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Why isn’t the Health Care Complaints Committee’s inquiry transparent?

by Meryl Dorey

11074700_sIf you have been following this blog for any length of time at all, you would remember that we have been covering an issue of vital importance to everyone living in NSW specifically and Australia as a whole. That is the issue of an attempt by the NSW Health Care Complaints committee to grant yet more unprecedented powers to the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC).

Many of our members and supporters have sent written submissions to this committee explaining their objections to these proposals.You can see the page on the NSW Parliament website which will provide you with information on this inquiry – The Promotion of False or Misleading Health-Related Information or Practices.

Originally, the time period for submissions was supposed to end in December, 2013. It was then extended until the 7th of February 2014.

I personally know of more than 50 submissions to this inquiry made by AVN members. There would be many more.

In my experience, whenever a parliamentary inquiry has called for submissions, those submissions are published on the website as they are received or within a matter of days of receipt. In this instance, however, no submissions have been made publicly available and in fact, most people who submitted to this inquiry have not even received a confirmation that their submission was received.

At the end of February, 2014, I contacted Mr Jason Arditi, the Committee Manager, to ask why none of the submissions had been uploaded to the committee website even though submissions had been closed by, at that point in time, a couple of weeks.

I was told that the committee had not yet considered any of the submissions but that they would be meeting in mid-March and would consider them at that time and they would be published by the end of March.

The end of March came and went and again, no submissions were uploaded.

I contacted Mr Arditi in early April and at that time, I was told that the Committee had indeed met in March but had not considered any of the submissions. They were due to be considered at the meeting being held in mid-April and the submissions would be uploaded by the end of that month.

I asked if it was normal procedure to not publish submissions until they had been considered and Mr Arditi informed me that it was neither normal nor abnormal to proceed in this way. Whilst most committees do publish on receipt, this particular committee had chosen to do things differently.

The end of April came and went with no submissions on the committee website.

I contacted Mr Arditi on May 1st to ask why, once again, no submissions had been uploaded to the website. He told me that the committee had, in fact, considered the submissions during their April meeting and that they would be uploaded. It’s just that some of them were defamatory in nature so they would need to have sections blacked out before they were made public. He assured me that this would be done and they would be there by Friday, May 9th. Today, in fact.

I  asked for a firm publication date during my last conversation with Mr Arditi and he gave me his assurance that these submissions would be online by today but disappointingly, they are not there. Won’t they make the slightest attempt to appear transparent by abiding by their promise to publish these submissions?

A less trusting person than myself would be starting to wonder if the committee was trying to hide something? Why this ongoing failure to inform the public of the reasons why those in the community oppose their intended power grab?

Maybe one of you will have better luck getting an answer than I have? If you’d like to contact Mr Arditi, his details are below. Please let me know if you do get a result. We have a right to see this information and to consider what the committee has considered.

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.

Are you brave enough to follow through, Peter Bowditch?

BowditchAs you have read on this page, the deadline for someone to come forward and debate me is coming up. It is this Friday, the 9th of May.

After writing my blog article, The Great Vaccination Non-Debate, Peter Bowditch of the NSW Skeptics and a very active ‘contributor’ to their splinter group, Stop the AVN, posted the following comment to the AVN’s blog:

“Please notify the organisers of the Healthy Lifestyles Expo that I was serious when I offered to debate you. Now that you are aware of this you can no longer claim that nobody from the sanity side of the non-debate is prepared to step up to the plate.

“In case this comment doesn’t manage to get through moderation, a screen shot will be published on Twitter and Facebook.”

I instantly wrote back to Mr Bowditch, informing him that, as it said in the blog post, anyone who wanted to be involved in the debate should contact the organisers and let them know.

I did inform the organisers about Mr Bowditch’s offer to debate me and they sent him 2 invitations without getting any response. Let me repeat – as of this weekend, despite 2 written invitations in response to his offer to debate me at the You Can Heal Yourself Expo at the end of this month, Peter Bowditch, who made the offer of his own free will, has not responded.

What’s worse, he now appears to be trying to blame me for his failure to follow through on his promise to debate me. Yesterday, he sent the following tweet out to his followers:

Bowditch Debate

Apparently, he wants to make it appear that he was unaware of the venue of this debate and, now knowing it, he will no longer debate me.

But the truth is that the venue and all debate details were freely advertised and Mr Bowditch is the one who contacted me to say he wanted to debate.

Come on, Peter! I’m calling on you to either accept the invitation (which was sent at your request) or admit that you are too scared to debate me on this issue. You can’t have it both ways.

You are the one who accepted the challenge – and you are the one who has to follow through or admit that you are afraid to debate.

Tamiflu drug ‘largely ineffective’ in reducing hospitalisation: study

TamifluAntiviral drugs are largely ineffective for reducing hospital admissions and complications from influenza, and come with serious side-effects, according to a research review published by the Cochrane Collaboration today.

The drugs were stockpiled by governments across the world, including Australia’s, in response to the 2009 swine flu pandemic.

Cochrane, along with the British Medical Journal, is asking governments to consider whether they would choose to stockpile well-known antiviral Tamiflu in light of these findings, arguing the original evidence leading to the stockpiling was incomplete.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Department of Health said antivirals were part of the National Medical Stockpile currently valued at A$192 million, but refused to provide further details “due to security and commercial sensitivities”.

Tamiflu drug ‘largely ineffective’ in reducing hospitalisation: study.

The Great Vaccination Non-Debate?

by Meryl Dorey

One sided debateThere is one side of the vaccination issue supported by those who believe parents should be able to access a broad range of information from many different sources. This side is not afraid of scrutiny and in fact, has been asking for better, more transparent research for decades. That side is represented by the Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network (AVN) and the other pro-information, pro-choice groups in Australia and overseas.

In opposition to this open and democratic viewpoint on scientific issues, there are organisations and individuals whose raison d’étre seems to be to prevent parents from accessing information freely and to threaten, harass and abuse anyone whose viewpoint on medical issues is not in accord with their own beliefs. That side is represented by the pro-vaccine lobby: the Australian Skeptics, Stop the AVN, certain members of both State and Federal Parliaments and some sections of the medical community.

Healthy Lifestyles Expo

In May of this year, I am going to be speaking at an event on the Sunshine Coast called the Healthy Lifestyles Expo.

The organisers originally contacted me in October last year to see if I would be interested in participating in a live debate on the subject of vaccination. Both sides would be presented and the moderator would ensure that equal time was given to each speaker with ample time allowed for questions from the audience.

Since this is something that both the AVN and I have been wanting to facilitate for some time, I was quick to agree.

The organisers were having a very hard time finding someone from the medical community to debate me, however.

They contacted Queensland Health, their Medical Local, a large number of doctors and even Stop the AVN and the Australian Skeptics. None of them would agree to defend vaccinations publicly.

The reasons given for the refusal to participate in a debate were:

a. There is no debate – there is only one side to this issue.
b. If people have questions, they should see their GP.
c. Fliers would be provided so a debate was unnecessary.

After a few weeks of trying, the debate was called off and instead, the AVN booked a stall at the Expo. As stall-holders, we were entitled to present a seminar which we were happy to do though we still would have preferred a debate.

At this point, the organisers posted an advertisement for my talk on their website at this page.

Almost immediately after this information was posted, the Expo’s website was attacked – twice. The organiser’s were signed up for many pornographic email lists (something that regularly happens to my own email address) and they found themselves targeted by a stream of hate messages on social media from people using the tag #stopavn.

They also received an angry post from Matthew Berryman, an SAVN member who works at the University of Wollongong.

Here is what one of the organisers of this event stated on their blog about Mr Berryman and the whole campaign to stop this debate from taking place:

“…the first comment by Matthew Berryman who has [a] PhD in complex systems modelling and analysis, yet tends to resort to name calling if he is rebutted, a very grown up response.

Mr Berryman sent the organisers of this event a letter accusing them of paying me to speak (in 20 years of public speaking on this issue, I have never taken payment for any of my talks though that is usually offered) and saying that the event was ‘unbalanced’ because they didn’t have a speaker from the anti-choice side!

The organisers offered Mr Berryman the opportunity to either debate me or, if he preferred, to get a stall and speak on the stage himself, just as the AVN was doing. He declined, stating that he was not qualified to speak on this issue.

Where we stand today

At this point in time, there is a possibility that Dr Rachael Dunlop from Stop the AVN and the NSW Skeptics may be debating me (please note – I have just heard from the organisers this morning. Dr Dunlop has said she will not debate me). For those who don’t know her, here is one of the Twitter posts she wrote about myself and others who have made an informed choice not to vaccinate:

Rachie Twitter

The organisers have stated that, regretfully, if someone from the other side does not come forward by the 9th of May, the debate will be cancelled and we will go back to just me speaking on the issue with no opposing viewpoint which would be a shame.

We need a conversation and a debate

The AVN wants parents everywhere to be able to hear both sides of this issue. We want them to be able to ask questions, discuss this subject openly without fear or favour and, in the end, to make the choices they think are best for their family. Without the participation of the pro-vaccine lobbyists – those same people who have been trying for years to make vaccination compulsory – it becomes almost impossible to provide parents with that balance.

We ask anyone who is reading this – whether they be a medical doctor, specialist, health official or from another area of the field of science – who would like to debate the subject in a respectful manner, to contact the Expo organisers via their website contact page.

We also ask that those who believe in free choice on health issues write a quick note to Wayne and Annie, the Expo organisers, to thank them for their strength and commitment to freedom of speech and scientific debate.

I’d love to see you at the Expo!

If you are going to be on the Sunshine Coast on the 24th to the 25th of May, 2014, I would love to see you at the Expo. Please do drop by the AVN’s stand and say hi.

ExhibitorBadge250

One last note:

QLD Health has been given a free table next to the AVN stand on which to display flyers and other information about vaccination. When asked if they would also be sending someone who would be able to answer questions or discuss this issue with the parents in attendance, they said they would not and that anyone who had questions should be contacting their GP.

It is this sort of unresponsive behaviour; this running away from those whom they are supposed to be serving, that has many QLD parents questioning the commitment of their health authorities to the protection of the children of that State.

The AVN will always be there to support our members and to answer their questions. We will always be there to help members who are being discriminated against or harassed in some way because of their vaccination decision. We believe strongly in everyone’s right to make informed choices and wish that our elected representatives would take their responsibility seriously in regards to this issue as well. Citizens and residents of a democratic nation should not be living in fear that their government will take away their inalienable rights to read, discuss and decide about health issues as they see best.

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.

Apparently our acronym is now misleading?

by AVN President,
Greg Beattie

Oppression

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

Greg

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.
Yours sincerely
Greg Beattie
President
Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network Inc.

Letter from David Byrne, 20 March, 2014

Letter from Greg Beattie to David Byrne, 20 March, 2014

 

AVN’s Charity Licence – The REAL story

by Greg Beattie,
AVN President

23640487_sThere is so much misinformation getting around, it’s bewildering. We expect misinformation from a group calling itself “Stop the AVN” – that’s what they do with their spare time. But throw in a couple of mischievous journalists and politicians and you have a recipe for a fantasy blockbuster.

By now you may have heard we have shed our charitable fundraising licence. This is true. And it’s something we’re still popping the corks over. It’s one of the best things that has happened to the AVN for a long time. We have been trying to get rid of that licence for many years, but, for so long, we couldn’t. However, a few recent changes allowed us to tackle several issues in one move. The licence was one of them. Let me explain.

You’re probably wondering what a charitable fundraising licence is, why we had one, and why we wanted to get rid of it. Moreover, why we couldn’t do so for so long. Sit back for a moment and I’ll explain. It’s important that you understand this issue and how it relates to your organisation.

When the AVN was formed in 1997 it took over the reins from an existing entity – one which was in the process of folding – called the Australian Council for Immunisation Information (ACII). Although the committee were not aware at the time, one of the things we inherited was a charitable fundraising status and licence. ACII had been set up with this capacity and it literally landed in our lap. It meant AVN could conduct fundraising as a charity. In other words, just like the various cancer, homelessness, mental health, and other appeals, AVN could go door-to-door, or run a telethon, or whatever, presenting itself to the public as a bona fide ‘charity’, and ask for money.

What’s a charity? 9005670_s

Now you might be thinking “But all organisations raise funds, don’t they?” The answer is yes. They charge membership fees, hold cake stalls and other events, and accept donations from anyone who chooses to give. The difference lies in what they do with those funds. If they build a new clubhouse, upgrade equipment, pay workers or contractors, run courses for members, or a host of other things, they’re fine. They don’t need a charitable fundraising licence, because those activities are not ‘charitable’.

So which activities are charitable? Well the definition is slightly different depending on which jurisdiction you operate in but, basically, if the money is raised to provide relief for people in distress – such as food, shelter, clothing, or education – then you are engaging in charity.

So where does the AVN fit into this? Well it doesn’t. And that’s the point. We are not a charity, and never have been. But here we were holding this charity licence. Each year the management committee would go through the ropes tending to the various requirements for this licence, but we were getting no benefit from having it. I guess the committee thought it might come in useful someday, but that day was never really discussed. Until then, it was nothing but a mild drain on our resources.

Let the groaning begin

Then came the birth of ‘Stop the AVN’. Quite apart from their well-known abuse and harassment, this group made it their business to lodge complaints about us to every regulatory body they could think of. They figured that by doing this they could completely tie us up responding to them all, and no one would have any time left to talk (or write) about vaccination. For those who aren’t familiar with this side of life, every complaint requires at least ten times the effort in defence.

One of the bodies they started complaining to was – you guessed it – the office that administers charities in NSW. It’s called the Office of Liquor, Gaming, and Racing (OLGR). In fact they lodged a multitude of them there. The complainants argued our licence should be revoked because, in their opinion, we were a danger to public health.

The OLGR required us to defend ourselves or lose our licence. Well… this was a licence we didn’t even use. We certainly didn’t need it so we asked if we could just surrender it. And this was where the battle over our charity licence began – back in 2009.

We were informed that if the licence was surrendered we would not be allowed to raise funds any more. The reason… because we were considered to be pursuing a charitable purpose. And why was that, given we weren’t engaged in any charitable activities? Apparently, the answer lay in our ‘constitution’. The wording of our objectives indicated we did in fact pursue a charitable purpose. So we were stuck with it. And that meant responding to all the inquisitions (and there were quite a few).

Fast forward to 2014…1016131_s

We finally have a new constitution! One which outlines exactly what we do. One which demonstrates clearly that we do not pursue a charitable purpose. Now we can raise funds without the licence… just like every other organisation. As soon as our constitution was changed we wrote to the OLGR and surrendered the licence. We were finally free.

But boy are the folk at SAVN upset? They are seething. One of their major avenues of complaint has just dried up, and they had no idea it was happening. So now they’re trying to put their own spin on the story, telling everyone that they had a major win. But make no mistake – this is the best thing that’s happened in a long time, and those in the wheelhouse of AVN are breathing a long sigh of relief.

Why did it take so long?

Well, to be honest, the constitution was changed, but not for this purpose. Other reasons drove that. The decision to change our constitution was made early last year, during the appeal process for our name-change. Our barrister complained that our objects were far too broad. They made his job difficult. According to the objects, we were to be all things to all people. (I guess it’s no wonder the OLGR saw us as a charity.) We decided to wait and see whether our name had to be changed, and process both together. Since both required a special resolution to be passed by 75% majority at a general meeting, there was no point going to the trouble of doing it all twice.

While we waited, we sat down and drafted new objects, describing as accurately as we could just how we saw the AVN. At the end of that process we looked at each other, and said “Hey, that’s definitely not a charity.” This revelation prompted us to search further to determine how charitable purposes were defined. Boy was that difficult. It turns out they’re different, depending on the jurisdiction you’re in. In our case (NSW) the definition was quite broad. It used three words – benevolent, philanthropic, and patriotic. If you came under one of these you were a charity. We didn’t.

It’s easy now to look back and see what the problem was, but for quite a long time the committee found it difficult to understand why the AVN was seen as a charity, and why we seemed to be stuck with this label forever.

We had already been subjected to many inquisitions by the OLGR, including one audit in 2009 where two of their staff spent two days in our office, going through everything financial. On another occasion we had our fundraising licence suspended because the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) issued a public warning against us. This warning was later found to be unlawful by the NSW Supreme Court and our licence was handed back to us. The orchestrated complaints seemed to stream constantly for years, and the OLGR were obliged to act on them.

The latest

There was in fact another ‘show cause’ sent to us in January, just as we were going through the change of constitution process. Two professors provided affidavits to OLGR swearing that, in their opinion, we provided misleading information.

This time, we gave a short response outlining the fact that we were in the process of changing our constitution to better reflect our purpose and activities and we would no longer be needing the licence. Oh, and also that the two complainants were known opponents of the AVN and were also financially conflicted.

We must say, however, that the OLGR itself has been particularly pleasant to deal with over the years. The staff were helpful and always had time for us. Still… we’re glad it has come to an end.

[Note: Throughout this article I have used the term ‘we’ when referring to those who carried out all the work. I wish to stress, however, that I have only been a part of the committee for a little over a year, so the vast majority of compliance work associated with this licence was carried out by others.]

The AVN – our finances are an open book

by Meryl Dorey9710598_s

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Our financial records are overseen by both the Department of Fair Trading and the Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing. This happens every year.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

16553570_sReal News or Smokescreen?

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):

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Meryl Dorey,
AVN Public Officer

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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.

Yet another HCCC complaint filed against the AVN

13820759_sNot content with having fought and lost a costly battle in the NSW Supreme Court, only to have been found to have acted illegally in investigating the AVN, the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) is back at it again. Please click here to read about this incredible waste of time and taxpayer dollars once again being perpetrated by a government body meant to protect Australians from dangerous doctors, but who, instead, seem more interested in preventing people from discussing politically sensitive issues such as the risks and ineffectiveness of vaccination.

We would like to ask everyone reading this to help us publicise this issue in any way possible – by email, letters to the editor, via social media or on your own blogs and websites.

A Grave Injustice has been done – A Request for help from Meryl Dorey

I grew up believing in the rule of law; knowing that might did not make right and that justice would always go to those who deserved it while those who did the wrong thing would be punished for their misdeeds.

Unfortunately, my experience with The Australian Skeptics and Stop the AVN over the last few years has shown me that the opposite is actually true – those who harm, threaten and abuse others will always prevail – at least if the abusers are supporting an entrenched status quo that is funded by billions of dollars in pharmaceutical profits.

Meryl Head ShotMy name is Meryl Dorey. I am the mother of 4 children – one of whom was seriously injured by vaccines in 1989 and again in 1990. In 1994, I founded and until recently, was the President of the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN). Our group is dedicated to the idea that saying yes or no to any medical procedure must always remain a matter of free and informed choice. We believe that medical research must be independent of pharmaceutical influence and that the government and the medical community have an absolute duty of care to provide unbiased information and then, to allow us to make the final decision for our families. These views have seen us facing constant attacks from within the government and industry front-groups.

A Long History of Threats, Harassment and Abusive Behaviour

In the year 2009, an organisation was set up by the Australian Skeptics called Stop the Australian Vaccination Network (SAVN). SAVN’s sole reason for being is to stop our organisation from operating in any way they can. They targeted our members, our supporters and anyone who stated that they believe in informed choice. But most of all, they targeted me.

For over four years now, I have been the victim of death threats, daily harassment and abusive messages. I have been sent violent snuff pornography both online and – even worse – to my home. Dr Brian Martin of Whistleblower’s Australia has written about these attacks (see foot note), and stated that in his 35 years of experience, they are the worst he has seen against any small community group.

Extremely threatening phone calls were made in the middle of the night to my home from the home phone number of Daniel Raffaele, the founder of SAVN. This person had publicly stated that “If the demise of the AVN brings with it the demise of Meryl Dorey herself, she only has herself to blame for that.” Despite all the evidence, the police declined to charge him.

Another SAVN member, Dan Buzzard, has publicly advertised the AVN’s address on his Twitter account and asked people to send violent pornographic images through the post. Shortly thereafter, I did receive violent pornography. In addition, this person participates in a hacker’s forum and posted an intimidating letter to me which he claims he found on that forum. He even uploaded a photo of the letter to his blog along with a picture of an envelope addressed to me. A short time later, I received a frightening email from a person who was also a hacker and had corresponded with Mr Buzzard, telling me that he was ‘sharpening the knives’ for me.

As a result of this and at the suggestion of the police, I filed an AVO (Apprehended Violence Order) against this SAVN member in the local court. The application took a long time to be heard, but on August 22nd, I finally had my day in court.

Court Orders Me To Pay Costs

From the beginning, it appeared to me that the magistrate might have already made his decision before we entered the court. The first thing he said to my barrister was that the loser would have to pay costs. It is my understanding that this is not the normal procedure.

The rest of the hearing was no better and though I was able to show that this person had indeed asked people to send me pornography and had posted intimidating mail to me, the magistrate found against me.

It was hard enough to lose the protection of the courts – a protection I have had for the last 10 months via an interim AVO, during which time the defendant had been far more circumspect in his activities. But against all convention in these matters, the judge awarded full costs – over $11,000 – against me, leaving me to pay the legal fees of the person who, I feel, had abused and harassed me.

That legal bill will need to be paid before the 21st of September. As a full-time volunteer for over 20 years, I have virtually no income nor do I have any way to raise these funds. For 20 years, through my involvement with the AVN, I have worked tirelessly to support and inform those who came to me for help. Our organisation was responsible for the introduction of the Conscientious Objection clause which allows families who don’t vaccinate or who vaccinate selectively to access all government entitlements.

Now, it is my turn to ask for your assistance. If you believe in justice, support informed choice and are able to give any amount – no matter how small – to my legal fund to help pay the costs the court has required me to pay, I would be very grateful indeed.

If you would like more information about any of this, please write to me at tuppermama@gmail.com. Otherwise, donations can be made by PayPal  by sending funds to (tuppermama@gmail.com) or by direct deposit to my Westpac account:

Meryl Dorey
BSB – 732591
Account – 613872

Or send a cheque or money order to Meryl Dorey, PO Box 88, BANGALOW NSW 2479.

Be sure to send me an email or a note if you make a donation at the bank so I can acknowledge and thank you. I will be able to acknowledge paypal payments without a separate email.

foot note

(1) Debating Vaccination

(2) Online onslaught: Internet-based methods for attacking and defending citizens’ organisations

(3) Public mobbing: a phenomenon and its features

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.

We shall be heard…

Today’s post was written by Tasha David, one of the AVN’s committee members, who has had to endure the grief of having several children injured by vaccines – followed by two extremely healthy unvaccinated children. Her greatest regret is that she did not learn about the risks of vaccination in time to protect her older kids, and she wants to spare families from having to deal with the same grief her family struggles with every day.

The promises from both major parties and the Australian Greens to penalise families like her own for making an informed choice about what medical interventions their children should or should not have, have motivated her to write this post.  This is a ‘call to arms’ to help motivate the silent majority in Australia who believe that parents should ultimately be able to decide what is best for their own families and who would never force others to submit to a medical procedure which could cause harm or even death to susceptible children. 

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As I am sure you are all aware by now, Prime Minister Rudd announced that if he gets re-elected, he would be taking the Family Tax Benefit A Supplementary Payment away from families who are conscientious objectors to vaccination followed by removal of the Childcare Rebate.  When I heard this, the unfairness of it hit me particularly hard!  I felt really deflated and I couldn’t understand why after all we have been through, that this news story could get to me so?

After all, we made it through the time when the NSW Government tried to take away our children’s right to attend preschool and the “No Jab, No Play” hate campaign run by News Ltd.’s the Daily Telegraph. We survived Greens Senator Richard Di Natale’s vehement attack on the AVN and his support of those who have used harassment, violent pornography and death threats to attack our former President, Meryl Dorey.

Really, these kind of discriminatory statements have been thrown around so often by our politicians and in the media that it has become almost commonplace.  So why did this one bring me to the verge of tears?

It was certainly not about the money, even though this payment was created for the specific purpose of helping low income families with the costs of raising children – not the costs of raising vaccination rates.

So if it wasn’t that, what was it about then?

We Have No Voice

That’s when it dawned on me.  Our Government couldn’t care less about why 77,000 Australian families including mine, did not feel the recommended childhood vaccination schedule was in the best interests of their children!  They were willing to take away our children’s rights to the government entitlements that are offered to every other eligible Australian family, without even bothering to hear what we have to say.  The very people who are directly affected by this proposed legislation would have absolutely no input into it whatsoever.  Even criminals get a chance to present their side of the story before a judge passes sentence, yet we as law abiding citizens of this historically freedom-fighting nation of ours, are not even allowed to present our side.  I mean, you could expect this from a country that was living under some tyrannical regime, but from a democratic, first-world nation like Australia – surely not?

The other part of Prime Minister Rudd’s speech that cut me to the core, was when he said that he wanted to make sure that all Mums and Dads could feel confident that their children would be surrounded by vaccinated kids when they go to school.   I couldn’t help but think about the parents whose children are injured or killed by these vaccines. How are they supposed to feel?

Should we ask little Saba Button’s family if they feel comforted knowing that their child’s ultimate sacrifice made the parents of vaccinated children feel more confident? (1) I mean, isn’t that why people who believe in vaccination get their children vaccinated in the first place – to feel confident that their children are protected?  But now that’s not enough anymore, and our politicians are trying to coerce us into buying into their belief system as well.

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Educated Families Making Informed Choices

Let’s look at this objectively. A family who chooses to vaccinate selectively or not at all, tends to have spent countless hours of research on vaccination and their own family’s medical history before they arrive at that decision. But still, they are forced by government departments to go to a GP (if they can find one that is even willing to do it) for counselling on the pros and cons of vaccination (usually 99% on the pros and 1% on the cons) in order to get a conscientious objection form signed so that their children can get family and childcare benefits and the education that any other eligible Australian family would normally get.

Compare this to a family that makes the decision to vaccinate – whether they research a lot, a little or not at all. They are not forced to get counselling or get exemptions; they don’t even have to be excluded from school when their children have received live vaccines and their viral shedding can infect others.  They get to make their choice without fear of punishment or ridicule – without any accountability whatsoever.

Somehow, we have moved into a system where our Prime Minister has no problem putting the ever-rising levels of the ‘theoretical model’ of herd immunity above the wellbeing of the children who are sacrificed to preserve it. (2)

Prime Minister Rudd did not even mention or worry about these children once. But then, he and the other people pushing this agenda against pro-choice parents don’t really believe that these children – our children – even exist.

I don’t think I can fully express how it feels to know that my Prime Minister doesn’t even acknowledge that vaccine injured children like mine live in Australia; to know that he wants to punish families for wanting to protect their children from the same fate.

How could he forget little Saba Button who was permanently brain damaged or Ashley Epapara who died, and the over 250 other children who were rushed to hospital because of the flu vaccine in Western Australia? How could he forget the tens of thousands infected during the recent whooping cough epidemic, most of whom were fully vaccinated, who still caught – and theoretically spread it despite the vaccine? (3)

There is a risk whether you vaccinate or not, and there is no way to predict which risk will be greater for your individual child. So making an informed choice is the only responsible option we parents have.  How could politicians who are charged with protecting the people of this great nation want to take this option away from us?  How could they possibly believe that discrimination and persecution against loving and caring parents is a reasonable option?

The whole situation was beginning to weigh heavily on my soul and I was beginning to feel very dejected and overwhelmed, until my big brother sat me down and reminded me of some very important facts:

    Persecution has always followed those who stand for what is right; it is a rite of passage, a trial by fire. It is the adversity that builds character and shows you how weak or strong your resolve truly is.

The pro-choice families in rural Australia who are feeling isolated and alone and the families in suburban and metropolitan areas who are being browbeaten by GP’s as they desperately try to find a doctor willing to sign their conscientious objection forms, need to know that no matter what happens, there are organisations like the AVN in their corner giving them the support they need and fighting for their rights.  Even those who may decide further down the line that the ever-increasing recommended childhood vaccination schedule is just too much too soon for their precious little ones, need to know that there is someone who is trying to fight for their rights as well.

My brother reminded me that we can take heart from all those in history who have been mercilessly persecuted and never gave up; Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Mahatma Ghandi. Their principles and values burned within their hearts and gave them the strength to stand against overwhelming odds, and those same principles burn within you, the AVN and your supporters.  The strength of these principles and your commitment to them will cause the opposition – in its many forms – to pass over you, incapable of weakening your spirit but instead, firing you up and motivating you to be able to overcome anything.

In these words from my elder and much wiser brother, I found my resolve and I hope you can find yours too.

Our detractors think that we can be cowed; that they can wear us down with their insults and persecution; that our principles are only worth a couple of thousand dollars.  They don’t realise that they are, in actual fact, waking the sleeping giant; catching a very angry tiger by the tail. That they are lighting the very fires that they seek to put out!

Use that fire, that righteous indignation – and take control of your own destiny! Do not let the persecutors dictate how we raise our children.  If your member of parliament doesn’t want to represent your views in parliament, find a candidate who will and make sure that they know that you will no longer tolerate the unjustified attacks on your liberties – and especially on the liberties of your children.  Write, ring or even better go and see them. The ball is well and truly in your court – now go out there and play hard.

    “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

    ― Maya Angelou

“Remind thyself, in the darkest moments, that every failure is only a step toward success, every detection of what is false directs you toward what is true, every trial exhausts some tempting form of error, and every adversity will only hide, for a time, your path to peace and fulfillment. ”

    ― Og Mandino

(1) http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/western-australia/saba-button-the-girl-who-is-never-alone/story-e6frg13u-1226035296706

(2) http://www.vaccinationdecisions.net/resources/Questioning%20Herd%20Immunity%20Created%20by%20Vaccination.pdf

(3) http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/whooping-cough-strain-now-immune-to-vaccine/story-e6freuy9-1225828959714

http://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/health/sharp-rise-cases-new-strain-whooping-cough