(Starting of on a positive note! The National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM), headed by Prof Alan Bensoussan, recently won the Bent Spoon award for the; “perpetrators of the most preposterous piece of paranormal or pseudo-scientific piffle.“ In other words, they were named by the Australian Skeptic’s as the biggest, and dare I say, most dangerous quacks in Australia. You can read about it here and here.)
In part 1 I’ve shown that a number of key Australian ‘academics’ (Proff Alan Bensoussan, Charlie Xue etc.) made it extremely easy for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to achieve their goal of internationalising TCM. Prof Bensoussan (an acupuncturist) has managed to achieve statutory regulation for TCM practitioners in 2012, elevating TCM to the same level as conventional healthcare. He used this ‘achievement’ to lobby for TCM’s inclusion in the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Australia and China, and unfortunately, he was successful. To lobby is one thing, but you need the support of high level politicians to achieve your objectives. This article will highlight the involvement of various politicians, but also the regulators, and how Prof Bensoussan managed to get their support.
The ‘Four Corners’ investigation
An investigation by the ABC’s ‘Four Corners’ exposed the CCP’s secret networks in Australia. They disclosed that certain Chinese billionaires with links to the CCP, donated substantial amounts of money to various political parties. This led to some politicians changing their views, quite notably Mr Sam Dastyari, against party line on Australian foreign policy – specifically regarding the South China sea melting pot (new recordings was revealed today). In light of these revelations a senator stepped down, or is about to step down, but it also elicited a scathing response from the former premier of NSW, Bob Carr. He tried to downplay this, in his view, ‘perceived’ Chinese influence and argued that this might instead be a golden opportunity for Australia. Problem is that; “Bob Carr is the director of the Australia China Relations Institute (ACRI) at the University of Technology Sydney. ACRI was setup with a $1.8m donation from Xiangmo Huang who is one of the two Chinese donors who were the subject of the Four Corners expose Bob Carr seeks to downplay in this article.”
Mr Xiangmo Huang and Mr Chau Chak Wing, named in the Four Corners investigation, have also been pumping millions of dollars into some Australian universities, quite notably Western Sydney University (WSU), University of Technology Sydney (UTS – Bob Carr heads the ACRI at UTS), and to some degree, RMIT university. It therefore stands to reason that the CCP also wants to exert an influence on the Australian academic and healthcare systems. Part of this influence involves the internationalisation of an ancient pseudoscientific and mainly ineffective healthcare system, known as TCM. TCM is not an evidence-based healthcare system, but is nonetheless a very large and lucrative industry ($170 billion).
By using internationally accepted scientific methods will lead to a reduction in the total number of TCM treatments, currently estimated at 13 000, to only a handful. Hence, the big money is in the ‘magic’ (or mysticism) in which all 13 000 treatments remains effective. A public belief in this magic has therefore to be nurtured, which will lead to widespread acceptance of TCM in Australia and expansion of the industry via Australia. Take the magic away (by applying science) and the whole industry will collapse – and this is not what the CCP nor Prof Bensoussan wants. Part of getting the job done is to target Australian politicians for support of TCM, and as such, why not start with the man with the top job? (for background information part 1 should be read and more information regarding TCM can be found here and here).
Mr Tony Abbott (former Prime Mister & Minister of Health)
Quite recently Mr Tony Abbott attended “the launch of Chinese-born businessman Tao Li’s sheep placenta enriched skincare cream, Chantelle. On stage, Mr Abbott spoke of his longstanding support for the Chinese community and business in Australia, as he spruiked the merits of initiatives such as the China-Australia free-trade agreement…..” Clearly Mr Abbott has a thing for the strange and weird and does not seem to hold science, or consumer protection, in high esteem. But let’s have a closer look at Mr Abbott’s role in TCM.
In 2007, the then Minister of Health, Mr Abbott, was approached by a TCM practitioner proclaiming that he needs $4 million in order to provide the Australian public with the ‘correct’ information regarding TCM and complementary medicines in general. Mr Abbott ignored the fact that TCM is a dangerous pseudoscientific healthcare system, and that its practitioners will always promote all of it, because their livelihoods depend on it.
Unfortunately, Mr Abbott did not show him the door, no, he decided to place his trust in an acupuncturist (Prof Bensoussan) and handed him a $4 million cheque. This money was used as seed funding for the NICM. Regular readers will know that the NICM accepts money from homeopaths, acupuncturists, energy healers etc. and in exchange they use their university setting (Western Sydney University – WSU) to provide credibility and unbridled support for these thoroughly debunked complementary medicines (this is also the reason why the NICM won the Bent Spoon award in 2017.)
A tumultuous political period propelled Mr Abbott into the PM seat. It started when PM Kevin Rudd was stabbed in the back (2010) by his deputy, Julia Gillard, who became the first female PM. She was dethroned by Mr Rudd in 2013, who promptly lost the elections a couple of months later to Mr Abbott. Mr Abbott was in turn stabbed in the back by Mr Turnbull in 2015. Five PM’s in five years, and although quite entertaining, an excellent opportunity for foreign powers to try and exert their influence during such a period of instability. So, while the politicians were grabbling to try and stay in power and solving artificial first world problems, the CCP steadily exerted its influence with Prof Bensoussan taking his chances when Mr Abbott became PM in 2013.
Mr Abbott appointed Mr Andrew Robb as minister of Trade in 2013, and tasked him with getting the FTA done and dusted. Having a PM who is clearly in favour of ineffective complementary medicines, including TCM, it should come as no surprise that Mr Robb accepted Prof Bensoussan’s word and included TCM in the FTA (more about Mr Robb a bit later on). After signing the FTA, Mr Abbott also publicly defended part of the deal, which states that; ‘up to 1800 visas for Chinese service suppliers to enter Australia for up to 4 years, the visas will be for Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners, Chinese chefs, and Chinese Language coaches.’ Mr Abbott also send a congratulatory note to WSU when the NICM opened a Chinese Medicine Centre in 2016, with their objective being; “….spreading Chinese medicine further to the world.”
Although all four PM’s had contact with Mr Huang Xiangmo, quite recently (June 2017) it came to light that Mr Abbott has been warned in 2015 by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) about the possible influence that the CCP wants to exert; “A key political fundraiser for former prime minister Tony Abbott has maintained contact with Chinese Communist Party-aligned businessman Huang Xiangmo, despite warnings from ASIO to Mr Abbott about the billionaire donor. In 2015, Mr Abbott was briefed by ASIO chief Duncan Lewis about the agency’s concerns that Mr Huang’s close ties with the Chinese Communist Party might mean his donations could be used to advance Beijing’s interests.”
Internationalisation of TCM is of interest to the CCP and Prof Bensoussan, and I would suggest that the CCP was quite successful in achieving this objective in Australia! More information regarding Mr Huang Xiangmo and his involvement with TCM can be found in part 1.
But what about the current PM, Mr Malcolm Turnbull?
Well, what can I say. He promotes TCM by using it! Mr Turnbull publicly claimed that a TCM practitioner ‘helped’ him to lose weight. It becomes ridiculous when you look at the TCM treatment itself. It included Chinese herbal tea (price tag $5000) and, wait for it, fasting! I am not sure why, but I do feel the need to explain this phenomena for the uninformed (including some PMs). When you fast, you lose weight! The herbs and abdominal acupuncture has nothing to do with it!
This is an excellent example of how these pseudoscientists operate. They give good advice (balanced diet, exercise etc. which every GP will also give you) and then they claim that TCM is (partly) responsible for the observed effect. This is what they want you to think. And, of course, they want you to market their treatments by word of mouth, especially when you are the PM. It is a pity that an influential person such as Mr Turnbull can be hoodwinked this easily. After his endorsement of TCM, this particular practitioner is making a lot of money and is opening more TCM clinics in Australia where he treats anything from toothache to cancer. I fear that by providing his endorsement the PM has inadvertently signed the death warrant for people who suffer from serious medical conditions who might now decide, based on the PMs word, to give TCM a go instead of evidence-based treatments. (In 2017, this practitioner was found guilty of “unsatisfactory professional conduct” in an unrelated case.)
So, we have two PMs who is clearly pro-TCM. This, of course, makes life for the CCP and people such as Prof Bensoussan a lot easier.
The Minister of Trade, Mr Andrew Robb
As mentioned before, a key person in the FTA was the Trade minister, Mr Andrew Robb. He encouraged states and territories to sell and lease their assets, and also defended the lease of Port Darwin to the Chinese company, ‘Landbridge’. It did raise a number of eyebrows when Mr Robb resigned from politics shortly afterwards in favour of; “the $73,000-a-month retainer that former federal trade minister Andrew Robb has snaffled from the well-connected Chinese billionaire who bought the Port of Darwin.” Although within the rules, Mr Robb should definitely not expect a ‘Australian of the Year’ nomination anytime soon. Mr Robb was however a primary target for Prof Bensoussan.
A document was prepared by Prof Bensoussan for Marcus Blackmore, the founder of the controversial supplement company Blackmores. This document contains a list of Australian politicians who they should lobby together in order to get political support for ineffective complementary medicines, including TCM. China is a very big export market for companies such as Blackmores, hence their collaboration with the NICM with their high profile Chinese connections (Blackmores recently donated $10 million to the NICM to assist in ‘integrating’ ineffective treatments (incl. TCM) with effective treatments.) The two excerpts below make it clear that the NICM lobbied Austrade (Mr Robb) to include TCM in the FTA.
“Australia is currently working on a free trade agreement with China. On this basis Alan has held high level meetings with potential commercial partners in China. China has pushed for the free flow of practitioners between Australia and China however, it is not likely they will get a free flow of products through. Alan has spoken to the VC and Hugh Funder from Austrade about regulations pertaining to a strong R&D platform under the free trade agreement. China has asked for a separate agreement to articulate the R&D platform. Andrew Robb is assisting NICM to pursue free trade with the support of the VC” (Sept 2014)
“The aim is to find a commercial partner or first choice commercial partner that will actively invest in NICM’s scaling up, through the development of a commercial platform for introducing Chinese medicine to western markets. Talks have been held with Austrade about the support they can provide in building a strong R&D platform with Chinese collaborators, including the possibility of progressing this as part of the Australia – China free trade agreement negotiations.” (Oct 2014)
It is no secret that China wants a free flow of TCM (practitioners and products) into Australia in order to expand their $170 billion TCM industry. Alan’s lobbying has paid off and Andrew Robb has written a letter to the Chinese Minister of Commerce which made Australia’s commitment to trade in TCM and complementary medicines very clear. A win-win for the bottom line of Chinese and Australian companies (such as Blackmores hence their partnership with the NICM), but a major step backwards for science, scientific education and research, and importantly, the health of the general public (I have recently emailed Mr Robb enquiring about TCM and if he was made aware by the NICM regarding the many dangers involved. A response was received from a secretary indicating that he retired from politics and that I should contact Austrade – a dead end I guess).
Promotion of TCM by other Australian politicians
Here is a media release by the then minister of education, Christopher Payne, heaping his praises on the NICM and the inclusion of TCM into the FTA, stating that; “Benefits to flow from the partnership include a new research-led Chinese medicine clinic in Sydney, better patient outcomes and the potential for Australia to tap into the $170 billion global traditional Chinese medicine market.” Here is a very interesting Hansard of the House of Representatives (Feb 2015 – pages 142-147) where a number of politicians – Mr Matheson (MacArthur), Mr Jones (Throsby), Mr Alexander (Bennelong), Mr Thistlethwaite (Kingsford Smith), Ms Scott (Lindsay), Mr Hayes (Fowler) – provides a very positive but one-sided view on the inclusion of TCM into the FTA.
It boils down to this; the NICM is excellent, TCM is the next big thing in healthcare, and we all stand to make a lot of money. The fact that TCM is mainly ineffective, and therefore quite dangerous, does not seem to bother anyone, or at least, not a single politician understands the necessity to run this pass a couple of scientists first. And this can only mean one thing. All of these politicians have been spoon-fed with this misleading information, and now they pat each other on the back, and regurgitate this in front of a pro-TCM PM.
The Hansard makes it clear that the CCP will give (or has given) $20 million, via the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, to the NICM in order for them to establish a joined commercial TCM ‘hospital’ in Sydney (they call it a clinic but it will be much more like a hospital if they get their way). The CCP therefore already has a strong foothold in the Australian healthcare system from where further incursions will probably take place. Clues as to what the CCP wants to achieve can be found in China itself; ‘In July a law came into effect that requires local governments to open TCM departments in all general hospitals, and to give “equal emphasis” to TCM and what China calls Western medicine.’ With this kind of political support and with Prof Bensoussan as the main driving force in Australia this definitely does not bode well!
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)
To have political support is always good but you also need the regulators on your side. Because Prof Bensoussan knows that TCM is mainly ineffective, he also knows that there will be a couple of hurdles to overcome. One of these hurdles is the regulators, in Australia, the TGA. To overcome this hurdle for the CCP and the TCM industry, a MOU was signed between the NICM and one of the biggest TCM producers in China, ‘Tong Rang Ten’ (Oct 2015). The focus of this MOU is on how the NICM will assist the company to get their products through the registration process in Australia.
To achieve all of this, Prof Bensoussan has been exerting his extensive influence at the TGA where he served for more than 10 years on the TGA’s ‘Expert Committee on Complementary Medicines.’ He even acted as Chair on this committee for a number of years. Companies such as Tong Rang Ten is of course elated by Prof Bensoussan’s assistance and his hard work in getting TCM into the FTA, and through the regulators, stating;
“I think with the implementation of the [FTA] agreement, many medicines, especially some important herbs, good-quality herbs, and those written in the Chinese herbal dictionary, will be approved by the Australian medicine authorities. As a result, we will have an increasingly wider road, and open more and more branch stores in Australia.”
Prof Bensoussan was instrumental in misleading the TGA into accepting a ‘long tradition of use’ as a measure of safety (effectiveness seemingly does not matter). The results speak for itself with the TGA now excepting around 140 fake or pseudoscientific TCM ‘indications’ such as; “Harmonise middle burner (Spleen and Stomach)”, “Unblock/open/relax meridians”, “Balance Yin and Yang”. If these draft indications are approved, you will be able to go to a pharmacy if you feel that your ‘meridians’ are blocked.
TCM is based on pseudoscientific principles, where no accurate diagnosis can be performed coupled with ineffective/dangerous treatments. It is such a pity that the leaders in society cannot come the this really simple conclusion and that the money aspect seems to blind them from the very obvious.
Most of the politicians named in this article has had links to Mr Huang Xiangmo, who in turn has links with the CCP. He has been pumping millions into Australian universities where Prof Bensoussan again acted as the man in the middle. It should be clear that this money has been influential regarding the promotion and growing acceptance of TCM in Australia. But what is fascinating is that the media seems to be reluctant to delve into this issue. I am no Trump supporter but one of the reasons might be that the media is not always as independent as claimed – they also have vested interests. For example. The ABC accepted an unknown amount of money from the controversial supplement company Swisse and in return Swisse gets; “exclusive advertising rights to reach 190 million people across Asia who can access online and television channels broadcast by Australia Plus.” Trade in Australian complementary medicines with China is also part of the FTA.
But I have to extend an olive branch to the politicians named in this article. No person can have expert knowledge of everything from medicine to global warning. You need expert advisors to fill the gap. The heart of the problem is when universities such as WSU hire pseudoscientists such as Prof Bensoussan. He now becomes an expert advisor and provide misleading information to just about everyone, including politicians. Sure, these politicians also have the responsibility to double check the information, but at the end of the day the blame should be on WSU for allowing this to happen (I have been warning them about this for almost 4 years now).
There is still some crucial information that is missing. What did the NICM tell all of these politicians in order for them to happily sign off on TCM? Mr Robb unfortunately does not want to reveal anything, but I do have some interesting information that was send to the former NSW minister of health, Jillian Skinner. In Part 3 I will describe this information which was, in all likelihood, also send to the politicians mentioned in this current article.
It is in effect a ‘tale of two letters’ with one letter warning the minister about the dangers of TCM (and the NICM’s modus operandi) whilst the second letter, written by the NICM, promoting TCM. No prizes for guessing which letter was the most convincing. In 2016 she was on her way to China accompanied by Proff Bensoussan, Barney Glover (VC of WSU) and Dr Ven Tan (TCM practitioner and founder of Tasly Healthpac where the tragic ‘slapping therapy’ death occurred) to help Prof Bensoussan in lobbying for funding of his, and the CCP’s, big plans for TCM in Australia.