The mother of all shameless spinners

The splendid catallaxyfiles.com has sprung Kevin Rudd in yet another shameful bit of political spin.

Hot on the heels of Julia Gillard’s father dying of shame, we now discover that Kevin Rudd’s mother died of lung cancer, which Rudd publicly attributed to passive smoking.

Here’s The Australian:

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who said his mother was a non-smoker who died from passive smoking, said it was a leading cause of preventable death and disease.

He said 30 per cent of cancers were linked to smoking.

And there was an "extraordinary cost" to the public hospital system. It [sic] accounting for 750,000 hospital bed days a year, costing the economy $31.5 billion a year.

You can read the ABC Lateline transcript as well:

"I’m the son of a woman who never smoked in her life and she died of lung cancer, we assume through passive smoking."

And at the PM’s own website:

“My dear beloved mum, the teetotaller from central casting, the anti-smoking campaigner from central casting, having lived the life of an angel, dies of lung cancer. Why? We don’t know and we never will.”

Did Rudd’s mother (who passed away at the age of 84) suffer and die from passive smoking-related lung cancer? 

Good question. Mrs Rudd was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1963 and eventually had a mastectomy. The cancer, however, came back in 1973, but Mrs Rudd eventually died of ‘unrelated causes’ in 2004. We know all this because her son Kevin shared it with us in a 2008 speech that he’s probably forgotten about. 

Towards the end of her (long) life, Mrs Rudd also had Parkinson’s Disease. What caused this – could it be passive smoking? Well, the Mayo Clinic – unlike Rudd – is happy to admit that we don’t actually know

  • Your genes. Researchers have identified specific genetic mutations that can cause Parkinson’s disease, but these are extremely uncommon, except in rare cases with many family members affected by Parkinson’s disease. However, certain gene variations (polymorphisms) appear to increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease, but with a relatively small risk of for each of these genetic markers.
  • Environmental triggers. Exposure to certain toxins or environmental factors increase the risk of later Parkinson’s disease, but the risk is relatively small.

Most research also indicates that smoking is actually protective against Parkinson’s Disease

And here’s Kevin himself, while on sabbatical from the Prime Ministership, marking World Parkinson’s Day because his mother suffered from it

I’m not disputing that Marge Rudd disliked the smell of cigarette smoke, or that perhaps people smoked near her from time to time. But for her son to claim that:

a)    she was a victim of it to the extent that it caused her to develop lung cancer and die

b)    while not mentioning her history of breast cancer and Parkinsons

c)    this justifies a hike in tobacco taxes backed by some extremely dubious and unsourceable figures about the ‘health costs of smoking’

is absolutely disgraceful. 

And you know what? I hear no squealing from the ABC fact-checkers. Or from anyone in the mainstream media at all. 

Not a single, solitary toot.

Philippa Martyr blogs at Transverse City, which has just celebrated its first birthday.

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