American Airlines “blackmailed” by “pharmaceutically funded” organisations say AVN

In a predictable reaction to American Airlines’ sound decision to pull her misinformation on vaccination, Meryl Dorey has launched her own petition.

The unsigned petition takes the reader on a journey of unfounded accusation and a synopsis of the original interview. It again makes the same striking distortions of truth managing to claim Ms. Dorey cites “peer-reviewed research”, when in fact she cites Wakefield’s officially retracted and fraudulent paper.

“Pharmaceutically funded organisations” have “blackmailed” American Airlines it claims. More so, removal of the potentially lethal scheme is “un-American” and “a direct contravention to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution”.


Indeed the petition is actually worse than the interview, arguing that not only is the disproved link between vaccines and autism “verified” in the medical literature, but that vaccination:

… has contributed to a rate of autism in the United States that has increased from 1:10,000 20 years ago to 1:88 today

All that needs be stressed on this is that no peer reviewed literature supports this nonsense. Respected autism organisations across the globe agree the change in diagnostic frequency is just that – a change in diagnostic frequency. This is due to changing criteria and other factors increasing the likelihood of diagnosis. Which is vastly different to an increase in the incidence of autism as it was defined two decades ago.

Those scammed this way are playing Russian Roulette with measles according to a mother who didn’t vaccinate her son due to Wakefield’s fraud. The New Zealand Herald reported today on one person’s “informed decision”:

The theory [MMR linked to autism] was eventually retracted in 2010 and Wakefield was struck off the medical register, but not before triggering a worldwide health scare around the MMR vaccine.

Said Mrs Edwards-Lasenby: “It was one of those things where I had made the informed decision at the time not to do the MMR vaccine, with the information I had available to me. But where I went wrong was not going back to revisit that information and the advice available as time went on.”

She urged parents to reconsider immunisation, particularly if advice changes, to avoid playing “Russian roulette” with children’s lives.

It will take her son 12 months to fully recover from measles. He lost 7kg after not eating for 2 weeks, was on oxygen in isolation “fighting for his life” in hospital and even when well enough to return to school:

“Then he just caught anything,” Mrs Edwards-Lasenby said. “Any little scratch he had became an infection and he was constantly on antibiotics.”

Meryl Dorey is leading parents and innocent children toward this very suffering and potentially worse. Her proposed interview includes an entirely manufactured claim suggesting that measles vaccination is ineffective. If you’re wondering what our health regulators and authorities are doing you’re not alone.

The misguided line about new pertussis genomes was dealt with two posts ago, exposing Ms. Dorey’s intentional untruth about vaccine efficacy and infant fatality. Listen to your doctor – not Meryl Dorey.

Yet, the “trial myths” used by antivaxxers deserves noting. Whilst its thunderous hypocrisy for those who promote homeopathy, chiropractic treatment of disease and cancer “cures” to bemoan a lack of “the gold standard” in scientific testing (RCT), we also find more misinformation.

Firstly it is quite untrue that vaccines are not tested against a true placebo. Safety trials involve comparison to saline. Yet antivaxxers ignore this and attack efficacy trials as not being “placebo controlled”. These trials compare vaccine components minus the agent/s responsible for the immune response (in one sample), to the full vaccine (in another sample). Such trials are absolutely crucial to delineate a true immune response from other possible responses. This complaint is void and invalid.

Next is the rather amusing insistence of the need to test the overall health of the fully unvaccinated against the fully vaccinated. Exactly how we separate the former sample from protection, and thus good health, afforded by herd immunity and still preserve the integrity of this study has never quite been explained.

More so, how do we correct for fatalities from vaccine preventable disease in the unvaccinated who are no longer alive? If the notion is to begin studies at birth I am sure no ethics committee would pass such an absurdity. This is clear if we consider restrictions on Isaac Golden’s so-called “PhD in homeopathic immunisation”. He writes in the abstract:

The effectiveness of the program could not be established with statistical certainty given the limited sample size and the low probability of acquiring an infectious disease… Further research to confirm the effectiveness of the program is justified.

Of course the subtle suggestion is that vaccinated individuals will be of inferior health due to complications from the frogs and snails and puppy dog tails that wicked vaccines contain. I would suggest that as we’re witnessing the re-emergence of diseases and the fatality they cause as a consequence of lower immunisation levels that the long term and large scale outcome of this hypothetical trial is blindingly obvious.

Next is the complaint that pharmaceutical companies conduct trials and licence vaccines “with no independent oversight on the part of government regulators”. This is also entirely false. Good Manufacturing Practice is moderated by governments and the WHO. In relation to vaccines the WHO state [bold mine]:

WHO defines Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) as “that part of quality assurance which ensures that products are consistently produced and controlled to the quality standards appropriate to their intended use and as required by the marketing authorization”.  GMP covers all aspects of the manufacturing process:  defined manufacturing process; validated critical manufacturing steps; suitable premises, storage, transport; qualified and trained production and quality control personnel; adequate laboratory facilities; approved written procedures and instructions; records to show all steps of defined procedures taken; full traceability of a product through batch processing records and distribution records; and systems for recall and investigation of complaints.
The guiding principle of GMP is that quality is built into a product, and not just tested into a finished product.  Therefore, the assurance is that the product not only meets the final specifications, but that it has been made by the same procedures under the same conditions each and every time it is made.  There are many ways this is controlled – controlling the quality of the facility and its systems, controlling the quality of the starting materials, controlling the quality of production at all stages, controlling the quality of the testing of the product, controlling the identity of materials by adequate labelling and segregation, controlling the quality of materials and product by adequate storage, etc.  All of these controls must follow prescribed, formal, approved procedures, written as protocols, SOPs, or Master Formulae, describing all the tasks carried out in an entire  manufacturing and control process.

The TGA (pages 10, 19, 20, 21, 22) and FDA have similar standards. Many Aussies will remember the visit and warning CSL received from the FDA following the Fluvax scare in W.A [2]. The TGA overview is here. In Australia we have The Pharmaceutical Overview Inspection Scheme.

The petition raises a claim that must be expanded on:

The opponents of this interview cite a public warning issued by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) against the AVN. What they have failed to inform you of is the fact that in February, 2012, the NSW Supreme Court found that the HCCC had acted illegally in issuing that warning and the warning has since been removed and costs were awarded against the HCCC in favour of the AVN.

Wrong. That was down to me and as I’ve pointed out already I cited the NSW HCCC findings, which Justice Christine Adamson ruled were still valid by not accepting the AVN submission that certiorari (quashing the HCCC findings), was warranted.

Thus whilst the warning and recommendation were outside of jurisdiction due to the HCCC failure to satisfactorily demonstrate Section 7(1)(b) of the HCC Act 1993 (“a health service which affects the clinical management or care of an individual client”), the investigation findings were not expunged in any manner whatsoever. The petition should thus rightly be amended.

Check the petition out further if you want, but I would suggest that both the interview and the petition have been fairly and honestly outed as scurrilous and dishonest attempts to force demonstrably false fringe beliefs onto a wider unsuspecting audience. Of course, the AVN maintain it’s a conspiracy and Dorey has been unfairly censored. American Airlines have capitulated to “druggies” according to one signatory.

Ultimately I do hope for someone who has had such a good run on the smell of an oily scam, Dorey has the decency to accept the outcome as fair and just.

  • In a bit of a round up there’s ample to read from sites, bloggers and skeptics from the last few days:
  1. Vaccine Awareness and Information Service
  2. I Speak of Dreams
  3. I Speak of Dreams (2)
  4. Peter Bowditch
  5. Australian Skeptics
  6. Bad Astronomy
  7. Bad Astronomy (2)
  8. io9
  9. Australian Doctor
  10. Anti-vaccination group hits snag

American Airlines grounds Australian Vaccination Network

American Airlines have announced they will not air or print anti-vaccination material from Meryl Dorey of The Australian Vaccination Network.

This followed a fantastic response to an online petition and no doubt the submission of a number of letters to American Airlines, key partners and other influential individuals and organisations. Thanks to a simply awesome online community. Phil Plait blogged and tweeted bringing hundreds of thousands on board.

Fully aware of the potentially lethal consequences to flow from such egregious material thousands literally took the view: There’s no way this is gunna fly. Twitter ran hot with promotion of the petition at, and tweets to @AmericanAir asking for cancellation.

@AmericanAir tweeted their decision at 07:15 AEST then confirmed the same for printed material about 25 minutes later. Busy preparing emails for the AusAID Development Office and Scholarship Department I was alerted via phone by the ever-vigilant @fourgirlsmum.

Since the American Airlines confirmation-by-twitter, there has been other confirmation in writing to interested parties ensuring that:

 … the interview in question has not yet been submitted to American Airlines, and we will not be running it if, and when, it is.

American Airlines has done the right thing in the interests of passenger safety, disability rights and public health. For that they deserve a huge thanks and congratulations.

Of course they can follow up this episode with a review of approval processes and communication with producers and editors of in-flight material. Only a couple of days ago we were informed accessing the material was “optional”. Whilst I accept the announcement by American Airlines that Dorey’s diatribe will be dropped, it should never have made it to production initially.

Only through rigorous vetting of applicants and their proposed material for in-flight access can we be sure that dangerous schemes like this do not in future make it in under the radar – no pun intended.

Once again the scale of error and audacity inherent in Ms. Dorey’s rather extremist and outright dishonest performance can’t be overstated. In my previous post I point out a number of very obviously deceptive tactics made only worse by Ms. Dorey’s inability to understand – or perhaps accept – the science of vaccination.

The attempt to malign measles vaccination by impersonating an authority on vaccines and immunity was alarming. As Phil Plait noted in his reason for signing the petition:

In May 2011, an infant with measles was brought on board American Airlines flight 3965, and a hundred passengers had to be tracked down and many quarantined.

Incredibly Dorey had misled that the pertussis vaccine “isn’t working”, was causing a more deadly disease and that the same applied to measles vaccination. Apart from the official sounding peacock label used by the AVN, Ms. Dorey presented herself as a first person authority, suggesting involvement with extremely complex scientific research.

We know vulnerable children and infants are dying as a result of these diseases. That this could be perpetuated by misplaced trust in a calculating charlatan is intolerable.

Thus I do hope American Airlines will very take very seriously the matter of how the producer of their Executive Report, and further the editor of their American Way magazine both made such a mistake.

There was a similar situation with Delta Air Lines wherein hand washing, exercise and vitamins were presented by US anti-vaccination lobby NVIC as superior to influenza vaccination.

This resulted in the sort of review process American Airlines must now consider. ABC news reported last November:

In a response to the AAP, Delta conceded that the video does not point to vaccines as the primary source for flu prevention.

“Therefore, we have changed our internal review processes and procedures to help ensure that submitted content is vetted differently going forward,” Delta’s general manager of occupational health, Barbara Martin, wrote in response.

In view of ongoing financial losses American Airlines would be making a very sound business decision in providing passengers with the same confidence Delta Air Lines does.

For now, American Airlines is to be praised for taking a stand against a malignant force in public health. If you have a chance, tweet your thanks to @AmericanAir.

To all those involved and interested I extend my sincere, heartfelt thanks.

Surely You Can’t Be Serious: American Airlines to air AVN propaganda

Update: American Airlines has agreed to not run any AVN material

No Government has the right to say, “You have to put your child’s health at risk because we have made this procedure compulsory”

Meryl Dorey on non-compulsory vaccination for American Airlines in-flight Executive Report

In what seems like the outline of a black comedy with the tagline, At 35,000 feet nobody can tell you’re lying it has emerged that American Airlines will air in-flight material featuring radical anti-vaccination lobbyist, Meryl Dorey.

  • Audio here:

MP3 download here.

Transcript here.

This nonsense will air on 58,000 flights between July and August this year and also run in the American Way in-flight magazine. You can play a role in stopping it. Read on or scan to the second last paragraph.

Edit: As of April 22nd the Petition Ask American Airlines to Cancel anti-vaccination message was launched. Access also from the right hand column here.

It may well be a symptom of the desperation to hit American Airlines as bankruptcy looms over it’s parent company, AMR Corp. Striking losses have been a quarterly feature for over a year now and AMR only hours ago reported 1,200 cargo and baggage jobs will be cut to help offset a $1.7 billion loss already this year.

Meryl, who would have all believe she is a “health educator”, kicks off her three and a half minutes of monumental misinformation by claiming vaccination creates antibodies and as such this means one has been exposed to a disease but is not immune. What does she say about those who encounter a wild virus with absolutely no antibodies you ask? Nothing. In short she invokes Meryl’s Equation, which is well known to AVN watchers: < 100% = 0%.

Much like a body surfer, Dorey has been on a free ride following careless media reports on the emergence of new pertussis isolates (“mutated strains”) that are not present in current acellular vaccine preparations. She goes on to claim that “what we’ve found” (I kid you not) is that the acellular vaccine is “bringing a new form of whooping cough to the fore” which is not covered by the vaccine. The serious question here is has whooping cough evolved around the current vaccine?

Subtitling that very question with Reflections on the current scientific evidence is Tom Sidwell. Unlike Meryl, Tom is not married to a macadamia farmer but has a Bachelor of Science, with majors in Immunology and Microbiology, and minors in molecular biology and biochemistry. Last year he received first class honours in Immunology and presently is in the first year of a PhD delving into the development of naturally occurring Regulatory T cells.

Tom writes in his summary:

This review analyses these claims. Careful examination of the current literature indicates that while the bacterium’s genome does appear to have changed in response to pressure from the vaccine, none of these changes appear to give it any significant advantage over the immunity the vaccine induces. Thus, reports that the current vaccine is ineffective are misleading and inaccurate.

The pertussis vaccine provides vital protection and Meryl Dorey knows darn well that whilst only 5% of Australian children between 0-4 years are not fully vaccinated, they make up almost 30% of notifications. Yet again, much like a body surfer, Meryl rides the peak of the wave right to the shallows and is dumped mercilessly onto the hard sand of reality. Rather than admit task difficulty exceeds skill level Dorey manufactures demonstrable fallacies.

“For the first time in decades, we’re seeing babies die”, Dorey lies blaming the vaccine for the “much more deadly disease”, immediately after misrepresenting the totality of reasons behind high notification rates.

Meryl Dorey then continues with breathtaking deceit.

The vaccine is not working and we’re seeing similar situations with measles and mumps and we may see this with more diseases into the future.

Measles? Mumps? Similar situations? How did we get from bacterial infection to viral infection? Is this woman seriously trying to link measles virus outbreaks due to low immunisation rates, to the very recent discovery of altered genomes in Bordetella pertussis bacteria isolates? Or the known cases of vaccine conscientious objectors, infected with viral mumps who then passed it to close contacts who had been partially and fully vaccinated for MMR? Apparently she is.

One can only stress that vaccine induced immunity is not impervious to prolonged assault. In the cases I’m familiar with the vaccinated subjects who contracted mumps were mostly those who had one MMR shot, less so in those who had two and least so in those who had completed the course of three. Of course, it’s axiomatic that had the conscientious objectors (religious communities), been vaccinated there would be no mumps outbreak to speak of. Countless individuals in close contact showed no infection thanks to MMR vaccination.

The other nonsense is close to outrageous for a “health educator”. This is fear mongering at it’s best. Yes, Australia has epidemic levels of pertussis infection moving across the nation. Notifications are higher than ever. Yet diagnostic techniques are more sensitive than ever. The wide spread use of PCR has multiplied confirmed diagnoses many times over as it can detect pertussis infection of much milder levels and for weeks longer than earlier laboratory tests. The skill of clinicians and heightened awareness has led to earlier and more frequent recommendation for testing.

More to the point, rather than suddenly seeing infant fatalities coinciding with rising diagnosis we see fatalities are less than during the 1997 (pre acellular vaccine) epidemic. Hospitalisations are approximately the same. In respect of the claim “For the first time in decades, we’re seeing babies die“, one notes in Australia 16 children under 12 months died from pertussis between 1993 and 2008. In 2001 and 2002 alone, five infants under two months old died from pertussis. American Airlines passengers will be lied to. Period.

With such alarming misinformation it isn’t surprising Dorey continues to argue Andrew Wakefield’s research is valid and that “the only common denominator” to explain what she erroneously assumes is an increase in autism as it was defined a generation ago, is vaccination. Not only is this fallacious but ignores the 217 day hearing into Wakefield’s fraudulent paper.

In Science Betrayed the BBC note that the General Medical Council found:

Andrew Wakefield’s continued lack of insight into his misconduct is so grave that nothing less than erasure from the medical register would do

In an unprecedented move Wakefield’s paper was retracted from The Lancet. It now lingers on the fringes of conspiracy theory from whence come increasingly absurd claims Wakefield has been “vindicated”.

Wakefield was found guilty of four counts of dishonesty, around a dozen counts of causing children to undergo invasive and unnecessary procedures, buying blood from children at a birthday party and ordering tests he was not qualified to order. It has since emerged his scheme was an elaborate plan to make money from immunodiagnostics focusing on the very syndrome he manufactured.

However, according to Dorey, vaccine induced autism is common in the medical literature and Wakefield’s paper is “the study that everybody talks about”. Well, despite it’s retraction it also clearly states “we did not prove an association between measles mumps and rubella and the syndrome described [autistic enterocolitis]”. Perhaps Meryl should talk about that.

Rather she offers:

A lot of people are saying that this journal article has been discredited, but what they’re ignoring is the fact that since this original paper was published there have been many other papers verifying this finding

Again this is utterly false as a quick search will prove. The opposite has been demonstrated over and over. Children not exposed to thimerosal have identical rates of autism to those that were. Children not given MMR following a complete ban on this vaccine as a result of Wakefield’s fraud, showed increased rates of autism. US courts have ruled vaccines are not related to autism. Dorey tried her best last December and came up with nothing but a see-through scam.

Edit (Added 21/04): Reasons for increased diagnoses include:

  • The actual frequency of autism may have increased, meaning more children have it
  • There is increased case reporting, leading to greater findings, better use of funding and heightened awareness
  • Changes in the DSM-III-R and DSM-IV diagnostic criteria may account for more cases
  • Parents are more conscious of autism, more likely to seek expert help and more cases are being diagnosed as a result
  • Earlier diagnoses have essentially added a new younger demographic to the the existing demographic of children – ie; it spans more years
  • When we examine rising autism figures we find a corresponding drop in other types of mental disability and retardation, meaning they are now within the autism spectrum
  • There is an increase in misdiagnoses of autism which may partly explain the misconception of “autism cures”
  • Application of childhood criteria to novel adult samples yields a diagnostic frequency equal to children (supporting a change in criteria, not incidence)

Indeed, every duck, dodge and weave that anti-vaccination lobbyists have tried has been patiently accommodated and found to not support any link between vaccination and autism. In addition American Airlines get the AVN patented claim of “mandatory vaccination”, which is another fallacy but emotive enough to suspend critical thought and the need for evidence.

In short American Airlines are giving voice to a most malignant force in public health and by doing so run the risk of contributing to ongoing disease outbreak, family tragedy and parental angst. Perhaps “The Australian Vaccination Network” looked safe on paper – an understandable error.

I ask you to join me in making your concerns known to American Airlines by emailing Customer Relations and perhaps contacting the Board of Directors. At the very least Thomas W. Horton Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of AMR Corporation/American Airlines, Inc., should be made aware that his company is promoting potentially lethal information to the detriment of Australian, American and European citizens.

Mailing Address
P.O. Box 619616
DFW Airport, TX 75261-9616

USA Phone: 817-963-1234

Keep an eye on Twitter via #StopAVN and send your thoughts to @AmericanAir.

Bob Brown seeks to dodge AVN bullet

Senator Bob Brown’s resignation as Greens party leader and a Senator does not erase a much needed explanation for his “bizarre outburst” in defence of The Australian Vaccination Network, it was revealed within minutes today.

A spokespig for Stop the AVN said that Brown’s “manifest cowardice” in using Parliamentary Privilege to, “rattle off every crackpot, debunked and discredited conspiracy theory linked to vaccines – including the cause of AIDS – was one of the lowest points in Australian political history”.

The naked spokespig with wings, appeared to be made of cast iron and carried a copy of The Skeptic. He quickly handed out sections of a 1997 Tasmanian State Parliament discussion on vaccination policy recorded in Hansard to reporters outside Parliament House (see below).

Asked whether this was a case of sour grapes over The Green’s long standing criticism of iron mining, or mining industry opposition to the carbon tax, the unusually handsome spokespig bristled, insisting:

My constitution has absolutely nothing to with the evidence on the subject of vaccination. And that evidence shows that Brown was wrong then, and his comments left undefended on record, are even more ridiculous today. I might be a Cast Iron Flying Pig but would suggest the evidence for vaccine efficacy and anthropogenic climate change are subject to similarly irrational opposition.

The spokespig went on to say that he was definitely not a climate change sceptic, but an “evidence seeking skeptic”. It was thus axiomatic that Brown should be able to judge the integrity of information and that his 1997 comments actually made a mockery of his so-called “scientific understanding” of global warming. “As a trained medical doctor he makes a very good doorstop”, intoned the spokespig.

When one reporter pointed out that Cast Iron Flying Pigs actually WERE doorstops, and that her elderly grandmother had one, he maintained that he was thus highly qualified to judge.

“The problem is that without verification, (then) Senator Brown cited the AVN’s magical “300 Reports of Serious Adverse reactions from vaccines, [of which they claim] not one was reported from the doctors involved”. Today 14 and a half years later, the AVN are yet to produce one of these properly verified reports, the spokespig announced to gasps of disbelief.

All Australians have a right to clear, unambiguous feedback on matters of public health, insisted the spokespig. “Bob Brown has failed in that respect, and his smokescreen of reasons for resignation can’t hide the fact that he’s now running scared from Stop The AVN”.

Bob Brown did not return phone calls this afternoon.

  • Hansard pages 8725 and 8726 covering Bob Brown’s bizarre November 11th, 1997 anti-vaccination diatribe:

Tas. Parliament Hansard

Has the OLGR “verified” the HCCC Warning was “sole basis” for revocation of AVN fundraising authority?

I am not a lawyer…

One constant theme that Meryl Dorey has kept up since the OLGR revoked the AVN fund raising authority (the decision is under appeal) is that it was entirely due to the, now removed, HCCC warning.

On February 24th the NSW Supreme Court upheld the Australian Vaccination Network appeal against the HCCC. Justice Christine Adamson found that the HCCC acted ultra vires in conducting an investigation, publishing a public warning and ordering the AVN to post warning notices online alerting consumers that they are antivaccination.

In this case ultra vires, meaning beyond powers, was a technicality of acting outside jurisdiction. The HCCC was deemed to have done so under Section 7 of the HCC Act: What can a complaint be made about? It had not been sufficiently demonstrated to the court that Section 7(1)(b) – a health service which affects the clinical management or care of an individual client, applied to the AVN. Simply, the HCCC needed actual information that Joe or Jane Bloggs had not vaccinated because of the AVN, before it – the HCCC – could act.

So, how does this relate to the OLGR appeal?

The AVN wanted certiorari granted in relation to all HCCC findings. This would have rendered the HCCC findings null and void and legally the findings would be considered quashed. This is quite different to having been found to have acted outside jurisdiction as a result of those findings.

Dorey also submitted that the Minister for OLGR was obliged to take into account the Public Warning as part of his duty under the Charitable Fundraising Act 1991.

Juctice Adamson found on page 21 of the ruling [bold mine]:

The plaintiff argued that the Public Warning was, as a matter of practical reality, a matter that the Minister for Gaming was obliged to (and in fact did) take into account in determining whether to revoke the plaintiff’s authority to raise funds under the Charitable Fundraising Act 1991. When asked to identify the discernible legal right which was affected, counsel for the plaintiff said:

“The damage to its reputation by being labelled a public risk to health and safety.”

[The AVN] submitted that its rights were not only directly affected, but also altered, by the HCCC’s decision to issue the Public Warning and that certiorari is accordingly available. It argued that the decision directly exposed it to a new hazard of an adverse exercise of public power (having its fundraising capacity revoked).

However, the plaintiff could not point to any provision in the Charitable Fundraising Act 1991 that made the Public Warning a mandatory relevant consideration in the Minister’s decision whether to revoke the authority.

Accordingly there is no basis on which I could find that the Minister for Gaming is legally obliged to take into account the Public Warning. For these reasons, certiorari does not lie.

If certiorari does not lie the findings remain. The HCCC conclusions are not incorrect. The AVN has not been found to be acting in the public interest. The complaints have not been found to be without foundation. What happened was that the HCCC did not convince the court it could act further in exercising it’s powers based on the initial findings.

More so, implicit in the above wording, is the failure of the AVN to show that the HCCC Public Warning was taken into account by the Minister for Gaming on legal grounds. Nor is there any provision in the Charitable Fundraising Act 1991 to support the AVN contention that the Minister was obliged to take the Warning into account when revoking authority.

So in the case of AVN vs HCCC the Supreme Court made no order at all affecting the OLGR’s revocation of the licence to raise funds.

At this point the Public Warning carries no weight. The HCCC findings have not been quashed. Justice Adamson has rejected the AVN submission that the OLGR revoked the AVN’s authority to raise funds because of the Public Warning or their claim of an obligation to the Public Warning. Nonetheless the next day Meryl Dorey wrote on Facebook [bold mine]:

For those who have been asking about our chariity (sic) status, hopefully, I will have more information on that early next week. The HCCC decision did not automatically give us back the authority, but I am hopeful that we will get it back since the OLGR relied completely on the HCCC warning to revoke the authority. Therefore, since the warning was invalid, the revocation may be too. Anyway, I will let you know as soon as I have the information myself.

Yesterday writing in her Living Wisdom email of April 8th Meryl noted that whilst they would be reimbursed for expenses against the HCCC they would not be reimbursed for expenses against the OLGR [bold mine]:

… but hopefully, we will soon have our authority to fundraise reinstated since the OLGR have verified that the HCCC’s warning was the sole basis of that revocation. Now that the warning is no more (the HCCC removed it from their website the same day the decision was handed down), we should be granted a charity authority again.

Interesting. There was a Directions Hearing for the appeal on March 27th. I can’t be sure but it strikes me as unlikely the OLGR would “verify” that a defunct warning was the sole basis of the licence revocation at a Directions Hearing. What else has the OLGR said?

On their website they announced the revocation in 2010:

Minister for Gaming and Racing, the Hon Kevin Greene MP, has revoked the fundraising authority formerly held by the Australian Vaccination Network Inc (AVN).

An investigation by the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, a division of Communities NSW, found that AVN had breached charitable fundraising laws and potentially misled the public. […]

The OLGR investigation also took into account the findings of the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) which established that the website operated by AVN provided information that was solely anti-vaccination as well as information that was incorrect and misleading.

The HCCC has published a public warning stating that AVN’s failure to post a disclaimer on its website may result in members of the public making improperly informed decisions about whether or not to vaccinate posing a potential risk to public health and safety.

This fairly clearly states that the OLGR investigation found the AVN breached charitable fundraising laws and also took into account the HCCC findings. These findings have not been quashed. They note the HCCC public warning and the risk to public health and safety.

If they also took the HCCC findings into account then there would be other factors at play. Indeed their findings included breaches of the Charitable Fundraising Act 1991 that are of no business to the HCCC:

Under Section 31 of The Charitable Fundraising Act 1991 the reasons for revocation can be found. In fairness to Meryl we should consider what may be the reason for her insistence that the HCCC Warning influenced the revocation. On October 14th 2010 Meryl published this via email to members:

Approximately 2 hours ago, I received a notification from the OLGR that they would, effective Wednesday, October 20th, be revoking the AVN’s charitable status. They have sent me a letter listing the reasons for this revocation (those reasons are reproduced below) and also the announcement that is being Gazetted today.

(a) that any fundraising appeal conducted by the holder of the authority has not been conducted in good faith for charitable purposes

The Organisation has failed to publish a disclaimer on its website as recommended by the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC). This has resulted in an unacceptable risk of potential donors to the Organisation being misled when making a decision whether or not to make a donation, which has led to appeals not being conducted in good faith.

(c) that any fundraising appeal conducted by virtue of the authority has been improperly administered

The Organisation’s website is misleading in that it may lead people making donations to believe that they are donating to a cause which promotes vaccination whereas the Organisation adopts an anti-vaccination position. When requested by the HCCC to publish a disclaimer on its website the Organisation failed to do so.

(f) in the public interest, the authority should be revoked.

The failure of the Organisation to comply with the HCCC recommendation resulted in the Commission publishing a Public Warning on 26 July 2010 advising that this failure “poses a risk to public health and safety”. In this circumstance it is in the public interest to not permit the Organisation to conduct fund raising appeals under the Act.

This is an accurate account of the OLGR correspondence as reproduced elsewhere.

I can understand concerns about section (f) which, worded that way, appears to rely only on the HCCC Public Warning. Section (c) appears quite valid when stripped of reference to the HCCC. Furthermore the OLGR cited HCCC findings in conducting their investigation, and these findings have not been quashed. Thus Section (a) and (f) derived from HCCC findings, not recommendations, would potentially still stand.

Nonetheless, in terms of the revocation (and only the revocation) these are the reasons listed by the OLGR. And they do carry an item by item reference to the HCCC, which in turn apparently gives credence to Ms. Dorey’s repeated claim. Given the number and type of breaches of the Act, the OLGR could seemingly have cited other aspects of Section 31.

Certainly when the matter reaches court the defence of Sections (a), (c) and (f) will become far more complex. To this we should add the judgement of Justice Christine Adamson as noted above. An attempt to set a precedent that the licence to raise funds was revoked only due to the HCCC Public Warning was rejected on interpretation of The Charitable Fundraising Act 1991.

All considered it’s a likely simplification to claim the revocation is based entirely on the HCCC Warning. We should remember the OLGR stated it “also” looked at HCCC findings in it’s statement of revocation. Although on examination I can understand Ms. Dorey’s penchant for doing so. After all it drives attention away from other aspects of the OLGR investigation.

The following is from an OLGR letter to Mr. Ken McLeod, October 18th, 2010:

During the course of the inquiry evidence of possible breaches of the Charitable Trusts Act 1993 was detected in relation to the following specific purpose appeals conducted by AVN. :

1. Fighting Fund – to support a homeless family, allegedly seeking to avoid a court order to immunise a child with legal and living expenses. The appeal ran for a short time in 2008 and raised $11,810. None of the funds were spent on this purpose.

2. Advertising Appeal – initially this was an appeal for the specific purpose of raising funds for an advertisement in the Australian commencing in March 2009 and concluding July 2009. The specific purpose was changed during the course of the appeal to fund advertisements in Child magazine. This appeal raised $11,910. None of the funds were applied to the specific purposes. It is noted that AVN did spend some $15,000 during the period December 2009 to July 2010 on various forms of advertising.

3. Bounty Bag Program and Vaccination Testing – for a number of years AVN has solicited for donations generally in a manner where, despite it not being AVN’s intention, one specific purpose was created in that donations could only be spent on one or more of four purposes, including funding the provision of AVN material in the Bounty Bag program and testing of vaccines. No funds raised have been spent on these two purposes.

There is evidence that funds donated for the above specific purposes have been applied to other purposes including the running costs of AVN. Accordingly these matters have been referred to the Department of Justice and Attorney General, the Department that administers and regulates the Charitable Trusts Act 1993

In answer to that question I do not know if the OLGR did base it’s revocation entirely on the HCCC recommendations, nor whether or not it has verified anything of late. I do know one Supreme Court judge has rejected this notion on legal terms and I conclude there are many more valid reasons as to why the AVN should never be allowed to raise funds as a charity.

For an excellent and well laid out article I recommend visiting reasonablehank‘s consideration of exactly the same question.

I do hope however that when this matter gets to court the OLGR brings forth the bulk of their findings and uses them to prevent the revocation being overturned.

The AVN is anything but a charity.