PUBLIC HEALTH AMENDMENT (IMMUNISATION REQUIREMENTS FOR ENROLMENT) BILL 2019

Committee

Resumed from 25 June. The Deputy Chair of Committees (Hon Adele Farina) in the chair; Hon Sue Ellery (Minister for Education and Training) in charge of the bill.

Comments and speeches from various members

The CHAIR: We now return to the substantive question, that clause 8 do stand as printed.

Comments and speeches from various members

Hon ALISON XAMON: I want to ask some questions about the definition of “current”. I understand that the minister said it is within two months. What will happen when someone presents to enrol a four-year-old child but the vaccination regime has changed as to what is required as compulsory vaccination, so they may not be up to date? At the age of four years, they may have complied with the vaccinations according to the schedule that had been laid out in the previous four years. What happens if they present and it turns out that the vaccination schedule has changed and they have not had the full quota of vaccinations? Does the minister understand what I am asking?

Hon SUE ELLERY: They are not up to date so they will not be enrolled.

Hon ALISON XAMON: I am concerned about that. That would not have happened because of any deliberate decision by the parent or any wrongdoing or anything like that. What sort of grace period will at least be made available to the parent and those children so they can enrol? They do not fall under any of the identified exemption categories of vulnerable children—who do exist—as per the regulations, but say it is me, a regular parent, who has complied with four years’ worth of vaccinations but in the meantime the schedule has changed and my child is not up to date. I may not even realise that until I present to enrol my child. Will I simply be denied the opportunity to enrol my child?

Hon SUE ELLERY: The provisions of the bill before us are quite clear. The child needs to be up to date with whatever current regime of vaccinations is required. I suspect that parents, like the member, would actually seek to enrol their child early and would get that information early and would be able to take steps to ensure that they could proceed with enrolment. Let us say a parent took their child to enrol the day before. They would be asked to provide the required vaccination information. If they were not able to demonstrate that, they would be provided with an enrolment information kit about what was required. They would also be provided with information about where to get further assistance, if required, as I have already outlined a couple of times in the course of debate.

Hon ALISON XAMON: I can see how that would roll out. A parent would potentially have a bit of time to organise that; for example, if a child were starting kindy. I am less persuaded that that would be helpful if someone suddenly gets a job and needs to be able to put their child into child care. They could suddenly find themselves, without any ill intent on their part—even if they have committed to ensure that their child is going to receive those catch-up vaccinations—unable to enrol their child at all in child care. I want to confirm that that is the intent of the legislation. These children are not subject to any of the vulnerable children exemptions; these are parents who, up until that date, have attempted to keep up to date with the known vaccination regime but will be simply denied the opportunity to use those childcare arrangements.

Hon SUE ELLERY: I would not use the words “simply denied”. They will actually be provided with assistance and information on how to ensure that their child is appropriately vaccinated.

Hon ALISON XAMON: I hear that, but can the minister confirm that they will not be able to enrol their child at that time?

Hon SUE ELLERY: As I have already said, that is correct.

Hon ALISON XAMON: I want to ask some questions about the definition of “immunisation status”. The bill refers to “the status of having been immunised against”, which is fairly straightforward: a child has either been immunised or not. The definition also says —

... or having acquired immunity by infection from, all or specified vaccine preventable notifiable infectious diseases; ...

How will that be recorded and how will that be presented to any institution to which someone presents for enrolment; for example, a child who has had all the vaccinations but potentially had measles or rubella before the age of 12 months and hence may not need to have that vaccination? That will not appear on the Australian Immunisation Register. What mechanism is used to demonstrate that that child has acquired immunity? I am talking about a child who, by virtue of having contracted the disease at some point, has acquired immunity. Presumably that could be demonstrated because the child had gone to the doctor or the hospital at some point and been diagnosed. That means they may not need that vaccination. How do parents go about demonstrating, for the purpose of the immunisation record, that the child has acquired immunity?

Hon SUE ELLERY: It is actually recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register’s “Immunisation History Statement”. That will show that a child is up to date if the child has either a registered medical contraindication or natural immunity to a particular vaccination under section 9(c) of the commonwealth act. That would have been recorded on their AIR by a medical practitioner.

Comments and speeches from various members

Committee interrupted, pursuant to standing orders.

Resumed from an earlier stage of the sitting. The Deputy Chair of Committees (Hon Martin Aldridge) in the chair; Hon Sue Ellery (Minister for Education and Training) in charge of the bill.

Clause 8: Part 9 Division 8 replaced —

Committee was interrupted after the clause had been partly considered.

Comments and speeches from various members

Hon AARON STONEHOUSE: I move —

Page 9, after line 4 — To insert —

(2A) The responsible person for a child may apply to the State Administrative Tribunal for a review of a decision by the Chief Health Officer to refuse to issue an immunisation certificate for the child under subsection (1).

Comments and speeches from various members

Hon ALISON XAMON: I rise on behalf of the Greens to indicate that we will absolutely be supporting this proposed amendment. It is very sensible. It is a necessary safeguard and I am glad the honourable member has moved it.

Amendment put and passed.

Comments and speeches from various members

Clause, as amended, put and passed. Clauses 9 to 11 put and passed.

New clause 11A —

Hon NICK GOIRAN: I move —

Page 13, after line 34 — To insert —

11A. Section 306A inserted

After section 306 insert:

306A. Review of amendments made by Public Health Amendment (Immunisation Requirements for Enrolment) Act 2019

(1)  In this section —

relevant amendments means —

(a)  the amendments made to this Act by the Public Health Amendment (Immunisation Requirements for Enrolment) Act 2019 section 8; and

(b)  theamendmentsmadetotheSchoolEducationAct1999bythePublicHealth Amendment (Immunisation Requirements for Enrolment) Act 2019.

(2)  The Minister must review the operation and effectiveness of the relevant amendments, and prepare a report based on the review, as soon as practicable after the 3rd anniversary of the day on which the Public Health Amendment (Immunisation Requirements for Enrolment) Act 2019 section 1 comes into operation.

 (3) The Minister must cause the report to be laid before each House of Parliament as soon as practicable after it is prepared, but not later than 12 months after the 3rd anniversary.

Comments and speeches from various members

Hon ALISON XAMON: I rise to indicate that the Greens will be supporting this amendment as well. The one thing that we need to remember is that, in effect, the provisions of this new bill constitute a form of a coercive health measure. We are entering a new world in how we address the issue of vaccinations. One thing in particular that I want to know is whether this legislation will be successful in raising the rates of vaccination, because we did not get a satisfactory answer on whether the no jab, no play vaccination policy in other jurisdictions has had a positive effect. Let us get the specific data and see whether there have been unintended consequences such as desperate parents who, for a range of reasons—be it because they do not support vaccinations or because they are necessarily needing to engage in vaccine variation—have been unable to access appropriate exemptions and subsequently enrol, and whether we have then ended up with groups of children who are not vaccinated and are effectively at a higher risk because they have lost all herd immunity. It is important that we also see the impact this legislation has had on access to early education, as I mentioned before. Overall, this bill is not innocuous. It is important, therefore, that we have as much scrutiny as possible around this regime.

Comments and speeches from various members

Division

New clause put and a division taken, the Deputy Chair (Hon Martin Aldridge) casting his vote with the ayes, with the following result —

Ayes (19)

Noes (10)

New clause thus passed.
 

Progress reported and leave granted to sit again, on motion by Hon Sue Ellery (Leader of the House).

 

 

Portfolio Category: 
Parliamentary Type: