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    Here in Queensland we have seen a similar balanced approach to addressing the issue of alcohol fuelled violence. The Queensland Government, in its infinite wisdom, has set up local alcohol management committees in each entertainment precinct across the state, to fix this problem, which have been subsequently hijacked by local publicans and club owners and rendered impotent. How can any body be effective when it is controlled by persons with a vested interest in ensuring that nothing changes?

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    noel turnbull

    As i have told Mike Daube before, Internet research is a poor substitute for real research – and as a university professor he should know that. He keeps getting his facts about DrinkWise wrong. There are a number of obvious explanations for this – either he hasn’t done the research, he doesn’t understand what he has found or he is misrepresenting what he has found. The reality is that, on this issue Mike is a PR campaigner pursuing a particular world-view and theory. Indeed, I think his real concern about DrinkWise is that what it is doing is working – a most inconvenient fact from his point of view.

    Noel Turnbull

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    Simon Chapman

    What a very odd reply from Noel Turnbull. Internet research is not “real research”? Google shows that there are 10 scholarly journals out there starting with “Journal of Internet …” (Business; Business & Commerce; Law; Commerce; Medical Research; Research; Technology; Cataloging; Marketing; Engineering) with a total of 161.191 million links, and 11 journals called “Journal of Online …” with 255 million links. Looks like there are just a few more researchers out there like Mike Daube who think the internet is a legitimate area to conduct research.

    Speaking of which …. Mr Turnbull’s Growth Solutions Group website lists four alcohol industry accounts. None of them — unlike the Group’s work for Odessy House — note that the work was done pro-bono. So will Mr Turnbull give us the “obvious explanation” he alludes to about whether or not his company does derive income from the alcohol industry?

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    Mike Daube

    Mr Turnbull’s comments about internet research are ill-informed, but presumably intended to imply that my comments are inaccurate.

    I have met Mr. Turnbull once, at a recent Drinkwise event in Sydney. He said that I was the person who had been saying things about him that were wrong. I asked him what I had said about him that was wrong, as I would not want to say anything inaccurate. He declined to tell me. I asked him again; he shrugged his shoulders and declined to tell me. I asked him a third time, saying again that I was very keen not to say anything inaccurate, so would like to know if I had got something wrong, and if so what. He again declined to tell me.

    Mr. Turnbull clearly reads Croakey, so may I again through your columns ask him to tell me specifically what I have said about him that is wrong. I would also appreciate specific information from him to justify his assertion that “He keeps getting his facts about DrinkWise wrong”. Generalised comments of this kind are easy to make, and comment is free, but facts are verifiable: what “facts about Drinkwise” have I got wrong?

    Mike Daube

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    noel turnbull

    I have two objections to Mike Daube’s comments.

    The first relates to what is appropriate in terms of academic research and public discourse.

    The second relates to the broader question of alcohol policy. Mike Daube is an advocate of the view that alcohol problems can be cured by simply reducing availability (fewer outlets etc etc) increasing taxation, banning advertising and sponsorship and similar policies. In theory he is right – it worked in France during the Second World War. The question is whether such draconian policy will be able to be implemented without a public backlash which brings into question other measures to reduce alcohol harm. The public reaction to the draft NHMRC alcohol consumption guidelines – which were interpreted as saying that four standard drinks was a binge – are an indication of this. Many general practitioners (albeit on anecdotal evidence) have indicated to me that they don’t find the new guidelines useful (useless is a common description) in terms of advising patients in the consulting room. This is a small example of the sort of backlash we could anticipate – irrespective of the scientific basis of the guidance.

    An alternative view of alcohol policy is that we need to target specific patterns of drinking – specifically in Australia’s case the fact that too many Australians drink to get drunk – and to seek to leverage opportunities to bring about long-term cultural change. This is an approach DrinkWise is taking. The NSW Department of Health is planning a similar approach.

    As for the claims which are inaccurate and why they are being made.

    Mike Daube was one of the leaders of a group of anti-alcohol lobbyists concerned that the rejected alcopops tax legislation revenue would come to DrinkWise because the industry wouldn’t take it back. He and the rest of the group launched a campaign – same messages, same claims, different messengers – in support of the tax and seeking to denigrate DrinkWise as a means of supporting their campaign. This a perfectly legitimate thing to do. I have run many similar political and PR campaigns on other subjects myself. be clear – it is a political and PR campaign not a scientific public health intervention.

    Mike Daube persists in questioning the balance on the DrinkWise Board because there are curently six alcohol industry reps and five community reps. He has been advised on a number of occassions that this is simply because there is a vacant community position which is in the process of being filled. Yet he continues to use the misleading figure on balance. This is not a general criticism of him – it is a quite specific example of getting the facts wrong.

    Mike Daube has also claimed that DrinkWise undertakes “tepid” and ineffective advertising. He has been provided with the research which demonstrates that the Kids Absorb Your Drinking ads are working. Why has he not recanted his position? This is not a generalised comment – it is a specific complaint.

    He also doubts the comment made by our Chair as to why we don’t have a policy on tax. It is a fact that you cannot have six industry leaders sitting in one room agreeing on a policy which will affect pricing. This is not an arcane legal point – it is a well-known aspect of trade practices law which I would have thought it commonly known by well-informed members of the community. But confronted with the fact Mikle Daube snidely slides sideways and says alcohol companies campaign on taxes. Of course they do – as individual companies. I can understand that Mike Daube might be ignorant of the law – but as a senior academic he ought to ascertain what it is before he makes claims about what he thinks it is. This is not a generalised comment – it as an example of him either wilfully, or for some other reason, getting it wrong.

    Simon Chapman chides me for my comments about Internet research and points out that there are many on-line academic journals. He knows full well that I know that and that was not the point I was making. The question is whether you consult a peer-reviewed journal online or whether you just check things out on non-peer reviewed sites and then cite them.

    Finally Mike Daube says I had the opportunity to set him right on his claims when we met in Sydney. This was shortly after he had encouraged Adele Horin to publish an inccurate and defamatory article about an individual involved with DrinkWise which was clearly identifiable as me. Now as an ex-journo, ex-political staffer and ex-PR person I have only one thing in common with John Howard – I have a deep-seated principle that I never sue whatever is said or written about me. I fight my own battles in public and not in the courts. But I am not so saintly that I want to make it easier for the other side.

    When we met Mike Daube said to me that it was bizarre that I wouldn’t tell him what he got wrong.

    I think it is bizarre that he should think I should bend over backwards to help someone who receives a professiorial salary to check his research more carefully.

    Finally, I gather that on the strength of the corporate DrinkWise website Mike Daube has concluded, that I am a director of a company (Growth Solutions Group)which has alcohol industry clients.

    It is correct that before I retired seven years ago this month I worked for a company – not GSG – which had alcohol industry clients along with other clients such as VicHealth, Quit, and Australian, State and Territory health departments. My father also worked for Carlton & United Breweries for a few years after he returned from the Second World War. My grandfather was an SP bookmaker and sometimes sold a bit of sly grog on the side. My other grandfather used to take me to the pub with him when I was very young. I would have happily told Mike Daube all this if he had asked.

    After my retirement ( and before I became involved with DrinkWise) I became a non-executive director of Growth Solutions Group.However, I am not a director of GSG and have not been for two years. Before that I had taken a lengthy leave from my non-executive position to ensure that there was no conflict between DrinkWise and GSG. I would also happily have told Mike Daube that too if he had, at any time, asked before making the claims he did.

    In his defence – on this issue at least – I don’t know why the DW website is not up to date. I did a quick check with Google and looked at a few other places where my CV is cited and there are others also not up to date. I don’t normally Google myself and I certainly don’t rush around keeping the CV’s which other people publish about me up to date. I do keep my own up to date and do ensure that all legal requirements are met in terms of appropriate declarations. If Mike Daube had bothered to check – rather than relying on a Google search – he could have discovered that at any time in the past couple of years.

    Mike Daube also says I cannot be regarded as a “community” director of DrinkWise.If I may be immodest for a moment: I am currently Chair of the Mietta Song Recital Award Committee, a Director of Chamber Music Australia, Chair of Collections Council of Australia, Chair Faculty of VCA and Music Advisory Board, member Melbourne University Council, Patron Victorian Writers Centre. I have been Chair of the Melbourne International Arts Festival, the National Book Council and Visions Australia. I have also been involved with the Victorian Writers Week, Australian Book Review, Port Melbourne City Council, the Australian Labor Party, the Port Melbourne Tennis Club and an office-bearer in a host of other organisations. I have been published by Oxford and Cambridge University Presses as well as Allen & Unwin.

    I don’t think of this as being involved in the community – it is just living an ordinary life and trying to help where you can. My involvement with DrinkWise is because I think it is making a difference to Australia’s drinking culture. I will let others – well at least others other than Mike Daube – judge whether this is a legitimate community member or not.

    However, what is most important is that Mike Daube cannot welcome, or even condone the fact that DrinkWise is trying to make a difference in reducing alcohol harm.

    But if you are pre-disposed to assume an international conspiracy – which is what he has described DrinkWise as being part of – it is hard to see how he can.

    Noel Turnbull

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    Mike Daube

    Despite his initial claim about me that “he keeps getting his facts about DrinkWise wrong”, Mr Turnbull’s lengthy tirade has not identified a single inaccuracy in my Croakey comments.

    Even the information that he gave up his directorship of Growth Solutions Group two years ago does not point to any inaccuracy on my part. I wrote that, “Mr Turnbull is a successful public relations practitioner listed on the DrinkWise website as a Director of Growth Solutions Group….”, which, is entirely accurate. It is a bit rich to blame me for taking information about him directly from his own organisation’s website. I didn’t “rely on a Google search” – I relied on information from DrinkWise!

    For the rest, much further misrepresentation (I am not “anti-alcohol”; the simplistic approach he attributes to me is his invention, not my views; my comments about the Drinkwise Board membership did not “get the facts wrong”, but fairly represented their situation, specifically pointing out that one of the positions was vacant; he doesn’t like my question about Drinkwise’s role in tax, but doesn’t identify anything I have said that is inaccurate; he writes that I have described Drinkwise as part of “an international conspiracy”, which is rubbish; ….and so on)……Much bluster, but no substance. And no explanation of how an organisation with six drinks industry CEOs on the Board (whether balanced by five or six other members) can be “a truly independent organisation”.

    Croakey readers have probably had enough of this discussion – but they are also no doubt well able to spot the difference between accuracy and bluster.

    Mike Daube

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    Jonathan Green

    That’ll probably do you two.

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    noel turnbull

    I was wondering when the “this correspondence is closed” sign would go up but given the number of his posts and mine I think Jonathan I ought to have one last right of reply to balance the numbers. You are welcome to give him my email address so he can reply to my question directly.

    George E. Bush, John Howard, Margaret Thatcher and Mike Daube are remarkable – they never give an inch or admit a mistake – just shift things sideways or change the subject.
    But, can Mike Daube give me a simple yes or no answer to the question: Does he believe DrinkWise is contributing to achieving changes in Australia’s drinking culture?

    Noel Turnbull

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    Simon Chapman

    As Noel Turnbull appears to know (“Before that I had taken a lengthy leave from my non-executive position [as a director of GSG] to ensure that there was no conflict between DrinkWise and GSG.”, competing interests which require declaration do not extinguish on the day that a person ceases an association with a party that establishes the competing interest. For example, the British Medical Journal and JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association) both require authors to declare whether they have had any conflicting interests in the past 5 years. So how long was the “lengthy absence” he took from GSC before joining the board?

    Mr Turnbull should change his description on the DrinkWise website (if he actually ever looks at it which doesn’t seem to be the case) to make it clear at what date he ended his association with GSG; what dates GSG had financial engagement with alcohol industry interests; and what date he came onto the DrinkWise board.

    Public interest would also be served if all “community representatives” on the board declared on the DrinkWise website whether, in the past 5 years, they have accepted any financial or other support from any section of the alcohol industry or third parties acting on their behalf.

    Additionally, DrinkWise needs to be transparent about how its board determines policy. If there are 5 (or 6) current board members with current or recent competing interests, and 4 without, then if board decisions on any matters that might adversely affect the drinks industry are decided by a vote, only one independent director voting with the 5 (or 6) conflicted members will see the decision go their way.

    If half of a national tobacco control committee were representatives of tobacco companies, or half a group purporting to control problem gambling were from the gambling sector which derives large profits from problem gambling, would this discussion be even occurring?


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