The Bangalow-based Australian Vaccination Network (AVN), which is in fact opposed to vaccination, was issued a formal order by the Fair Trading minister Anthony Roberts on Saturday to change its name on the grounds it is misleading the public.
The organisation faces deregistration if it fails to comply by February 21 next year.
The group’s website has also been under attack over the past few days.
Announcing the move Mr Roberts said, ‘NSW Fair Trading has received complaints that the Australian Vaccination Network’s name is confusing and has misled the public as to its operational intention’.
Fair Trading commissioner Rod Stowe wrote to AVN, directing the association to change its name. Echonetdaily understands the letter was hand-delivered to the group founder Meryl Dorey’s Bangalow home on Saturday morning.
Ms Dorey rarely speaks to the media but said in a post on the organisation’s website on Saturday that she believed the AMA was behind the move.
‘… the only one who complained was the Australian Medical Association – an industry lobby group who obviously feels threatened by the idea that parents might choose not to vaccinate – costing them money. Is this not anti-competitive behaviour on the part of a government department?’ she wrote.
‘Should government bodies really be cooperating so closely with those who hold strong vested interests in opposition to the interests of the public – interests which they are supposedly meant to protect?’ she said.
‘The Department’s open cooperation with the AMA is analogous to them responding to complaints by mining companies about Greenpeace’s name. After all, Greenpeace is not green, nor do they go around looking for peace, therefore, would the department tell them to change their name, too? How about the Cancer Council? Couldn’t someone be misled into thinking that they are FOR cancer?’
According to a Facebook page set up to oppose the AVN, Ms Dorey is also claiming the organisation’s website, avn.org.au, has been hit by a denial of service attack.
In fact the group’s homepage is currently accessible but the top link on a Google search return takes the user to a webpage selling pharmaceuticals.
A website called ‘Gaia Health’ claims Ms Dorey has been subjected to a campaign of personal abuse, including the delivery of pornography to her home together with threats such as ‘Meryl be warned we’re coming for you. And you will be sorry you filthy baby killer. Sharpening the knives now.’
Mr Roberts said the AVN’s name ‘cannot be tolerated given its stance on vaccination and the potential for parents to be confused or misled’.
‘The Australian Vaccination Network does not present a balanced case for vaccination, does not present medical evidence to back up its claims, and therefore poses a serious risk of misleading the community,’ Mr Roberts said.
The AVN is required to lodge an application for registration of a new name by February 21 next year. If an application for registration of a change of name is not made on or before that date, Australian Vaccination Network Incorporated’s registration may be cancelled.
It is not the first time the group has been targeted by a government body.
In February this year, the AVN won a court battle against the healthcare watchdog, which had issued a public warning about the association and ordered it to place a message on its website stating that it ‘should not be read as medical advice’.
The NSW Supreme Court ruled the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) had no jurisdiction to issue a public warning about the AVN.
The HCCC issued the warning after it investigated the website following complaints from a NSW couple whose four-week-old daughter died from whooping cough.
– with AAP