A political party opposing compulsory vaccinations and fluoride in water has overcome objections from the nation’s highest health offices to win a name change with the Australian Electoral Commission.
The Involuntary Medication Objectors (Vaccination/Fluoride) Party will now be known as the Informed Medical Options Party, a change medical experts warned was an attempt to conceal the party’s true agenda and appear more mainstream.
Despite formal objections from the Australian Medical Association and federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, the AEC found the name change met the requirements of the Electoral Act.
AMA Victoria president Julian Rait said the AEC decision was disappointing and maintained the name could mislead voters.
“In the context of a pandemic, it’s hard for them to argue against vaccination given that it’s very likely it will be a way out of this for us,” Professor Rait said.
“Many illnesses, like smallpox and polio, were wiped out by earlier vaccination campaigns. Measles, mumps and rubella are much less common because of vaccination.
“Unfortunately this pandemic has reminded us of what can happen when a new infection emerges and we don’t have that immunity.”
The party’s submission to the AEC said the objections were themselves misleading and the name change was to address supporters’ concerns by “embracing the broader definition of informed consent”.
The micro-party ran eight Senate candidates at the 2019 federal election and received 17,055 first-preference votes on a platform opposing forced medications, compulsory or coerced vaccination and fluoride in the water supply.
Party secretary Michael O’Neill told The Sunday Age the “anti-vaxxer” label regularly used by the AMA and other critics was “insulting”.
“Our members only want their voice and concerns heard, and to be given an un-coerced choice in medical preferences,” he said.
The AEC received a total of 27 objections to the change, with 13 considered valid under the Electoral Act.
But AEC acting assistant commissioner Joanne Reid found the party’s request was in accordance with Section 129, which provides that a name must not be “obscene” or “likely to be confused with, or mistaken for, the name of a recognised political party”.
“Further, I do not consider that the name ‘Informed Medical Options Party’ would bring the electoral system into disrepute or undermine the respect for and community standing of government agencies, registered political parties, or democratically elected members of Parliament,” Ms Reid wrote in her findings.
In a statement following the AEC victory, the party said its objectives would remain the same.
“However, we are now even more concerned at the looming pharmaceutical and media push to inflict a hasty and questionable vaccine on the entire population during the current COVID-19 pandemic,” it said.
Professor Rait dismissed the party’s concerns, saying a more appropriate name would have been the “Uninformed Medical Options Party”.
“There is a reason why people who know very little about some issues are utterly confident about their position,” he said.
“It’s a cognitive bias, a psychological phenomenon called the Dunning-Kruger effect, where basically your confidence about something is inversely proportionate to your knowledge about it … unfortunately with many of these debates, less-informed members of the community get onto a hobby horse and sound confident about the position.”
Mr Hunt said the government “condemns anti-vaccination actions or sentiment”, though it would respect the AEC decision.
“Vaccination safeguards Australians against disease,” he said. “It is a powerful tool that is safe and effective to prevent the spread of many diseases that can cause serious ongoing health conditions and sometimes death.
“Immunisation not only protects you, but others in the community, by reducing the spread of preventable diseases.”