3AW Brett McLeod
BRETT MCLEOD: Joining us now the Social Services Minister Scott Morrison, good morning.
MINISTER MORRISON: G’day Brett.
BRETT MCLEOD: Why have you decided to bring this in? What led to this decision being made?
MINISTER MORRISON: There’s been an increase in the number of conscientious objectors up to just shy of 40,000. Now a decade ago that was down to around about 15,000 and back in 1999 it was around about 4,000. Look it had been increasing and we were concerned about that. There was a Productivity Commission report we had done into childcare and early childhood learning which recommended this. It is common sense, it is good policy, it is good health for the community and protects kids.
BRETT MCLEOD: Did you get much resistance? I know there are those in the anti-vaccine movement. Did you get any major professional resistance to these ideas?
MINISTER MORRISON: No, no, and I wasn’t surprised about that. There is a very strong scientific medical and broader consensus too I think on this issue because we’re not saying – we’re not forcing people to do this. What the alternative is, is the government was being forced to pay benefits to people who wanted to go down a different path. Now they can go down a different path if they like but that doesn’t give them an entitlement to receive government funded taxpayer support for child care benefits which would see their children put in with other children and the Family Tax Benefit part A supplement which is a once a year payment of just over $720 dollars a year.
BRETT MCLEOD: The point being it isn’t just their own children they are putting at risk by not having these vaccines, it is other children whose lives are being put at risk.
MINISTER MORRISON: Yes, and who are all doing the right thing, whose parents have made the right common sense decision here backed up by all the best science and health advice there is on this issue. I think it’s just a common sense measure and we are very pleased to introduce the no jab, no pay on welfare arrangements and that will come in place in January. I should stress there are still two exemptions that are in place; one is a medical exemption which you’d expect. The other one is a religious exemption but it is very, very narrow. It would only apply currently to about a thousand out of those 39,000 who would be affected by that. It has to be a religion that has registered their objection. That is what we will be ensuring and someone claiming it would have to have official recognition of their enrolment and participation in that religion. Now I will keep a close eye on that and if that gets abused well we will shut that down too.
BRETT MCLEOD: Did you consider scrapping that loophole as well?
MINISTER MORRISON: Not at this stage because there was no evidence that this was an area where there had been a growth in people claiming exemptions. But we will monitor that closely, there is only one religion it is a very small religion that has such a registered objection and I am not about to publicise it because I am sure they want to protect the integrity of their exemption and not have others abuse it but if it were to be abused then I can ensure people I will shut it down.
BRETT MCLEOD: Were you surprised at the growth in the anti-vaccine movement? I became aware of it when I was working and living in London about ten years ago which seems to be where a lot of this started and I thought this seems like a load of nonsense and yet it has caught on here and as you say the rate of people not immunising has shot up.
MINISTER MORRISON: Well it has and I don’t understand it to be honest. I am a parent I have got two young girls and we obviously immunised our kids like 97% of Australians do. It’s the obvious common sense choice but there are some people who have a different view about that. We live in a democracy but that doesn’t mean that entitles you to put your kids in with other kids and put the others at risk. You have got to think about the others in the community who can be affected by this and this is what the government obviously is most focused on.
BRETT MCLEOD: Now this will go through because it’s had bipartisan support?
MINISTER MORRISON: Bill Shorten said he will support it. So we – I always count though the Labor party’s ballots only once they are cast. But in good faith we accept what they have said and we would hope that they would support this as they have said they have.
BRETT MCLEOD: Alright well we might get some calls on this now but I have noticed this too that the AMA has not surprisingly backed the government’s move and as you’ve said professionally there is no organisation against it.
MINISTER MORRISON: No there’s not and I should stress look the education programs and all of these things continue. This isn’t instead of doing all of those things and there are still important responsibilities for state and territory governments. In New South Wales here in my own state the state government has rules about requiring immunisations for children coming into preschools and so there is still a big state and territory responsibility here to ensure that the right rules are in place for schools and preschools and sport and other things of that nature that is their responsibility, ours is with these benefits and that is where we have chosen to act.
BRETT MCLEOD: You’ve just quickly reminded me of one caller we had before, Linda, who did ask about kids already in school. This won’t affect them will it?
MINISTER MORRISON: Well no this only relates to child care benefits and the Family Tax Benefit supplement A. If state governments, and its different around the country, that’s where their jurisdiction is and that is where it is for them to make those policies and to enforce them. So the federal government can’t do it all here and I particularly commend the Baird Government here in New South Wales for the strong stance they have taken on the no jab, no play.
BRETT MCLEOD: Scott Morrison thanks for your time today.
MINISTER MORRISON: Thanks a lot, good to talk to you Brett.