Unlike almost every other democracy, Australia’s constitution does not include a Bill of Rights, meaning that basic rights which citizens of other nations take for granted such as freedom of speech or communication, may not necessarily be protected under the law. (1)
This has allowed certain government departments free reign to act against community groups (and others) almost at will and in opposition to what most reasonable people would consider to be fair or in the public’s best interests.
Persecution of the AVN by government departments
A recent example is the demand by the New South Wales (NSW) Department of Fair Trading that the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN), an organization which has been registered under that name with the Department for over 16 years, change its name due to complaints and concerns from ‘within the community’. The AVN is a community based information and support organisation that supports the right of all people to make free and informed health choices – especially when it comes to the issue of vaccination. Whilst their Constitution and Code of Ethics specifically restrict them from taking an anti-vaccination position, they are opposed to any form of compulsory vaccination or medication.
These complaints, for which a GIPA (Freedom of Information claim) has now been filed, appear to have originated from two sources:
1- Members of the group, Stop the AVN (SAVN) – a hate group whose sole reason for existence is to force the AVN to close in any way they can. Their tactics have included harassment, death threats, posting of violent pornography, hacking the AVN’s website and a flood of vexatious complaints to various state and federal government departments, leading to investigations which may have cost the Australian taxpayers millions of dollars. (2)
2- The Australian Medical Association (AMA) – an industry lobby group which represents approximately half of all Australian doctors. The collective prestige of the medical profession obviously suffers each time vaccination is called into question.
So the ‘community’ does not appear to have been concerned about the name of this venerable organization. Only a very small but vocal sector who, for whatever reason, have managed to get the ear of the Minister – a Minister who is already under a cloud for having too close a relationship with property developers whose activities his portfolio is meant to regulate.
Protecting corporate interests
As a result of complaints by this small group with strong vested interests – the Minister has not only ordered an organization to change its name (the first time this has been done for these reasons according to preliminary legislation searches), but he has introduced and passed (in record time) legislation to make it easier to do so into the future. (3)
This echoes the AVN’s experience with the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC), another NSW government body.
In 2009, a member of SAVN filed complaints against both the AVN and its President, Meryl Dorey, claiming that their information was not supportive of vaccination and therefore, it should not be allowed to continue. The complainant asked that a gag-order be issued against both Ms Dorey and the organization, preventing them from speaking about any health-related issue.
A 3-year battle ensued during which time the AVN was cited by the HCCC as being “dangerous, deceptive and misleading” – a ruling that cost the organization its ability to fundraise and its charity authority. A decision by the NSW Supreme Court in April 2012 overturned the HCCC’s warning, reinstated the AVN as a charity and informed the HCCC that the complaints which it had spent a year investigating were not valid complaints in the first place.
The government is now, at the request of the head of the HCCC, in the process of changing the law so that ANYONE can complain about ANYONE who talks about health – PROVIDED they are not doctors for whom the old laws will still apply! Bear in mind that the HCCC was formed to act as a ‘policeman’ for rogue doctors but has, over recent years, been effectively coopted into a police force for the doctors and government-approved medicine. These law changes that have been drafted to specifically target the AVN will now formalize the persecution of alternative medical practitioners or dissenters.
Perversion of due process
In the 8 months since the AVN won its case against the HCCC, they have been targeted by more than a dozen complaints handled by 7 different government departments in NSW and other states nationally.
When government departments pervert or instigate legislation for the benefit of corporate interests, to pander to hate groups or to silence community groups who are critical of government policy?and are operating within the law, it seems that all pretense of justice or democracy becomes nothing more than a sham.
(1) NSW Council for Civil Liberties – Stand Up For Our Rights – http://www.nswccl.org.au/issues/bill_of_rights/australia.php
(2) Dossier of Attacks on the AVN – http://avn.org.au/dossier-of-attacks-on-the-avn/
(3) Unacceptable Names Legislation (Amendment) – http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au
Further reading on this issue
The Australian Vaccination Network Must Go, Sayeth the Government – http://gaia-health.com
Government Puts Boot into the AVN, Democracy and Truth – http://avn.org.au