In a controversial disclosure, the government has admitted in the Federal Budget that its welfare penalties will fail to convince thousands of anti-vaccination parents to immunise their children.
In April, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that families who failed to inoculate their children would lose family tax benefits and childcare rebates.
The measure was intended to stem a growing anti-vax trend, said Mr Abbott, who made no mention of budget savings.
However, buried in Tuesday’s budget papers was a disclosure that the government expects to harvest savings of more than half a billion dollars in welfare spending because thousands of parents are expected to resist immunisation.
The policy is controversial because it suggests the government is exploiting its so-called ‘No Jab No Pay’ policy to engineer spending cuts.
The policy will reap $508 million in savings on welfare spending over the next four years, according to the budget papers.
The magnitude of these savings indicates the government believes the policy is not likely to be successful in getting anti-vax parents to change their attitudes to immunisation.
So far, the government has earmarked only $26.4 million in the budget over four years for a pro-immunisation health campaign.
As part of the measures, doctors who vaccinate children more than two months overdue will be paid an extra $6 on top of the $6 incentive they already receive.
A national register to track the immunisation of teenagers will also be developed, and a register for adults will be ‘explored’, Health Minister Sussan Ley said in a statement.
After public scrutiny, Social Services Minister Scott Morrison withdrew the immunisation exemption for members of the Christian Science religion, meaning no group can now refuse vaccination on the grounds of their beliefs or convictions.
Opposition to vaccination is often based on an erroneous belief that the injected substances can cause autism and disease.
Without the ‘jab’, infants and young children can suffer and even die by contracting diseases such as rubella and mumps.
– with Jackson Stiles