How low is the standard of politics, political life and journalism in Australia? And why should that concern anyone who supports Health Freedom? What has it to do with Health Freedom ?
The Australian Vaccination Network [AVN] is a health freedom network in Australia which provides information about vaccinations which is not to the liking of Australian government health officials.
Meryl Dorey of AVN reports [see full post reproduced below] that not long after the AVN won a legal case against the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) in the State Supreme Court of New South Wales Australia, the NSW state government passed legislation giving the HCCC power to investigate and cite nearly anyone they choose [and they started out choosing AVN]. The NSW state Parliamentary Committee for the Health Care Complaints Commission is considering now passing legislation which will make everyone in the community – especially those who practice and use natural therapies, liable to government sanctions just for discussing publicly issues which are not to mainstream medicine’s liking.
The committee are seeking submissions about this. The closing date has been extended to February 7th, 2014. Ms Dorey states that whether you live in NSW or elsewhere, your opinion will make a difference and that it would be helpful to submit a short 2-3 paragraphs. Consult the terms of reference first set out in full below [and downloadable as a pdf file here].
And of course, if you don’t make submissions, there will be plenty of others who are happy to see health fascism and dumbing down succeed, who will make submissions.
Ms Dorey also reports that these recent developments in Australia were foreshadowed by the New South Wales state government in Australia permitting and encouraging hate tactics against AVN which include bullying, threats and intimidation. Those tactics revealed the intent to suppress freedom of speech, inhibit the dissemination of information and thereby to disempower individual Australian citizens from considering issues for themselves to make up their own minds – a basic right in any democratic society.
That the quality of politics and standards in public life in Australia are low was highlighted a number of times this year. Australia’s first woman Prime Minister Julia Gillard was told by a radio DJ her long-time male hairdresser partner “must be gay” for being male and a hairdresser. This was in the week after it was reported that a DJ behind last year’s prank call on the hospital of the UK’s mother-to-be Duchess of Cambridge that lead to a nurse’s suicide not only kept his job but won a top award for his stunt as well: DJ is sacked for asking Australian PM Julia Gillard if her boyfriend is gay live on air… because he’s a hairdresser UK’s Daily Mail
‘I don’t oppose Islam as a country’ – Australian politician withdraws from election after TV immigration gaffe interview goes viral Rob Williams The Independent Saturday 10 August 2013.Stephanie Banister 27 had to withdraw her candidacy for election to the Queensland Australia state Parliament after a TV interview went viral on the internet in August this year. Aside from not knowing names of the candidates she was running against, Ms Banister thought believers in the Jewish religion followed Jesus, that she did not “oppose Islam as a country … “ but felt “their laws should not be welcome here in Australia“, confused the term “haram” [forbidden] with the Islamic religion’s holy book the Qur’an [Koran], and all whilst facing Court charges for allegedly taking part in an anti-Muslim vandalism campaign, in which it was alleged she stuck a sticker reading “Beware! Halal food funds terrorism” on Nestle products at her local Woolworths:
The case of Stephanie Banister shows how inured the Australian media are to such low standards of politics that the story was not particularly big news until after it was picked up on the internet and went viral. With this kind of international reinforcement of the cliched stereotypical Australian, other Australians who want to shake that image of being descendents of convicts, cultural philistines and animal lovers [ie. sheep] have their work well and truly cut out for them.
The “must be gay” interview with Julia Gillard can be heard on YouTube:
Here in full are the Terms of Reference of the Parliament of New South Wales Committee on the Healthcare Complaints Commission Inquiry into the Promotion of False or Misleading Health-Related Information or Practices:
TERMS OF REFERENCE
That the Committee on the Health Care Complaints Commission inquire into and report on possible measures to address the promotion of unscientific health-related information or practice s which may be detrimental to individual or public health.
The Inquiry will focus on individuals who are not recognised health practitioners, and organisations that are not recognised health service providers.
The Committee will have particular regard to :
(a) The publication and/or dissemination of false or misleading health-related information that may cause general community mistrust of, or anxiety toward, accepted medical practice;
(b) The publication and/or dissemination of information that encourages individuals or the public to unsafely ref use preventative health measures, medical treatments, or cures;
c) the promotion of health-related activities and/or provision of treatment that departs from accepted medical practice which may be harmful to individual or public health ;
(d) the adequacy of the powers of the Health Care Complaints Commission to investigate such organisations or individuals;
(e) the capacity, appropriateness, and effectiveness of the Health Care Complaints Commission to take enforcement action against such organisations or individuals ;
(f) any other related matter.
Here is Meryl Dorey’s article about this posted on AVN’s blog:
by Meryl Dorey, AVN Public Officer
As many of you would know, both the AVN and I were under investigation by the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) in 2009/2010. This investigation was brought about due to two complaints. One was filed by Mr Ken McLeod, a founding member of the hate group Stop the AVN (SAVN). The other complaint was filed by Toni and David McCaffery, parents of Dana McCaffery, a baby who tragically died in 2009.
The entire investigation process was most irregular (to say the least – you can read the complaints and the AVN’s responses by clicking this link) and it was clear from the start that the HCCC was acting outside of their jurisdiction. This was confirmed when our tiny, unfunded organisation prevailed against this government body with the deepest of deep pockets in the Supreme Court in 2011.
The decision of the court was that the HCCC did not have jurisdiction to either cite or warn against our group – a common-sense outcome which most people in the community who believe in freedom of speech applauded because, no matter what your opinion on the vaccination issue, the majority of thinking Australians would never want to silence debate or discussion on any matter of science.
Does the HCCC have the right to stifle political speech?
Recently, one of our members sent me an article from a scholarly publication called the Journal of Law and Medicine. In 2012, this journal published an article entitled, Civil Liberties and the Critics of Safe Vaccination: Australian Vaccination Network, Inc v Health Care Complaints Commission (2012) NSWSC 110.
This was an article written by someone who wore his strongly pro-vaccination opinion on his sleeve for all to see. Despite this, his conclusion was very interesting and, in retrospect, ironic. What he advised the government not to do is exactly what they ended up doing. The government of NSW went ahead and introduced changes to legislation which specifically target the AVN and anyone who wishes to freely access or discuss both sides of scientific and medical issues.
Here is a quote from this article which I wanted to share with you. In my opinion, it speaks to the heart of the matter and why the actions of the current NSW government are dangerous and in direct opposition to the welfare and needs of the people of this State.
… Alternatively, Parliament could amend the Act to broaden the definition of “clinical” or “care” or to allow the HCCC to investigate complaints under s 7(1)(b) where there is a mere tendency for the conduct to affect a client. The court even suggested language for such a reform.
However, the current authors do not support legislative reform of the HCCC in the manner proposed above or by the court. In a free society, the views and opinions expressed by Ms Dorey and the AVN should be protected against government interference. Arguments against public immunisation programs are not simply debates over health policy; they are also political discussion. As such, the AVN’s website, and Ms Dorey’s statements, are to be protected from interference by Parliament or the Executive by the implied constitutional right of political communication.
Moreover, freedom of expression is an essential human right, protected under international and domestic human rights instruments, and should not be abridged except in the most limited of circumstances, such as a major pandemic. It would be inappropriate for a government agency to be given a standing mandate to censor debate or force an individual to include a statement on their website with which they do not agree. If the misleading information of the AVN is to be challenged, then it should be through the better dissemination of accurate information and the proper management of rare adverse events following immunisation.”
This is a common sense approach and one that the AVN has been suggesting for years. We have asked for an open and transparent debate in plain view of the public on the relative risks and benefits of vaccination. We have asked the government to remove the hate rhetoric and pressure currently being applied to this issue and bring the conversation back to the realm of scientific evidence and proof. We believe strongly that if the pro-vaccine lobby actually had the evidence on their side, they would be using it to do this. The fact is that both they and the government have permitted and, in some instances, encouraged the same tactics as the hate group, Stop the AVN – of name calling, threats and intimidation. This might indicate that they might be more concerned with suppressing information then they are with enabling the public to examine this issue and make up their own minds – such a basic right in any democratic society!
HCCC power-grab and your obligation to speak out
Not long after the AVN won their case in the highest court in the State, the government did exactly what this paper – written by legal experts who believe strongly in the benefits of vaccination and disagree with the information provided by the AVN – advised against. They passed legislation giving the HCCC an obscene amount of power to investigate and cite nearly anyone they choose. And of course, they chose us.
These powers were not enough for the HCCC however and the Parliamentary Committee for the Health Care Complaints Commission is now considering passing legislation which will make everyone in the community – especially those who practice and use natural therapies, liable to government sanctions for merely DISCUSSING any issues which are not to mainstream medicine’s liking publicly.
The committee are seeking submissions from the public about this. The AVN has made a submission on behalf of our membership, but it would be incredibly helpful if everyone reading this would also write a short (2-3 paragraphs is enough and you can read the terms of reference at the Commission link above) submission of your own. The original closing date for this Inquiry was November 30th, 2013 but that has now been extended until February 7th, 2014. This is a rare opportunity to have your say on this vital issue and whether you live in NSW or elsewhere, your opinion will make a difference.
What’s it got to do with you?
Why should you care about this issue? Why should even those who are opposed to the AVN give a damn about laws that are proposed to target our organisation?
Imagine the joy of some politicians or anyone else with an axe to grind who, in passing restrictive or unpopular legislation, can point to this precedent and say – nobody is allowed to criticise X-Y-Z policy because it is against the public interest and therefore, you will be gagged if you speak out against it.
This is the power the government has given to the HCCC. And you should be aware of this. And you should be afraid of allowing it to stand.
It is time for the silent majority – those Australians who support freedom and oppose invasive and oppressive government policies, to speak up by writing a submission – it need only be short – to the HCCC Committee.
Today, vaccination sceptics are the target. Tomorrow it may be the government targeting families that home school; or those who feed their children organic food.
We must all stand together for freedom and for our inalienable human rights. No government should ever be allowed to take them away for us.
Please note: Blog posts are opinion pieces which represent the views of the authors. They do not necessarily represent the viewpoints of the AVN National Committee. The AVN is a forum, support and information organisation and outlet for discussion about the relative benefits and risks of vaccinations in particular – and medical procedures in general. We do not provide medical advice but believe that everyone has the opportunity and the obligation to do their own research before making decisions for their families. The information we provide (including your personal review of the references we cite) should be taken in conjunction with a range of other data, including that obtained from government, your health care provider and/or other medical source material to assist you in developing the knowledge required to make informed health choices.
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