Today Show, Lisa Wilkinson
Subjects: Strengthening immunisation requirements.
LISA WILKINSON: The man leading the no jab, no pay or play policy is Social Services Minister Scott Morrison and he joins us now from Sydney. Good morning to you Minister.
MINISTER MORRISON: Good morning Lisa, good morning from the Shire.
WILKINSON: Can you take us through the reasons why this crackdown is so important, Minister.
MINISTER MORRISON: Well what has happened after the last ten years or so is the number of conscientious objectors has risen from some 15,000 people to almost 40,000 people. As a result we are seeing more families not taking on what is good common sense and good health policy in having their children immunised and by making that benefit for childcare as well as the Family Tax Benefit A supplement each year conditional on being immunised we believe this can add further encouragement. At the end of the day if people decide not to immunise their children it is obviously a decision for them but that doesn’t mean they get to decide and insist on taxpayer funded benefits with that choice.
WILKINSON: Why are you making exceptions for religious beliefs?
MINISTER MORRISON: It is a very narrow exemption, there is only one registered religion that is currently registered for that exemption so it doesn’t apply to mainstream religions at all. If anyone wants to know about the state of the religion they should speak directly to the people involved in their religious body. It is [inaudible] and I would be very surprised if a thousand people qualified for it.
WILKINSON: So which religion are you making exempt?
MINISTER MORRISON: [inaudible] give it a lot of publicity on today’s programme but it is a matter for each and every religion, they have to register their objection with the government and that has to be accepted so it is the narrowest of possible grounds. The main exemption that remains in place is the medical exemption, of course, and that would be there you would expect and so we will continue with that. What this means is if you don’t want to immunise your kids it is your call but at the end of the day the government policy is that children should be immunised, it’s good health policy, it is important for the health of our children, for families, for communities particularly if they are going to be put in childcare centres and in contact with other children.
WILKINSON: I’m sorry Minister Morrison you were dropping out for a moment there. Can you just clarify again which religion at the moment is exempt from this policy?
MINISTER MORRISON: What I said is I am not about to promote it. There is only one, it is a very small religion and I am not about to encourage people to line up with it just to get another crack at an exemption. It is a very narrow…
WILKINSON: Sorry, I was going to say that has got to be a concern for you because what proof does someone have to have and present to you that they are committed enough to that religion to qualify for an exemption and therefore not vaccinate their child?
MINISTER MORRISON: It would have to be formally recognised by the religious body themselves and that religious body itself has to have a formal registered process of objection which has to be accepted by the government. So this is a very, very narrow ground. It wouldn’t apply to the almost majority – the entirety of the Australian population. The issue really is going forward is there is a medical exemption but the conscientious exemption which has seen the number of people not immunised rise to almost 40,000 will be shut down by the government on the 1st of January and the no jab, no pay policy will be in full effect.
WILKINSON: So will those people that are exempt will they still receive the tax benefits and the childcare rebates that are being taken away for others?
MINISTER MORRISON: Where there is a legitimate exemption in place then obviously that would enable people to continue to receive those benefits. We are talking about a very small minority of people. The problem with the conscientious objection exemption is it was growing and we didn’t want to see that continue and the controls around you could have driven a truck through. So that has been shut down because we want to make sure that where kids are coming together in contact and where parents have already made the decision rightly to immunise their children that we are not putting them or the broader community at risk by a very small few which goes against science, against the good health policy and frankly against common sense.
WILKINSON: I have no doubt this is going to be overwhelmingly well received but the problem is the hard core anti-vaccine lobby probably won’t be persuaded by these financial penalties so some kids still won’t get their jabs so the risk to the community does continue. Will you be alerting parents of children who are vaccinated when their children are in the company of those that aren’t vaccinated?
MINISTER MORRISON: These are matters for individual centres themselves that is not the type of policy we are running here. The issue we are already at about 97 per cent when it comes to the immunisation of children right across the country and that is a really good outcome but we just didn’t want to see this particular area of conscientious objection continue to open up the way it was. It was happening under the previous government, it was a recommendation of the Productivity Commission to go and address this issue and as we are now in the stages of announcing our childcare policies between now and the budget this was a key area to that. So it won’t just apply, Lisa, to existing childcare benefits that are in place now it will also apply to any of the new arrangements that we put in place when we release our new childcare package before the budget.
WILKINSON: Ok, Scott Morrison there from the Shire in Sydney. Thanks very much for your time this morning.
MINISTER MORRISON: Thanks a lot Lisa.