The Foul Stench of Smoking-Related Addiction To Taxpayer Funds

Monday’s revelation that professional nanny statist Mike Daube blatantly lied to the government and public about the Carmen Debacle is only the tip of the iceberg about the shady dealings of Healthway.

The Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance has uncovered millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars have been funneled to…  the personal activist groups of Healthway Board Members.

Healthway is a taxpayer funded West Australian Government Agency, already under investigation by the Public Sector Commission following a damning report by the State Government’s Auditor General.  Included in the report are items such as the former Executive Director using corporate boxes for his family and other alleged incidents of misuse of sponsorship funding (why do they have corporate boxes in the first place?)

A column in today’s West Australian by Paul Murray, whose investigative journalism on this matter has been nothing short of amazing,  noted  millions of dollars of taxpayer funds given by Healthway to groups associated with Mike Daube at a time he was a Board Member of Healthway noting: “Healthway grants made to Curtin University programs, totaling more than $2 million from a pool of $18 million. In the most recent financial year, $2.7 million was provided for organisations in which three board members, including Professor Daube and Dr Capolingua, had direct connections” Read the whole thing (and it’s particularly commendable that this story was run given that Healthway also gives taxpayer dollars to… The West Australian!)

But as bad as that story is – the actual situation is even worse. A lot worse. 

The Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance is particularly concerned regarding the doling of taxpayer funds to ACOSH and the Public Health Advocacy Institute, the pet projects of Mike   which engage in highly dubious activities outside the scope. While we have no doubt that Daube and co formally abstained from the relevant votes, the overall picture painted is damning.

ACOSH an activist body which campaigns for things standard nanny state policies, like smoking in your own home, smoke free prisons,  and governments, super funds, and private companies to divest from various investments.  Mike Daube is a Healthway Board member and also the ACOSH President.

ACOSH is awarded over $200,000 in taxpayer funds by Healthway every year (in 2012/13 and 2013/14 it has been over $230,000.)

Mike Daube is also the Founder and Director of The Public Health Advocacy institute of West Australia (PHAIWA). He founded PHAIWA in 2008, and joined Healthway in 2010. And he is NOT a medical doctor!

The current chair of Healthway is Rosanna Capolingua. Ms Capolingua joined the Board of Healthway in 2008 when she was also the chair of PHAIWA.

Since 2008, the Healthway  has awarded over $2 million in taxpayer funds to PHAIWA.

Tellingly, the Healthway report doesn’t specifically say they awarded taxpayer funds to PHAIWA. Rather, they say the funds are given to Curtin University, with whom PHAIWA is affiliated. To make matters even more confusing, while in 2008/09 and 2009/10 the PHAIWA funding was in one lump sum, from 2010 onwards  the funding is split into two categories: “Build Public Health Capacity through advocacy” and “Build Public Health through ‘Community Knowing”.  Mike Daube joined the Healthway Board in 2010.

This raises the question – why not say explicitly the funding is directed to PHAIWA? And why break it up into at least two categories?

(There are many other funding grants given to Curtin University, some of which may also have been sent to PHAIWA, and our investigations on this are ongoing.)

And what does PHAIWA do?

Mainly, it trains activists and lobbyists.

It’s states on its website it’s main goals are “providing tools, resources and skills to organisations and individuals to improve their ability to achieve effective advocacy” it does things like running courses on how to be an activist and writing op eds, creating an Advocacy toolkit on how to be a more effective activist. It also advises activists on how to lobby politicians , issues report cards about local governments, and so on. It’s strategic plan lists as its top priorities developing a state election strategy, lobbying for the introduction of new legislation, and conducting ‘market research’.

Let us be clear: Taxpayer funds  are going to organisations that not only lobby, but to organisations dedicated to training and developing a whole new generation of lobbyists.

This is unconscionable on so many levels.

The conflict of interest of Healthway’s Board is inescapable: even if relevant parties abstained from the decisions in question, and there is some legitimate reason for the funding obfuscation in the annual reports, the overwhelming scope of conflict of interest is such that serious questions must be investigated.

The lack of transparency and accountability in this area really is quite remarkable.

Secondly, why, at a time of severe fiscal strain for the WA government, are taxpayer funds going to these groups in the first place? Even if we accept the argument that there was no conflict of interest with millions of dollars going to Board Members pet projects, why are PHAIWA and ACOSH receiving taxpayer funds in the first place?

How can it be a legitimate role for our taxes to pay for not lobbying governments, but to train more professional lobbyists!  This is even worse than the big-government merry-go-round, where politicians give taxpayer funds to activists to promote their personal agenda – this is a case of activists taking taxpayer dollars to pay for more activists!

In the current fiscal situation in Western Australia, the use of taxpayer dollars – with no proper scrutiny, accountability, or transparency, to fund political lobbying campaigns and enrich activists with a direct conflict of interest, is utterly unacceptable.

It is now clear that a mere investigation into Healthway, as we have previously called for,  is insufficient. The Agency has demonstrated it is simply unable to continue in its present form.

This is a question of integrity: This WA government was elected on an commitment to bring in integrity into public finance. It’s time they put their words into action. 

As such, The Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance formally calls for the West Australian Government to disband Healthway, and subsume whatever legitimate actions it has back into the Department of Health.

 

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