One major concern I have always had is the irresponsible use of statistics. This covers the lack of research for so-called statistics bandied about to justify almost any crackpot stance, and on the other side is the use of statistics, or more to the point the bending of statistics and the inflation of statistics, to suit a cause. Dan Gardner is one who looks at the use of information to deliberately alter the thoughts of the populace by the media, politicians or one-cause campaigners. Dan has a book, among his many good writings, called 'Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear' and it makes thought-provoking stances. An excerpt can be found at the SMH: http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/dont-believe-the-hype/2008/04/25/1208743246526.html Â This one covers the 'fact' that 50,000 pedophiles are online at any one time. His website is here: http://www.dangardner.ca/ It is time to make the users of statistics accountable for where the information is derived, and more importantly what the criteria is when they finally announce the results. A classic is the the recent media release by Roxon, Minister for Health & Aging: "9/04/2008 - The federal government has appointed a task force to tackle the growing health and social challenges caused by smoking and drinking, which costs Australia $56 billion a year. A government report, released by Health Minister Nicola Roxon on Wednesday, shows that in 2004-2005, the social cost of alcohol was $15.3 billion, tobacco use was $31.5 billion and illicit drugs $8.2 billion. Alcohol and illicit drugs acting together cost another $1.1 billion." This story was picked up by every news channel in Australia and I am sure that $56 Billion will be mentioned over and over again. What they don't tell you is the criteria used in coming to that figure. A bit of research shows that the largest amount of the $56B is lost productivity in households. Yep, lie down after a night on the booze and the activities you might have planned for the day are rolled up in the so-called 'costs' to Australia. $12B is attributed to lost household production - $11B by premature death (that is, you cark it therefore the work you could have done is a 'cost') and $1B from sickness (you stopped doing something because you needed to lie down). They even throw in $44M because vehicles weren't available as a result of an accident (puh-leeeze!). $247M was slotted in as costs for insurance administration. And I won't go to where the household production value is calculated because it isn't available. Then there are the crime costs. Police $320M, Courts $28M, prisons $146M, property $145M, but the biggest figure is 'productivity of prisoners' at $388M! What the? We won't mention the loss to the nation if the police, judges, jurors, prison warders and retailers selling replacement products didn't earn a wage or profit. Even though that is the type of criteria used to inflate these costs, it wouldn't do to offset them in any way. Rant over, but you get the picture. These 'research' reports and figures thrown in our faces and acted on by governments and pushed by self-serving protagonists aren't worth the inflated committee's fees or, more importantly, our belief.