Thursday, 12 November 2015
Social Services Legislation Amendment (No Jab, No Pay) Bill 2015; Second Reading
This particular bill has caused great discussion across the community. Many in this chamber have met with people from the constituencies and from different organisations putting both sides of the proposition. People would know that the history of this process is that, over many years, there has been concern around the level of vaccination in Australia. As of this year, over 10 per cent of Australian families are still not having their children regularly vaccinated. Around two per cent of those are people who have registered conscientious objections to the process. Just under seven per cent are those we refer to as 'no vaccinators', as opposed to conscientious objectors. These are terms you become very familiar with when you are working with this community.
In terms of this process, we do not know why the no vaccinators are not seeking vaccination for their children. All kinds of ideas were brought forward to our committee. We had a committee hearing for this legislation a fortnight ago in Brisbane. The committee received many submissions—in fact, several hundred submissions. Most of them came from people who did not support the bill. Very few, if any, of the people who wrote in to say they did not support the bill—and I will get to the reasons why they did not support it—fell into the category of no vaccinators. These are people, I remind you, who have not put in a conscientious objection to the process but who, for whatever reason, have not taken up the opportunity of the extraordinary strong free vaccination process that we have in this country. Other people, who have taken up conscientious objections, have very strong opposition to the legislation. That has been fully identified in our committee report. In reality, the No Jab, No Pay legislation may have very little impact on this group of people. Their objections to the process of vaccination are strong; they are part of community action groups and international groups that are opposed to vaccination. They put their objections to the committee particularly strongly.
While the department was not able to provide us with any data or information about the different rationales, there is clearly a strong group of people in Australia who I believe will not be impacted by the legislation. This legislation, as we know, links family payments and childcare payments to having a full vaccination schedule completed for the child. The group that may be affected is around seven per cent of Australian families—those who do not have a conscientious objection or a medical exemption but have not taken up vaccination. In my opinion, that is the group that may be impacted by this legislation. This legislation will have an impact on all people who do not vaccinate. If you do not vaccinate your children, under this process you will no longer be eligible for family tax benefits payment or childcare payments.
We know, of course, that eligibility for the family tax benefit is the subject of another piece of legislation before this chamber. Families will lose bonus payments and ongoing payments of around $1,000. For families who are not eligible for childcare payments, that is around $7 per child. That is a really significant impost. Objections were raised at our committee hearing. The objections fell into a number of different categories. There were groups who objected to vaccination and came forward with medical evidence that they had gathered and different reports. They were concerned, mainly as parents, about how their choices will be impacted by the legislation.
The other group of objectors to the legislation were people involved in the childcare industry. We really had no information from the department around the issue of the work that has been done to see where people who are not vaccinating will not be able to afford child care. This is an important issue. There is nothing to say that people cannot have child care through federal legislation; it is the aspect of receiving payment which actually mitigates the cost of child care. People get quite a significant rebate. If you do not have that payment, there is a limitation of choice in terms of seeking out child care for your children. So we had objections from that group. They were concerned because they felt that they had not had effective consultation in the process. They had no real way of knowing the impact on their business if the children of those 10,000 families who would lose their child care payments were in their business—and we could not get that knowledge from the department. So we could not quantify the possible impact of the legislation on people who run childcare businesses or family day care services and building their business plans into the future. With an expected implementation date of 1 January next year, their forward planning could be affected significantly if they have a number of families who can no longer take up child care because they cannot afford it.
Those were the two major groups of objectors to the legislation. There was also a very interesting group of people who raised general questions about whether this legislation was the most effective way to respond to the need which has been identified—which I think many people in this place share—to have a larger number of vaccinations in our families across the country. While there was shared acceptance among people who support vaccination that there should be a higher level of vaccination across the community, a number of people came to the committee in good faith supporting vaccination but genuinely believing there could be an alternative way of addressing what they considered to be the blanket process of this legislation which stops payments and actually limits the amount of—