Prime Minister Scott Morrison has shot down Labor's push to give every Australian $300 if they are vaccinated as a "vote of no confidence" in them.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has called for the one-off cash incentive to be paid to everyone vaccinated by 1 December to encourage vaccine uptake.
But the federal government has ruled out the measure, instead focusing on the promise of greater freedoms to increase vaccination rates.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had faith Australians would do the right thing by taking the vaccine, without the need to be "paid off".
"This is a serious public health crisis, it is not a game show," he told reporters.
"If they do have hesitancy about vaccine, I am not going to pay them off."
Labor's plan is estimated to cost around $6 billion, but the opposition argues this figure pales in comparison to the cost of sweeping restrictions from people not being vaccinated.
Currently, just over 19 per cent of the Australian population have been fully vaccinated.
Under Labor’s plan, those who already received the jab would also get the payments.
Mr Albanese argues the idea would not only help encourage uptake of the vaccine and reduce the need for lockdowns, but also stimulate the economy.
“This is a constructive proposal put forward in a positive way,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
“We need to talk about the need to get vaccinated and that’s why it is necessary.”
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra. Source: AAP
Mr Albanese has also defended his plan making everyone eligible for payments, rather than adopting a more targeted approach.
“We think the simplest way is something that is universal. It makes sense for it to be universal and that is the most effective way,” he said.
Incentives measures 'not necessary'
The federal government is currently relying on the promise of greater freedoms to encourage uptake of the vaccines.
Mr Morrison has outlined a plan to cut some coronavirus restrictions on vaccinated people once 70 per cent of the eligible population has had two vaccine doses.
Once there is 80 per cent coverage, the government is suggesting wide-scale lockdowns could end with other restrictions like removing caps on Australians returning from overseas who are vaccinated.
Mr Morrison said it would be "common sense" to exempt those who are vaccinated from certain restrictions compared to other people who are unvaccinated.
"That is the scientific approach, that's the clear based plan that we're taking," he said.
In countries including the US and the UK, targeted incentive measures have been offered to encourage vaccination uptake.
French President Emmanuel Macron has in contrast passed laws to require a “digital pass” showing people have had two doses of a vaccine if they want to go to a concert, restaurant or public event.
In the United States, cash, free rides and college degrees have been offered as well as unconventional rewards like cannabis and free beer in some states.
US President Joe Biden has also called for states to offer $100 USD to the newly vaccinated, in an effort to address flagging jab rates.
In the United Kingdom, Uber and Deliveroo have launched cheap taxi rides and meal discounts in an effort to boost vaccinations, especially among young people.
COVID-19 taskforce commander Lieutenant General John Frewen said incentive measures had been considered in the vaccine rollout, but right now were not seen as necessary.
"At the moment I'm really encouraged by the willingness of Australians to come forward and get vaccinated," he said.
The federal government says it has advice from economic behavioural analysts who have considered the effectiveness of vaccine incentive measures already introduced overseas.
It claims the research shows that large financial incentives had little impact on long-term vaccination rates.
Dr Chris Moy from the Australian Medical Association told SBS News that Australia’s 80 per cent vaccination threshold was a very high number to achieve, and he would support “whatever it takes to get to that target”.
He also acknowledged similar incentives had been successfully used overseas and said he encouraged incentives if “it gets people over the line”.
But he added that incentives should be considered alongside outlining the increased freedoms that come with greater vaccination of the population.