The Millenium Project 

Home >Comments and Articles > Australian Vaccination Network July to December 2012

Alphabetical ListCategoriesCommentariesArchiveAbout the SiteHate MailBook ShopSite Map/Search

Comment and Opinion

Australian Vaccination Network

Disgusting, I tells ya! (21/7/2012)
One of the constant squeals that comes out of Meryl Dorey and the deceptively-named Australian Vaccination Network is that devious people associated with Australian Skeptics (of which I am a former President and current committee member) and the Facebook group "Stop the AVN" have harassed her and her followers by associating them with pornography. She has even claimed that the harassers have emailed pornographic images to her and her supporters. Of course there could be some confusion as the AVN shares its acronym with the US-based Adult Video News, but we detractors of the AVN can't be held responsible for coincidence. In any case, I made the connection when I first started The Millenium Project, as can be seen by this piece I posted on the tenth anniversary of the site's birth.

Where it started (14/3/2009)
InHow to connect to the Internet 1996 I wrote a book about the Internet. (It was published in early 1997 and modesty forbids me mentioning the name of the author of the biggest-selling non-fiction book in Australia that year.) One of the distasteful things I had to do while researching the book was to examine how easy it could be to find and look at pornography, because that was (as it is now) a concern for some parents and I assumed, rightly as it turned out, that the subject would be raised in almost every interview I did while promoting the book. While doing other research I came across a site from a crowd calling itself the Vaccination Awareness Network, and I remember saying at the time that none of the porn sites I looked at were anywhere near as offensive as this pile of garbage from a pack of child haters.

In 1999 I discovered that the group of clowns had changed their name to make their opposition to vaccination less obvious to the casual observer. They were now called the Australian Vaccination Network, and this change of name to something deceitfully inoffensive made me think that there were people who needed to be offended and offended often. I was looking for a name for my new project, and that was 1999 so everyone was talking about the millennium except those that were talking about the millenium. A metaphorical light bulb flashed over my head and I thought "millenium – a thousand arseholes". The rest is history. What started as just a list of the first hundred offensive sites on March 14, 1999, has turned into what you see today. Unfortunately, the Australian Vaccination Network is also still with us and they are just as offensive to sane and rational people as they were back then, so I have been paying them some attention in this anniversary week.

There is a system called that allows people to develop and publish web-based newspapers. The system picks up content from your Facebook friends, Twitter contacts and other places and puts them all together on one page. A link to this page is then sent out to the various social networks and includes the necessary tags so that people whose work has been included know about it. I get a few Twitter messages each week about pages where something I have said has been reported. I'm not sure how useful the system is but a lot of people think it was worth the trouble to set up an account.

Ms Dorey has one of these automatic newspapers called The Vaccination Network Daily. I usually don't see it because I'm not allowed to follow Ms Dorey on Twitter and I assume that it doesn't publish the sort of things I say about vaccines and the people who lie about them.

This week a glitch hit. Either that or Ms Dorey is following some strange people on Twitter. Word spread quickly from people who received the update link out to the wider world and much amusement was had by all. All except AVN supporters, of course, as they were instantly in conspiracy mode looking for someone to blame. It was actually a member of Stop the AVN who emailed Ms Dorey to tell her about it (no thanks were received) and the page was changed. Here is what someone who rants about people sending her pornography released to an unknown number of people this week. (As this is a family web site I have bowdlerised the image, but if you are very brave or extremely unshockable you can wave your mouse over it to see what the fuss was about.)

It was a tough decision for Schadenfreude Corner this week.

I write something (28/7/2012)
Meryl Dorey from the Australian Vaccination Network started lying again about a connection between vaccination and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, a connection which only exists in the decayed minds of anti-vaccination liars and is one of the lies they tell in order to frighten parents away from properly caring for their children.

Not only did she make the connection but yet again she suggested contacting the parents of dead children to interrogate them and increase their misery and sense of guilt. The claim about a link between vaccines and SIDS is only exceeded in awfulness by the claim that Shaken Baby Syndrome is always a vaccine reaction. It's hard to imagine vileness worse than this – blame parents whose children die without explanation and forgive people who beat children to death. While we're thinking about this, here is Ms Dorey a few years ago suggesting "Shaken Maybe Syndrome" as a sound bite.

While all this was going on, people who care were approaching the relevant authorities to see if the AVN could be forced to change its name to something a little less deceptive.

To bring these two threads together I was asked to write an article for the online magazine Mamamia. You can read the article here. (The version that was published was heavily edited. There were some things in the published article that I wouldn't have put there (the material identifying the baby who died of pertussis and her parents) but editors always have the right to make changes.) You can read the article as published here, and it is that version which matters for what follows below.

Then I go on the wireless to talk about it (28/7/2012)
After the article appeared in Mamamia I was contacted by radio station 6PR in Perth and asked if I would come on air to discuss what I had written. As shyness is not in my genetic makeup I agreed. I knew who I would be talking to so I made sure that I read the article again because I expected to have to defend it. At the agreed time Howard Sattler's producer rang me and informed me that Meryl Dorey from the AVN would follow me to provide her views on what I had written and said. I instantly knew how this was going to go (I've explained before why debating fanatics is dangerous) but it was too late to back out and I certainly wasn't going to give her the platform to herself. Had I known she would be on I would have had a lot more facts at my fingertips and mouseclick, but I learn from every experience and if I ever have the opportunity to appear on the same show again I will be better prepared.

The only part of the interview which related to the Mamamia article was a brief mention of the name of the Australian Vaccination Network and why I think it should be changed. The rest consisted of an attack on me, attempts to show that I don't care about children who suffer reactions to vaccines and rehashing some things I had said that caused great offence to anti-vaccination liars. I was impressed by the chutzpah of a shock jock who makes a living by making outrageous comment in order to get a reaction criticising me for doing a similar thing, but I thought better of mentioning it because I wanted to stay on the air. As for offending anti-vaccination liars, I consider it a wasted day if I don't do it at least once.

After Mr Sattler had finished with me Ms Dorey was put on the air to provide her opinion. I tried counting the "inaccuracies" in what she said but I made the mistake of holding the phone in my left hand and counting with the fingers on my right. If I had swapped hands I could have got in some good exercise for my guitar fretting fingers. I gave up counting at 20.

You can listen to it using the player below, which has been coloured yellow, the colour of anti-vaccination lying.

And then the whatever hit the fan (28/7/2012)
Ms Dorey was not content to simply use a tame radio announcer attack me and spread untruths about me. She went into full-blown mouth foam mode and published no less than four blog posts about me over a period of days.

The third one of these was comment on and a link to a blog post by Liz Hempel, apparently now Ms Dorey's lieutenant and right-hand support person. We have met Ms Hempel before, so a further glimpse into her insanity was neither unexpected nor unsurprising. You can read her ravings here:

I want to respond to all of the crazy in detail so I will devote all of next weekend's update to this. I'm late with this update as it is and there is just too much to respond to if I'm ever going to get anything else done. Also, I have to go to the stationers and get a big box of yellow markers. There will be a lot of lies and misrepresentations to highlight and I wouldn't want to run out of coloured pens.

In the second of Ms Dorey's rants she makes this statement: "this man has a regular blog on Mia Freedman's Mamamia page". That needs the yellow marker because it is simply not true and that fact is very easy to check. (All Ms Dorey had to do was click on my name where I am shown as the author and she will see that I have written only two articles for Mamamia – this one and one in December 2011.) Undaunted, Ms Dorey decided that she would start a campaign on Twitter to have me "dumped" from Mamamia.

The person with the Twitter name @marthajones is almost a clone of Liz Hempel and usually only jumps into conversations to abuse people. You will notice that Ms Dorey implies that I assault women. She is lucky that I am still employing my policy of not suing people for defamation, although that policy can be changed at any time. Unlike Ms Dorey I believe in freedom of speech (she says she does but wants a web site to stop publishing my work) but even I have my limits of tolerance.

Ms Dorey's strategy was to use the hashtag #DumpBowditch. The idea of hashtags in Twitter is that people can filter on them and follow a conversation. They only work if many people read them and in this case Ms Dorey had what is known on the 'net as a colossal fail. My friends took over the tag and spent the night using it to accuse me of every bad thing that had ever happened in history, including murdering the Romanovs and (posted by my daughter) giving the fruit to Eve, thereby triggering Original Sin. It was better than a laugh a minute, it was a laugh a second and it went on for a useful length of time. If you have a Twitter account do a search for #DumpBowditch and have some fun.

Being ridiculed didn't stop Ms Dorey, although it did seem to affect her knowledge of the way Twitter works because she started using the hashtag to refer to me instead of my Twitter name but as I was following the tag I was able to see this exchange. In the top message Ms Dorey is replying to what I posted in the message at the bottom. You don't need much of a command of English to see that she completely misrepresents what I said. This is a form of lying, but she would have been hoping that her acolytes would only see the messages she posted because like all good little followers they would have me blocked. As I said above (and in the radio interview) Ms Dorey is perfectly entitled to her opinion. She is not entitled to make up her own facts, and she is not entitled to say that I've said things that I have not said. As she did the same thing when I was banned from the AVN's Internet mailing list in 1999 it seems to be something that she does as a matter of course. Which is very sad.

Meryl Dorey disagrees with me – Part 1 (4/8/2012)
On Wednesday, July 25, 2012, an article by me was published on the web site Mamamia with the title "The anti-vaxxers reach a shocking new low". This did not please Meryl Dorey from the Australian Vaccination Network, who proceeded to publish no less than four responses on the AVN's blog over a period of days. Not unexpectedly she did not really address what I had said but instead set out on a "shoot the messenger" frenzy of ad hominem. As I am blocked from responding on the AVN blog I have no alternative but to publish my responses here.

See my answer to the first blog post here.

Meryl Dorey disagrees with me – Part 2 (11/8/2012)
On Wednesday, July 25, 2012, an article by me was published on the web site Mamamia with the title "The anti-vaxxers reach a shocking new low". This did not please Meryl Dorey from the Australian Vaccination Network, who proceeded to publish no less than four responses on the AVN's blog over a period of days. Not unexpectedly she did not really address what I had said but instead set out on a "shoot the messenger" frenzy of ad hominem. As I am blocked from responding on the AVN blog I have no alternative but to publish my responses here.

See my answer to the second blog post here.

Meryl Dorey disagrees with me – All the parts (18/8/2012)
On Wednesday, July 25, 2012, an article by me was published on the web site Mamamia with the title "The anti-vaxxers reach a shocking new low". This did not please Meryl Dorey from the Australian Vaccination Network, who proceeded to publish no less than four responses on the AVN's blog over a period of days. Not unexpectedly she did not really address what I had said but instead set out on a "shoot the messenger" frenzy of ad hominem. As I am blocked from responding on the AVN blog I have no alternative but to publish my responses here.

This week I finished off my responses with replies to the last two blog posts. You can see all of the replies here.

Part 1 – Pseudo-Skeptics Behaving Badly

Part 2 – Medical Vilification and Bigotry in Australia

Part 3 – Liz Hempel: No Remorse, No Apologies, No Conscience.

Part 4 – 'Anti Vaxxer' the new dirty word?

I must have offended someone (18/8/2012)
Candidates for election to public office in Australia have to comply with certain rules. Some of these rules apply to the way candidates publicise their policies and positions and the way they interact with voters and the public. Jane Beeby is a regular contributor to the flow of misinformation and lies that comes from the Australian Vaccination Network and she has announced that she is a candidate for a position on the Clarence Valley Council in the local government elections coming up on September 8, 2012. As part of her promotional activities she created a Facebook page, where she soon announced that she would have no communication with anyone who did not live within the Council boundaries. This is a clear violation of the requirement for candidates to interact with the public. Anybody can ask any question of a candidate and residency is not a restriction. I thought I would ask a question, so I attempted to post this to the Facebook page:

Ms Beeby, why do you refuse to answer the simple question – are you associated with the Australian Vaccination Network, Australia's leading anti-vaccination organisation? As councils often have initiatives promoting vaccination and public health it is only fair that the residents of Clarence Valley know your position on this. They might not like to find out too late that they had elected a councillor who opposed something that could save the lives of their children.

I received an immediate response saying that my message could not be posted to the page. I assumed that, as for so many of the AVN's "public" forums, I had been blocked. Shortly afterwards I found out that the entire Facebook page had been deleted. This is yet another possible breach of electoral legislation, as all publicity material is supposed to be preserved.

I posted a comment about being unable to post to Jane Beeby's electioneering page to another group and thought no more about it.

Then, suddenly, I was automatically logged out of Facebook and asked to log in again. When I did I was faced with this:

As I can see nothing there that would have been detected by any automatic filtering system at Facebook I have to assume that someone complained. Remember that these people claim absolute freedom of speech to spread lies about vaccination and squeal their heads off at any attempt to criticise them as if criticism is censorship. It is further evidence of their hypocrisy that they have been engaged for more than a year in a concerted campaign of complaining to Facebook about posts, making false claims of copyright violation and causing people's accounts to be suspended or even cancelled. A few weeks back all the administrators of the Stop the AVN Facebook group were suddenly locked out of Facebook following a mass complaint. I was one of the lucky ones as all I had to do was identify myself with my mobile phone number to get back in. Others were not so fortunate, with bans ranging from days to weeks, with at least one person having his account cancelled.

These people are pathetic, but they join a long tradition. In all the time I've been running this site I have almost never had anyone challenge me by providing evidence to show that I am wrong. Lots of legal threats, copyright claims, trademark claims and so on. Anything to silence criticism rather than respond to it. I talked about this in my SkeptiCamp Sydney presentation in 2011. I don't think it's a tactic that is going to go away. Absent facts, it's all they've got.

We're all under attack (1/9/2012)
Meryl Dorey form the Australian Vaccination Network has created a "dossier" of abuse she has experienced, and I have been included along with many of my friends. As what she had to say about me was essentially a repetition of what she said in her flurry of blog posts back in August I will leave it until later to reply. Apparently it is a work in progress and changes from day to day, so I'll let it settle down to a final form before getting out the yellow marker.

I will make one small comment, however. In her tirade about the nasty things being said about her, Ms Dorey leapt on the story of a celebrity who had been admitted to hospital in an apparently suicidal state following a rather vicious attack on Twitter despite there being no parallels that anybody else could see. She also compared her situation to being raped. (You might remember that Ms Dorey once equated vaccination with rape.) When questioned about this, she had this to say:

No Mary Jane Healey – I will not stop using the word rape if it fits the sentence. And it did in this case. I was talking about how victims are blamed instead of the blame being placed on the perpetrator which is exactly what happens with many rape victims and I know this to be the case. If you are not happy with my use of the word in this sentence, I'm sorry you feel that way but I will not change the words and I do not feel that my use of them is in any way inappropriate. MD

I've been told that in a radio interview Ms Dorey compared her plight to the indignities suffered by Jesus, but I'm awaiting confirmation of this before I request the Oxford Dictionary to include a picture of Ms Dorey next to the entry for "hubris".

Over the last year or so, Ms Dorey has been making fraudulent claims of copyright violation about anyone reproducing her posts on Facebook. She should feel free to ask the owner of this site to remove the image above, but unlike Facebook, where reaction is mindless and automated, if she tries that here she will receive a very loud

Let's look at the books (1/9/2012)
My friend Ken McLeod has put together three collections of "inaccuracies" uttered or written by Meryl Dorey, President (we think) of the Australian Vaccination Network.

Meryl Dorey's Trouble With The Truth – Part 1
Meryl Dorey's Trouble With The Truth – Part 2
Meryl Dorey's Trouble With The Truth – Part 3

To give himself a break from collating general forms of misinformation (Part 4 is in the works) he has been looking at the financial records of the AVN. As it is an incorporated association these records are available to the public. When and if they are filed, of course. Ken has chosen an appropriate name for his investigation. Enjoy.

Meryl Dorey's Trouble With Finance

Put those tinfoil hats on (22/9/2012)
When you take legal action against someone you are usually advised by your lawyers to keep quiet about it until the matter gets to court. Apparently this advice hasn't reached Ms Meryl Dorey of the Australian Vaccination Network. On September 5 she initiated action against three people, with the first court appearance scheduled for September 27. (This is what is called a "mention" – it is a court date to set the real date.) On September 20, Ms Dorey went on a conspiracy radio program to discuss her persecution. Not her persecution of others through the courts, the persecution of her by people who don't agree with her. Here is an extract from the conversation.

That's right. And it's been going on for over three years, Leon. it's amazing. I'm sure a lot of your listeners would have heard about Charlotte Dawson and how she was targeted by trolls on twitter and tried to commit suicide because of it. And there was a football player – excuse me, I don't follow sport so I don't remember his name – but he was also targeted by internet trolls and the police took immediate action in both of these cases, and yet we have made, I think, six reports to the police over the last three years on similar but even more violent threats against myself and against other AVN members and against the organisation in general. And the authorities to date have still not taken any action.

And I have just finally taken the step of filing – they call them APVO's, apprehended violence orders – against three of these individuals and I'm going to court next week for that very issue. It is wrong, it's criminal and these people should be held accountable for what they do. We are trying to conduct a scientific debate about an issue that affects every man, woman, child, and their dog, in Australia and around the world, and intimidation, threats of violence, violent pornography, these are the sorts of things that the other side are using. Now, if you have information, if you have facts at your fingertips, you don't use these tactics. You only these tactics if you have nothing. And that's what the other side has, they have nothing. They have no information, they have no facts, and they don't want anyone to be able to access the information and facts that the AVN has. And that's it, plain and simple. And they're using intimidation and they are doing it with the tacit consent of government agencies.

So she's reported threats of violence to the police on several occasions and they haven't taken action. People are harassing her and being assisted by government departments. In a message to Facebook she said of the court actions "if they don't grant the APVO, it can only mean bias on the part of the court". (The court has been advised of this allegation of potential bias. I'm sure the magistrate will be amused.)

So it's paranoia time, and what better place to express that than on a radio station which specialises in promoting paranoia and conspiracy theories. As the interviewer said in his introduction to Ms Dorey:

You can listen to the complete interview using the player below. A transcript by my friend Christine Bayne can be found here.

Maybe the law will change (22/9/2012)
In February this year it was my sad duty to report that the law in New South Wales had fallen behind the real world. A Judge of the NSW Supreme Court ruled, quite correctly, that under the existing legislation (passed in 1993) complaints made to the Health Care Complaints Commission against health care providers had to be filed by an individual who had personally been affected by advice or treatment given by the provider. The Court consequently upheld an appeal by the Australian Vaccination Network against a request by the HCCC that the AVN should display a notice on its web site telling the truth about its anti-vaccination activities. The HCCC also withdrew a public warning about the AVN. Anti-vaccination liars behaved like they had won lotto, but the reality is that a law written in 1993, before the introduction of the world wide web, has been left behind by the ubiquity and immediacy of the ways we can communicate today. Now advice given on a web site can be acted on by anyone anywhere and it can literally be impossible to locate any single affected individual.

The good news is that there is a strong movement to bring the law up to date and allow complaints to be made to the HCCC by anyone. Evidence will still have to be provided but it will be sufficient to demonstrate that faulty or dangerous advice has been provided without having to name an affected individual person. I can't put the documentation for this up here yet because its content is still under embargo, but I am free to say that the relevant ministers are being advised by people they are supposed to listen to to amend the legislation as a matter of the highest priority. Of course this will be resisted strongly by quacks and charlatans, but hopefully the minister will put the welfare of the public ahead of the monetary and ideological needs of people who can now claim both black letter law and judicial interpretation to protect them from action by regulators.

Update 29/9/2012: The embargo has been lifted so you can read the letter to the Health Minister from the committee here.

Meryl Dorey's Trouble With Finance (29/9/2012)
Earlier this month I mentioned that my friend Ken McLeod had added to his collection of "Meryl Dorey's Trouble With ..." documents by producing an analysis of the finances of the Australian Vaccination Network. One problem he had was that the AVN were contesting a Freedom of Information request he had made to the Office of Fair Trading. Ken had asked for copies of correspondence related to the late submission of annual accounts and the release of these documents was strongly challenged by Ms Dorey and the AVN. As there are valid excuses allowed for associations to be late with paperwork nobody could imagine why anyone would want their reasons to be kept hidden. (Many associations are run by very part-time volunteer staff and the regulations recognise the fact that this might cause difficulties.) On September 5 the OFT released the documents (coincidentally the date when Ms Dorey applied for Apprehended Violence Orders to be made against three people) and there were some surprises. Apparently some unnamed people had been making threats against the Dorey family and the time spent getting the police to investigate had severely impacted on the time available to get accounts audited and posted off to OFT and the scheduling of annual general meetings. There were many other excuses as well and you can read them here.

Now even politicians are talking sense (29/9/2012)
One of the features of parliamentary democracy in Australia is that members can ask questions of Ministers and expect to get some sort of answer. Often these answers are in the form of non sequiturs or meaningless waffle, but sometimes even the most cynical of us can be surprised. Here is a recent exchange in the New South Wales Parliament concerning the Australian Vaccination Network. Enjoy. Enormously.


Dr Andrew McDonald to the Minister for Health, and Minister for Medical Research

  1. (a) Is the Minister aware of the comments on 15 August 2012 on WIN TV regarding a story on a measles epidemic, by Ms Dorey of the "Australian Vaccination Network", that vaccines have been linked to autism?
  2. (b) If yes, what action has the Minister taken to correct the public record? Does the Minister have a view on the ongoing activities of the "Australian Vaccination Network"?


I am advised:

  1. and (2) The Australian Vaccination Network has not provided accurate information to parents about the risks and benefits of immunisation. Any link between the measles vaccine and autism has been conclusively discredited by numerous studies and reviews by credible experts, including the World Health Organisation, the American Academy of Paediatrics and the UK Medical Research Council. In 2013, the NSW Ministry of Health will be implementing an immunisation awareness campaign to educate and inform the community and immunisation providers about the importance of ensuring that children are fully immunised on time, including for measles.

Some very good news (15/12/2012)
Back in July I wrote:

Australian Network for Plant Conservation. Australian Network for Art and Technology. Australian Network on Disability. Australian Fitness Network. Australian African Network. Australian Homestay Network. Australian Vaccination Network.

One of these names is not like the others. There is a network devoted to conservation of plants, one with the objective of supporting artists, another which works to aid people with disabilities, one which wants everyone to become healthier, one which provides support and community for migrants from Africa, and one which links people with holiday accommodation. All of these organisations with "network" in their name have as their aims the promotion of what the other words in their names mean.

The exception is the Australian Vaccination Network, because despite what a naïve person might think from just seeing the name, this organisation exists for the sole purpose of opposing vaccinations of all kinds against all diseases for all people of all ages. There are no exceptions. I have asked many times for an example of a single vaccine that the AVN would support or consider worthwhile and I have never even received a cricket chirp in response. The organisation claims to be pro-choice, but the only choice that they consider is to say "No".

There is now a move to get the relevant government authority to force the AVN to change its name to something more representative of its aims. The President of the AVN, Meryl Dorey, is squealing about this and making absurd claims about dictatorships and fascism and freedom of speech and how an evil conspiracy of doctors and skeptics is trying to suppress her right to provide balanced information to parents. She is even claiming that nobody can tell any organisation what its name should be, but I know I had to make two passes through the bureaucracy last year to register a business name because my first choice shared 80% of its letters with a company in another state.

The news came through late in the evening of December 14 that my wish had come true. The following story appeared in the Herald Sun newspaper:

Minister orders anti-vaccination group to change its name

A controversial anti-vaccination lobby group has been slapped with an order to change its misleading name or be shut down.

The NSW Office of Fair Trading doorstopped the home of Australian Vaccination Network president Meryl Dorey yesterday with a letter of action, labelling the network's name misleading and a detriment to the community.

NSW Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts fired a broadside at the AVN, saying the information it provided was a public safety issue of "life and death".

"This is not a victimless issue, it's about the ability to stop pain and suffering," he said.

Mr Roberts likened the AVN's message to sanctioning speeding.

"People do not have the freedom of choice when it comes to endangering others ... it's the equivalent of saying a bloke can speed down the road and endanger others," he said.

Mr Roberts said he was prepared for any appeals the AVN might make.

"This is an order, it is not a request," he said

You can read the complete article here.

You can see the official letter from the Office of Fair Trading here.

A popular vote (22/12/2012)
The online magazine Crikey asked its readers to vote in an end-of-year poll. The categories were Person Of The Year, Arsehat Of The Year, and Australia's sexiest male and female politicians. Arsehat of the year was always going to be radio announcer Alan Jones, and there is even rumbling that he was such a certain winner that it wasn't fair to any of the other contestants. Here are the results, which I offer without further comment.


Back to The Millenium Project
Email the
Copyright © 1999-
Creative Commons