No Jab No Pay

Conditions on Commonwealth benefits and rebates

Effective from 1 January 2016

The Australian Parliament recently passed “No Jab, No Pay” amendments to social-security law.

** MUST READ!!  –  Download State of the Evidence, including the AVN’s submission to the Senate Inquiry conducted prior to No Jab No Pay being passed.

What is “No Jab, No Pay”?

The Social Services Legislation Amendment (No Jab, No Pay) Act 2015 is legislation that was passed in November 2015 and in force from 1 January 2016.  This legislation removes parents’ rights to be either religious or conscientious objectors to vaccination for the purposes of certain benefits and rebates. Its intent is that parents who do not follow the Australian Childhood Immunisation Schedule on time will be unable to claim any child-care subsidies and that those who are currently eligible for The Family Tax Benefit Supplement Part A (the end-of-year tax reconciliation) will  lose that too.

The only exemptions that the government will recognise are a medical exemption that will be nearly impossible for parents to access, and evidence of natural immunity (e.g. evidence that your child has contracted one of the so-called vaccine-preventable illnesses) in relation to some diseases.

The Government has chosen to make individual vaccines against measles, mumps, and rubella impossible to access, so that even natural immunity will not enable an exemption unless the child is immune to all of the diseases that a combined Schedule vaccine targets.

The new law provides for a 63-day grace period in which to commence a catch-up program before benefits are cancelled.  The grace period commences from the date on which the department gives notice that your child does not meet the vaccination requirement.   The earliest date on which it can give this notice is 01 January 2016.

Does the vaccination requirement apply to standard fortnightly Family Tax Benefit payments?

Standard Family Tax Benefits A and B, paid fortnightly, are not affected by this law.

Will I still be able to enrol my child in child care?

The Act does not prohibit enrolment in child care; it affects only receipt of subsidies and benefits.  State laws determine enrolment criteria, so whether or not you can still enrol your unvaccinated child in child care will depend on where you live.  Only Victorian and Queensland law permits child-care operators, in certain circumstances, to not enrol unvaccinated children, and it is possible that even this contravenes the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, which provides that discrimination against anybody on the basis of a perception that that person may become diseased is illegal.  (See the “No Choice, No Way” tab’s “No Jab No Play” selections for information on these two states’ enrolment requirements.)

Which vaccines are included in the vaccination requirement?

The vaccination requirement depends on the age of the child and in general includes most early childhood vaccines on the National Immunisation Program.  The requirement is listed in two legislative instruments:

Child Care Benefit (Vaccination Schedules) (Education) Determination 2015

Family Assistance (Vaccination Schedules) (DSS) Determination 2015

Are there any exemptions to the vaccination requirement under the Act?

The only exemptions to the vaccination requirement under the new law are:

(a) medical exemption; or

(b) natural immunity; or

(c) undergoing an approved catch-up schedule.

The form upon which medical practitioners may notify the Department of Human Services of a medical exemption or natural immunity can be downloaded at the following link: Immunisation Medical Exemption Form

Immediately before passing the Bill, the Senate stated, in a Notice of Motion, that:

“the Senate… recognises that it is of critical importance that GPs remain able to use their clinical judgement in assessing children who are eligible for medical exemption”.

Medical practitioners are, however, finding themselves under political pressure to compromise their medical judgements by the authority of a document, the Australian Immunisation Handbook.  The Handbook’s authors disclaim, on the Government’s behalf, all “liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information” it offers, leaving the physician with all of the responsibility but little of the power to live up to it.  Despite continuing to bear all responsibility for the decision to effectively force a vaccine or complex of vaccines upon a child to whom, in their better judgement, the vaccines are particularly risky, physicians have already told parents that they cannot abide by their medical judgement in more than a small number of cases without risking loss of their licence to practise.

If you have been given to understand that your physician says he is unable to follow his better judgement in granting a medical exemption for one or more vaccines, we would like to hear from you about it, as this compromise of medical judgement is obviously far too dangerous to tolerate.
As well, combined vaccines are the only option on offer for measles, mumps, and rubella, so establishing natural immunity to one or two of these diseases does not effectively exempt the child from the requirement to receive the inoculation against it anyway.

The Department’s policy on a catch-up schedule appears at:

http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/Handbook10-home~handbook10part2~handbook10-2-1#2-1-5.

No form for documenting this process appears to be available yet.

What is the Australian Government’s reason for introducing No Jab, No Pay legislation?

The Government claims that Australia’s vaccination rate, which is currently higher than at any time in history, is not high enough and that some parents are not vaccinating because they are lazy or ignorant or simply don’t have access to vaccination facilities.  It claims that this legislation will raise Australian vaccination rates to a point at which diseases will be wiped out amongst vaccinees — a controversial hypothesis known as “herd immunity”.

At Queensland Senate hearings in October 2014, representatives of the Public Health Association and the National Centres for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS), amongst others, disputed the government’s claim that this legislation would raise vaccination rates and stated that it would seriously disadvantage the most vulnerable families in Australia.  Testimony from experts and researching parents demonstrated that many vaccines (pertussis, inactivated polio, tetanus, diphtheria, Hib, and hepatitis B) cannot even theoretically prevent infection with or transmission of diseases, negating all possible usefulness of these discriminatory rules in relation to those vaccines.

In addition, this Act and the Queensland and Victorian No Jab No Play laws appear to be in breach of the Australian Constitution and various international covenants to which Australia is signatory.

The Government apparently intends to follow the Act with similar requirements of all adults.  “An adult vaccination register will be established to record all adult vaccines provided under the NIP from 1 September 2016” (http://www.budget.gov.au/2015-16/content/bp2/download/BP2_consolidated.pdf, p. 106).

How are parents dealing with it?

As well as through the federal No Jab, No Pay law, parents in Queensland and Victoria are facing additional discrimination through recent state No Jab, No Play legislation (see the relevant tab items) also in force from 1 January 2016.

Groups of parents are creating strong support networks in cities and towns all around Australia, to ensure that families who are being disadvantaged by these draconian laws can gain the support and encouragement necessary for making informed choices about their children’s health.

Facebook groups have sprung up to enable parents with objections to (some or all of) the childhood vaccinations to create informal child-minding arrangements, in order that they can continue to work and study and even save money on child-care costs.

Is it possible to challenge the Act at law?

The Act may violate a number of provisions in the Australian Constitution.  It certainly violates the legal necessity of informed consent to medical procedures, which the Department of Health itself admits entails “the absence of undue pressure, coercion or manipulation”.  As well, the Act appears to violate several provisions of anti-discrimination law; incites medical practitioners to engage in serious conflicts of interest; penalises practitioners who, in good conscience and upon the basis of evidence, cannot carry out or recommend carrying out vaccination upon particular children; and provides support for marketing of certain products already known to be unsuitable for their intended purpose.