12 Apr 2015

Australia to have 'no jab, no pay' vaccination

4:50 pm on 12 April 2015

Parents in Australia who refuse to vaccinate their children will miss out on government benefits of up to $15,000 per child under a new measure announced by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

A baby is vaccinated.

The government expects that only a very small number of families will be exempt from the new policy. Photo: 123RF

Under current laws, families with children who are not immunised can still receive annual childcare rebates and other benefits if they have a personal, philosophical or religious objection.

Mr Abbott said the rules would now be tightened to only allow a small number of religious and medical exceptions, but he would not say how much the move was likely to save.

"This is essentially a 'no jab, no pay' policy from this Government," Mr Abbott said.

"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."

The move has been welcomed by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and advocacy group Parenthood.

The move has been welcomed by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and advocacy group Parenthood. Photo: 123RF

Social Services Minister Scott Morrison said he only expected a very small number of families to be exempted from the Government's new "no jab, no pay" policy.

Mr Morrison said parents seeking a religious exception would need to be registered with their church or similar organisation.

"That's the only basis upon which you can have a religious exception, and there are no mainstream religions that have such objections registered so this would apply to a very, very small proportion of people," he said.

"It'd be lucky to be in the thousands, if that."

Under the policy which the coalition took to the last election, and which is supported by Labor, "conscientious objection" would no longer be allowed for parents who refuse to vaccinate their children but still want to receive child care payments and family tax benefit supplements.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said it was a sensible step.

"We believe fundamentally in the science of vaccinations and we fundamentally believe that policy should be made by the best evidence and the best science," he said.

"And we would say to the Liberal Government, we're pleased that you're agreeing with our position and yes we will cooperate to make sure that the safety of our children is what is paramount in public policy."

Jo Briskey from advocacy group Parenthood has also welcomed the move.

"Well this will hopefully increase the rates of immunisation, which unfortunately are starting to fall behind the rates that are safe for our community," she said.

"So we're hoping to see less parents choosing not to vaccinate their kids."

- ABC -

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs