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05 May 2017

Parents who refuse to vaccinate their children will have their fortnightly family benefits docked under a new Federal Government immunisation push.

The AMA sees no problem with the new measure, saying vaccinating children is a public health priority and that the No Jab, No Pay policy – introduced in January last year – works.

Beginning next year, families who have not had their children vaccinated will lose $28 per child every fortnight in family tax benefits, after the Government closed a loophole allowing families earning more than $80,000 to escape penalty.

The current scheme fines families a one-off $726 supplement, but welfare reforms cancelled that payment to 400,000 high-income families – meaning they could avoid being penalised if they didn’t immunise their children.

So from July 1 next year, each fortnightly Family Tax Benefit Part A payment will be reduced by $28 for every child that hasn’t been properly immunised, meaning there will be one policy in place for all.

“This isn’t about punishing people,” said Social Services Minister Christian Porter.

“If you do the right thing and get your kids immunised, absolutely no problems whatsoever. But if you are one of the small group of people who don’t do that and cause safety ill-effects for other children in environments like child care, then you can and will face a penalty.

“And I just think that’s completely and utterly fair, and it produces a result which is better health for more kids.”

AMA President Dr Michael Gannon agrees.

“No Jab, No Pay is a success,” Dr Gannon said.

“There’s another 200,000 kids that are protected as individuals, and that, in an exponential way, increases the protection afforded to other children in playgroups and schools from serious infectious disease.

“I think how much better we can do is difficult to know. We know that there is something like one to two per cent of Australian families that you will never reach.

“They live in a fantastic world of thinking that there’s some broad conspiracy with vaccination. But what we always strive to do is to reach that three, four, five, six per cent of vaccine-hesitant parents.

“That involves individual doctors and nurses being respectful and careful in delivering the information. There’s no doubt about the science, but it’s a case of taking people with us, not purely punitive measures.”

Mr Porter said that without a valid medical reason, there was no excuse for parents not to immunise their children.

“These parents are not only putting their own children’s health at risk, but the health of every other person’s children at risk, too,” he said.

“Reducing fortnightly payments rather than withholding the supplement at the end of the year as occurs at present, will serve as yet another constant reminder for parents to have their children’s immunisation requirements up to date.

“It's certainly been designed based on the best behavioural economics science to try and make sure that we are giving disincentives, structured into the system, to ensure that people behave in a way that’s in the best interests for their kids.

“And ultimately the principle here is that, where the taxpayer allows for a very generous system of Family Tax Benefits, that money shouldn’t be applied to families who are either making conscious decisions, or simply failing to act, and do so in a way that endangers the health of other children whose families are doing the right thing.”

The No Jab, No Pay rule applies to 1.5 million families. About 134,000 of them are currently missing out on the supplementary payment because they do not immunise their children.

Immunisation rates have, however, risen for one-year olds by 1.35 per cent to 93.63 per cent nationwide. For two-year olds the rate rose 1.75 per cent to 90.06 per cent.

Chris Johnson


Published: 05 May 2017