Government puts boot into the AVN, Democracy and the Truth

faceAs many of you would have seen, the NSW Department of Fair Trading has announced that they want the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) to change its name because of concern from within the community. Yet in their response to the media, the only one who complained was the Australian Medical Association – an industry lobby group who obviously feels threatened by the idea that parents might choose not to vaccinate – costing them money. Is this not anti-competitive behaviour on the part of a government department? Should government bodies really be cooperating so closely with those who hold strong vested interests in opposition to the interests of the public – interests which they are supposedly meant to protect?

The Department’s open cooperation with the AMA is analogous to them responding to complaints by mining companies about Greenpeace’s name. After all, Greenpeace is not green, nor do they go around looking for peace, therefore, would the Department tell them to change their name too? How about the Cancer Council? Couldn’t someone be misled into thinking that they are FOR cancer? And the Department of Health? Don’t get me started! The Department of Ill-Health would be more accurate in my opinion.

Community concern?

The saga started back in August of this year when the Department sent the following letter to the AVN’s office (please click on the image below to view it at full size in your browser)



On September 7th, I sent the following response to Mr Jones at the Department of Fair Trading and, having never received a response from him, I assumed that this government body realised how misguided it was to try to stop our group based solely on our name (which had been registered with them since 1996). It seems however, that I overestimated the maturity of government agencies!

Don Jones 07 09 12 re Name Change

Yesterday, the following letter was hand-delivered to my home by two Department of Fair Trading officials. I was not home to accept the letter since I was attending a conference on bullying at the time – pretty ironic, don’t you think? They had come to our home about 2 hours earlier looking for a different address – and it took them almost 2 hours to find the correct location. This is despite the fact that the Department of Fair Trading has had our physical address on file for many years.

In this letter, the Department is ordering the AVN to change our name or they will deregister us come February 2013, effectively closing our organisation down – apparently a long-time goal of government departments, the Australian Skeptics and Stop the AVN as well as the AMA and the pharmaceutical industry.

Hand-delivered letter re-name change

What’s in a name?

As I said in my letter of September 7th:

The Australian Vaccination Network has been registered with the Department of Fair Trading since 1996 and at no time until the present has our name been called into question. We represent a group of Australians who discuss the issue of vaccination and we are also a network of like-minded individuals who have banded together for mutual support and for the dissemination of information on the issues surrounding vaccination in Australia. Can you please inform us which of these words – Australian – Vaccination – Network, could possibly be considered to not represent our organisation? Which of these words does the Department consider to be misleading and why? Also, can you please inform us of what name the Department would consider to be appropriate for our organisation?

To date, I have not received an answer to any of my questions nor has the Department acknowledged the AVN’s concerns in any way.

In newspaper articles which have appeared in today’s papers, the Minister for Fair Trading (perhaps they might consider changing that name because at least in the present situation, it is extremely misleading!), Mr Roberts, stated that, “People do not have the freedom of choice when it comes to endangering others … it’s the equivalent of saying a bloke can speed down the road and endanger others,” So I ask – is Mr Roberts saying that vaccination is not a choice anymore and does he have any evidence to back up the claim that freedom of choice when it comes to vaccination is endangering others?  The outbreaks in highly vaccinated communities seems to say otherwise. In addition, it might appear that the Minister is be calling for vaccination to become compulsory in Australia when he states that people “do not have the freedom of choice”. This is an issue that should concern all of us – whether we choose to vaccinate fully, selectively or not at all.

The minister then goes on to state that he, “has warned other states if the AVN tries to register elsewhere.” We regularly hear of scam businesses and dangerous medical doctors who, being shut down in one state, immediately register in other states to continue practicing. Does the Minister for Fair Trading send the same APB out in these cases? Since they do this successfully time and time again, I would think he does not. Why the ‘special treatment’ for the AVN?

Whose pain and suffering are they talking about?

In the same article, it is stated that:

NSW Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts fired a broadside at the AVN, saying the information it provided was a public safety issue of “life and death”.

“This is not a victimless issue, it’s about the ability to stop pain and suffering,” he said.

It’s great that Mr Roberts wants to stop pain and suffering, but where is his concern for those children and adults who have suffered as a result of vaccination? And is his Department really supposed to make their decisions based on medical information or simply based on whether or not our name is considered to be misleading in some way by some unknown and unstated measure? If they based their decision on medical information, what was the source of this data and did they seek a range of opinions?

Rights? What are these rights of which you speak?

Most frightening of all – to anyone who is interested in issues of human rights and freedom of speech, is the fact that the Assistant Commissioner for Fair Trading is actually proposing changes to the legislation based solely on their desire to be given more power to force organisations like the AVN to change their names:

Mr Vellar said the NSW Government was working on changing definitions in the Associations Act to include group names that were in conflict with the group’s charter.

Two very important points to make here:

1- This is the second government body which has proposed changes to government legislation in order to better attack the AVN. The HCCC, who we bested in the Supreme Court earlier this year, is trying to change the legislation which allowed us to win against them. Astoundingly, they want complaints to be valid no matter who files them – and the person complained about would not have to be a practitioner or to have treated or advised the complainant – they simply would need to have made a statement which ‘affected’ the complainant in some way. Such legislation would be so open for abuse it would leave every Australian at risk of being the victim of one of these complaints. The only exception proposed to this legislation would be medical practitioners. So the government body which was set up to protect Australians from dangerous practitioners seems to instead want to protect practitioners from Australians!

2- Mr Vellar says that our name is in conflict with our charter, but I believe that Mr Vellar has never even read our charter (I am assuming he means our publicly posted constitution and code of ethics since we don’t actually have a document called a charter) because if he had, he would see that our name is absolutely representative of what we stand for. Here is a link to our constitution and here is our code of ethics.

Blog overlap

The letter from the Department was handed to my daughter at approximately 11:45 AM and the first article appeared in the Australian media approximately 10 hours ago. But Skeptic blogs started to announce this information approximately one hour before the media did. How do you think they came by this information? I really do wonder. Is there a direct line of communication between the Australian Skeptics, Stop the AVN (SAVN) and government departments? There is a long and open history of collusion between media outlets and various ‘skeptics’ so it is not impossible that they heard about this letter before the AVN had even received it. Is this collusion one of the reasons why these departments have been ‘putting the boot’ into us for the last 4 years at an apparent cost of millions of dollars to the taxpayer? Is the fact that many SAVN members are actually employed by government departments – and use their government email addresses when writing about the AVN and wanting to close us down – cause for concern? I will leave those questions with you to ponder.

Abuse of process

According to Section 11 of the Associations Incorporation Act 2009,  the Director General must specify why a name is unacceptable in order to force an organisation to change it. As far as I have been able to determine, he has not done so in this case. In addition, despite our asking what name or names the Department would consider to be acceptable, we have been left in the dark. We have also never been told what part of the words “Australian Vaccination Network” are considered to be misleading. This puts the AVN and our 2,000 members in a difficult – even impossible position – in regards to complying or negotiating with the Department.

In addition, the Director General has not responded to the AVN’s submission of September 7th regarding the reasons why we believe that our name should not be changed. Not allowing us to communicate with them on this matter is, we believe, an abuse of process and evidence of procedural unfairness.

It’s not about health or fairness

This struggle has never been about something as ridiculous as our name. Instead, it concerns the right for an organisation to provide information to the public that government has neglected or refused to do. Why won’t the government exercise its duty of care and fully inform Australians about both the benefits and  the risks of this medical procedure? And  when will this policy of information suppression and suppression of dissent change? If the AVN is fully dismantled, access to full information and support for families whose children are vaccine injured is even less likely or possible. But does the government truly think that shutting down the AVN will stop parents from questioning? Questioning vaccination has been going on for over 200 years – closing down one small group will not change that. And surely the parents of Australia deserve better than that from their government departments!

Since winning our case in the NSW Supreme Court in April of this year, the AVN has been targeted on more than 10 different occasions by 7 separate government departments. It is hard to see how this can be anything but a blatant attempt by these departments – working closely with industry groups – to suppress dissent on a health issue. Forcing the AVN to close or change its name is not in the public interest – it is only in the interest of pharmaceutical companies, government policy and mainstream medical organisations.

Posted in AVN
34 comments on “Government puts boot into the AVN, Democracy and the Truth
  1. Emma says:

    You said “those choosing not to vaccinate-costing them money” that is the exact subject I have been trying to find info on. I’m hoping you or someone could help? Is there any documentation of how much the vaccines cost the government (Medicare) it would shed a light on how they are making money off it and also show their bias to pushing the vaccines…please help!!

  2. CARMEL VOTANO says:

    The issue of vaccination is an extremely serious one and affects every Australian.The AVN and Meryl Dorey have done an outstanding job in educating the public and highlighting this very serious issue.Meryl is a total professional and an expert in this area and she has all the supported evidence and facts and speaks from a highly informed position with 30 years experience. Every talk, workshop and seminar that she has presented has been done in a clear,objective,factual,calm,professional, open and honest manner with only one objective in mind, to present ALL the facts of the vaccine issue and make the most important point of all that the whole debate is about pro information and choice AND not taking sides either way which is what the media and politicians want you to believe as a deliberate ploy to ”divide and conquer” which is the oldest trick in the book and evident to anyone who has half a brain.This has been openly stated by Bill Gates who is the main instigator and leader behind world vaccination and he has openly stated in a report which you can read that ”vaccines are the only answer to reducing the world population”.He believes there are too many people in the world as a number of other people do as well such as Al Gore and Ted Turner.

    The vaccine issue however is only the smoke screen for the REAL agenda which is to take away our health freedom and the right to choose the health modality we prefer for ourselves and our family.The government wants to destroy anyone who has a different outlook on health issues because they are a real threat to the seriously dysfuntional so called health system.They know the AVN is right but they can never and will never admit it because it will open up Pandora’s box to all the corruption and lies that we have been fed with for so long.It is now proven that vaccines CAUSE autism and a multitude of other health issues, it’s not even a debate anymore because there is nothing to debate.The current court cases overseas in Italy, USA and U.K. which have been successful have proven this.
    The thruth is the government has no business in meddling in health issues and they have no mandate to do so, in fact it is a constitutional breach and they have betrayed every Australian.Also they have no experise or knowledge in health related matters.They should instead focus on what their job really is and that is to get us out of the mess which they have created.
    I salute Meryl Dorey who has stood up for what she believes in even in the face of death threats and smear campaigns.Meryl is genuinely concerned about people’s health and the right to choose and there is no other objective.She has worked extremely hard since she commenced with the AVN and I have the highest respect for her and everything she stands for.
    These are the dirty desperate tactics that opponents always use when they have totally lost the argument and there is nothing left for them to do except to stoop to the lowest common demoninator because their motto is ”Whatever It Takes”.

  3. Gareth says:

    Ben took his ball and went home……

  4. Jonathan says:

    Meryl, do not give up. I believe your recent spate of radio interviews across Australia where you came across as intelligent, balanced, fair and well-informed would have infuriated the pharmaceutical industry and various govt departments and this is the reason for this latest attack. But you must know how many people heard your voice and have been awoken to this problem as a result of those interviews. You will have saved many children from vaccine-injury just in the past few weeks alone.

    i quite like the name “Australian Vaccination Choice”.[AVC], if you had to change the name. Of course, there is no reason i can even fathom why AVN is inappropriate. The bottom line is that they probably think it sounds to government-official…ie the name sounds TOO GOOD…and is working TOO WELL. Thats about all they could complain about in theory…of course they would not actually say this. And they figure a name change would take some of the wind out of the networks sails. I think people who are searching for the truth on vaccination would find the network no matter what it is called. With a good Google optimization you would be able to out-search even government departments easily and be higher on the search list with many other names.

    “There will be NO Carbon Tax under the government that i lead….we PROMISE a Surplus in 2012-13….oh and Vaccination does not cause Autism….TRUST US”. Lies Lies Lies. When will the govt learn that once you lose public confidence that it affects every aspect of their message. Quite simply, we just dont believe the government any more. It is critical that we receive truthful and balanced information from other sources.

    Meryl…you are winning. Do not give up. x

    • admin says:

      Thanks Jonathan – I won’t be leaving this issue and all of the constant attacks by SAVN and the Australian Skeptics and their abusive, violent behaviour only reveals even more clearly that they haven’t got to leg to stand on in the debate. People don’t debate by abusing their opponents – they debate by using information and trying to show why they believe their data is correct. If they can’t provide data to show why they are correct, the only thing they can resort to is abuse. They have nothing.

  5. Aussie mum says:

    You could always change the name from “Australian Vaccination Newtwork (Inc)” to

    “VACCINE INJURED CHILDREN’S (website)” rest assure the AVN name will be more appealing then!

    I am being factitious!

    From a mum who is sick and tired of this country and all of their “illusion of activities to help with Autism” and yet the government continues failing our vaccine injured children.

    Our children are very sick and require urgent medical treatment.

    My son’s Autism is Iatrogenic.

    AMA cease with the name calling and start treating our children with some dignity.

    • Aussie mum says:

      I forgot to add to my posting.

      Australian Government & AMA – Now I am putting the boots in!

      P.S – For my 10 year old, vaccine injured & non-verbal son.

  6. Mark says:

    Mike, the AVN gives people information such as links to peer-reviewed articles in medical journals. This information is not “vehemently anti modern medicine” although the occasional blog post might come across that way. They contain relevant medical information and ideas which parents may use to make an informed decision–information which they will never get from the local immunisation nurse. This site is encouraging people to become as informed as possible, so it is ironic that they should be chastised as unscientific for doing so.

  7. “They simply use the old psychology – of berating and using ‘Ad Hominem’ labels. Scare and threat tactics.”

    Scare tactics?

    “Reaction to vaccine controversies has contributed to a significant increase in preventable diseases including measles[5] and pertussis (whooping cough), which is currently experiencing its worst outbreak in 70 years as a result of reduced vaccination rates.[6]”

    Just FYI: your entire post is an ad hominem.

    Have fun.

    • admin says:

      Can you show the evidence that there has been a decline in vaccination against pertussis in Australia, leading to our current record-breaking epidemic? I would be very interested in seeing this data because all of the government information I’ve seen shows that our rates of vaccination have never been higher and we even have a small number of adults vaccinated whilst there didn’t used to be a vaccine for adults at a time when our levels of pertussis were far lower.

  8. -G says:

    Our focus is ‘FREEDOM TO CHOOSE’ – this is all. The government and the pro-vaccination people can say and do whatever they want – but one thing is for sure, they will never destroy the movement.

    Our focus is the message — ‘Freedom of choice’ — and to present literature on the other side of vaccination. Lets not get complicated.

    If they want you to change the name Meryl – so what? Lets register – or or whatever. The message is out – they will not stop it.

    The establishment are coming after you aggressively – they have come into your privacy, unleashed a tirade of abuse against you over a long period of time, yet more and more people are joining your organisation and seeing the truth of what you are doing. Meryl -you have won already by far! The message of Freedom of Choice is winning and will continue to grow from now on – and there is nothing they can do about it.

    Lets take this as a compliment that our Freedom movement is having the intended effect. The only thing the establishment can do is get aggressive, scream a bunch of profanity, and make threats. Scare and panic tactics. Stalin, Mao Hitler could not destroy the message of Freedom…and people living in oppressed situations are continually resisting…there is no difference here.

    Do you remember what Gandhi said?

    First they laugh at you

    Then they fight you and beat you

    Then you win..

    This man – Gandhi – withstood the English forces and King at that time…what courage he had! – The Almighty Imperial forces could not win, because the message is indestructible.

    Lets be clear here – this is no longer a question of whether Vaccination is effective or not effective. No No No.
    It is simply about Free choice – as to what we, as responsible people put into our bodies and our children’s bodies… This is all.

    The pro-vaccine are refusing to look at the many Doctors who speak against Vaccination – including one of Australia’s most esteemed – Dr Archie Kalokerinos.

    The fact is the Pro-vaccinator’s will not look at any argument that opposing Doctor’s present, no matter how strong or factual the argument is.. They do not show respect or even curiosity as to why so many intelligent and hard working people choose not to vaccinate. .

    They simply use the old psychology – of berating and using ‘Ad Hominem’ labels. Scare and threat tactics.

    Meryl – i urge you to re-group your energy and your organisation – and re-focus on what is important- the name doesn’t mean a thing.

  9. Mike Mayfield says:

    Your logic doesn’t make any sense, Meryl.

    It doesn’t cost the AMA a solitary cent if parents choose not to vaccinate. On the contrary, more people being infected with vaccine-preventable disease would be an excellent money-making endeavour for medical professionals. The only possible explanation for wanting people vaccinated to prevent disease is because they don’t actually want people to be diseased. When you actually know medical professionals or bother talking to them, you realise very quickly that they actually do sincerely want people to get better or be healthy. They have enough work already, as you would know if you had a clue about their working hours. They really don’t need more people getting sick from preventable infectious disease, risking the health of both themselves and others they come into contact with.

    Again, to suggest the Cancer Council might be “for” cancer is quite absurd given the fact everybody knows cancer is a serious and debilitating illness which kills, and the Cancer Council makes no secret of this. However it’s not unreasonable to think that the AVN is “pro” vaccination by it’s title. It talks of choice and access to information, yet the only information ever provided by the AVN is vehemently anti-vaccination, anti-moden medicine, and anti-mainstream doctor. There is simply no other type of information provided on any forum by the AVN, and people who want to read about the “pros” are largely told to go away and find out for themselves, or on a few occasions I’ve seen on your forums, are bluntly told that there are none. However for the anti-vaccination side, you are happy to voluntarily drench them in “information” on your web forums, even when it is misleading or incorrect.

    You go on to invoke god-knows how many conspiracies in this article. I lost count. You’re not making a very smart argument when you simply invoke one conspiracy after another with nothing more than assumptions and guilt-by-association. If you have adhered to consumer laws and business laws like everyone else in the country has to, you will have absolutely nothing to fear.

    • admin says:

      You are so funny Mike! My personal belief – from the experience of my own children and the children of the thousands of families I personally know who chose not to vaccinate, is that once you stop vaccinating, you stop seeing doctors. Because your kids are healthy. They don’t get sick. And when there is a minor cold, flu or other wellness challenge, you handle it yourself or see a natural therapist instead of seeing a mainstream physician. So the threat to western medicine is real – your statements are not based in reality.

      • Ben says:

        Your beliefs are not based in reality, although you have the right to hold and talk about them. Anecdotes are not evidence. The same percentage of vaccinated children are perfectly healthy and never see a doctor apart from their vaccinations. If, however, a disease we vaccinate for makes a reappearance, you have put the lives of your children (and a percentage of vaccinated children) at risk.

        All the Government wants is for you to be honest about the agenda you push – they aren’t even making you stop presenting your superstitions as fact.

        • admin says:

          Ben, one simply question – can you point me to the large-scale trial that shows, as you stated:

          The same percentage of vaccinated children are perfectly healthy and never see a doctor apart from their vaccinations.

          • Ben says:

            You have provided no peer-reviewed evidence, why do you ask others to do your legwork for you?

            I can provide studies refuting some of your claims (vaccinations causing autism is the easiest to refute) when I have time.

            I wonder if your studies take into account that children who die of preventable diseases are probably going to have fewer diseases through their short lives?

            I suppose it’s a waste of time arguing with crazies though. You’ll reject any evidence you disagree with and believe any conspiracy theory that fits with your prejudices. I’ll just invest in tinfoil hats and move on in my life, hoping that your children don’t contribute to an epidemic.

            • admin says:

              Ben, I disagree – I have presented the government’s own statistics showing that in excess of 93% of all children under the age of 4 are currently vaccinated against pertussis and yet, we have more cases of pertussis then we’ve had since 1953 – the year the vaccine was first introduced to the schedule. Now, you are saying that declining rates of vaccination are the reason for this outbreak – which, by the way, is occurring in every developed country that uses the vaccine. I have provided primary references to medical studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals indicating that the pertussis vaccine is ineffective, that vaccination against b.pertussis increases by 40 times the susceptibility to b.parapertussis, a related bacteria which produces identical symptoms and that the vaccine may be responsible for the emergence of a mutated form of pertussis bacteria which is responsible for approximately 84% of all pertussis infections in Australia.

              Against this information, we just have your statement which is not backed up by anything. I have asked you to provide evidence to back up your assertion. You are saying you don’t have to. And you claim that the AVN is unscientific?

              • Ben says:

                I’m not the one making the crazy claims here; that would be you. Link the studies here and I’ll have a look to see if I can see where you’ve gone wrong. Or maybe, like I said, I’ll just go on with my life because arguing with crazy people never helped anyone.

                It is a bit funny that you’re claiming to be ‘scientific’ while saying you take your children to a ‘natural therapist’.

                Maybe you should just harden up, admit your name is misleading and change it to ‘Anti-Vaccination Network’. You won’t even need a new domain name.

              • ndw says:

                Hi there,
                just wondering if you could add the hyperlink/links to the Governments own stats re pertussis?
                Many thanks

  10. tuxcomputers says:

    This struggle has never been about something as ridiculous as our name.

    Forcing the AVN to close or change its name is not in the public interest

    Do you see the conflict between those 2 statements?

  11. What about all the deceptive news headings and advertising the public are continually subjected to in an effort to get our interest? The public are constantly being forced to engage with advertising and articles to discover the content. Why should website names be any different? If some sort of legislation can be drawn on to force AVN to change its name, perhaps that same leglslation could be used to get advertising and news articles more reflective of their contents.

  12. Tan G says:

    Where do we go from here? If all these organisations are colluding it obviously means that we are winning. Free choice in
    Australia? We are a socialist country – and soon to be communist. When the government can push people around this. It seems that China is not so far away.

    • Winters says:

      Couldn’t agree more. I wonder sometimes why people want to go down the road of communism considering dictators like Stalin, Hitler and Mao who caused millions of deaths. So much for democracy or the right to freedom of choice or speech! Yet when I mention these things like the right to decide, I’m somehow the bad guy for not going along with everyone else! What happened?

  13. Col says:

    The newspaper report of the action of the Department of Fair Trading was released online at 00:00 EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME. This news report was shared and comments were made on social media after 00:00 EDT on Saturday 15 December 2012.

    For those in a different time zone this time would be their own local time. For example, in Queensland, which does not have daylight saving, at 23:00 (11 pm) on Friday 14 December 2012.

    An imputation of conspiracy that relies on an inability to tell the time holds the former AVN and its founder up to further ridicule. Another egregious failure to check the facts from the deceptively-named “Australian Vaccination Network”.

    • admin says:

      Col, what time these things happened had nothing to do with my comment but thanks so much for the lesson.

      I checked and the first news story was X number of hours prior to my starting the blog – whereas there were other blogs that had reported in an hour or more before that. Get it?

  14. Luke says:

    It’s not anti competitive as this suggests that you have an alternative product to offer. Also not vaccinating would increase the income of doctors who would have to treat the increased morbidity associated with not vaccinating. So they’re in effect arguing to decrease their overall income.

  15. Robin Nelson says:

    Sounds a lot like the poor fellow that tried to stop maternal and baby mortalities by getting medical staff to wash their hands!!! AVN is absolutely descriptive of who you are and thus a good name!!!

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