Jane Prentice MP, Federal Member for Ryan - Coat of Arms
Federal Member for Ryan
Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services
JANE PRENTICE MP, Federal Member for Ryan

Australian Immunisation Register and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 part 1

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan—Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services) (19:25): I rise today to speak to Australian Immunisation Register and Other Legislation Amendment Bill, a bill that makes minor amendments to the Australian Immunisation Register Act 2015 to expand the list of health practitioners who can assess the contraindication young individuals may have to a vaccine or natural immunity to a disease. Notably, and consequential to the amendment, changes will be required of the A New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act to align with the medical practitioners who are able to certify a medical exemption to immunisation for family assistance payment purposes. The opposition should be supportive of this initiative—and I note that the speakers to date are—because the coalition will ensure that those families unable to immunise their children for a legitimate medical reason do not have any of their family assistance payments impacted.
Immunisation is critical to maintaining public health. It is as simple as that. Vaccination is a fundamental achievement of our modern times. Immunisation is the most significant public health intervention in the past 200 years because it provides a safe and effective way to prevent the spread of many diseases—diseases that would otherwise cause hospitalisation, serious ongoing health conditions and, in some instances, death. Since the introduction of vaccination for children in Australia in the early 1930s, deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases have fallen by 99 per cent, despite that at the same time our population has increased threefold. Members should perhaps take a moment to fathom the effects on Australia's population if vaccination had not formed an integral part of our health policy. Vaccination policy is good policy. Vaccination saves lives. This policy enhances the integrity of our No jab, No pay strategy.

I further want to impress upon the House that this bill is not about parents seeking exemption from immunisation simply because of their views on vaccination formed by reading outlandish online forums or following paleo-hungry celebrities. Some specialist immunisation clinics have approached the Department of Health since the AIR commenced. Just like the medical specialist clinics in my electorate of Ryan, they have continued to advocate the consideration for paediatricians, public health physicians, infectious disease physicians and clinical immunologists to be recognised as being able to assess for medical exemptions. Feedback received from specialist clinics indicates that the current practice sees patients being sent to general practitioners to get a medical exemption. Like many members here today who are parents, we understand and appreciate that this scenario is burdensome for already time-poor mums and dads. Expanding the numbers of those who can assess for medical exemptions will reduce the number of referrals and appointments patients would need. It will also ensure that the most vulnerable and those living with complex illnesses are afforded the best possible care available. This further demonstrates that through smart coalition policy Australian families are benefitting.
With highly infectious but easily preventable diseases like measles, the rate of immunisation required to interrupt disease transmission—also known as herd immunity—is above 95 per cent, a mark that we are still short of. Vaccination is one area of life where it pays to be part of a crowd. I wonder if One Nation Western Australia Senator-elect Peter Georgiou will now advocate for immunisation, given his run-in with the measles which delayed his swearing-in—no doubt much to the embarrassment of his colleagues and Senator Hanson, who was recently attributed with critical comments about Australia's vaccination program. The regularly-quoted this evening Dr Michael Gannon, head of the Australian Medical Association, went as far as to say that he was appalled by Senator Hanson's remarks, emphatically stating that the comments could have a damaging effect on those less-informed Australians who are already marred by the controversial debate by flat-earthers who do not accept science and vaccination.
Debate interrupted.


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