Apparently, someone thinks that they are the only person allowed to have a public opinion about Burzynski in a moving picture, as false takedown order attributed by Google to Burzynski movie director Eric Merola’s production company has been issued against c0nc0rdance, who posted a very good video about the Clinic in February. Whoever did this, well, they done somethin’ ornery. -Skeptical Humanities
(Yes, another post about the Australian Anti-vaccination campaign.)
The Australian Vaccination Network has been getting plenty of attention lately. This is after all their last year in existence so lets make it a good one. Recently the AVN has been slammed in parliaments of New South Wales and South Australia. We are hoping to see them condemned in all six states and both mainland territories. As usual I've highighted (bold font) my favorite parts..
The NSW slamming by Dr Andrew McDonald is especially interesting:
The Australian Vaccination Network is a fervent and highly virulent anti-immunisation group. Its name and website are designed to mislead unsuspecting community members to believe that a balanced view about immunisation is being presented. When provoked, Australian Vaccination Network’s fellow travellers can and do behave reprehensibly. The police have been called to my office on one occasion following threatening emails after I raised concerns about the practices of the Australian Vaccination Network.
The bill amends section 7 of the Health Care Complaints Act to make clear that a complaint can be made against a health service if the health service affects, or is likely to affect, the clinical management or care of an individual client. This will mean that if a person or group acts as health service providers in a manner that is likely to affect an individual, even if one has not been identified, the Health Care Complaints Commission will have the necessary jurisdiction to investigate a complaint against that health service provider. The Australian Vaccination Network website is a mixture of scientific fact, half-truths and unproven allegations that only an expert eye can pick.
As I said earlier, this is a group that vehemently opposes immunisation. Groups or persons such as the Australian Vaccination Network are entitled to their views because we can all agree to disagree. However, the Australian Vaccination Network is a health service provider and should accurately reflect what those views are—in this case anti-immunisation. Like all health service providers it also should accept the consequences of its provision of health services on individual patients. -NSW Parliment Transcript, Page 58
I took particular interest in: "When provoked, Australian Vaccination Network’s fellow travellers can and do behave reprehensibly. The police have been called to my office on one occasion following threatening emails after I raised concerns about the practices of the Australian Vaccination Network."
Over the years the Australian Vaccination Network in particular it's former president Meryl Dorey has repeatedly accused critics of inciting others to behave in a less than civilised manner. I won't go into details about that now (More in a future blog post) but I thought it was an interesting observation.
Then came the slamming in South Australian parliament (full transcript):
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (15:33): As members of parliament, we have a great privilege in shaping the policy and laws that guide our state, but with that, I believe, comes a responsibility to base what we do on the best available evidence and on scientific consensus. Science is central to our understanding of the world. Good, accepted science is testable, can be replicated, peer reviewed, unpicked, examined and reconstructed, but it is also open to new ideas and is self-correcting when better evidence is presented and properly tested.
However, science regularly finds itself under attack. As Ian Chubb, Chief Scientist for Australia, recently noted:
As a society, we should be challenging those who, regardless of reason or factual basis, mock science and scientists for their spurious ends, whether it’s a headline or avoiding an inconvenient truth.
And he is right. The Hon. Ann Bressington has been making quite a name for herself recently in her assaults on accepted science. From her Agenda 21 conspiracy, which seems to hold that scientists and policy makers across the world are secretly involved in an elaborate conspiracy to control all aspects of our lives, to supporting the chemtrail conspiracy, which claims aeroplanes deliberately drop chemicals on the population for some reason. Apparently, it happens right here in Adelaide. To quote the Hon. Ann Bressington, ‘from two unmarked plain white small aircraft that often land at Parafield Airport after a morning spray’.
Many such conspiracy assaults on science can be mildly amusing and, apart from encouraging others to abandon reason and critical thinking, do not necessarily do much external harm. However, some anti-science irrationality actually causes harm—potentially, great harm.The Hon. Ann Bressington is a well-known and vocal opponent of the fluoridation of water. I am not an expert in this area of science, so I rely on the overwhelming scientific consensus. Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council and the World Health Organisation are strong supporters, and the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention have called fluoridation of public water supplies one of the 10 most important public health achievements of the 20th century.
It is suggested that fluoride is dangerous because it is toxic. This falsehood comes from a very fundamental misunderstanding of the idea of toxicity. Toxicity is dose dependent; it depends literally on how much you have. The water to which fluoride is added is toxic in high enough doses; when consumed in large quantities, people die from water intoxication. Respected scientists, experts in their field, those whose research is properly peer reviewed, overwhelmingly agree that the levels of fluoride added to public water supplies are safe and have a very positive dental health effect.
Then there are some anti-scientific pursuits that can actually lead to deaths, such as the anti-vaccination movement. The Hon. Ann Bressington commented on Twitter as recently as last month that vaccines are about population reduction. Nothing could be further removed from reality. Vaccines save the life of an estimated three million people every year.
As with the fluoridation of water, over time individuals, groups and researchers dwelling at the fringes of science have criticised the efficacy of vaccinations, or they have falsified or overstated potential side effects of vaccinations. Perhaps the best known example is that of Dr Andrew Wakefield, whose claim against the scientific consensus that the MMR vaccine might be linked to autism saw vaccination rates in England drop considerably. The dangers of relying on bad, not accepted science were highlighted when this particular doctor, who was found to have falsified his results, was struck off as a medical practitioner and massive conflicts of interest in his research were revealed.
The Australian Vaccination Network is a fearmongering anti-vaccination group pushing this life-threatening nonsense in this country. They have been the subject of various adverse findings and orders by health authorities, government departments and Liberal government ministers in their home base of New South Wales. I congratulate the New South Wales authorities for tackling this dangerous group.
The risks posed by the anti-vaccination movement are real. Millions die unnecessarily. Children too young to have their full course of vaccinations and the herd immunity that prevents the uncontrolled spread of horrible disease are put at risk. On vaccination the science is clear; the debate is over. The benefits of vaccines are so immense that the morality of advocating against them without very good evidence needs to be questioned. When bad science is promoted such that it can cause great harm, we have an obligation to call it out. We cannot stand idly by and let such claims go unchecked.
I note that the Hon. Rob Lucas is down to speak after me, and I invite the shadow health minister, who sits in this chamber, to join with me in condemning dangerous anti-scientific approaches to public health that can endanger lives and cause death. -South Australian Parliment Transcript
Then came New South Wales MP John Kaye:
New South Wales MP John Kaye says it's time for the state government to take strong action against groups like the north coast based Australian Vaccination Network.
A report released yesterday showed the north coast and more affluent areas of Sydney were at risk of infectious diseases due to low immunisation rates.
Mr Kaye says normally rational people are being brainwashed by vaccination fears. -ABC News
Additionally the president of the Australian Medical Association had this to say:
Unvaccinated children should be held back from school and groups spreading anti-vaccination messages should be punished, according to the federal president of the Australian Medical Association.
Dr Steve Hambleton said a report released on Thursday detailing national immunisation rates raised concerns about parents in certain areas not following vaccination guidelines.
''We should certainly make it difficult for [unvaccinated] children to get to school,'' said Steve Hambleton, responding to new national statistics on immunisation rates.
There is also a worrying undercurrent of vaccine objectors who believe conspiracy websites and reject public health guidelines.
These vaccine objectors ''should be ashamed of themselves'' for spreading misinformation and should be sanctioned, Dr Hambleton said.
''We need to look at the groups providing those anti-vaccination messages and we need to make sure we stop them . . . They are putting the community in danger.'' -Sydney Morning Herald
I agree, anti-vaccination campaigners need to be stopped and punished. (That's currently being worked on.)
Yesterday a blog post appeared on one of the Australian Vaccination Network's blogs titled: An organisation under siege.
You need to know. Because if you don't know, how can you ever take action? And you MUST take action! The AVN is not just fighting for its right to exist - it is fighting for your right to make free choices regarding your health and the health of your children. We are doing this with under $3,000 in the bank and we need a quick input of at least $5,000 to pay for legal costs this week alone! Government bodies are trying to stop us from speaking, from publishing and from helping others. We have been advocating for your rights for almost 19 years - can we count on you to oppose these efforts and advocate for us today?
The NSW Department of Fair Trading (DFT), is intent on silencing the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) and anyone else who expresses views that are seen to be critical of current government vaccination policies. They apparently feel that this aim is so important, they can behave in ways that would shock and appal any reasonable person - regardless of that person's viewpoint on the vaccination issue. -NoCompulsoryVaccination.com
Actually the Department of Fair Trading is insisting that the AVN choose a less deceptive name as the current one is likely to mislead the public about the nature of the organisation. The Department has made it very clear that they want the AVN to choose a name that honestly reflects their anti-vaccination position rather than pretending to be a legitimate source of information.
Since the Australian Vaccination Network cannot grasp the simple concept honesty they keep suggesting names that are equally if not more deceptive than their previous one. Until now only two of their suggestions were known but thanks to a letter disclosed by the AVN I can reveal more names they have tried to apply for:
- Australin Vaccination (Information) Network
- Australian Vaccination Information Network
- Australian Vaccination Information
- Australian Vaccination Network (for Choice)
- Australian Vaccination Choice
- Australian Immunisation Network
As you can see the AVN makes absolutely no attempt at choosing a less deceptive name and trying to suggest "Australian Vaccination Information" is nothing more than a big Fuck You to Fair Trading, and the regulations they are enforcing.
The Australian Vaccination Network considers itself a victim of government and big corporation conspiracies and is not afraid of accusing Fair Trading of corruption.
The ADT Member actually asked the opposing solicitor why there was such a big rush considering that our name had been used for 18-odd years. The only response made was that it was in the public's interest to make us change our name NOW! Well, if by public he meant the corporate pharmaceutical money machine, he was probably right.
A government department of, by and for corporate interestsThe fact is that one of our government's key roles is to protect the health and freedom of Australian citizens. In contrast with this goal, however, the policies of some government departments and ministers seem to be to restrict our rights and freedoms. This is demonstrated so clearly by their relentless pursuit of the AVN and others who support health choice.Can we count on you?What will it take to get you involved? What rights are you willing to lose before you reach the proverbial final straw?Will it take the loss of your job because you've been forced to be vaccinated? Having your family or children discriminated against because you want to be able to make health choices that may not necessarily be the same as what the government recommends? Being prosecuted for mentioning your own experiences with health treatments because they were not sanctioned by the TGA? When is enough enough? -NoCompulsoryVaccination.com
Again the Department of Fair Trading is simply asking the AVN to choose a non-deceptive name. The AVN chose to take Fair Trading to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal but are now complaining about the process. Fair Trading isn't a health authority and hasn't told the AVN that they can't spread false medical information, only that their name must reflect the nature of their activities.
Today the AVN was ordered by the court to place a consumer warning on it's website and Facebook page.
NSW Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts issued a formal order earlier this year that the Australian Vaccination Network change its name or be deregistered.
But the organisation attempted to thwart the minister's order by appealing in the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal.
Tribunal president, Judge O'Connor, responded to a bid by the AVN to stay proceedings on Friday by placing a number of conditions on the organisation.
A prominent consumer warning must be published on its websites and Facebook page by March 26.
It will state: "NSW Fair Trading has directed the AVN to change its name because it regards the name to be misleading. The AVN is challenging this direction and the challenge is currently before the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal." -News.com.au
I look forward to seeing things get much worse for the AVN. 2013 is a promising year.
Yesterday the HEALTH LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2013 was introduced to the New South Wales parliament that aims to close a loophole that was used by the Australian Vaccination Network in 2012 to overturn a decision made by the Health Care Complaints Commission.
The AVN sued the HCCC for issuing a public warning against them back in 2010 and successfully argued that the investigation carried out by the HCCC was invalid because the complaint that lead to the investigation came from someone who was not directly harmed as a result of the AVNs false medical advice. Under the current legislation the HCCC could only investigate a complaint if the complainant has suffered as a direct result of the incorrect medical advice, assuming the victim survives and is willing to jump through the necessary hoops.
This amendment aims to close this loophole so that a complaint may be filed against a health service provided it can be shown that the service it is likely to cause harm to someone. It will no longer be necessary to prove that a person has been harmed in order to conduct an investigation.
Health Minister Jillian Skinner had this to say in parliament:
As members will be aware, the Health Care Complaints Act established the Health Care Complaints Commission as an independent body to assess, investigate and prosecute complaints against health practitioners and health service providers. However, a 2012 Supreme Court decision, Australian Vaccination Network Inc. v Health Care Complaints Commission, has led to a limitation on when the Health Care Complaints Commission can investigate matters affecting public health or safety. The structure of the Health Care Complaints Act means the Health Care Complaints Commission has jurisdiction to investigate a matter only when a valid complaint has been made. Section 7 of the Act sets out whom a complaint can be made about and this list includes health service providers. However, the recent case in the Supreme Court found the Health Care Complaints Commission can investigate only if the complaint shows that the health service in question affects the clinical management or care of an individual client.
The judgement has created significant concern that a complaint cannot be investigated by the Health Care Complaints Commission if the matter raises a real likelihood of impacting on public health or safety: There must be a specific case where an individual client is affected, thereby limiting the capacity of the Health Care Complaints Commission to act in the public interest. The bill therefore amends section 7 of the Health Care Complaints Act to make clear that a complaint can be made against a health service if the health service affects, or is likely to affect, the clinical management or care of an individual client. -NSW Parliament Transcript, Page 60
So in suing the Health Care Complaints Commission the Australian Vaccination Network has opened the door to allow all Alternative “Medicine” practitioners in New South Wales to come under the HCCC’s scrutiny. Any false information that’s likely to cause harm to another person’s health is now in the firing line.
Talk about shooting yourself (and your friends) in the foot.
After almost three years of intense public scrutiny the deceptively named Australian Vaccination Network is nearing the end. Back in December the NSW Department of Fair Trading ordered the organisation to change its name to something less deceptive due to concerns that parents might mistake the anti-vaccination pressure for a credible organisation.
Minister for Fair Trading Anthony Roberts today confirmed a formal order has been issued to the Australian Vaccination Network to change its name on the grounds it is misleading the public.
Mr Roberts said Section 11 of the Associations Incorporation Act 2009 provides the Commissioner for Fair Trading may direct an association to adopt a new name, where the name of the association is unacceptable.
“NSW Fair Trading has received complaints that the Australian Vaccination Network’s name is confusing and has misled the public as to its operational intention,” Mr Roberts said. –NSW Fair Trading and Letter from Fair Trading to Ms Dorey. (Ms Dorey was president of the AVN at the time of the order.)
However as could have been predicted the AVN has so far failed to come up with an appropriate name. With five suggestions already being rejected:
AVN president Greg Beattie told News Limited it was vital the words Australia and Vaccination remained in the group's name because they defined what the organisation was about.
He said the group had sent a letter to the Fair Trading Department to ask whether they would accept one of five suggested name changes.
These include Australian Vaccination Information Network and Australian Vaccination Choice.
"We can't just change our name under the Association's Incorporation Act, we must go through a process of consulting with our members and we need a 75 per cent majority vote," Mr Beattie said.
"We've had the name for 19 years, so we want as small a change as possible." -Adelaide Now
The two known rejections are;
1. Australian Vaccination Information Network
2. Australian Vaccination Choice
What part of "Choose a lees deceptive name" do they fail to understand. It seems like a pretty simple request, but then this group is not known for its ability to grasp simple concepts. If Mr Beattie insists on keeping the words Australia and Vaccination in the name then I would recommend either Australian anti-Vaccination and Immunisation Network, or Australian Society for the Spreading of Vaccine Preventable Disease.
I anticipate that the AVN will fail to meet the required deadline and end up getting deregistered. When that happens we can probably expect a whole new torrent of abuse and conspiracy theories to spew forth from the usual suspects. After all this is a "charity" that likes to blame its critics, for everything.
Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense. -Carl Sagan