The West

Vaccines 'have been a victim of their own success'.
Vaccines 'have been a victim of their own success'.

A political row has broken out over the State Library's decision to allow an anti-vaccination group to hold a public forum at its Northbridge premises tonight.

Two weeks ago, the Uniting Church had a last-minute change of heart and cancelled an Australian Vaccination Network forum scheduled to be held at one of its city properties.

The network's spokeswoman, Meryl Dorey, told followers that network members in Perth had "excellent contacts with larger and better venues … and we are hoping to reschedule this talk for some time within the next four weeks".

More than 200 people have paid $10-a-head to attend tonight's event and the network is planning another one next month. Ms Dorey said parents were still contacting her group wanting to attend tonight's forum but there were no more seats.

Shadow arts minister John Hyde said the Barnett Government had opened the floodgates for any group to use the library's facilities to push their agendas.

"Does this mean that the Liberal Party can hold a membership drive there, or for that matter the Ku Klux Klan or a bike gang?" Mr Hyde said.

He said the State Government should not have allowed the group to use the library to push its anti-vaccine message. "Why should a group that endangers the lives of WA children be allowed to speak and promote their cause at a taxpayer-funded venue dedicated to learning?" Mr Hyde said.

"Their dangerous propaganda which is putting children at risk of polio, smallpox, cholera and other preventable diseases should not be able to gain respectability by using the good name of the State Library."

Yesterday, the chief executive of the State Library, Margaret Allen, refused to say how the group, which has been criticised by health authorities for discouraging parents from having their children vaccinated, was able to book the library for its forum.

Instead she issued a brief statement that said the library provided facilities and services to the community of WA as a whole. "Inevitably from time to time this may include interest groups with views that some may find controversial," she said.

Australian Medical Association WA president Gary Geelhoed said he supported free speech but was worried the use of the venue could give the group credibility.

"The State Government needs to make it clear it does not support this group's beliefs, and if there is a danger people might think otherwise that needs to be addressed," he said.

Health Minister Kim Hames said the Government encouraged parents to have their children vaccinated but would not make it compulsory.

Arts and Culture Minister John Day declined to comment.

The West Australian

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