Monthly Archives: March 2013

Anti-vaxxers trouble in court.

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.

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

 AVN Letter to Fair Trading

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 interests

The 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?

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.”

I look forward to seeing things get much worse for the AVN. 2013 is a promising year.

Anti-vaxxers shoot themselves and other kooks in the foot.

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. 

Australian Vaccination Network to finish this year.

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.

Anti-vax network cries "Procedural unfairness"

The Australian Vaccination Network sent out a very entertaining newsletter this morning complaining about the NSW Department of Fair Trading being meanies. The anti-vaxxers clearly think it’s unfair that a government regulator should be targeting them for repeatedly breaking the law. 

This newsletter is of particular interest because it provides a breif insight into the actions being taken against the Australian Vaccination Network. Although I am following the activities of this organisation very closely it’s easy to lose track of all the investigations being conducted by the various government departments. So it’s nice of the anti-vaxxers to provide a summary:

Procedural unfairness by Department of Fair Trading        

Since winning our case against the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) in April, 2012, the AVN has been subject to numerous investigations by various NSW and Federal Government bodies. These investigations have all been instigated by members of the hate groups the Australian Skeptics and their splinter organisation, Stop the AVN (SAVN). 

The complaints have resulted in the following investigations from these government bodies over the last 10 months alone:

  • The NSW Department of Fair Trading (at least 3 investigations)
  • The Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (at least 1 investigation)
  • The Therapeutic Goods Administration (at least 2 investigations)
  • The Department of Commerce, WA (at least 1 investigation)
  • Charities Victoria (at least 1 investigation)

This adds up to a total of at least 8 complaints over a 10 month period (one every 5 weeks) which we have had to respond to. There are dozens more that have been sent by these groups which are waiting in the wings for processing.

I’m pleased to announce that at least one of those investigations was because of me, no doubt there are going to be more in the future. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is one I would like to see added to the AVNs list of opponents.

Over the same period of time, threatening phone calls which were made to the home of then-President of the AVN, Meryl Dorey. Police determined they originated from the private phone of Mr Daniel Raffaele, founder of SAVN and an active member of the Young Australian Skeptics. Despite a sympathetic police force, nothing was done to charge Mr Raffele for these criminal activities. We believe the NSW DPP instructed police not to press charges against Mr Raffaele.

No, the Police could only press charges if the accusations were correct. So far I have yet to see any evidence to support the accusations against Mr Raffaele. Given that the accusation comes from a person of ill-repute it’s not a surprising outcome.

The current situation

In our estimation, the cost to taxpayers of the investigations into both the AVN and Ms Dorey would have to run into the millions of dollars and yet, there has been no justice or equity from within this same system for Ms Dorey or the AVN. The law seems to have been very selective in dealing with these issues.

For example, Mr Ken McLeod is one of the most aggressive of the attackers from SAVN and possibly the biggest money-waster. He was the original complainant to the HCCC, leading to a 2-year ‘investigation’ of Ms Dorey and the AVN which culminated in the HCCC’s loss in the Supreme Court with costs awarded to the AVN.

Except that’s not all that happened. The result of Mr McLeod’s complaint was the issue of a Public Warning. It was at a much later date that the AVN managed to challenge the HCCC’s jurisdiction based on a technicality.

Trying to blame the the complainant on the cost to the tax payer is akin to a criminal blaming informants for the cost of the police to investigate crime. If the Australian Vaccination Network didn’t constantly flout the law there would be nothing to investigate and very little cost to the taxpayer.

It’s especially interesting to learn that the AVNs definition of an “Aggressive Attacker” is a man acting entirely within the law. The fact that this organisation fails to recognise a law abiding citizen when it sees one is of no surprise.

Last year, Mr McLeod filed a GIPA (Freedom of Information Claim) with the Department of Fair Trading. He has requested the names, occupations and addresses of those who serve on the AVN’s Management Committee.

Due to a long history of harassment and threats by members of SAVN towards those who support the AVN (these actions have included but not been limited to hacking of websites, posting violent pornography to homes and via email, threatening phone calls and calls to employers), Committee members asked that their personal identities be protected. 

More lies, the AVN website was hacked but not by SAVN or anyone associated with them. It was a random drive-by exploit (Possibly SQL Injection) used by spammers to promote their wares. It came about as a result of the AVN’s technical incompetence, not the organisations critics.

I was in the process of writing a complaint to the Australian Privacy Commissioner regarding the website hack. The AVN continued to solicit personal information from people despite being aware of the security breach. Unfortunately they fixed the site just before I finished off my complaint.

The other accusations appear to be just a dubious as the hacking accusation. Nobody from SAVN is responsible for posting pornography, or sending threatening emails. SAVN and it’s supporters actively stand against such activities and operate within the law. Persons engaged in unlawful activities are unwelcome. There is no legitimate reason to try and keep the committee membership secret. 

We followed the necessary procedures…

There is currently an action before the Administrative Decisions Tribunal of NSW (ADT) regarding Mr McLeod’s GIPA request. On the 8th of November, 2012, the Information Commissioner wrote an advice to the ADT on this matter stating (amongst other things) that:

“The GIPA Act provides that there is a consideration against disclosure of information if disclosure could reasonably be expected to “expose a person to a risk of harm or of serious harassment or serious intimidation” (clause 3(f) of the table to s14(2) of the GIPA Act).”

At the time of this advice being received, the AVN’s solicitor was informed that a decision would be made by the ADT around the 30th of November, 2012. As of today, the 22nd of February, 2013, we are still awaiting their decision.

The Department has now given us until the 22nd of February to release the details of our committee members to them or face fines and potential closure of our volunteer-run organisation. We had asked them to await the result of this ADT decision since it could affect the outcome of this decision but at 5:17 PM last night, one day before the deadline, they refused and have demanded that we provide them with the names of our committee members.

Today, the AVN is seeking legal advice and is considering an application in the courts for an injunction to stay the Department’s draconian treatment of our organisation. 

A court injection to keep the authorities from busting you? Imagine if a criminal tried taking out a restraining order against the police to avoid being arrested. I am sure this injunction will fail just as hard.

The law must not only be fair – it must be seen to be fair and in this case, the government departments that have been dealing with us for the last 4 years have been anything but fair.


The Management Committee of the Australian Vaccination Network, Inc

So in summary. Law abiding people and government regulators are mean to those acting outside the law. Perhaps they should be asking their supporters to donate boxes of tissues.