CANBERRA -- Flushed with early success, but not satisfied with efforts to lift child immunisation rates, the Turnbull Government is moving to toughen the welfare 'no jab, no pay' policy by applying it to the fortnightly bank balance rather than a yearly sting.
Under legislation to be introduced to parliament on Thursday, the present system which withholds a lump sum at the end of each year would be replaced from 1 July 2018 by a fortnightly $28 cut to Family Tax Benefit Part A payments for each unvaccinated child.
There are 137,000 people seen as hold outs to child immunisation made up of two major hold out groups; too busy parents and conscientious objectors.
Not all deliberate hold out, anti-vaccination parents are on welfare benefits, but Social Services Minister Christian Porter insists he can add to the success since 'no jab no pay' was introduced in January 2016.
"There were many people who said that the theory of linking family tax benefits to vaccinations would not work and they have been proved spectacularly wrong," Porter told reporters in Canberra.
"This is a very firm response, but a very fair response in line with community expectations."
As of June, 93.79 percent of one-year-olds, 90.86 percent of two-year-olds and 93.55 percent of five-year-olds were fully immunised, but a critical 95 per cent immunisation level is being sought for the community protection of disease, known as 'herd immunity'.
"The end-of-year supplement being potentially lost has caused those very significant increases," Porter said. "The behavioral economic theory behind the potential loss even more immediate to the failure to vaccinate your child will lift those percentages up even further."
Two hundred and ten thousand Australian families got children vaccinated under the first version of 'no jab no pay', but the Minister said a constant reminder is needed to change behaviour.
"Yes, we are trying a different approach, you might argue a firmer and more stringent approach," he said.
"But we are very confident that having the potential loss more immediate in time, so it will be felt on fortnightly cycle, is going to target those 137,000-odd families who so far have not changed their behaviour."
Why only part? $28 a fortnight... get real it's a packet of smokes— Concerned_Citizen_66 (@sandybaydreamin) September 13, 2017
Not every mind will be changed, the Minister concedes.
"There are some families who are for, what I might say are very silly reasons, objectors to vaccination on sort of philosophical grounds," he said."
"Many of those have actually taken themselves off the conscientious objector register and have changed their behaviour. Not all of them of course will, we hope more and more do, but what we have seen is that we can reach that magic 95 per cent rate if we continually refine and redesign and restructure our policies."