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I said it would be brief (20/5/2013)
As promised this week's update will be short, because everything happened at the weekend. It is also late, because I had to wait until Monday for something I knew was coming. It's all Australian Vaccination Network this week, because the final meltdown is close. The organisation has to appear before the Administrative Decisions Tribunal on June 13 and 14 to argue that it should not be forced to change its deceptive name, and I should get the court transcripts of my AVO hearing about then as well, so hopefully I can ignore this awful outfit until then. For now however, it has been a busy week of AVN bashing from all directions.
The AVO makes the news (20/5/2013)
I woke up on Monday morning to find my Twitter stream and Facebook timeline full reports of a story in the Sydney Daily Telegraph.
The words said:
THE founder of a controversial anti-immunisation group has been accused of using apprehended violence orders to gag her critics. Former Australian Vaccination Network president Meryl Dorey has applied for AVOs against three of her most vocal opponents. As a special condition of the AVOs, she wanted the men banned from making online comments about her in "any derogatory manner".
But she suffered a setback last month when her AVO was thrown out against one critic, Peter Bowditch, who she claimed posted harassing and abusive messages online.
She also took out an AVO against Daniel Raffaele, who helped start the Stop the Australian Vaccination Network group, claiming he made threatening calls to her. Mr Raffaele, who denied making any threatening calls, said he eventually agreed to the order because he was "sick of dealing with it", although he made sure her "gag order" was struck out. "The only thing I was never going to agree to was being silenced on the internet," Mr Raffaele said. "The information (the AVN) spread is dangerous and it's not based on anything other than lies - and it costs lives."
In his submissions to court, Mr Bowditch said he lived 750km from Ms Dorey's home at Bangalow, near Byron Bay, so there was little chance he would come into contact with her if she genuinely feared for her safety. "It is obvious to me that this application ... is actually an attempt to prevent me speaking about or criticising (her) activities," he said.
Western Australia-based Dan Buzzard, another AVN opponent, said Ms Dorey probably saw taking out the AVOs as a "quick and easy" way to silence her critics. He will defend the application today. [Note: the paper got it wrong - the hearing is scheduled for Friday, May 24]
Ms Dorey refused to comment on the applications but denied using the AVOs to shut up her opponents. She said she had received anonymous death threats and had only taken the AVOs out at the suggestion of police. Ms Dorey accused The Daily Telegraph of running a campaign against parents who chose not to vaccinate their children and said she was still "taking legal advice" on appealing the magistrate's decision to dismiss her AVO against Mr Bowditch.
Meanwhile, Premier Barry O'Farrell said he would consider new laws giving childcare centres the power to refuse entry to kids who had not been vaccinated, one of the aims of The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph's No Jab, No Play campaign. He said the government was committed to lifting the number of vaccinated children.
And there's Parliament (20/5/2013)
On May 14, the Health Legislation Amendment Act 2013 came into law in New South Wales. The loophole in the 1993 legislation that allowed the AVN to escape its responsibilities last year and claim a massive victory has been closed. Now any concerned citizen can make a complaint to the Health Care Complaints Commission about any quack. And Parliament is now talking about legislation to restrict access of the pox-ridden offspring of vaccine deniers to kindergartens and child care centres. And in the Federal Parliament instructions have been given to health bureaucrats by the relevant Minister that henceforth people who claim to be "conscientious objectors" to vaccination (in order to steal government benefits tied to full vaccination of their children) will be officially called "vaccine refusers".
And then there's the TGA (20/5/2013)
Some time ago Meryl Dorey appeared on the Internet radio station Fair Dinkum Radio and promoted Black Salve as a cure for cancer. This is an escharotic paste, that is it is a caustic preparation that effectively dissolves any tissues it comes in contact with. It is about as useful a cancer cure as burning cancer away with a blowtorch, although it works a little slower. The Therapeutic Goods Administration politely asked Ms Dorey and Leon Pittard at the radio station to display a notice on their web sites admitting that they had been promoting this dangerous and useless nostrum. They refused. The TGA has now gone one step further and issued an order, not a request, to display the following notice on the AVN web site.
Heels are being dug in and resistance is building. What is different now is that a couple of newspapers have decided to take on the AVN and all its idiocy, and stories like the one at the right are regularly appearing. (The particular story never made it to the paper's web site, so a picture is as good as it gets.)
Here is the text of the retraction. It should be noted that the TGA set specifications for the size of the retraction and the font colour and size. It also has to be displayed as HTML code, not as an image (which is how most crooks try to avoid such notices being indexed by search engines).
An advertisement promoting illegal therapeutic goods under the name "Black Salve", which we published on this website, should not have been published. In publishing the advertisement, we misled and abused the trust of consumers.
In the advertisement we unlawfully made claims that Black Salve is safe, and that it can be used as an effective treatment for cancers including skin cancer. We also claimed that cancer medicines are harmful and cause cancer, and are ineffectual.
A complaint about the advertisement was recently upheld by the Complaints Resolution Panel. We provided no evidence whatsoever to support the claims we made, and the Panel found that the claims were unlawful, misleading, and unverified and breached the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code (Code).
The full text of the Panel's determination can be found at: www.tgacrp.com.au/complaints
The delegate of the Secretary for the purposes of regulation 9 of the Therapeutic Goods Regulations 1990 also found that the claims and representation in the advertisement were unlawful, inaccurate and misleading in breach of the Code.
The attention of consumers is directed to the safety information from the Therapeutic Goods Administration at: https://www.tga.gov.au/consumers/information-salve-cansema.htm
You can read the entire order here.
But wait, there's more (20/5/2013)
As part of the continuous process of monitoring and investigating the AVN and its interaction with government authorities, the correspondence between the TGA and the AVN over Black Salve was acquired under Freedom of Information rules. Most of it was just a to-and-fro of argument about the legality or otherwise of selling or advertising products and what the definitions of words like "advertise" really are. Then, right at the end, Ms Dorey threw down what she assumed would be her trump card. She claimed Freeman Of The Land protection.
I won't go into details of this particular form of insanity here, but it is based on the idea that each person is actually two people - a person and that person's Personal Representative. One of these people (I'm not sure which) is a legal fiction who has no contract with the government or any other institutions of society and therefore is not bound by any obligations to pay taxes, rent or bank interest or to be restricted in action by any law of the government, governments being themselves legal fictions that don't really exist. Or something like that. Look up "Freeman Of The Land" and "One People's Public Trust" in your favourite search engine, but be sitting down and be prepared to laugh heartily at how insane people can be and still manage to turn on a computer.
I listened to Leon Pittard at Fair Dinkum Radio rant on about this nonsense once, so I know where Merly Dorey got the idea. She wrote to the official in the TGA in "his private capacity" (that is, as his Personal Representative, not the physical man behind a desk in Canberra) and tried to set things right. Read. Enjoy. Click on the picture for a larger version. (I have redacted the name of the official. He is probably still laughing, but he doesn't need his name associated with idiocy.)
The late mail (25/5/2013)
Serendipity struck. When I went to upload this week's update to this site there was a problem at the server end, so I had to wait until someone could fix it. As it was literally the middle of the night it took a few hours for the problem to be addressed, identified and fixed. While that was happening, the news broke. Now read on ...
The media turns on the AVN (25/5/2013)
It hasn't been a good time recently for the Australian Vaccination Network, and today it got worse. The Sydney Sunday Telegraph, reputedly the biggest-selling paper in the city, ran a front-page story about the way that the AVN has harassed grieving parents.
You can read the story here. Be prepared to be enraged at the disgusting tactics of people with no morals, people who think that they can say or do anything they like to further their agenda of endangering children. Remember that the then President of the AVN tried to get a court to agree that my criticism of this vile outfit amounted to dangerous and threatening hate speech, and then look again at her conduct. There isn't a word in the English language to describe the behaviour of anti-vaccination liars, because "hypocrisy" just doesn't seem strong enough.
But wait, there's more. Another paper in the same media stable ran a story specifically about one of the parents harassed and vilified by the AVN and its supporters. You can read that here.
Meryl Dorey had to respond of course, although she wouldn't talk to the journalist who wrote the story. I'll have an analysis of the truthfulness of her reply here later, but I expect to have to use a lot of yellow highlighter to mark passages which differ from a description of reality. So I can't be accused of bias (an accusation Ms Dorey has made against the legal system), you can read her version of the truth here. You might need to take a shower afterwards to wash off the filth.
More next week.
A trip down memory lane (25/5/2013)
This an old video, but we thought that only old videos would exist of this disease. Unfortunately it's back and killing children again. Needlessly killing them, because there is an effective vaccine against whooping cough. When some fool tells you that childhood diseases are harmless (or maybe even beneficial) remember the sounds from this video and then behave in a suitably outraged manner.
It's a decaversary! (25/5/2013)
When I sat down to write my piece for the June edition of Australasian Science magazine I noticed that I had been writing for the publication for ten years. This prompted some reflection on the past and future. I encourage everyone to either subscribe to this excellent magazine or, if you are in Australia, insist that your newsagent has it on display. It's written for a lay audience by people who know what they are talking about when it comes to science. Even I'm one of those, I hope.
I've noticed that I've been writing for this magazine for ten years (first article in April 2003) and I thought I might follow the tradition of celebrating decadal anniversaries by looking back to see what, if anything, has been achieved.
The Atheist Cartoons site disappeared in 2014
I'm famous! (25/5/2013)
After the article about the ludicrous legal attempt to silence me came out in Monday's paper I started receiving a lot of calls and emails from the media. I've been interviewed for a couple of television programs (one recorded, with airing date yet to be announced, and one just at the data gathering stage that might come to nothing). I was also approached by some print and online media. One that came out of the blue was a request to write something for the Dubbo Weekender. For those not familiar with Australian geography, Dubbo is a country town about 300 kilometres in a straight line north-west of Sydney (400Km by road) with a population of about 33,000. I am not shy about saying my piece, so I put fingers to keyboard immediately. For the time being you can see the article on the Weekender web site here, but if that can't be reached you can read it on this very site.
In the early 1950s, when every parent was terrified that their children might catch polio, there was a small amount of opposition to the vaccine. The objectors were treated with the ridicule they deserved.
False "balance" erupts again (25/5/2013)
I've written before about the absurd policy of the media insisting on balance when none exists. Climate change is one of those areas where a crackpot has to be produced for every interview in order to provide "balance" to any statements made by real scientists talking about real science. We all thought that this business had died away in discussions on vaccination, with the anti-vaccination liars exiled to kooky and conspiracy radio programs where their ravings probably can't do any harm because the minuscule audiences of people with single-digit IQs would just nod their brain-free heads in agreement and no real damage would be done.
Then this appeared on a relatively high-rating television program on Thursday, May 23.
The woman appearing on this show should have been jumped on from a great height. If she had her way, children would be dying in their thousands. Her ignorance is monumental, her knowledge of science and medicine is not measurable (the Planck length puts a lower limit on measurement). Why can't doctors forget politeness and just call bullshit "bullshit"?
My email, Facebook and Twitter feeds went into meltdown, but the best came from someone working for the same organisation as the television channel. I was asked to write a comment on this ridiculous idea that in the name of journalistic balance crackpots and liars have to be given air time. Here it is:
I've just watched a television program in which there was a supposed debate about vaccination. There was a paediatrician who is also an expert on vaccination and a self-taught author in there to provide balance. The vaccine denier made several outrageous statements that can easily be refuted (measles is harmless, vaccines are harmful, fever is really good for children, …) and the paediatrician was too polite to forcibly challenge the nonsense. The show hosts tried to direct the conversation but didn't help much by trying not to be partisan. Viewers were left with the impression that the vaccine denier might have made some valid points.
I won't mention the name of the show or its hosts because this sort of thing is not unique to them. It is endemic in the media that some, but not all, sorts of nonsense require some sort of balance whenever there is a story. (To its credit one popular current affairs program told a friend of mine who appeared on it that they will not have vaccine opponents on for any reason. Promotions for the segment subtly ridiculed the anti-vaccination position. Ratings do not appear to have suffered.)