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Bernie Goldie

Vaccination “should be freely debated”

Australian vaccination proponents have been taking extraordinary measures to suppress critics of current vaccination policies, according to Brian Martin, Professor of Social Sciences at the University of Wollongong.

Professor Martin has been studying scientific controversies for decades, including nuclear power, fluoridation and pesticides. Many controversies are extremely bitter. Even so, he said he has never seen anything like the attack on the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) over the past couple of years.

“The attackers set up a Facebook page devoted to destroying the AVN, made personal attacks against the AVN’s key spokesperson and made numerous complaints to official agencies. I find it disturbing that such efforts are put into attacking a voluntary citizens group rather than debating the issues.”

Professor Martin said he does not hold strong views about vaccination himself but he does believe that people should be able to express dissident viewpoints.

“Public debate is vital in a democracy. We need to trust members of the public to reach sensible decisions after hearing arguments on both sides.”

“It is accepted that dissident views can be expressed on smoking, AIDS, genetic engineering and other controversial issues that involve public health, even when authorities believe they are wrong. What shocked me about the attack on the AVN is the assumption that free speech should not be allowed on vaccination.”

Professor Martin has published many articles and books about scientific controversies. He hosts a large website on suppression of dissent and is Vice President of Whistleblowers Australia.

His analysis of the attack on the AVN, titled “Debating vaccination,” is a 20,000-word commentary intended to assist readers — especially members of the AVN itself — understand the nature of scientific controversies, the assumptions made by the attackers, and ways to respond to the attack. It is published in the latest issue of Living Wisdom, the magazine of the AVN, and is also available for free download.

Brian Martin can be contacted at and (02) 4221 3763 (work) and (02) 4228 7860 (home)

Web:“Debating vaccination,”