6PR Perth Gareth Parker
GARETH PARKER: Minister, good morning and thanks for your time.
MINISTER MORRISON: G’day Gareth.
PARKER: Explain to our listeners how it is going to work.
MINISTER MORRISON: It is fairly straight forward – for those parents who don’t immunise their children then they won’t have access to the Family Tax Benefit A supplement which is a once a year payment of just around $726, nor will they be eligible to get the child care benefit or the child care rebate. The rebate is worth around $7,500 capped a year and the childcare benefit obviously relates to how much childcare you use. That of itself could be almost $10,000 a year. So it is a simple requirement, it is a common sense requirement, it is one supported by all the best health advice and scientific research. It is something that parents should do we believe and it is certainly something I have done with my own kids and I did when I was a kid.
PARKER: So in all it could be that parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids they could be denied up to about $15,000 in payments from the government?
MINISTER MORRISON: They wouldn’t be eligible for them, that is the simple truth of it. The only exemptions that would remain would principally be the medical exemption and there would be a religious exemption but that is a very narrow cast net, the religious body itself has to register its objection to the government, it has to be accepted and any person claiming it would also need to be authorised by that religious body itself, so it affects a very small number of people, of less than a thousand.
PARKER: So let’s just talk about those exemptions at the moment, my understanding is that it is pretty simple to exempt your child from immunisation under the current rules. You have just got to pretty much fill out a piece of paper, is that right?
MINISTER MORRISON: You fill out a form and have it signed by a doctor.
PARKER: So, you want to tighten that up don’t you?
MINISTER MORRISON: The conscientious objection goes under these arrangements. That goes from the 1st of January next year. We will have to have supporting legislation that goes through the Parliament to support that. This will apply also, I should stress, to new arrangements which the government is working on as part of our new families package as well. So to the extent there are changes that apply to the family to the child care benefits going forward these same changes that deny conscientious objection exemptions will apply to those also. So that was recommended by the Productivity Commission report to ensure that the immunisation controls are in and it is a fairly simple reason – these children will be put in contact with other children and if you want subsidies for doing that well there is a simple rule. You still get the choice about whether you immunise your children or not, you just don’t get to force the government to pay your welfare benefits for the privilege.
PARKER: It seems to have become more contentious in recent years Minister why do you think that – clearly what you are trying to address here is an increase, albeit it is not a big increase but there is definitely a noticeable increase in the number of parents who refuse to have their children immunised, why is that happening do you think?
MINISTER MORRISON: Well I think you could drive a truck through the exemptions that is why. The conscientious objection was the key to that. We went from in 2004 some 15,500 had an exemption applied on that basis and now it is just under 40,000.
PARKER: I guess what I am asking is what is driving that increase in exemptions because I know when I grew up there was never any discussion, you just got your shots and that was it.
MINISTER MORRISON: That’s right.
PARKER: It seems as though there is – I am just wondering your theory is on…
MINISTER MORRISON: Thank goodness we don’t have polio anymore and things like that which is the whole point. There is a group that is fairly activated on this and gets out and about and pushes their information around now we obviously don’t agree with that and neither does the medical profession and that obviously has found some purchase for some families. Well, it’s a free country but welfare’s not free and if the taxpayer is going to provide benefits to people well it’s going to be done according to the rules and those rules are set in accordance with the best health research and policy that is available and that says you should vaccinate your kids.
PARKER: What evidence is there–or how do you judge the success of this policy? Are you confident this will actually see the number of kids immunised increase?
MINISTER MORRISON: Well it happens in concert with many other measures. The information campaigns and support will continue and that’s done at both a State and Federal level, to support immunisation. Our immunisation rates are 97%, so they’re very high and we don’t want to lose that. You don’t want to lose your critical mass of immunised children because it does present a greater risk to others in the community and you need to make sure you maintain the integrity of all that and that’s exactly what we’re doing. So the success will be seeing the number of exemptions starting to fall away again, there’s some 15,000-odd who are currently conscientious objectors who are directly involved in child care so that’s an obvious place we’d like to see that start.
PARKER: You mentioned earlier genuine religious exemptions, what are they?
MINISTER MORRISON: Well as I said, it has to be registered by that religion itself through their own beliefs and values and that needs to be accepted by the government. Now I’m going to take a pretty close look, there’s only one at the moment and I’m not publicising who that is because I’m not looking for them to get a whole raft of new followers based on this one issue, but we haven’t seen any real abuse of that element of the exemption programme to date, but I can assure you and your listeners that if it were to be abused I would shut that down too.
PARKER: Minister I think Bill Shorten, I saw him on the news last night, he’s throwing his weight behind this so we presume it will just pass Parliament in a bipartisan way?
MINISTER MORRISON: Well I would hope so, and look forward to that happening on the floor of the Senate, I’d like to see a lot more things like that go through the Senate that way, with the Labor party’s support, but they tend to say no more often than they say yes on some of these things but I’m pleased to have, at least on this occasion, some bipartisanship.
PARKER: Social Services Minister, Scott Morrison, it would be remiss of me not to ask you this question from a West Australian point of view, while we’ve got you on the programme, the GST, will you support WA getting a bigger share of GST?
MINISTER MORRISON: Well look, as coming from one of the big states, it has always been getting less than a full dollar for the GST collected in those states, I’m obviously very sympathetic to the situation Western Australia finds itself in. Going down to 30 cents in the dollar is a fairly extreme position to be placed in and all the commentators have talked about how this will correct itself in time, but nevertheless I don’t think it’s a situation really envisaged by the Federation. But what the Prime Minister and the Treasurer said, and I support this, is the States need to sit down and work this out. They need to put their political differences aside and this is something for the States, the Federation, to sort out, and not just handball it to the Federal Government. I mean all States have skin in the game on this and particularly big States who have been subsidising other States for a long time. The NSW economy is now leading the countries’ economy, while I think it’s unlikely they would find themselves in the situation that WA is in, nevertheless there are similar sympathies at play here. So look, I’m very sympathetic to the situation and I think the government is more broadly, but at the end of the day, this is for the Federation to sort out and frankly the state Treasurers and Premiers need to sit down with their colleagues and come up with an answer.
PARKER: Scott Morrison, the Social Services Minister, thanks for your time this morning, we appreciate it.
MINISTER MORRISON: Thanks Gareth, thanks for your time.