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Good news about vaccination 1 (5/4/2014)
Almost the best best news you can hear about vaccination, almost as good as hearing that a disease has been wiped out (Australia was officially declared free of measles by the WHO on March 20, 2014 - all cases in the last three years have been traceable to someone entering the country from elsewhere) is the decline of an anti-vaccination liar organisation. The death throes of the formerly-named Australian Vaccination Network are running on nicely. As well as the forced name change they are no longer a charity. It was originally thought that they had simply decided not to renew the licence (it was due to expire in April 2014 anyway) but the truth is that the status was surrendered at the request (order?) of the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming & Racing.
In a wonderful show of rewriting history, AVN spokesfolk have been claiming that they never wanted the charity status in the first place, they never used it, that they only got it by accident when they absorbed another organisation back in the day, that they had tried to cancel it but couldn't, it was a "millstone" they were glad to be rid of, ... Unfortunately these claims seem to be in conflict with their action when the licence was temporarily suspended in 2010 (they fought it in court), the gleeful announcements when it was restored (due to a technicality in a 1993 piece of legislation), and the statement made many times on the AVN web site and in blogs and emails that they were a charity.
For example, in 2009 I noticed this on the AVN web site:
I also noticed that their charity licence had expired and informed OLG&R. Ms Dorey offered this action of mine to a Court as evidence of harassment. From at least 2007 the AVN's web site claimed on the "Donations" page that it was "a volunteer run charity organisation". It even said what charitable works the donations would be spent on (including one place that had never heard of the AVN and wouldn't have anything to do with them anyway)
Now for the investigations into where the money went when they were a charity. I can hardly wait.
Here is the media release by the Minister.
Tuesday 18 March, 2014
AUSTRALIAN VACCINATION NETWORK (AVN) NO LONGER A LICENSED CHARITY
Minister for Hospitality George Souris today warned the public not to make charitable donations to the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network Incorporated (AVSNI), formerly known as the Australian Vaccination Network Incorporated (AVN), as it is no longer a registered charity.
Mr Souris said the association had surrendered its 'Authority to Fundraise' under the Charitable Fundraising Act following an investigation into its anti-vaccination activities by the Office of Liquor, Gaming & Racing (OLGR).
"OLGR issued a 'show cause' notice to the association requiring it to respond in writing on why its Authority to Fundraise should not be revoked," Mr Souris said.
"As a result, the association has now surrendered its Authority to Fundraise to OLGR effective immediately".
Under the Charitable Fundraising Act, if an organisation intends to fundraise for a charitable purpose it must be the holder of an Authority to Fundraise.
However, an Authority to Fundraise for a charitable purpose can be revoked if determined to be in the public interest. One of the objects of the Charitable Fundraising Act is to prevent deception of members of the public who desire to support worthy causes.
"OLGR's investigation sourced expert medical evidence challenging the accuracy of information provided on the association's website in relation to the risks and benefits of vaccination," Mr Souris said.
"The investigation highlighted a range of potential concerns, including risks arising from the association's anti-vaccination advocacy and the potential for misinformation to influence important health decisions resulting in potentially adverse public health consequences.
"As the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network Incorporated does not hold an Authority to Fundraise from OLGR they can no longer fundraise for a charitable purpose".
Minister for Fair Trading, Stuart Ayres, said the association recently changed its name, to the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network Incorporated, following a direction from Fair Trading and an Administrative Decisions Tribunal decision requiring it to adopt a name accurately reflecting its scepticism about vaccinations.
"I warn members of the public against making donations to this organisation.
"NSW Government agencies will continue to monitor the organisation's activities to ensure it does not fundraise for a charitable purpose."
Minister for Health Jillian Skinner said she is very proud of the NSW Liberal & Nationals Government's commitment to childhood vaccination.
"On January 1 this year, new legislation came into effect to ensure no child can be enrolled at a child care facility unless the parent/guardian provides an official immunisation record which shows the child is fully immunised or has been granted an exemption after the parents/guardian have met with a GP or nurse immuniser.
"Our Government is determined to protect our children from the devastating consequences of vaccine-preventable disease.
"While NSW has a very high rate of vaccination among children, we will continue to do all we can to protect those children who remain unvaccinated.
"Forget the scaremongering - there is nothing to fear from vaccination," Ms Skinner said
Good news about vaccination 2 (5/4/2014)
The other bit of good news about the AVN is that the Health Care Complaints Commission has told them to clean up their web site. Also, HCCC has issued a draft of a Public Warning (nobody from AV-SN can complain about me reproducing it here because I downloaded it when they published it on their Facebook page). Objections to the idea of a public warning have of course been lodged, but as these objections took the form of issuing ultimatums to the HCCC and were expressed in several chapters, each with a volume of text approaching that of a later Robert Ludlum novel, I will leave discussion of them for later.
Here's what the Public Warning is likely to say. (The whole thing is a bit long to reproduce here, so I've only included the final warning. You can read the full statement here.
The Commission considers that AVN's dissemination of misleading, misrepresented and incorrect information about vaccination engenders fear and alarm and is likely to detrimentally affect the clinical management or care of its readers. As seen through the examples provided above, AVN does not provide reliable information to enable its readers to make proper and informed decisions about vaccination.
Given the issues identified with the information disseminated by AVN, the Commission urges caution is exercised when using AVN's website or Facebook page to research vaccination.
The Commission has recommended that AVN amend its published information with regard to the above issues and the Commission will monitor the implementation of these recommendations.
And some bad news about vaccination (5/4/2014)
I suppose you have to take the bad with the good. The National Health Performance Authority has just released a report titled "Healthy Communities: Immunisation rates for children in 2012-13". To nobody's surprise the locality in the country with the lowest rate of vaccination for 1, 2, and 5 year olds is the Northern Rivers in NSW and the immediately surrounding areas. This just happens to be an area infested with natural food eating, quack medicine taking, home birthing, breast feeding people who have gone there to seek out the alternative lifestyle. If that isn't bad enough the area is home to the Australian Vaccination Network who have been proselytising their child-endangering nonsense there for decades. The AVN shouldn't get all the blame, because the area I live in, the Upper Blue Mountains, is almost as bad. It is no coincidence that the area has a similar demographic - a glut of chiropractors, naturopaths, and restaurants offering vegetarian and gluten-free options for most of the things on the menu. Click on the images below for the NHPA report and a story in my local paper.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? (5/4/2014)
I usually find political correctness to be a sometimes amusing and generally harmless activity. Then I saw this.
I'm currently reading my way through Ian Fleming's James Bond novels in the sequence in which they were published (which is not the sequence in which they were filmed) and these books show the casual racism of the 1950s in a way that makes much of the text very uncomfortable to read. Looking at this from 2014 and remembering that Fleming lived in Jamaica among the people he seems to deride and belittle probably adds to the nastiness.
I would not, however, want these books rewritten to today's standards. I was horrified to read that some of Enid Blyton's children's books are being reissued in bowdlerised form, just as I was to see that "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn" have been either banned in schools or rewritten to today's standards.
The first Bond book came out in 1953. Another book published in that year was "The Go-Between" by L. P. Hartley. Most people have not read that book, but everyone knows the opening line: "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there."
Then there's George Santayana ...
Change is always upon us (5/4/2014)
I did my usual monthly link check and I'm sad to report that a site I've had listed in The Millenium Project since July 1999 has been a victim of a hosting service that succumbed in March to economic reality. (They offered lifetime hosting for a one-off fee of $200. In 2004.)
And why will I miss this one so much? Because of its wonderful title: "Hothead Paisan (Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist)".
Here's another one that made me sad, but for different reasons.
I loved it when someone got up at the Blackheath Philosophy Forum and gave a lecture to the speaker, who just happened to be an expert on the topic (and had been one of my professors at university). His question consisted of "What is your response to that?" at the end. The reply: "You're wrong. Next question, please."
Homeopathy Awareness Week (19/4/2014)
We have just passed through Homeopathy Awareness Week, an international celebration of all that is ridiculous in the world of nonsensical nonscience. I am greatly in favour of raising awareness of the fraud of homeopathy, because the more people who become aware of its uselessness, the fewer people might be tempted to waste time, money, and their health on it. Here is a statement from the official WHAW web site:
In celebration of all those who have healed with Homeopathy, homeopaths and supporters share education and accessibility of homeopathy around the world, beginning on Dr. Samuel Hahnemann's Birthday every year.
During World Homeopathy Awareness Week (WHAW) free public events such as lectures, media interviews, volunteer first-aid at sports events, free & reduced clinics, written materials, pieces on Twitter and Facebook, publication articles and much more are shared in over 40 countries.
Through more awareness and access to homeopathy resulting in profoundly improved health, the paradigm in the understanding of healing and healthcare can truly shift.
To celebrate the week, Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council had a look at the uses of homeopathy to treat various medical conditions. The result: don't waste your money, it does nothing.
A draft of the report has been released for public discussion. You can read it here.
People have until May 26 to comment on it before it is released as an official Information Paper. Details about the comment process together with some background information can be found at the NH&MRC web site
Please remember that this is only a draft, and NH&MRC are already being inundated with complaints, anecdotes and appeals to antiquity (and possibly even threats of legal action) in defence of this absurd quackery. Think about making a submission in favour of the Information Paper to show you care.
The last word. I hope. (19/4/2014)
The latest edition of Australasian Science is now in newsagents and letterboxes and contains what I hope is the last thing I have to write there about the recently-but-still-deceptively-named Australian Vaccination-skeptics Network.
As I do almost every month, I urge you to subscribe to this excellent popular science magazine. I believe it's the best of its kind in the country (and not just because I write for it) and it is rare to see an article that can't be easily understood by a literate non-scientist.
March 2014 was a very good month for supporters of vaccination as the Australian Vaccination Network, Australia's most visible and virulent critic of vaccines, ran out of any sympathy the organisation had from public health and regulatory authorities.
Talk is cheap, but not always free (19/4/2014)
A continual complaint from nonsense peddlers is that their right of free speech is infringed by media outlets that won't print their opinions. They overlook the fundamental issue that private owners of publications have no obligation to provide platforms for people who disagree with them. It is not a restriction on freedom of speech if your letter to the editor is not published or your advertisement for condoms is rejected by the Catholic Weekly. Laws about freedom of speech are always about what the government will let you say, not about what non-government bodies do. One thing I have noticed about nonsense believers is that their ability to understand constitutional law is on par with their knowledge of science, logic, and ethics - non-existent. I am always amused by people in Australia quoting their constitutional rights, in this particular case their First Amendment right to free speech (the first amendment to the Australian Constitution clarified the term that senators serve).
In a beautiful example of optimism, a client of our old friend Tim Bolen, spokesanus to the quacks, argued in court that it was unconstitutional for the government to make laws banning lying in advertisements. Unluckily for the lying advertiser in question the judge on the bench that day was sane and this idiocy was rejected. Tim, of course, was a willing participant in the effort by Meryl Dorey of the Australian Vaccination Network to abuse the courts in order to stop me speaking about her and her activities, but if Tim didn't have double standards he wouldn't have any standards at all.
Criticism of what someone says is not an attempt to stifle free speech, although this is another continual complaint. If I grant you the right to express an opinion I have an equal right to object to what you say.
I once received an email from the head bigot at the ultra-racist British Nationalist Party. I can't find it now but I do remember part of it. He pointed out that even though we might agree on nothing except what day it is he would never try to stop me saying what I think, because it would be hypocritical of him to deny to others a right he claimed for himself. That made two things we agreed on.