Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt joins us now from the Mount Martha Lifesaving Club in Victoria. A gorgeous morning there Minister, good morning to you.
It is indeed, good morning Deb.
Now this is a tough approach, what have you got on the table?
Well it is a tough approach. On Friday the Prime Minister and I met with Toni McCaffery. She’s a mum who lost her one month old baby Dana to whooping cough.
She told us just a harrowing story about how Dana had, in all likelihood, picked up the whooping cough from a childcare centre. And as a consequence of that, what happened was the most tragic of outcomes.
Now the Prime Minister has written, representing the Government’s position, to all of the premiers and chief ministers of the states and territories, urging that they put in place and he will take to the Council of Australian Government’s meeting, a No Jab, No Play policy around the country.
What does that mean? It means unless a child has a medical exemption, they will have to have a vaccination to attend childcare or kindergarten.
It’s not just about protecting each individual child, it’s about protecting every child.
The stories we heard from Toni about whooping cough and just the absolute tragedy say that we have a national duty to strive for 100 per cent vaccination.
Is it fair though, to punish children for the actions of their parents? Why should the kids miss out on those crucial early years of education because their parents have chosen not to have them vaccinated?
Well this isn’t something which is onerous for children or parents. We have a 93 per cent national vaccination rate.
We have a 94.5 per cent vaccination rate for those on Family Benefits and Childcare Benefit. So it’s a really critical step forward.
Why does it matter? It matters because it’s protecting children against mumps and measles and shingles and whooping cough, conditions that can lead to agony or, as we see, real tragedies.
So it’s our duty as a government to try to protect every child and there should be no barrier to any parent adopting this measure. And if we don’t do this, then we put innocent children, beautiful children at risk.
I know my wife, her first job as a nurse, and she was telling me about it over the weekend, was nursing these beautiful four and six and eight week old babies that had whooping cough.
And she said the agony of that is just unimaginable for these small babies and of course for parents. So we’re doing well, but we’re not going to rest until we approach that 100 per cent mark.
We know that the Pauline Hanson’s comments on vaccination certainly did raise attention about the issue this week. But Pauline Hanson herself has also been the focal point of the WA election.
She herself has said she regrets the preference deal that she did with the Liberals which has very much backfired for both parties. It’s nothing short of a disaster for the Liberals in the West.
Well the result is disappointing. We would always want a Liberal Government around the country.
It’s more than disappointing, isn’t it?
We would always want a Liberal Government, but I acknowledge the decision of the West Australian people.
That is democracy in action, and I congratulate the new Premier, Mark McGowan. One of the first things that we would hope that he would decide is to agree with the Prime Minister’s request for a No Jab, No Play policy to lift vaccination rates in WA.
I think it’s something which hopefully should be an easy decision for him. And I’d encourage Mark McGowan and his deputy, his likely new Health Minister, Roger Cook to respond very positively.
It would be a great, cooperative start to lift vaccination rates in WA, and to provide full disclosure of vaccination rates in childcare centres and kindergartens.
You are on message and I’m sure that there’ll be a lot of analysing of the result in the West. And just quickly, I’m hoping you’ve got board shorts and thongs on beneath that suit.
Can we have a bit of a pan down to see if Minister’s involved, oh not quite.
No no, fully dressed, but in about an hour I’ll be having a jog along the beach here at Mount Martha. It’s something I try to do every morning that I’m in town.
Make sure you enjoy those conditions. It’s a beautiful morning there. Minister thanks so much for joining us.
Alright. Thanks Deb.