Australia to stop welfare cash of anti-vaccine parents

Media captionPrime Minister Tony Abbott: "This is essentially a no jab, no pay policy"

The Australian government has announced that it intends to stop welfare payments to parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.

The "no jab, no pay" policy may cost parents more than A$11,000 a year per child in lost benefit payments.

Families with children not immunised have been able to receive childcare cash if they have a philosophical or religious objection to vaccines.

PM Tony Abbott said that the rules would soon be substantially tightened.

He said that there would only be a small number of religious and medical exceptions to the new rules - supported by the Labor opposition and due to come into effect in early 2016.

The prime minister refused to say in detail how much money the initiative would save.

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"It's a very important public health announcement, it's a very important measure to keep our children and our families as safe as possible," ABC News quoted him as saying.

The prime minister said that his government was "extremely concerned" about the risks posed to the rest of the population by families who chose not to immunise their children.

"The choice... is not supported by public policy or medical research nor should such action be supported by taxpayers in the form of child care payments," Mr Abbott said in a joint statement with Social Services Minister Scott Morrison.

Anti-vaccination campaigns have been gaining ground in some Western countries in recent years - coinciding with a resurgence in preventable childhood diseases like measles.

The campaigners say that some vaccines against deadly diseases are dangerous. An online petition against compulsory vaccinations - with more than 3,000 signatures over the last five days - states that Australian parents have the right to make "an uncoerced choice".

The government estimates that about 39,000 children aged under seven have not been vaccinated because of the objections of their parents.

Mr Morrison said that no mainstream religions have registered objections to the proposals with the government.

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