Federal Politics

Abbott government withdraws childcare payments for anti-vaccination parents

Parents who are "conscientious objectors" to childhood vaccination will have their childcare and family tax payments stopped from 1 January next year as the federal government attempts to crack down on the anti-vaccination movement.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced on Sunday a loophole would be closed to stop payments to parents worth up to $15,000 per child.

Closing a loophole: Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Closing a loophole: Prime Minister Tony Abbott.  Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

"Parents who vaccinate their children should have confidence that they can take their children to childcare without the fear that their children will be at risk of contracting a serious or potentially life-threatening illness because of the conscientious objections of others," Mr Abbott said.

Although Australia's overall childhood vaccination rates remain high - about 97 per cent - the numbers of people who are registered conscientious objectors has risen in the past 10 years.

There are now 39,000 children aged under seven who are not vaccinated because their parents are registered, according to the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register. 

This is an increase of more than 24,000 children over the past 10 years.

"The Government is extremely concerned at the risk this poses to other young children and the broader community," Mr Abbott said.

"The choice made by families not to immunise their children is not supported by public policy or medical research nor should such action be supported by taxpayers in the form of child care payments."

From 1 January 2016 people who are registered conscientious objectors will no longer receive either of the two childcare payments - the childcare benefit and the childcare rebate - or the end of year supplement to Family Tax Benefit Part A.

Families claiming the end of year supplement for family tax benefits will also have to have their children vaccinated at all ages from the start of next year before receiving the payment.

At the moment, children's vaccination status is only checked at the ages of 1, 2  and 5 years.

People who have medical grounds for not vaccinating will continue to receive government payments.

But people with religious reasons will have their eligibility for government payments tightened.

They will only continue to receive childcare and family tax payments if they are affiliated with a religious group whose governing body has a formally registered objection approved by the federal government.

The change will need to be approved by Parliament.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten backed the change.

"Labor supports promoting the safety of our children," Mr Shorten said on Sunday.

"We believe fundamentally in the science of vaccination."