Government moves to toughen 'no jab, no pay' policy

14 Sep 2017By Abbie O’Brien


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SBS World News Radio: The Federal Government has introduced new laws which would toughen its "no jab, no pay" policy targeting parents who do not immunise their children.



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Under the new legislation, parents' fortnightly welfare payments would be reduced for each child not vaccinated.

Stripping parents of welfare payments is an approach the Federal Government insists is working to boost vaccination rates.

So, Social Services Minister Christian Porter says the Government wants to step up its "no jab, no pay" policy to another level.

"Those reforms are designed to improve upon what have been very good results so far in lifting up rates of childhood vaccination. We're flipping that system to make it more immediate and more regular."

Under the new legislation, parents on Family Tax Benefit Part A would have their fortnightly payments reduced by $28 if their children were not immunised.

It would replace the existing system where parents only lose their end-of-year supplements.

The fortnightly deductions work out to the same amount as the end-of-year supplement, but the Government hopes the regular cuts would provide more incentive for parents to act.

Vaccination rates have risen since the first measures were introduced last year.

But Australian Council of Social Services chief executive Cassandra Goldie credits another approach for the rise.

"GPs are now paid an incentive payment to remind parents that their child needs to be immunised. We think that's actually why we are seeing improved immunisation rates across the country. That is the health approach. We know that GPs are a really important part of the picture, and we suspect that's what's working."

As of June, around 94 per cent of one-year-olds, 90 per cent of two-year-olds and 94 per cent of five-year-olds were fully immunised.

The numbers fall short of the 95 per cent so-called "herd immunity," the level required to slow or stop the spread of disease.

A Sydney mother identifying herself only as Cara says she feels that threshold is important but argues the punitive measures are not a fair approach.

"If you have people who aren't vaccinating, it does affect the health of other kids, and it puts vulnerable people at risk, but, equally, to target people who are struggling to make ends meet is really targeting the wrong people."

Sydney grandfather Albert Hartnett, an Aboriginal man, says the proposed new laws target his community.

"There's a good percentage of Aboriginal people on unemployment benefits or some Centrelink benefit. The government, when they're trialling different policies and legislation, they also seem to target the socially disadvantaged."

European countries are also moving toward tougher legislation.

In response to a measles outbreak earlier this year, Italy passed a law making 12 childhood vaccinations mandatory.

In France, as of next year, 11 immunisations will be compulsory.

And in Germany, parents who hesitate to use vaccines for their children can be fined.

German-born Sydney mother Anja Wendt says she is aware of other measures in her homeland.

"So I know in Berlin, for example, a lot of parents don't do that. I think you are not punished, but I'm pretty sure you have to explain at childcare and school why you don't do it."

If passed, Australia's new laws would take effect from July the 1st next year.


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