Yesterday, the AVN was contacted by Amy Corderoy who is the Health Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald. She had been contacted by members of Stop the AVN – the organisation that has been set up to harass, abuse and threaten our members in order to force our group to close down. Due to their complaints about the AVN, Amy Corderoy wanted to let us know that she had asked an independent accountant to look over the AVN’s financial records over the last 7 years and that they had ‘concerns’ about what we have spent our money on for the year 2010. I will have more to say about 2010’s financial report later in this blog. According to SAVN’s accusations however, none of our money has been spent for a charitable purpose and therefore, they felt that we should be investigated.
Let’s see – in the 2 years since we won our case against an illegal investigation carried out by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission, we have been investigated by 6 federal and state departments (Charity Departments in WA, VIC and NSW, The Department of Fair Trading in NSW, The Australian Tax Office, The Health Care Complaints Commission) a dozen times. And every single one of these investigations was in response to complaints by Stop the AVN. Now, we have journalists carrying out an investigation at the behest of this organised hate group whose founder publicly stated that he would be the cause of my demise. Perhaps instead of responding to Amy Corderoy’s email, I should be telling her that if she wants to investigate the AVN, she will need to take a number and wait in line?
The last straw
I am writing this on behalf of the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network, Inc. (formerly the Australian Vaccination Network, Inc.) and also on my own behalf – as the founding member of this organisation, its public officer and, until very recently, it’s President.
For more than 5 years, members of Stop the AVN, some sectors of the government and the media have been slandering and defaming both myself and the AVN, claiming, amongst other things, that there have been financial improprieties with our group. They have claimed that every cent the AVN took in went straight into my pocket and that I am ‘living the high life’ on the back of our members’ support.
Ironically, when the Sydney Morning Herald sent a couple of reporters out to my home a couple of years ago to allow me to tell ‘my side’ of a story (what a joke that was!), they described my house as being ramshackle – perhaps because we haven’t had the money to paint or landscape it since I have let my volunteer-work for the AVN take priority over paid employment?
Below are links to our financial reports which have always been available should people request them. As opposed to the accusations being spread by SAVN:
- Our financial records have been audited every year since 1998 when we became a charity authority holder. This is one of the requirements of holding that license, as opposed to simple incorporated associations who do not have the same level of scrutiny.
- Our financial records are overseen by both the Department of Fair Trading and the Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing. This happens every year.
- In fact, in 2009, due to the vexatious complaints of Ken McLeod of SAVN, the AVN was audited by the Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing whose representatives spent 2 days here going over our books and many weeks studying our financial records. Though they found some minor errors and one larger mistake that had been made by the organisation, they specifically stated that there was no evidence of fraud or other illegal activities and that these were the sorts of errors they would expect to see with any small, understaffed volunteer-run organisation.
- All AVN Committee members are and always have been volunteers. Both myself and Greg Beattie, our President, work full time quite often, sometimes more than full time, on jobs for the AVN without receiving any payment.
- For a few years, I was paid for my role as the Editor of Living Wisdom magazine. That was the only time in the over 20 years I have been involved with this organisation when I was paid. I was not paid for my role on the committee but rather for my role as Editor. Amy Corderoy’s email contains the following statement (quoted verbatim):
They [the accountant consulted by the Herald] have also highlighted the editor payments for Living Wisdom
2007 Total $ 15,840 4 issues published. Editor fee per issue: $3,960
2008 Total $ 17,490 3 issues published. Editor fee per issue: $5,830
The implication appears to be that I was making the princely some of nearly $16,000 for one year and nearly $17,500 for another so, ipso facto, I was getting rich from my work with the AVN. In actuality, I was earning between $1,250 and $2,400 a month for between 120 to 150 hours of work. This is far less than what the average wage earner would be making.
2010 – the year from hell
The one year when our financial report really does have some serious deficiencies is the year ending on the 31st of December, 2010. Let me set the scene. At this point, we had been under attack for nearly 18 months from Ken McLeod and the other members of the Australian Skeptics and SAVN. These attacks had been very public and had included death threats, the mailing and emailing of pornography and a string of very public false accusations. We were involved in a court battle where our solicitor and barrister had both appealed to the court to suppress their names because they were afraid of becoming targets of these hate groups and the court itself had to have security guards present because members of SAVN had indicated they would be present at the hearings. We were unable to find a forensic accountant to write a report for the court, because they told us they were too scared to work with us. Can you imagine it? These professionals – who regularly work with organised crime gangs and the like – were too scared to work with us.
We were also unable to find an auditor to prepare our end of year financials for the same reason. I had personally contacted dozens of them and all declined after finding out that it was our organisation calling. Many of them were on side on this issue but they all said that they feared SAVN and the Australian Skeptics and did not want to go on record as having prepared our end-of year report.
The Department of Fair Trading was threatening to deregister us if we didn’t provide them with our financials and we were desperate when we found a local auditor who said he would take on the job. This person had – from memory – over 6 months to do so. He was given an absolute deadline as to when this needed to be submitted along with our form A12 and he agreed to finalise his report before then.
In the end, despite all of my cooperation; despite being provided with boxes and boxes of our financial records and me sitting in his office for hours to go over everything and his off-sider coming to our office for the purpose of due diligence, he did not finish the job until 3 days after it was due. In fact, I feel confident in saying that he did not START the job until that time since every time I called and asked how the audit was progressing, I was told he would be looking at our work ‘soon’.
You might presume that he was doing this for free because he cared about our group when in fact, he charged more than any other auditor had up until that point. Since our return was going to be past the deadline, he called me in to sign it so he could send it off to the Department of Fair Trading straight away. I signed it there on the spot without going through it in detail to avoid further delays.
It wasn’t until getting home with my copy that I noticed that he had pre-dated the paperwork to 3 days earlier. In fact he had been so careless, he had put another company’s name and address at the end of the document rather than ours! By then, the damage had been done and SAVN have made as much of this poor return and the errors in it as they could.
I contacted our solicitor to ask about suing this accountant and was advised not to do so because even though this was a truly terrible job, it would cost us more to pursue a lawsuit than it was worth and we simply didn’t have the funds to do this and fight fight all the other battles we faced.
At this time, our committee is considering paying another auditor to redo 2010’s books, but we wish that stress that any implications that improper uses were made of funds during that year are without basis and only due to the malicious intent of SAVN.
Yet journalists are being lobbied by members of the SAVN who seem to think that the irregularities in our 2010 statement is news. Perhaps some journalists might feel that Australians really care about the measly remuneration I received for the work I put in as Editor of the AVN’s magazine. Perhaps they would be correct in that assumption.
But I think they need to know that intelligent Australians can see through these smokescreens. What they care deeply about are the real crimes being committed by drug companies and health authorities in Australia every single day (for example, how the Health Care Complaints Commission did nothing to stop Graeme Reeves, the Butcher of Bega, from maiming more than 500 women).
The AVN’s payment to staff is not really news, but the following stories are and strangely enough, they don’t seem to have found their way onto the pages of the Sydney Morning Herald (or most other newspapers in Australia):
- Dr Brian Hooker fought for years to get the Centres for Disease Control to release data they had suppressed on the link between thiomeral – the mercury-based preservative which used to be in childhood vaccines – and the development of Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). Dr Hooker was finally able to get these details under Freedom of Information. It showed that there was a 7.6 times increased risk of ASDs in children who received mercury-containing vaccines.
- Neuroscientist Chris Shaw and Biochemist Dr Lucija Tomljenovic published research indicating that HPV (so-called cervical cancer) vaccines “may trigger fatal autoimmune or neurological events in some cases”. A search of the entire Sydney Morning Herald database showed nothing for these well-published researchers, but there was plenty of drug-company sponsored ‘research’ saying how great this vaccine is and how every man, woman and child in Australia should be getting it.
- Speaking of the HPV vaccine, while Australia was expanding the use of this vaccine from girls and women to boys and men, Japan stopped recommending it because of the high number of serious reactions and deaths following the shot. Did the Herald request the services of a specialist investigator to look into this situation and report back with the truth so they could report that back to their readers? Sadly, the answer is no.
- Multinational pharmaceutical company, Johnson and Johnson, was fined US $2.4 billion for the fraudulent off-label marketing of its anti-psychotic medications to vulnerable children, the elderly and the disabled. Did the Sydney Morning Herald get up in arms about those who were killed and permanently injured by Big Pharma for profit? No – they were too busy pursuing the AVN and trying to smear me personally for making the princely sum of $600 for 60 hours work back in 2009.
These attacks against our organisation and the individuals who support it are nothing more than a blatant effort to intimidate those who speak publicly on this issue. Just as Dr Andrew Wakefield and his research was used to warn any doctor of what would happen to them if they dared listen to parents of vaccine-damaged autistic children. The AVN, our committee and our members are being used to set an example of what will happen to anyone who speaks out in support of informed choice and the example isn’t very nice at all.
We have nothing to hide
The AVN Committee invites you to examine our financial records – and make up your own mind about how our ‘millions of dollars’ have been spent and whether you feel that this is a legitimate news story or simply another arm of a witch hunt targeting a group of parents who care so much about the rights of Australian families, they are willing to put themselves through this abuse without any hope of personal profit or advancement. We do this simply because we are passionate about making a stand for what we feel is true and just.
AVN Public Officer
Please note: Blog posts are opinion pieces which represent the views of the authors. They do not necessarily represent the viewpoints of the AVN National Committee. The AVN is a forum, support and information organisation and outlet for discussion about the relative benefits and risks of vaccinations in particular – and medical procedures in general. We do not provide medical advice but believe that everyone has the opportunity and the obligation to do their own research before making decisions for their families. The information we provide (including your personal review of the references we cite) should be taken in conjunction with a range of other data, including that obtained from government, your health care provider and/or other medical source material to assist you in developing the knowledge required to make informed health choices.