health

It's time to stop paying the child care rebate to anti-vaxxers.

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”.

Buried in the Productivity Commission report was a very important recommendation that is vital to the health of Australian children.

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.

Read more: No jab, no play: Victorian child care centres can now exclude non-vaccinated children.

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.

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This is not an objection of conscience. At its lowest, it is a dangerous delusion. At its highest, it’s sociopathic absence of concern for a child in your care.

The fact we even have a form that someone would willingly sign to show that they subscribe to that way of thinking is servicing a madness that is hard to conceive. But that we tolerate it as an excuse that is somehow reasonable is even worse.

Read more: This woman is dangerous – and she’s coming to Australia.

Putting all of that aside, there are, obviously, people who live in our community who don’t want their children to be vaccinated for some non-medical reason (I refuse to say that these people don’t believe in immunisation because you don’t get to believe or disbelieve proven science. You can either accept it, or be wrong.)

The problem with that is this: vaccinations are a responsibility to the people around you. They are a part of living in our society. And yes, you can shirk that responsibility. But if you do, then you might not get the benefit that living in a society provides.

Read more: 9 vaccination myths busted – with science.

That’s why the Productivity Commission’s hard line stance on immunisation is smart: if you don’t want to immunise your children as a responsibility to society, then you don’t get to benefit from that society – in this case, you won’t be able to access child care benefits.

It makes sense for government benefits to be withheld from people who aren’t prepared to act to protect children.

In response to the Productivity Commission’s recommendation, Social Services Minister Scott Morrison said he was happy to consider any calls to toughen current protections – and that’s a positive sign.

The Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten has gone even further saying, endorsing it as “a common sense measure that deserves serious consideration”, noting that he is uncomfortable with “subsidising people who put kids’ health at risk.”

Even if you don’t want your child to have a needle. Even if you aren’t invested in their health and wellbeing or the wellbeing of other children. Even if you have made a choice that is inconsistent with all available scientific evidence, there is a point at which the Government has to say:

“You can think that. You can do that. But we are not going to fund that.”

And that time is now.

Do you think that the Child Care Rebate should be conditional?

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