? Strange then that it does know how much to refund. Surprising that the federal government doesn’t employ double entry book keeping techniques.

Notice how the questions haven’t actually been answered. Lots of waffle. We’ve known for a long time that the 3.4% figure is wrong, Treasury should simply come clean and admit the error. Effectively they have already thrown the Health Department under the proverbial bus so why prolong the agony?

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25 Responses to Memo to Sussan Ley: It’s the cover up not the stuff up II

  1. C.L. says:

    Excellent work.
    But then … IMO plain packaging was never really about reducing smoking. None of the tobacco prohibition policies are really about reducing smoking. They are culturally punitive measures designed to punish smokers for not obeying the state. They are also about maintaining and building up the anti-smoking industry. I’ve quoted him before and here I go again … They are like Shawshank Redemption Red’s explanation of “rehabilitation.”

    I know what you think it means, sonny. Me, I think it’s a made-up word, a politician’s word. A word so young fellas like you can wear a suit and tie and have a job.

  2. I am the Walras, Equilibrate, and Price-Take says:

    Effectively they have already thrown the Health Department under the proverbial bus so why prolong the agony

    They’re hoping you’ll go away and stop interrupting their onanistic plain-packaging fantasies with your factual statistics.

  3. robk says:

    The world is watching.
    Health Dept: you can only get the kudos if the numbers are right (and honest).
    Sinc and David well done.

  4. Ragu says:

    Outstanding Sinclair.

    More champagne tonight I presume

  5. Baldrick says:

    Keep at ’em Doomlord. The public deserve to know the truth about Roxon’s plain packaging scam.

  6. Nicholas (Excentrality!) Gray says:

    But how many people are reading this? Can’t we get the news out to everyone in some way?

  7. Rabz says:

    Sinclair – I appreciate your tireless efforts to disclose the truth, but the anti smoking zealots (who are seriously starting to give me the proverbials, BTW) will never, ever admit to being wrong, fabricating data, or arriving at entirely dodgy fact and evidence free conclusions.

    We are way beyond that point.

  8. Stimpson J. Cat says:

    Smoke em if you’ve got em.

    But more needs to be done.
    I will not rest until every condom packet sold in Australia has a mandatory graphic picture of a particularly nasty sexually transmitted disease.
    For the sake of our children.

  9. alexnoaholdmate says:

    Well done gentlemen. Excellent work.

    This is the stuff David should stick to – getting the facts out there, not telling Swiss citizens that they know nothing about Switzerland.

  10. Stimpson J. Cat says:

    This is the stuff David should stick to – getting the facts out there, not telling Swiss citizens that they know nothing about Switzerland.

    I’m uncomfortable with designated flare sections at the soccer.
    It seems….trivial.

  11. Pete of Perth says:

    Does the Department of Health employ ex-climate scientists?

  12. Atoms for Peace says:

    The sad thing is that pollies who’ve been around the traps long enough know thst joe public is as dumb as a bag of rocks/#

  13. . says:

    Matricibus delenda est.

  14. Some History says:

    Excellent job, Sinc. You’re just touching on one small aspect of the prohibitionist onslaught and the havoc it’s wreaked. However, it’s important that you keep some spotlight on these greedy, self-serving liars. It’s also a prompt to questioning the litany of other claims, i.e., agenda-driven and inflammatory, that society has been bombarded with over the last 30 years.

  15. Some History says:

    There are many junk studies spewed out by Public Health that are masqueraded with complex terms. The lay person would have no hope of seeing through the shenanigans. But the following “study” concerning exposure to secondhand smoke and obesity in children really affords even the “unfamiliar” a glimpse into the perversity that is much of Public Health “research”.

    “Fat and stupid… the shocking fate awaiting children of smokers revealed”

    It’s long been known that one reason that some women (and probably some men) smoke is to keep their weight in check. It’s also known that people who quit smoking tend to put on a significant amount of weight, e.g.,

    Smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke has been highly prevalent for the last century with a peak in the few decades post-WWII. Most importantly, if what these researchers are claiming is valid, then there should have been a super-pandemic of obese and cognitively challenged children during the 1950s/60s/70s. There wasn’t: Nothing remotely so.

    I don’t have the information at hand but I have seen a graph highlighting an inverse relationship between smoking and obesity. As smoking (and exposure to smoke) has declined, obesity has risen.

    We don’t even need to look at the substance of the “research” because this tiny “study” flies in the face of a century worth of information involving numerous generations (millions of children) in many countries. There must therefore be something seriously astray with the “research” in question.

  16. Some History says:

    Researchers need to provide a very good reason for investigation, a coherent rationale for the inclusion of specific experimental variables. The critical question to be asked here is what motivated the researchers to investigate SHS and obesity when nothing historically prompts such research….. quite the opposite. The motivation is ideological.

    Consider one of the authors of the research acting as spokesperson for press releases, Martha Tingen. Amongst a number of titles, Tingen is also Director of GRU’s Tobacco Control Initiative and Co-Director of the Child Health Discovery Institute.
    Dr. Tingen is a behavioral nurse scientist targeting primary and secondary prevention of tobacco use in children and parents through culturally tailored interventions. She also addresses multiple risk factor reduction to include passive smoke exposure, asthma, obesity, and alcohol largely focusing on health disparities through a community-based participatory (CBPR) approach. Her overall goals include preventing premature death and disabilities of cancer and cardiovascular disease through promoting healthy-behavior choices in families.

    Tingen, like all in contemporary Public Health, is a tobacco-use prohibitionist. This is the motivation behind the “research”. A nonsensical “study” slapped together that provides the “right” conclusions to advance the prohibition agenda. The conduct is fraudulent.

    If the questionable study wasn’t enough, Tingen takes the opportunity to spout antismoking slogans during the press release:
    “We are talking about a recipe for an unhealthy child who becomes an unhealthy adult who cannot reach their full potential”.
    Dr Tingen said children don’t have a choice and parents who smoke are putting themselves and their children at a physical and mental disadvantage for life.
    “If you are breathing in second-hand smoke, it’s almost as bad as if you were smoking the cigarette yourself,” Tingen said.

    These vacuous antismoking slogans are not even implied by the “research” in question but presented as if they are.

    The greater historical context for this study is very important. Professional researchers are supposed to be familiar with any information relevant to their research. Yet we have a group of researchers entirely unfamiliar with relevant history, producing findings that are entirely at odds with a mountain of contrary evidence. These researchers have been caught out badly. They, and those presenting “research” suffering the same fatal flaw, should be hammered on this point of serious ignorance/incompetence and which also calls into question the motivation and integrity of the study and its findings. It would certainly help in exposing the destructive scandal that is Public Health.

    We can be sure that this study will not attract any critical scrutiny in the Public Health literature. Rather, it will be counted as “mounting evidence” that will eventually become – fraudulently – the basis for agenda-driven policy/law.

    Universities are supposed to be places of impartial scholarship. Yet in Public Health departments do we get the exact opposite – anti-scholarship. Members hold particular ideological stances and it takes little scrutiny to demonstrate that much of the research coming from Public Health specifically concerning “lifestyle” is corrupted…. agenda-driven. The conduct is fraudulent. Large amounts of usually taxpayer funds go through the hands of Public Health that bastardizes enquiry to produce agenda-driven results. It is political activism of the worst kind – activism masquerading as a scientific pursuit. Apart from the study of contagious disease every other aspect of university Public Health departments should be shut down. They need to be rebuilt from the ground up, stripped of the corrupting activist, dictatorial element.

  17. Some History says:

    This “research” was picked up by quite a few media outlets. The headlines range from “exposure to secondhand smoke linked to obesity in children” to the following:

    “Another nail in smoking’s coffin? Smoking makes your kids fat, research finds”

    “Fat and stupid… the shocking fate awaiting children of smokers revealed”

  18. stackja says:

    Lots of waffle.

  19. Some History says:

    In covering their own backs, the hospital administration allowed – since 2007 – a woman to believe that the death of her newborn was “caused” by her smoking.

    HSE apologize after mum believed that death of newborn at Portlaoise was her fault

    Little Dylan Franks died in the operating theatre not long after his birth on March 6, 2007.
    The court yesterday heard that a huge distress for Dylan’s parents was the the fact at his inquest, HSE witnesses stated the cause of the baby boy’s death was chronic utero placental insufficiency and, and as a result, Dylan’s mother thought she was responsible because she had smoked during her pregnancy.
    In the apology, Midlands Regional Hospital said it was aware of the Franks’ experience with them in relation to the death of their beloved son Dylan on March 6, 2007.
    “We wish to express our sincere apologies for the failings which caused Dylan’s death.
    “The hospital accepts responsibility for these failings which should not have happened,” the hospital said.
    It added: “The hospital sincerely regrets the tragic consequences its failings have caused to you both and your family.”
    The apology was read out in court as Dylan’s parents Aidan and Elsie Franks of Scart, Roscrea, Co Tipperary, settled their action against the HSE over the death of Dylan and also for nervous shock…….

  20. Some History says:

    Concerning a campus-wide smoking ban in Florida. I think this university already has indoor bans and is now proposing adding on outdoor bans.

    “We’ve had complaints about second-hand smoke, some faculty have
    asthma, and are affected. And there’s third-hand smoke from that dropped butt. I’m still getting that smoke.”

    The deluded are now propagating thirdhand smoke “danger” from dropped butts – outdoors….. they’re “still getting that smoke”. And this coming from a senior university administrator.

    God help us.

  21. Lem says:


    How about some Friday night hip hop?

    Just saw this.

  22. MareeS says:

    FFS, is nobody looking into the real tobacco market? Raw tobacco is now as lucrative as dope as a cash crop, thanks to the tax-it-to-death idiots in the PC industry. Seriously, you only have to be friends with a bikie or two to get an idea of how the tobacco market is going, and where the money is going.

  23. boof says:

    MareeS is bringing some sanity to the debate, chop chop, bulk and in nice packets is readily available, mostly in Asian and Middle Eastern influenced shopping centres all over Australia, you don’t need to know a bikie. Good quality tobacco seeds are also freely available over the web. Tobacco like other drugs is freely available and visible except to the police.

  24. Angus Black says:

    This topic is raised over and over on this website – I still can’t get my head around why you all care so much about a 55th order problem.

    You may, so far as I know, be 100% right, but so what if you are? What practical difference would ditching plain packaging make to the country? Seems to me that all you really care about is getting someone in authority to say “Hey, Sinc, you were right and we were wrong!”

    So here you go: You were right, they/we were wrong.

    Sleep well tonight.

  25. . says:

    Because property rights matter.

    I can’t believe you are so flippant about this.

    Look at the penalties for growing your own tobacco:

    It is a massive issue of government greed, civil liberties and justice.

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