Testimony of Greg Beattie before QLD Parliamentary Inquiry

Meryl Dorey, Brett Smith, Tasha David and Greg Beattie at QLD Parliament

Below is the testimony that Greg Beattie, past President of the AVN, would have given had he not had his time unexpectedly shortened. If you would like to read the details of how the AVN was treated at this public inquiry at QLD Parliament, please click here to read the summary.

An interesting thing to note is that in the transcript of the hearing – and please remember that a transcript is supposed to be an exact record of what someone has said – someone either on the committee or employed by them changed the way in which Greg introduced himself. He said that he was a past President of the Australian Vaccination Network and the Transcript was changed to read, “I am a past president of what was then known as the Australian Vaccination Network…”

Someone there did not like Greg saying Australian Vaccination Network, though that WAS the name of the organisation previously, so they took it upon themselves to alter an official transcript!

Without further ado, here is Greg Beattie’s testimony:

I am a past president of the Australian Vaccination Network. I am also an author of two books on the issue. But I speak today as someone who, 20 years ago, challenged a government-run childcare centre that refused to accept my unvaccinated children. The very thing that this Bill promises to protect childcare centres from.

It can’t. This is the first point I’d like to make, and it’s a very important one so I’ll take a couple of minutes to explain. It would be extremely unfortunate if this Bill were to achieve the opposite of its intention, and invite childcare centres to do something which exposed them to, rather than protected them from, liability. But in my estimation, and that of the NSW government, that’s precisely what it will do.

NSW parliament debated an amendment identical to the Bill proposed here in 2013. It didn’t pass because the government recognised that it would expose childcare centres to challenge, and that that challenge would come via the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act – the same Act I used 20 years ago.

Advice from the attorney general confirmed that such a move would place childcare centres in breach of the Act, and that their state legislation was powerless to protect them from that. I’ll quote selectively from the Hansard record of that debate:

“The Government does not support the amendment…. Allowing childcare facilities to adopt their own policies …. is not supported by the childcare industry peak bodies. Public health experts, including the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, have strong objections to such an ad hoc approach.”

“…the proposed amendment would open childcare facilities …. to claims that the facility is in breach of the Commonwealth anti-discrimination law.”

And on the capacity of the NSW public health Act to protect childcare centres from this challenge:

“Exemptions under a Commonwealth or State law apply only to actions taken in direct compliance with a prescribed law. The New South Wales Public Health Act is not a prescribed law under the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act.”

And in case you’re wondering, I’ve checked and the Queensland public health Act is also not a prescribed law.

So, in a nutshell, this Bill promises something it can’t provide. It invites childcare centres to make a decision, and promises to support them in that decision, but it cannot deliver on that promise.

Childcare centres WILL get challenges. They won’t come from me. My children have flown the coop. But there are 1000’s of others out there, ready and waiting. And if you want to meet some, come downtown on Sunday week. A rally against the proposed federal laws has been organised. The last one, a couple of months ago, was attended by several thousand. These are parents who are sick and tired of being pushed around, and are prepared to act.

The second point I’d like to make is that there is no imperative to legislate in this area.

Vaccination has not produced the tremendous benefits that its marketing machine would have us believe. It didn’t save us from the high death rates of the past. Measles deaths peaked in Australia at 175 per 100,000. A century later, when we were about to introduce a vaccine for it, that figure was down to 0.1. The deaths had declined by more than 99% before we started vaccinating for it.

Whooping cough similarly declined around 90%, and diphtheria about 80%, before we started vaccinating for them. But the marketing machine has given all the credit to vaccination. And most people have swallowed that.

Also, experts frequently claim that vaccination saves 3 million lives each year. But ask for the evidence of that and you’ll find they don’t have it. Just that so-and-so said so. And if you ask so-and-so they’ll tell you the same thing. If you’re persistent, and drill down to the source, you WILL find the answer:

“We modelled it on a spreadsheet. We started with the assumption that vaccination prevents 90-odd% of deaths. So we just added up all the vaccines given out and – there’s our figure.”

That figure is of course paraded as evidence of how well vaccination works. Which in turn appears to validate the assumption in the model. It’s called a feedback loop. There IS no empirical evidence. That’s vaccine science. And they wonder why people question it! But there are many more reasons people question it, as can be seen in our submission.

With my third and final point I’d like to make a recommendation to the committee. Given that this Bill will be counter productive, why don’t we try something new? Something daring. Discussion.

Last year a Healthy Lifestyles Expo was run on the Sunshine Coast. The organisers decided to include a short forum on vaccination, since the issue was topical at the time. They approached the state’s chief health officer, Dr Jeanette Young, who you heard from earlier today, as well as our organisation, to supply speakers for a debate. We accepted. Dr Young refused. Her reason – “there’s nothing to debate”. The organisers tried elsewhere, even publicising their request, but no one could be found to speak in support of vaccination.

Unfortunately this happens all the time. Ordinary citizens organise a forum so that the competing viewpoints can be aired publicly, but the pro side refuses to participate. They’ll only turn up if the so-called anti side isn’t allowed to speak. These are classic playground antics.

And who misses out? The public. Those who are trying to make sense of the opposing stories.

Dr Young should relish the opportunity to defend and promote vaccination. In fact, she should facilitate such forums.

This government can do something in this area. It could direct the health hierarchy to promote ongoing and open discussion. Have them encourage questions, concerns, and dissenting voices. Have them provide forums where the so-called anti side is actively INVITED to debate. Have them facilitate similar on-line discussions, as well. Show the community they’re not frightened of dissent. That they’re capable of having their claims publicly scrutinised.

And organisations such as ours should be welcomed, embraced, not demonised. We represent the concerns of the community. Engage us, and address the concerns publicly and cooperatively. Don’t ignore us, or bring a big stick out. That won’t chase us away. It will only galvanise us.

In this way the public will feel secure that the emerging information is robust.

For years our organisation has been subjected to almost every form of inquiry and government sanctioned intimidation you can think of. Why? Because we question vaccination. And we demand attention to our concerns. But we’ve prevailed. And we always will prevail because the reason for our existence is still there. Dissenting voices on vaccination are still being handled with playground antics.

This government, if it were to implement this sort of approach, could be a nation leader – in fact, a world leader – in resolving the divisiveness that this issue brings to our community.

No Jab, No Pay, Health Rights, Childcare

QLD Parliamentary Inquiry into allowing Unvaccinated Children to be excluded from Childcare

QLD ParlimentOn the 19th of August, 2013, then AVN President, Greg Beattie, gave a presentation before a QLD Parliamentary Inquiry looking into changes to the way in which unvaccinated children are admitted to childcare facilities. The intent was to exclude the unvaccinated or make it more difficult for them to attend.

The Committee Chair was Trevor Ruthenberg and he was both fair and competent in the way he managed the day.

The AVN put together a scientifically-based, well-referenced submission and was treated with great respect by most on this committee whose ultimate decision was, thankfully, not to go ahead with the intended legislative changes.

This last week, On September 10th, due to very similar changes being proposed in QLD, the AVN once again took the time to put together a submission and was called upon to testify.

We assumed that the procedure would be the same and that the Committee would, once again, treat all those who took the time to testify with respect.

Unfortunately, that was not the case.

I was there as an observer so I was able to closely watch both the previous speakers and the AVN representatives.

Altogether, were 12 speakers who were in support of government policies regarding the exclusion of unvaccinated children (actually, Professor Julie Leask, though an avid supporter of vaccination, was not happy with the bill in its present state and said – amongst other things – that it was unethical) and 4 speakers who believed in free and informed health choice. The AVN’s group consisted of Greg Beattie, Tasha David (current AVN President) and Brett Smith, a member of the AVN.

In addition, there was to be a presentation from Ms Rebecca Hansen-Smith, a QLD mother who has been researching this issue extensively and who gave an excellent presentation at the last Committee Meeting.

The AVN was told that they would have 20 minutes in total and they were to present after Prof Julie Leask testified by telephone hookup. They therefore prepared a 3-minute opening statement each (9 minutes in total) and allowed 11 minutes for questions.

Ms Hansen-Smith was also given 20 minutes and she was supposed to be the last speaker of the day, immediately following the AMA (there will be a very long blog about the presentation of Dr Kidd from the AMA within the next day or two).

The Committee members listened to the pro-medical speakers with great attentiveness and asked many, many questions – the majority of them, Dorothy Dixers.

When it came time for the AVN to speak, however, the Committee called Rebecca Hansen-Smith at the same time.

The AVN just assumed that their time had been extended to 40 minutes (which would have been fair) and the Committee just wanted them all to speak together since they were covering the topic from the same point of view.

Less than 2 minutes into Ms Hansen-Smith’s opening statement however (the Committee asked her to go first), the Chair interrupted, asking if she could please wrap it up! Of course, none of us expected this and Rebecca said that she still had important information she had prepared and wanted to get to.

The Chair said that the Committee was running overtime after the previous speakers so the AVN was going to have to cut its time short and also merge its time with another, unrelated person!

Of course, everyone was most upset about this. Tasha had flown in from Melbourne, Brett from Sydney and Greg had travelled from the Sunshine Coast. In their voluntary capacity, they had spent hours putting together submissions and opening statements and now, they were not going to be allowed to put them on the public record!

Greg’s opening statement (in the next blog following this one) was cut in half and neither Brett nor Tasha got to use their statements at all.

To add insult to injury, whilst the Committee had listened very intently to the pro-vaccine speakers, they chatted amongst themselves nearly the entire time the AVN and Ms Hansen-Young were presenting.

You can read the Transcript of the day’s testimony at this link – and as I said previously, I am going to be writing an in-depth analyses of several of these presentations, but I would just like to close by saying that the Committee showed extreme rudeness and disdain for those who were in opposition to the passage of this law.

This was a public hearing and they were the only ones representing the general public. Instead of listening to them and allowing them the requisite time they had been promised, they were ignored and their talks were cut short.

Lastly, when the final presenter of the day, Dr Richard Kidd from the AMA QLD rose to speak, he assured the Chair that he would be as brief as possible. The Chair replied, “We have made up time. Thank you.”

Of course they had made up time! They had cut the two health consumer talks in half in order to give that time to a medical lobby group.

I am hoping that they will at least be fair when determining the outcome of this legislation (and please do take the time to read Greg’s opening statement because it explains why this legislation cannot go ahead in its present state).

Only time will tell.

The Greens: Deceiving voters or just playing dumb?

Mistakes, traps, ethics, and integrity

– Greg Beattie

The federal election falls at the end of this week. While the economy, asylum seekers, and education have dominated the airwaves, something else has been brewing…

iStock_000014317717XSmallThe Australian Greens don’t want you to know it, but they are spearheading the push for compulsory vaccination in Australia. They believe there should be no parental choice. They argued vigorously in NSW parliament to have all conscientious exemptions and religious exemptions removed. Fortunately they were defeated (read Hansard here). Shortly after that, their health spokesperson, Senator Richard Di Natale, made his now infamous speech in Federal Parliament calling for the disbanding of the AVN.  Read the speech here.

Surprised? I think most people are. In fact, disbelief is the reaction from many who have traditionally supported the Greens. But it gets worse. In a bizarre recent move, Di Natale confused things by issuing a statement saying neither he nor the Greens supported compulsory vaccination. Has the party changed its stance? Or is he playing a semantic game with the word ‘compulsory’? We have been trying to find out but despite being pressed, neither he nor party leaders, will answer the question. Click here and here to read Di Natale’s statement and letters we have sent asking for clarification.

Love them or hate them one thing is clear: when it comes to vaccination, the Greens are currently the most vehemently and vocally anti-choice political force in Australia. Ironically, it’s a stance they are unwilling to articulate to voters on the eve of this election.

But first a bit of history for those who have not followed the saga. It has now been more than two months since I last attempted to communicate with Senator Christine Milne, leader of the Greens, concerning Di Natale’s outburst in parliament. Two phone calls and three emails to her and not one breath of response! So I contacted deputy leader Adam Bandt three weeks ago and, again, no response. Click here to read all of the emails.

Obviously the issue is something they don’t want anything to do with. Why might that be?

Mistakes

Delete "MISTAKE"We all make mistakes. Just over two months ago Di Natale made a pile of them in parliament. Unfortunately, he didn’t check his story before opening his mouth. I won’t go over all the mistakes but I will mention a few.

He said the AVN claims “… the MMR vaccine causes autism, a claim they know has been thoroughly and comprehensively debunked”. The truth is the AVN says that evidence of a link has been published. And that’s a fact. In fact, since the original ‘Wakefield’ report, more than 80 studies have been published supporting this proposition. And numerous court cases for damages have found in favour of it after considering the competing evidence. Clearly it is a mistake to claim it has been “thoroughly and comprehensively debunked”.

There were a few more in relation to the actual vaccine debate, but the really worrying examples were the ones where he attempted to slander at a personal level.

He said “[former president] Ms Dorey is alleged to have called Chris Kokogei, whose child died of chickenpox, and said that his child died because his child was weak”. The truth is Ms Dorey doesn’t know this man at all and has never had any contact with him whatsoever.

He went further, claiming grieving families have endured “months of harassment from the AVN“. However there is absolutely no evidence of this. The AVN has certainly never harassed any grieving family, and never will.

He also said “To silence critics they take out apprehended violence orders”. Now that’s some imagination. Here’s the truth. Our former president, Ms Dorey, has an AVO against a man because of a series of depraved and threatening phone calls made in the middle of the night to her home. You can read more about this and listen to the calls by clicking here. The calls were traced by police to the man’s home. You may find this difficult to believe, but Di Natale actually named the man and thanked him:

“I am grateful to people like Daniel Raffaele…”

Yes, this all occurred in the same speech. It was obviously a mistake; one of gargantuan proportions. Surely he didn’t mean to do it, but being so ill-informed, he didn’t even know what the AVO was about, and that the man he was thanking was the subject of it. Again you can listen to the phone calls by clicking the link above.

As I said, we all make mistakes. Perhaps we don’t often make this many in one go, and perhaps we rarely let our carelessness extend so deep, especially when speaking from such a prominent platform. But we’re all different. The question is why did he get so much wrong when he had so much time to prepare his speech?

Traps

He had obviously been lobbied. It’s no secret there is an organised group (calling itself “Stop the AVN”) that formed for this purpose. Its members regularly use smear tactics in an attempt to turn people against the AVN. They’ve been doing it for years. They lobby whoever will listen. Enter Di Natale, who swallowed the stories, hook, line, and sinker. He then made his first mistake. He neglected to contact us.

But that’s part of what ‘hook, line, and sinker’ means, isn’t it? A person falls so completely for a trap that they make not just one but a succession of mistakes. Would you believe he has never contacted the AVN about these stories ever? Still he decided to give parliament a rundown on the organisation, based entirely on the stories.

So question number one is why did he not seek a response first?

The AVN has been a legally constituted consumer organisation and a registered charity for the past 16 years. We promote discussion and support consumers in their quest for information. We also strive to ensure that their right to make free and informed choices is never taken away. We’re publicly available via mail, email, fax and phone. Contact from members of parliament is always welcome: in fact, encouraged.

Ethics

A lesson I learnt in childhood was “whenever you make a mess in life, clean it up before moving on”. Isn’t it true that we’re all judged ultimately, not by the mistakes we make, but by the way we clean up? There are always two options: clean up and move on, or just move on and hope no one saw.

When the Greens were made aware of their mistakes (again please read the emails) they had a choice: clean up the mess, or simply ignore and hope no one saw it happen. They took the latter option and that was the biggest mistake of all.

People historically see the party as ethical. Even those who disagree with Greens policies tend to think of its key players as possessing integrity. According to former leader Bob Brown, the party used the guiding principle of placing one’s self in the shoes of a person 100 years from now and asking, “Will this person thank me for my actions today?”

Graffiti wall with choice, street backgroundI think the Greens were relevant to many for these reasons, but what about the current crop of players? I can’t comment on them all but Di Natale certainly fell short. He knows by now he left a big mess and, in the process, impugned the character of many decent people. He was careless and used his position of influence in an irresponsible way. But, again, that’s a mistake. The real issue is that when it was brought to his attention, and an invitation was extended, he chose to run from his mess.

Christine Milne knows what happened, and rather than face the problem, and manage the clean up, she chose to ignore it. Her party has, via a monumental error of both fact and judgement by its spokesperson, publicly condemned an organisation of decent caring people. And when approached by the organisation’s president to discuss this, she has shunned the opportunity to manage a clean-up. Deputy Adam Bandt has now joined her. This type of behaviour is inexcusable from any political party, but from the Greens it is particularly disappointing.

Fast forward

Whatever damage has been done to their reputation through this is something for the longer term to address. It’s time to get back to the title of this article. Our federal election takes place at the end of this week. What the Greens need to do now, if they wish to salvage any integrity with pro-choice voters, is clarify where they stand regarding compulsion. And they need to do it quickly.

Do they still want to remove all parental choice, as they made clear in the ‘No jab, no play’ debate in NSW parliament? Or have they changed? Do they now support and  respect the right of parents to make choices on this controversial issue, without fear or favour? It’s time to come clean. Voters are waiting…

[This article is a follow-up from earlier posts:]
http://nocompulsoryvaccination.com/2013/06/28/are-greens-showing-their-true-colours/
http://nocompulsoryvaccination.com/2013/07/05/whatever-was-senator-di-natale-thinking/
http://nocompulsoryvaccination.com/2013/07/08/letters-from-avn-members-to-the-greens/