AVSN president Tasha David misleads ‘We Are Vaxxed’ audience

Current president of the Australian Vaccination Skeptics Network, Tasha David, visited Atlanta Georgia in the USA to attend the so-called “CDC Truth rally”.

This caper was a big deal for antivaccinationists obsessed with the dishonest, deceptive film Vaxxed. In forming a view about the push to promote Vaxxed and the individuals involved it is important to understand how utterly false and potentially harmful it is. Like most outspoken antivaccinationists Tasha David keeps reminding us of her own dishonesty.

Whilst in the US, on the weekend of October 15-16, David joined the parade of vaccine victims appearing as video subjects for We Are Vaxxed. Although dishonest throughout her stint it is the first lies she offers that are so patently absurd. Initially David offers:

The government made us change our own name because we’re not allowed to choose our own name in Australia, so that’s basically one of the reasons why we’re here because in Australia we don’t have a Bill of rights we don’t have guaranteed freedom of speech, so we’re not allowed to speak on a lot of things.

Freedom of speech? Bill of Rights? Not allowed to choose our own name in Australia? Oh my. The government had “made us change our own name”? Balderdash and Blubberblurt. The Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network are obsessed with manipulating discourse and social media to keep their prior name – the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) – alive.

The AVN was formed in 1994. Twenty years later Tasha David became president. Clearly the AVN had a long run with the name they had chosen. It was however a confusing name and always intended to deceive. Regrettably the official sounding name was successful in fooling members of the public, and a legitimate midwifery organisation listed the AVN as reputable. The NSW Department of Fair Trading received complaints to this effect.

In December 2012 they ordered the AVN to change its name within two months or be deregistered. Minister for Fair Trading at the time, Anthony Roberts, said the group’s name “is confusing and has misled the public as to its operational intention”. The order was a huge blow to the twisted morale of the group which thrived on whenever possible snubbing regulators and mocking the vital purpose of regulation. They unsuccessfully challenged the order and by March 2014 changed their name to the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network.

By the time of the name change the Fair Trading Minister was Stuart Ayers. The ABC reported:

Fair Trading Minister Stuart Ayres says the association’s original name was misleading.

“The title wasn’t reflecting their strong anti-vaccination stance and so we after receiving numerous complaints requested them to change their name,” he said.

“They’ve now complied with that request and the new title reflects their anti-vaccination stance.”

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) says it hopes the name change makes sure the organisation is not mistaken for a government agency.

It would appear that David’s intellectually contorted statement suggesting government strong arm tactics and suppression of free speech is a calculated lie crafted to gain sympathy. In reality it is the health of Australian democracy and Fair Trading legislation that led to the order to change their deceptive name.

  • Listen to the first 2 min of David’s interview. NB: I edited out the confusion around live video streaming but have not altered the commentary in any way.

Tasha David continues:

I see that you guys are up in arms about that new CDC um, rule we’ve been talking about – forced vaccinating um, children, or people basically in the US. But I’m really sad to say that they’ve already passed that law in Australia. It’s called the Biosecurity Act 2015 so basically, um, they can force vaccinate you if you have a disease or um, some kind of illness that is a risk to human health.

Now that could be anything. Could be a cold you know, so we’ve already got the legislation in place. I haven’t seen it be used yet but the fact that it’s even in place is scary to me, you know, so…

Here, David is contending that forced vaccination is a reality in Australia if circumstances meet conditions outlined in the Biosecurity Act 2015. She further contends that the Act permits forced vaccination of an individual suffering “some kind of illness that is a risk to human health… that could be anything… could be a cold”. Putting aside David’s alarming lack of understanding the role of vaccination we should look closer at the Biosecurity Act 2015.

The Act is headed, An Act relating to diseases and pests that may cause harm to human, animal or plant health or the environment, and for related purposes.

The HTML version I’ve linked to has 681 pages, including endnotes. The word “vaccination” appears eleven times, the majority of these being in subsections or related sections. That is to say this vast document does not present a number of novel reasons for vaccination. Rather parts of the Act describe when vaccination is relevant to interpretation and application of the Act.

David is in error when claiming the Biosecurity Act 2015 deals with “anything” or “a cold”. The diseases this Act is designed to manage are in fact far removed from such a dismissive notion. Chapter 2 – Managing biosecurity risks: human health includes Listing Human Diseases:

(1)  The Director of Human Biosecurity may, in writing, determine that a human disease is a listed human disease if the Director considers that the disease may:
(a)  be communicable; and
(b)  cause significant harm to human health.
(2)  Before making a determination under this section, the Director of Human Biosecurity must consult with:
(a)  the chief health officer (however described) for each State and Territory; and
(b)  the Director of Biosecurity.
(3)  A determination made under this section is a legislative instrument, but section 42 (disallowance) of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 does not apply to the instrument.

With regard to Human Biosecurity Control Orders it should be noted that these are not applied frivolously and when an individual objects to the application of such measures the Director of Human Biosecurity “must take into account any factors that may affect the health of the individual”. Thus an established risk to an individual of an adverse reaction from vaccination would prevent administration of a vaccine.

With respect to imposing biosecurity measures the Act includes, in Chapter 2:

[Protections] aim to ensure that a power is exercised, or biosecurity measure imposed, only when circumstances are sufficiently serious to justify it, and only if it would be effective, it is appropriate and adapted for its purpose, and it is no more restrictive or intrusive than is required. [Protection] also ensures that the requirements of this Chapter do not interfere with an individual’s urgent or life‑threatening medical needs.

It’s important to realise with respect to disease a great deal of this Act and the application of biosecurity measures involve individuals entering Australian territory and the operation of aircraft or vessels entering or leaving Australia. Managing risks to human health include human biosecurity control orders. Section 59 of the Act includes:

A human biosecurity control order that is in force in relation to an individual may require the individual to comply with certain biosecurity measures. [Those measures] include vaccination, restricting the individual’s behaviour and ordering the individual to remain isolated.

In Division 2 of the Act it states under Entry Requirements (bold mine):

The Health Minister may determine one or more requirements for individuals who are entering Australian territory at a landing place or port.

for an individual to provide either:
(i)  a declaration as to whether the individual has received a specified vaccination or other prophylaxis within a specified previous period; or
(ii)  evidence that the individual has received a specified vaccination or other prophylaxis within a specified previous period

With respect to vaccination identical requirements exist under Exit Requirements.

Unvaccinated Australians are freely travelling to and from the country without being vaccinated against potential disease. Despite the Biosecurity Act travellers have brought measles to Australia, resulting in a sixteen year diagnostic high in 2014. Tasha David may claim that under this Act a simple cold could lead to forced vaccination, but there was no evidence of Human Biosecurity Control Orders in the wake of a recent measles outbreak in Melbourne. David would benefit from understanding just why she hasn’t seen this Act used to force vaccination for trivial reasons.

Section 74 of the Act notes when an individual is expected to comply with a biosecurity measure. Subsection (2) reads:

The individual is required to comply with the measure only if:
(a)  the individual consents to the measure; or
(b)  the Director of Human Biosecurity has given a direction for the individual to comply with the measure…

Section 92: Receiving a vaccination or treatment:

An individual may be required by a human biosecurity control order to receive, at a specified medical facility:
(a)  a specified vaccination; or
(b)  a specified form of treatment;
in order to manage the listed human disease specified in the order, and any other listed human disease.

With respect to the use of force one notes Section 95: No use of force to require compliance with certain biosecurity measures:

Force must not be used against an individual to require the individual to comply with a biosecurity measure imposed under any of sections 85 to 93.

Note: Force may be used in preventing an individual leaving Australian territory in contravention of a traveller movement measure (see section 101) or in detaining a person who fails to comply with an isolation measure (see section 104).

Thus contrary to Tasha David’s claim that, “they can force vaccinate you” under implementation of the Biosecurity Act 2015, we can see in this case that the Act itself prevents forced vaccination. It’s clear that no force can be used for the imposition of biosecurity measures under Sections 85 to 93. Vaccination, being Section 92, falls within this range.

No doubt antivaccinationists will disagree with any legislation that involves vaccination to protect the public from serious disease. What is important however is to underscore how this group will continually mislead the public without compunction. The Biosecurity Act 2015 is not used for just “anything” or simple “colds”. Nor does it permit forced vaccination.

David continues with considerable more nonsense. Offensive, crude dishonesty. Her next target is No Jab No Pay but it is the impact she claims to have observed that is quite sickening.

So these people that are single parents that don’t have that money to pay, you know that need that money just to survive… they can’t work, they can’t afford child care. So they’re basically on the street. We have so many stories on our web site of people living in cars, that are having abortions because they can’t afford to have a child in Australia now because of these laws.

Typically there is no evidence for these claims. If they were true the right thing for Tasha David to do would be to advise these individuals to have their children vaccinated and thus be eligible for the payments in question. Or perhaps the AVSN could help with some of that donated cash instead of spending it on trips to the USA.

Either way I doubt the AVSN will change their deceptive habits.