Anti-vaccination Charity Barred from Fundraising
18 March 2014 at 3:29 pm
Controversial anti-vaccination organisation – the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network has been deregistered as a charity by the NSW Government.
Minister for Hospitality George Souris has warned the public not to make charitable donations to the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network Incorporated (AVSNI), formerly known as the Australian Vaccination Network Incorporated (AVN).
Souris said as it was no longer a registered charity, the association had surrendered its “Authority to Fundraise” under the Charitable Fundraising Act following an investigation into its anti-vaccination activities by the Office of Liquor, Gaming & Racing (OLGR).
“OLGR issued a 'show cause' notice to the association requiring it to respond in writing on why its Authority to Fundraise should not be revoked,” Souris said.
“As a result, the association has now surrendered its Authority to Fundraise to OLGR effective immediately.”
Under the NSW Charitable Fundraising Act, if an organisation intends to fundraise for a charitable purpose it must be the holder of an Authority to Fundraise.
However, the Government said an Authority to Fundraise for a charitable purpose could be revoked if determined to be in the public interest. One of the objectives of the Charitable Fundraising Act is to prevent deception of members of the public who desire to support worthy causes.
“OLGR's investigation sourced expert medical evidence challenging the accuracy of information provided on the association's website in relation to the risks and benefits of vaccination,” Souris said.
“The investigation highlighted a range of potential concerns, including risks arising from the association’s anti-vaccination advocacy and the potential for misinformation to influence important health decisions resulting in potentially adverse public health consequences.
“As the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network Incorporated does not hold an Authority to Fundraise from OLGR they can no longer fundraise for a charitable purpose."
Minister for Fair Trading, Stuart Ayres, said the association recently changed its name, to the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network Incorporated, following a direction from Fair Trading and an Administrative Decisions Tribunal decision requiring it to adopt a name accurately reflecting its scepticism about vaccinations.
“I warn members of the public against making donations to this organisation,” Ayres said.
“NSW Government agencies will continue to monitor the organisation’s activities to ensure it does not fundraise for a charitable purpose.”
According to a statement from AVN’s Meryl Dorey that was posted on the AVN Facebook page, there were a number of facts “missed” by previous media reports on the group’s charity deregistration.
“1- The AVN inherited our authority from the organisation we took over from in 1997, the Australian Council for Immunisation Information (ACII),” Dorey wrote in the post.
“We didn't even know that we had a charity authority for several years and when we did, we discovered that there were no benefits to having this status. All it did was cost us time and money through the higher cost of compliance.
“2- We have been trying to shed this authority for YEARS! The problem was that the Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing kept saying that we pursued a charitable purpose so we needed to have this license or else, we would not be able to accept new memberships or donations.
“Other organisations that are not seen as charities are able to seek donations and accept new memberships without all of this rigamarole but because we were told that we were a charity, we had to jump through hoops in order to continue doing what we'd always done. This is what is referred to in the business as a 'Catch-22'.
“3- When we re-wrote our constitution due to the need to change some details resulting from our name change, we also looked at the organisation's objects (our barrister advised us to do this) and changed them too. Our objects can no longer be considered the objects of a group pursuing a charitable purpose. As a result, we felt that the OLGR could no longer have any reason to call us a charity and we contacted them many, many times asking for their approval to successfully shed that moniker.
“Apparently, the Minister involved or another, unrelated government official has since gone to the media claiming that it was all their idea in the first place and this surrender was a result of some kind of investigation.”
On January 1, 2014 new legislation came into effect in NSW to ensure no child can be enrolled at a childcare facility unless the parent/guardian provides an official immunisation record which shows the child is fully immunised or has been granted an exemption after the parents/guardian have met with a GP or nurse immuniser.