FEDERAL Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce said the conscientious objector exemption on children’s vaccination for access to taxpayer funded Child Care Benefits, the Child Care Rebate and the Family Tax Benefit Part A end of year supplement will cease from 1 January 2016.
Parents in the New England Electorate who vaccinate their children should have confidence that they can take their children to child care or into the community without worrying that their children will be at risk of contracting a serious or potentially life-threatening illness, because of the conscientious objections of others.
Mr Joyce said from the beginning of next year, ‘conscientious objection’ will be removed as an exemption category for child care payments (Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate) and the Family Tax Benefit Part A end of year supplement.
Immunisation requirements for the payment of FTB Part A end-of-year supplement will also be extended to include children of all ages. Currently vaccination status is only checked at ages 1, 2 and 5 years.
Existing exemptions on medical or religious grounds will continue, however a religious objection will only be available where the person is affiliated with a religious group where the governing body has a formally registered objection approved by the Government.
This means that vaccine objectors in the New England Electorate will not be able to access these government payments.
Mr Joyce said this new policy will strengthen the rules, and reinforce the importance of immunisation and protecting public health, especially for children.
Australia now has childhood vaccination rates over 90 per cent, from one to five years of age, but further protection from preventable diseases is needed for our children and our community.
While vaccination rates in Australia have increased since the Childhood Immunisation Register was established by the Howard Government in 1996, vaccine objection rates for children under the age of seven have also increased steadily, especially under the conscientious objector category.
The vast majority of FTB families meet the current immunisation requirement at relevant age points (around 97 per cent).
However more than 39,000 children aged under seven are not vaccinated because their parents are vaccine objectors. This is an increase of more than 24,000 children over 10 years.
The Government is extremely concerned at the risk this poses to other young children and the broader community, including the New England Electorate.
“The choice made by families not to immunise their children is not supported by public policy or medical research nor should such action be supported by taxpayers in the form of child care payments,” Mr Joyce said.
Further information about child care assistance and family payments can be found at https://www.humanservices.gov.au