PRIME MINISTER: It’s lovely to be here in the electorate of Cook at the Sylvania community cottage child care centre with Scott Morrison, the Minister for Social Services, with my other distinguished colleagues, David Coleman and Nick Varvaris, to make an important announcement about keeping children and families safe and secure.
If we want our children to be safe, if we want our families to be secure, it’s important that all our youngsters are immunised. This is a very important community objective to raise immunisation rates as high as they possibly can go.
As you might remember, I was a health minister for four years in the Howard Government. We were very pleased to get immunisation rates right up into the 90 per cent plus area; they had been down to about 50 per cent under the Hawke and Keating governments. Thanks to the Howard Government they were taken back up to the 90s. It’s important that we keep them there in the face of some evidence that some people are wilfully neglecting to have their children immunised.
The rate of objection to immunisation has risen from under one per cent to approaching two per cent in the last decade. The numbers of unimmunised children has risen from under 15,000 to almost 40,000. That’s why the Government has an important announcement to make today.
We are reducing the grounds on which people can object to having their children immunised. In future they will only be able to continue to receive child care payments and the Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement if they’re children are unimmunised on religious or medical grounds.
Yes people can, if they like, object to having their kids vaccinated but if you don’t have your children vaccinated, other than on strictly religious or medical grounds, you won’t qualify for the supplement and you won’t qualify for the child care payments.
This is essentially a no jab – no pay policy from this Government. It’s a very important public health announcement. It’s a very important measure to keep our children and our families as safe as possible and I want to thank the Minister Scott Morrison for the work he’s done in this area.
SOCIAL SERVICES MINISTER: Thank you very much, Prime Minister.
Welcome to Cook; welcome to the Shire. It’s great to be here with my colleagues as well. The no jab – no pay policy acts specifically on the recommendations of the Productivity Commission which this Government commissioned into child care and early childhood learning. This is one of a number of announcements that we’ll be making between now and the Budget in our response to that Productivity Commission report.
As the Prime Minister has said, we’ve had an escalation of the number of those who have had objections to having their children immunised on the basis of conscientious objections. The grounds for conscientious objection have been removed as a result of this announcement and that means that if people continue to exercise that they won’t be able to do it and continue to receive taxpayer funded benefits.
The religious exemption will continue, as will the medical exemption, but I stress the religious exemption is a very narrow exemption. It requires the formal position of that religious body being advised to the Government and approved by the Government. So, this is a very significant narrowing of the exemption grounds that apply to immunisation and for one very, very good reason and that is we want to make sure that our kids are healthy, that our families are healthy and when you put your child in a child care facility then you can have that confidence.
Here in New South Wales, the Baird Government already has a policy to require the immunisation for children who are attending preschools. It’s important that we get further cooperation from state and territory governments around the country for underlying and underscoring the importance of immunisation for children and their families.
So, I thank the Prime Minister, my colleagues, for their support. This will make a big difference for the health of family’s right across the country.
QUESTION: What will be the total budget savings?
PRIME MINISTER: Look, this isn’t a savings measure; this is a public health measure. This is a very important step to ensure that our kids are as safe as they can be, our families are as secure as they can be and our child care centres and our preschools are as healthy as they can be.
QUESTION: Prime Minister, this does have bipartisan support – is that correct?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, pre-election, we certainly indicated that we were going to remove the so-called conscientious objection clause. There has been some support from the Labor Party for measures in this direction. So, look, I certainly believe it should have bipartisan support, but I don’t take anything for granted.
QUESTION: Just on the religious exemptions, can you just run us through how – just that process if a parent doesn’t want their child to be immunised? Who they have to – in their religious community – who they have to speak to?
SOCIAL SERVICES MINISTER: Well, the family in the cases of religious objection, first point of contact should be with their local church or other religious body or group because it is that group that would maintain a register of their objection. So, you just can’t claim any sort of religious objection here, the religious body of which there is a very, very small number that have made their positions clear on this and had them registered, then that’s the only basis upon which to have a religious exemption and there are no mainstream religions that have such objections registered. So, this would apply to a very, very, very small proportion of people – it’d be lucky to be in the thousands, if that.
QUESTION: What do you say to parents who still don’t want to immunise their children for philosophical reasons?
SOCIAL SERVICES MINISTER: My advice to them would be to listen to the advice that the Government itself has listened to over a long period of time and the overwhelming advice and position I think of those in the health profession is it’s the smart thing and it’s the right thing to do to immunise your children. If they choose to not do that, well the taxpayers aren’t going to subsidise that choice for them.
QUESTION: Prime Minister, can I ask you just another question on another topic?
PRIME MINISTER: Have we finished questions on this subject? Ok.
QUESTION: Just in News Corp this morning – you’re charging your daughter rent? Is that true?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, it’s not so much that I’m charging her rent. It’s important that no one gets a free ride on the taxpayer and now that Bridgie is no longer a dependent child, she is paying rent at Kirribilli House.
QUESTION: Can I ask how much?
PRIME MINISTER: Look, it was an amount that was determined by the department. It’s the kind of amount that I think if a young person was paying board, it’s the kind of amount they’d end up paying.
QUESTION: Prime Minister, can you confirm reports that Richie Benaud’s family declined a state funeral?
PRIME MINISTER: That is my understanding. Certainly I thought it was very important that the family be offered a state funeral given the significance of Richie Benaud to millions and millions of Australians and perhaps tens and hundreds of millions of people around the world for whom he was an absolute icon. So, I thought it was important that as a mark of respect that we have long had for him that we should offer a state funeral, but my understanding is that Richie’s own wishes were for something very, very quiet and very, very private.
Thank you so much.