The Productivity Commission says we should stop subsidising child care for anti-vaxxers. And they’re spot on.
Is it fair to withhold benefits from people who do not act in the interests of protecting children? Yes, it is.
Last Friday, the Government finally released the Productivity Commission’s report into child care and early childhood learning. Buried in that report was a very important recommendation that is vital to the health of Australian children.
Recommendation 15.2 of that report says that the Government should assist families with the cost of child care “conditional on the child being fully immunised, unless care occurs in the child’s home”.
While there is a general rule that only parents who immunise their children will be paid, currently there is an ‘conscientious objector’ exemption for parents who have a “personal, philosophical, religious or medical belief that immunisation should not occur.”
These ‘conscientious objectors’ fill out a form that says that they’ve been told of the risks and decided to ignore them. They file the form with Centrelink and, if they are otherwise entitled, the government gives up the money.
The form looks like this.
There are a few problems with the current system.
First, there are the practical problems.
There are children who legitimately can’t be immunised. Either they are too young, or they are immune-compromised or some other medical issue. These kids still need to be protected from diseases, and the best way to do that is to have them in an environment where every other person around them is immunised. If we tolerate parents not immunising their children for a non-medical reason, then it’s not just their own children at risk – it’s other vulnerable kids.
The children of ‘conscientious objectors’ need to be kept out of contact with vulnerable children, which means they need to be kept out of child care – and an important way the Government can do that is to stop subsidising their child care fees.
But that isn’t the only problem.
The notion of ‘conscientious objectors’ is quite bizarre in this context. There are of course, circumstances where your personal ethics might come into conflict with the law. There are parents, today, in this country, breaking the law to bring their children an established benefit from medical marijuana oil. Some times, parents break the law because they can’t bear to see their child in pain.
However, there is something very wrong with accommodating a conscience that says: I am not ok with doing something that will benefit my child. I am, however, completely ok with exposing my child and other children to disease, disability and death. In fact, I actively encourage it.