Are Meryl Dorey’s critics really against free speech?

Well, they’ve (The Australian Skeptics) actually said it. It’s been said several times. We don’t have freedom of speech in Australia. Many of them have said that and I have quotes on the internet, you can see it.

Meryl Dorey speaking to Tiga Bayles on Let’s Talk 98.9 FM, 19th December 2011

Meryl Dorey has never been one for facts. Recently her claim that her critics, “say that we don’t have freedom of speech in Australia” (Let’s Talk transcript), has lurched into full gallop. It’s always been around as a demonstrable distortion of documented facts, which I’ll get onto. It pops up on Facebook during tirades to fellow members or on her website posts where it sits in competition with “health fascism”, how “disease mongering” is profitable, that the pharmaceutical industry is in “a secret pact with mainstream medicine” or stupidly comparing herself to the bogus “Lord” Monckton.

Those of us following Woodford Festival’s ill conceived decision to host this threat to public health as an “expert” on such a crucial health topic as vaccination, will be familiar with the “free speech means free pass” argument. Dr. Rachael Dunlop made the following observation writing on ABC’s The Drum:

The argument that has been circulating in favour of letting Dorey speak at the festival has been one of free speech. But this is not about free speech.

Dorey is entitled to voice her opinions but not her own facts. And when a public health warning has been issued about her information, it is the responsibility of the festival organisers to make people aware that she is not an authority on vaccination, that her information has been deemed misleading and she does not support you getting your kids vaccinated.

You could argue suppressing my right to yell “fire!” in a crowded cinema is also about free speech, but when people’s safety is at risk, common sense must prevail.

We’re also entering the 5th year of a pertussis epidemic which began in Ms. Dorey’s hunting grounds and from there spread across Australia. The festival attracts lovers of alternative thinking who can only be harmed by Ms. Dorey’s manipulative diatribes. As such, the organisers of Woodford Festival made an extremely poor, ignorant judgement call and are now complicit in risking Australian health.

Dorey’s talk and opposition to it have little to do with free speech. As I contended recently, her track record of scams, misappropriation of funds, exploitation of members, copyright abuse, lying to the media and much more reveal a cowardly bottom rung con artist who makes an easy living by misleading Aussie citizens and authorities. Her disdain for our laws and insult to our intelligence is blindingly obvious. Charity fraud (including misappropriation of business names), copyright abuse and non compliance with health authority legislation/regulation carry feather touch penalties.

The other fairly outrageous caper I find irksome is how Dorey lies to those who lend support. Those who trust her to tell the truth. She’s a convincing speaker, making her victims easy game. This angle to her grossness literally blossomed as Dorey took Tiga Bayles for a goose, abusing his not insignificant ignorance and blind trust almost ferociously. Tiga simply believed what she said and replied accordingly.

In a sad turn of events Tiga is denied any facts and quickly made the fool. By show’s end he’s almost worshiping at Dorey’s feet, convinced she is fighting “the haters”. Added to this is the sheer volume of effort given by Meryl Dorey toward misleading Tiga about her critics. If she has such a vital role to play in promoting “informed choice”, can’t she just knuckle down and get on with it?

Putting the AVN aside entirely, I always find it a bad sign when one agent has to define their own qualities by highlighting what are supposedly negative qualities in an opposing agent. For Meryl Dorey, the libellous and slanderous attacks on her critics have now become an indispensable binary dance of her own making.

Scarcely moments into the show Dorey misleads the audience and once again leaves little doubt as to why she must be challenged and held accountable:

We have the Health Minister in Queensland saying that it’s nonsense to look at the other side of the vaccination issue. And the National Health and Medical Research Council, which is the government body that’s involved with this, says that you have to be able to make an informed choice. So all we’re doing is trying to support what the National Health and Medical Research Council says, and allow people to make an informed choice. If doctors and the government were doing their job, we wouldn’t even have to be here. I could be off having fun with my family and instead I’m sitting here working. [….]

…. but there is an organisation called the Australian Skeptics, and they set up about three years ago a sub-group called “Stop the AVN”…. They just think everyone should vaccinate, just listen to your doctor, nobody who is not a doctor is able or has a right to talk about this information…. And they say that we don’t have freedom of speech in Australia, which is not correct. [….]

But people need to be aware of what vaccines they are giving their children, why they’re vaccinating and how effective and how safe the vaccines are. And this organisation, Stop the AVN, says you’re not entitled to know that. And I think that people should be aware that there is such a strong push, from a very small section of the community, to stop them from being informed.

All of this is false and Dorey knows it to be. If SAVN are recommending listening to one’s doctor, how can they also say people aren’t entitled to know “how effective and how safe the vaccines are”? That’s exactly what critics of vaccine deniers wish people to know. The show transcript is a cornucopia of infuriating lies, and we need to expose the genesis of Dorey’s musings on opposition to free speech. However, it must be said clearly that linking Stop The AVN with Australian Skeptics actually occurs only in Meryl Dorey’s mind.

SAVN was set up by a private individual after Meryl Dorey harassed the grieving parents of an infant who died from pertussis. Dorey demanded access to the infant’s medical records and contended that Paul Corben, Director of Public Health at the North Coast Area Health Service misled the public by confirming a pertussis fatality. Corben wrote to the family:

Ms. Dorey called me on the 12th of March seeking details of your daughter’s illness and death… Ms. Dorey contended that I had misled the public in attributing your daughter’s death to pertussis.

Despite Corben’s clear email to this effect Dorey simply denies it. What ensued was a vindictive letter writing campaign and visits to family members by AVN intimates. It was not until The Australian Skeptics awarded Ms. Dorey the 2009 Bent Spoon Award for the traditional annual celebration of the perpetrator of the most preposterous piece of paranormal or pseudo-scientific piffle, that Dorey’s hatred for all things skeptical was unleashed. Perhaps Meryl has difficulty accepting just how many critics she has. Yet I suspect painting this picture of a looming enemy is not only compulsory for conspiracy theorists, but far easier than providing evidence.

Dorey continued to mislead Tiga regarding free speech:

Tiga: […] And it’s our right as parents and family members to be making free and informed decisions, and give free and informed consent, if we disagree.

Meryl: They disagree with what you’ve just said. They say we don’t have freedom of speech and you don’t have a right to say no.

Tiga: And by the way, Phil said, no the skeptics don’t tell lies, well, he didn’t say they don’t tell lies, he said they don’t say there isn’t any freedom of speech, they might imply that.

Meryl: Well, they’ve actually said it. It’s been said several times. We don’t have freedom of speech in Australia. Many of them have said that and I have quotes on the internet, you can see it.

Tiga: But even to imply it, Meryl.

Meryl: Well, it’s more than implication because they actually have said that.

A caller, Phil, had quite honestly said that it may be implied (as Dorey is doing) that freedom of speech is opposed by those who object to demonstrable falsehoods capable of harm, being voiced without contest. Here’s the exchange:

Tiga: And the skeptics… is it right then what Meryl… was Meryl correct when she said the skeptics say that we don’t have freedom of speech. Is that something the skeptics would say? In this regard?

Phil: Well, it may be implied. But this isn’t a freedom of speech issue.

Tiga: But it may be implied, Okay.

Later Dorey and Tiga excel themselves:

Tiga: What are these people, like governments, doctors, Stop the Australian Vaccination Network, the skeptics, what are these people when it’s controlling, and the haters that are out there. What’s the difference, probably even much better off under a communist system.

Meryl: That’s right. There isn’t any difference. And Stop the AVN is a hate group. They definitely are. They act like a hate group, they’re abusive, they’re bullies. So, yeah, I agree with you 100% with what you’re saying and it’s anti-democratic. You know, in a democracy we do have this right to choose, we do have the right to speak, so anyone who says we’re not is not democratic, and I think we all want to live in a democracy.

I recommend browsing the transcript. Or you may download the entire 45 minute audio here (or listen below) and make up your own minds about pre-show collusion, Tiga’s arguably conspiratorial anti-medicine beliefs and Meryl’s hilarious claims that she doesn’t lie nor object to the position of doctors defending vaccination. There’s monumental abuse of indigenous health realities from both sides. A few moments of listening hint that Tiga is far too proud to ever admit what a fool Dorey has made of him.

So, what is the source of Dorey’s claim that her critics would deny free speech? Would any academics or critics seriously advance such a primitive notion? Is Dorey cognizant of perhaps a different reality, that exposes this position as an intentional lie? Or could she prove (as intimated) that critics of anti-vaccination propaganda, “say we don’t have freedom of speech and you don’t have a right to say no”?

It’s possible to turn this right around and find that the evidence shows something quite different. Meryl Dorey is really about saying what she wants even if it has been shown to harm individuals or society in general.

In his complaint to the HCCC Mr. Ken McLeod addressed the issue of AVN free speech on page 6. [Item 5] Is the AVN protected by a right of free speech?

Contrary to the perceptions of an Australian public raised on a diet of Hollywood movies, there is no right of free speech in the Australian Constitution. On the contrary, Australian legislation and case law are littered with restrictions on speech, from contempt of parliament, national security, contempt of Court, sub judice rules, criminal defamation, breach of copyright, racial vilification, etc. For example, see Jones v Frederick Toben.

In 2002, a judge of the Federal Court of Australia found that Töben’s website “vilified Jewish people”, and ordered Töben to remove offensive material from his site. In May 2009, he was sentenced to three months in jail by Justice Bruce Lander after being found guilty of 24 charges of contempt, in that he continued to publish offensive views in defiance of Court orders {Jones v Toben [2009] FCA 354}.

Likewise, cancer quack Jillian Margaret Newlands has been ordered by the Queensland Supreme Court to cease providing her quack cancer cure and dangerous advice, such as advising clients not to seek chemotherapy treatment. [Public Statement by Qld Minister for Tourism and Fair Trading Peter Lawlor, Thursday, April 23, 2009 “Unregistered health provider ordered to stop misleading cancer patients”]

So, in Australia, one is entitled to free speech provided that one does not harm an individual or society in general. As Oliver Wendell Holmes USA CJ, put it so succinctly;

“The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theatre.” [Source]

The AVN is clearly harming individuals and society and is not protected by any right of free speech. Indeed, by explicitly including “health education” in the Health Care Complaints Act, speech is clearly not protected here, as speech is necessarily a part of the education process.

In her reply to the HCCC Ms. Dorey accuses Mr. McLeod of a “jihad-like mentality” (yet maintains taking offence at the term “quack”) and offers, Response to Section 5 of the McLeod Complaint – So Called Right of “Free Speech”;

Contrary to Mr McLeod’s ʻAmerican TVʼ version of Constitutional Law (under which he has adopted foreign terms such as “Right to Free Speech” derived from the US Constitution), there is in fact an implied freedom of communication and discussion on political and government affairs contained in the Australian Constitution and embodied within the federal system of government…. It has been found by the High Court of Australia that these sections, when read in context, provide that members of the Senate and the House of Representatives to be directly chosen at elections by the people and that therefore this requirement embraces all that is necessary to effectuate the free election of representatives at periodic elections, including the right to unfettered communication and discussion of all matters relating to government and public policy [Citation].

Freedom of communication on matters of government and politics has been determined by the High Court as being an indispensable incident of the system of representative government that the Constitution creates…. This freedom of communication and discussion is protected against the exercise of federal and state legislative and executive power and extends to all those who participate in ʻpoliticalʼ discussion (such as the AVN) and therefore is not limited only to electors and elected [Citation].

… The High Court has extended this freedom of communication on matters of government and politics extends to all non-verbal conduct [Citation], which would include content on the AVN website and all published materials of the AVN which is the subject of this complaint from Mr McLeod.

It is submitted that the HCCC should approach this complaint with this attitude of balance, and act to responsibly and lawfully when weighing up the competing interests at stake in the circumstances regarding the subject of this complaint. The High Court cases cited above confirm that the HCCC has a constitutional obligation to ensure that the ʻgag orderʼ and other similar provisions of the Health Care Complaints Act are not attempted to be implemented in response to this complain (sic) in a way that would offend or restrict the AVN’s constitutionally protected freedom of political expression. [….]

In closing on this particular subject, I submit a statement made by the Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, as quoted in August 22nd, 2009 edition of the Daily Telegraph. In a speech before Federal Parliament, Mr Smith stated that, “We understand, respect and recognise free speech. We value the capacity of someone to come to our country and say things, even if we do not agree.”

The full epic ramble covers three pages most of which I have spared you. Dorey failed to address Mr. McLeods argument on free speech content that may be inherently malignant. Instead an irrelevant attempt to suggest that the AVN engages in political discussion akin to “communication on matters of government and politics”, is made repeatedly.

In aligning herself with “an implied freedom of communication and discussion on political and government affairs contained in the Australian Constitution and embodied within the federal system of government”, Dorey assumes quite some self-promotion. The citations are related to media outlets and political speech as implied by the constitution, both during and outside of election time, qualified privilege and publication without malice, amongst others.

In short Ms. Dorey seems to have little grasp on the notion of responsible free speech. Ken McLeod has made a very good case as to why free speech despite it’s great value must not be abused or used as a tool of demonstrable harm. Meryl Dorey sees her role as so lofty, the HCCC should stand back and make way. It’s arrogant in the extreme and speaks volumes as to how Dorey sees herself.

Nonetheless that is the source of Dorey’s repeated claims that “the skeptics”, of which Ken is not a member and SAVN, “say that we don’t have freedom of speech in Australia”. Item 5, page 6 of a complaint raised against Meryl Dorey. Period.

It is clear that the HCCC agreed with McLeod’s version, having reviewed Dorey’s material and finding her a risk to public health. Dorey is entirely cognizant of the above. Yet she has again chosen to misrepresent the facts in an attempt to cast opponents as malignant. At worst this is a dispute over the interpretation of free speech under the Australian Constitution.

Using free speech to lie to Tiga Bayles about free speech in such a manner as to intentionally engender ill will and hatred toward others is perhaps the most eloquent justification as to why Ms. Dorey must be stopped from speaking to the detriment of others. What she should say is:

I, Meryl Dorey believe I have a right to say what I want regardless of the consequences to individuals or society and hide behind this as “free speech”.

That is what the evidence shows and it’s backed by her conduct. In essence Dorey is shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre and wants to keep doing so.

One repetitive issue did come up again. As I’ve noted earlier, Dorey believes Nicola Roxon’s recent announcement on immunisation incentives should have led with instructions on how to become a conscientious objector. As if the health minister should be actively promoting disease, disability and epidemics. She had Tiga fired up in no time:

Tiga: So, the government is responsible also for misinformation.

Meryl: Very much so. And we’re going to be complaining about that, but unfortunately what happens is you complain to the Ombudsman, and the Ombudsman says, oh well, tell the minister for health about this. It’s the Minister for Health who’s misinforming people in the first place. So there’s really no way to complain.

Tiga: Typical.

It’s hard to find analogues to this. Perhaps media announcements on how to get exemptions from total fire bans should take precedence over any warnings? Life savers pointing out where the most dangerous rips are outside the flagged zone? SES telling residents where to hide from rescuers as bush fire tears into town? Light houses leading you onto the rocks?

Meryl Dorey’s idea of free and responsible speech is a dangerous one.