Since winning our case against the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) in April, 2012, the AVN has been subject to numerous investigations by various NSW and Federal Government bodies. These investigations have all been instigated by members of the hate groups the Australian Skeptics and their splinter organisation, Stop the AVN (SAVN).
The complaints have resulted in the following investigations from these government bodies over the last 10 months alone:
- The NSW Department of Fair Trading (at least 3 investigations)
- The Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing (at least 1 investigation)
- The Therapeutic Goods Administration (at least 2 investigations)
- The Department of Commerce, WA (at least 1 investigation)
- Charities Victoria (at least 1 investigation)
This adds up to a total of at least 8 complaints over a 10 month period (one every 5 weeks) which we have had to respond to. There are dozens more that have been sent by these groups which are waiting in the wings for processing.
Over the same period of time, threatening phone calls which were made to the home of then-President of the AVN, Meryl Dorey. Police determined they originated from the private phone of Mr Daniel Raffaele, founder of SAVN and an active member of the Young Australian Skeptics. Despite a sympathetic police force, nothing was done to charge Mr Raffele for these criminal activities. We believe the NSW DPP instructed police not to press charges against Mr Raffaele.
The current situation
In our estimation, the cost to taxpayers of the investigations into both the AVN and Ms Dorey would have to run into the millions of dollars and yet, there has been no justice or equity from within this same system for Ms Dorey or the AVN. The law seems to have been very selective in dealing with these issues.
For example, Mr Ken McLeod is one of the most aggressive of the attackers from SAVN and possibly the biggest money-waster. He was the original complainant to the HCCC, leading to a 2-year 'investigation' of Ms Dorey and the AVN which culminated in the HCCC's loss in the Supreme Court with costs awarded to the AVN.
Last year, Mr McLeod filed a GIPA (Freedom of Information Claim) with the Department of Fair Trading. He has requested the names, occupations and addresses of those who serve on the AVN's Management Committee.
Due to a long history of harassment and threats by members of SAVN towards those who support the AVN (these actions have included but not been limited to hacking of websites, posting violent pornography to homes and via email, threatening phone calls and calls to employers), Committee members asked that their personal identities be protected.
We followed the necessary procedures...
There is currently an action before the Administrative Decisions Tribunal of NSW (ADT) regarding Mr McLeod's GIPA request. On the 8th of November, 2012, the Information Commissioner wrote an advice to the ADT on this matter stating (amongst other things) that:
"The GIPA Act provides that there is a consideration against disclosure of information if disclosure could reasonably be expected to "expose a person to a risk of harm or of serious harassment or serious intimidation" (clause 3(f) of the table to s14(2) of the GIPA Act)."
At the time of this advice being received, the AVN's solicitor was informed that a decision would be made by the ADT around the 30th of November, 2012. As of today, the 22nd of February, 2013, we are still awaiting their decision.
The Department has now given us until the 22nd of February to release the details of our committee members to them or face fines and potential closure of our volunteer-run organisation. We had asked them to await the result of this ADT decision since it could affect the outcome of this decision but at 5:17 PM last night, one day before the deadline, they refused and have demanded that we provide them with the names of our committee members.
Today, the AVN is seeking legal advice and is considering an application in the courts for an injunction to stay the Department's draconian treatment of our organisation.
The law must not only be fair - it must be seen to be fair and in this case, the government departments that have been dealing with us for the last 4 years have been anything but fair.
The Management Committee of the Australian Vaccination Network, Inc.
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