On 06 April 2017, Walt Secord, the Shadow Minister for Health (ALP), introduced to the Legislative Council, a Bill to amend the New South Wales Public Health Act.
The object of this Bill is to amend the Public Health Act 2010 to prevent unvaccinated children being enrolled at child care facilities if the only reason that they are unvaccinated is a parent’s conscientious beliefs.
The Bill, Explanatory Notes, and Second Reading Speech are available on our resources page.
As this is not a government Bill, it is difficult to predict if the LNP government will support it, notwithstanding recent pronouncements by the federal LNP government.
Review of the Public Health Act
During 2016, the New South Wales government undertook a Review of its Public Health Act, which included, among other things, a review of the conscientious objection exemption for the purpose of enrolment in early childhood education services in that state. Currently, parents with a conscientious objection to vaccination may still enrol their unvaccinated children in childcare services in New South Wales, as long as the form has been duly completed and provided to the childcare service. See the No Jab No Play (NSW) page on our website.
The Report on the Statutory Review of the NSW Public Health Act 2010 was tabled in parliament during November 2016 and included a number of recommendations relevant to the issue of so-called vaccine-preventable disease and vaccination. Most importantly for our purposes, it was recommended that the conscientious objection provision be retained.
Recommendation 31: The Public Health Act should not be amended to remove the conscientious objector exemption to enrolment in a childcare facility. (page 49)
An article published by ABC News stated that a spokeswoman for Health Minister Brad Hazzard advised that “a proposal to ban children who are not vaccinated from childcare centres and preschools had already been put forward by the Federal Government and would be discussed at the next meeting of state and territory leaders”.
The next meeting of the Council of Australian Governments will be held in Hobart on 09 June 2017.
Flashback to 2013
During 2013, the conscientious objection provision was inserted into the NSW Public Health Act, despite a particularly aggressive, but ultimately unsuccessful, ‘No Jab No Play’ campaign orchestrated by Murdoch-owned media to have all unvaccinated children banned from early childhood education services in NSW.
Abolition of belief exemptions would breach the Commonwealth Disability Disability Act (DDA)
Following legal advice and debate about the proposed 2013 amendment, the parliament took the decision to provide for exemptions for conscientious objection to vaccination on philosophical and religious grounds due to concerns that a vaccination requirement, without exemptions, would be in breach of the DDA, and necessarily expose childcare services to complaints of unlawful discrimination.
Parliamentary Secretary Melinda Pavey stated:
I am advised that on the issue of protection, section 48 of the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act dealing with discrimination against those with infectious disease will face problems as paragraph (b) states that “discrimination reasonably necessary to protect public health” will be determined by the level of risk. Clearly, a child with a vaccine-preventable disease poses a risk to other children. However, an unvaccinated child poses the risk in the future. The risk is that a court will not find a refusal to enrol an unvaccinated child is reasonably necessary to protect public health. This amendment will leave childcare centres open to challenges from parents who claim discrimination against their child. Exemptions under a Commonwealth or State law apply only to actions taken in direct compliance with the prescribed law. The New South Wales Public Health Act is not a prescribed law under the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act. (page 62)
Last month, the AVN received a letter from the NSW Department of Health advising that Rose Brennan from The Daily Telegraph had applied for a copy of all 269 submissions (which included a submission by the AVN) made to the Ministry of Health for the statutory review of the NSW Public Health Act 2010 during 2016.
Clearly not content that unvaccinated children may still be enrolled in New South Wales childcare services, despite their parents being denied subsidies under the Commonwealth ‘No Jab No Pay’law, the Murdoch-owned press is making another run at having unvaccinated children banned from all childcare services across Australia, and Prime Minister Turnbull is falling into line like the good corporate soldier he is, using a blatant falsehood to market it to the general public in the process.
1. Residents of New South Wales should make every effort to make an appointment with, or write to your Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council representatives.
2. Request a moratorium, pending a wide-ranging & independent inquiry into the effectiveness and safety of vaccination. See our recent media release.
3. Make sure your representatives are aware that Queensland childcare service providers have not exercised their right to exclude unvaccinated children, despite being lawfully able to since January 2016, following the enactment of ‘No Jab No Play (QLD)’. See for example, this article.
5. See our lobbying page for ideas and information you may share with you representatives. In addition, the AVN’s, and all other submissions made to the 2015 Senate Inquiry are a treasure trove of high quality information, and are available on this page.
6. Talk to your childcare provider. Let them know that the government received advice, during 2013, to the effect that abolition of belief exemptions will leave childcare centres open to challenges from parents who claim discrimination against their child. See above.
7. Attend the upcoming No Jab No Play Rally in Sydney.