Topics: Immunisation rates – No Jab, No Pay; Labor’s poor record on PBS; CFMEU; record child immunisation rates
Now there has been a lot on focus in vaccination in recent years, the lack of vaccination in our communities. There some good news here that the No Jab, No Pay policy is actually working, with more than 500 children a day catching up on their shots since the program was put in place on 1 July last year. I’m joined on the line now by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.
Thanks for joining us, Greg. Happy New Year. This is good news.
And to you Chris. It’s very, very good news. It’s genuinely about saving lives and protecting lives.
What we’ve seen is all up 250,000 young kids have taken up new vaccinations since we brought in the initial No Jab, No Pay policy in January 2016.
But it was updated only six months ago, and in that time 80,000 or 500 a day have been vaccinated and that means, whether it’s in terms of whooping cough, whether it’s in terms of so many other different conditions, we will have healthier kids, we will have less chance of them catching dangerous, contagious diseases and less chances of those diseases being spread.
And we’re up to now record immunisation rates of 94.6 per cent. I think 4 per cent higher than when we came in.
So that makes an immense difference.
That’s excellent. This is a pretty straightforward idea. This is a financial incentive. People are getting family tax benefit payments. They lose money if they don’t get the children they’re getting the payments for vaccinated.
Look, that’s right. It is a strong policy but because we are about ensuring that if people are taking funds from the government that they are doing that on a responsible basis and that is that we change it from taking away from an end-of-year payment to a fortnightly payment.
So it’s approximately $28 per fortnight for each child who doesn’t meet the immunisation requirements. That’s had a big impact.
One of the most positive things: the highest immunisation rates in the country in general are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
So the indigenous five-year-olds have an immunisation rate of 96.6 per cent. So that’s a very, very positive thing that’s happening and it’s an example where Indigenous health is stronger than, rather than weaker than, the national average.
Well let’s look at that because there could be some interesting points to be made out of that. I mean that’s obviously an indication that everybody gets access to vaccination.
So therefore, Indigenous communities are getting access to vaccination. It does suggest that there is the problem then in non-indigenous communities where some people are deliberately avoiding vaccination, deliberately choosing not to vaccinate their children. Is that the issue here?
There are some- there would be some who would either not be aware of or would not have access to but that’s very, very minimal.
The national immunisation program is actually genuinely national where, you know, it’s absolutely fundamental that we make it available for everybody.
There are areas such as parts of inner Sydney, inner Adelaide in particular, there are areas in terms of the Gold Coast hinterland and just south of that on the southern side of the border in New South Wales where the vaccination rates are not as high.
And so those are areas where there’s a choice, where people are making a decision. Now they are entitled to that decision, but we think it’s a bad decision because the evidence on immunisation is reliable, it’s longstanding and it’s fundamental. It saves lives.
Do you think you’ve won the argument, then, against these anti-vaxxers?
They have been slammed widely by health professionals, by politicians, by community leaders, or do you need to do more to crack that nut?
I think you have to continue to be ever vigilant. You have news that will bubble up from time to time, but the fact that we are up 4 per cent from when we came into government I think is incredibly important, and that will make a huge impact right across the country.
But there are always people who will put forward views with no scientific backing and they will spread those now through the internet, which is a vehicle that’s out there.
So, much of our work is being done both in terms of education as well as the tough policy.
So that ultimately saves lives and we have a very, very grassroots education campaign, whether it’s through childcare centres, whether it’s across the internet, whether it’s through sites that deal with young parents and what we’ve seen is a quite dramatic increase in immunisation rates and therefore the risk in terms of the contagious disease is less.
Now if the last Federal election is any guide, health is going to be a central issue in this year’s election campaign and there’s going to be concerted Labor Party attack on health and on your plans for health.
How are you going to stave off a medi-scare campaign suggesting that you and the Coalition have plans to either privatise or cut back or hack into health services?
Look, I’d welcome- I would absolutely welcome a debate around health because last time Labor was in, they had disastrous super clinic that failed catastrophically but most significantly, they stopped listing new medicines when Bill Shorten was assistant treasurer.
So he was responsible for one budget as assistant treasurer and that was the budget in 2011 where they ran up the white flag and said due to fiscal circumstances, we will defer the listing of medicines until fiscal circumstances permit.
That’s code for we’ve blown the economy, we blown the budget, we can’t afford new medicines to be listed.
Whereas we have listed over 2000 new medicines including drugs for cystic fibrosis, for spinal muscular atrophy, for melanoma, for breast cancer which would otherwise cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in some of those cases and been completely beyond the reach of people.
Record bulk billing rates, record immunisation rates, record spending on Medicare, they are all real and fundamental.
Bring it on, in short.
Things that save lives. And the message is very clear. We are able to do this because we’re running the economy, we’re allowing people to create jobs in their own private sector lives in terms of their small businesses and their medium businesses.
And then if you do that, you have fewer people on welfare, more people paying tax, you have a healthier budget and therefore you can genuinely guarantee central services.
The issue around medicines on Bill Shorten’s watch, he stopped the listing of new medicines literally – it’s there in the budget paper that new medicines would be deferred – things such as for in vitro fertilisation, for endometriosis.
Alright, it sounds like you’re well and truly ready for that debate.
Bring it on, the health debate come the election. As a Victorian MP, I want to get your reaction – and speaking of the economy of course too – is one of the union nemeses of the government.
I would say, the militant union leader John Setka of the CFMMEU arrested by police over the last couple of days relating to an altercation with his partner apparently over the Christmas break. What’s your thoughts about his future within the union and Labor Party movement?
So I won’t comment on the case in particular, but this individual should have been gone from any ties with the Labor Party long ago, should have been gone from any ties to the Labor Party, and how Bill Shorten maintains links with John Setka is something he has to answer in the next 24 hours.
He can’t hide, he has to address it directly and how he retains links to the CFMEU, or CFMMEU as it now is, is completely beyond the pale that he is consorting with a union with multiple criminal convictions and with very, very clear questions over the way in which it treats women.
It will be interesting to see where all that ends up. Thanks so much for joining us Greg Hunt. Look forward to catching up with you again later in the year.
Thanks so much. Take care, Chris.