by AVN President,
If you have been following our saga during the past year you will know the prequel to this post. For those who missed it, we were directed last year to change our name – after 16 years – because our opponents complained that it was misleading. After exhausting our avenues of appeal, it turned out the Minister for Fair Trading had the power to enforce this. In fact, he introduced a new regulation just so that he could see this through!
So we changed our name. We are now “Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network Inc”. The new name was accepted by our members, as well as by NSW Fair Trading.
Now we have a new threat. Director of Investigations, Compliance and Enforcement Division, Mr David Byrne, phoned last Friday to say he requires us to change all instances of the abbreviation “AVN” to “AVSN”. And he has threatened to commence action without further notice to shut us down and remove our domain from the internet.
This was quite a surprise! Before the call there had been no mention of this intention, as you will see from the letters below
We believe this latest move suggests the aim, from the beginning, has been to force our organisation to close its doors. While the Minister successfully convinced the court that someone, somewhere might think the name Australian Vaccination Network is misleading, no similar argument has been made about the abbreviation, AVN
Below is the latest letter from Greg Beattie to Rod Stowe, Commissioner, NSW Fair Trading, 23 March, 2014. This afternoon, we received an interim response stating that the, “issues raised are under consideration”.
Dear Mr Stowe,
We received correspondence on March 20, 2014, from David A. Byrne (Director, Investigations, Compliance and Enforcement Division, NSW Fair Trading). I responded on the same day. Both letters are enclosed for your reference. Mr Byrne then phoned me on the following day.
You will see from the correspondence that Mr Byrne requested we ensure all instances of our old name were changed to our new name, in all official documents and web publications. As indicated in my response, this has been done.
However, when Mr Byrne phoned me the following day he explained that he required us to also change all instances of the abbreviation “AVN” to “AVSN”, regardless of whether the documents in which they appear already bear our full name. I asked Mr Byrne to submit this request in writing, stating the reasons for it, and I would take it to the committee. He indicated he was not prepared to do so as it was something the ‘court’ had already ordered, and he felt his letter had already covered it. He further indicated he would commence action against us on the basis of non-compliance. He said the action, and the timeline for such, would be those outlined in his letter.
I write today to ask you to clarify whether Mr Byrne’s threat via phone represents the official position of your office. If it does, we ask for this request to be put unambiguously in writing, stating that it is now the abbreviation you take issue with. We also ask that you quote the legislation which empowers you to direct an organisation to change an informal abbreviation it uses within documents which already bear its full official name.
On the other hand, if Mr Byrne’s threat does not represent the official position of your office I ask
that you ensure he is made aware of that.
Given the nature of the threat I ask that you clarify this issue as a matter of urgency.
In the interim, I submit the following:
- Our full legal name (the new one) is prominently displayed at the top of all stationary and other documents. It is clearly displayed on all banners, footers, and other relevant text for all our web pages.
- “AVN” is not an official name. It is an informal abbreviation, and was not the subject of our ADT hearing last year. The ADT did not even consider its use.
- “AVN” is not used to replace our full name. It is only used in documents which already bear our full official name. In such cases it is an informal abbreviation intended to avoid repetition. We have used this shorthand for more than 16 years.
- It is acceptable for any entity to refer to itself in abbreviated format, informally, within documents that bear its full legal name. In fact, it is routine to do so. Most, if not all, organisations and businesses do this. The abbreviations they choose are a matter for their discretion.
- Given that our full name “Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network Inc.” contains a hyphen, we consider “AVN” a reasonable abbreviation.
- After searching the Act we are unable to find reference to any power permitting you to direct an organisation to change the way it informally refers to itself.
I look forward to your clarifying this for us.
Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network Inc.