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'No Jab, No Play’ laws for childcare centres and schools delayed

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Author: 
Titelius Regina
Publication Date: 
9 Jun 2018
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PLANS to introduce tough new No Jab, No Play laws for young children have stalled as a political stoush erupts over who’s to blame for delays.

More than a year has passed since Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged all States and Territories to support a national policy excluding children who were not vaccinated from attending child care and schools with kindy classes, unless they had a medical exemption.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has now accused his WA counterpart, Roger Cook, of “sitting on his hands” by not introducing State-based legislation to have tougher rules.

But Mr Cook said “considerable work” to develop a national framework for new rules could be “wasted” if WA introduced changes ahead of a “nationally consistent” policy.

Introducing the laws in WA is considered potentially more complicated than other jurisdictions because kindy is delivered predominantly in schools rather than childcare centres.

Education ministers throughout Australia were also concerned about lack of access to early childhood education for kids whose parents failed or refused to have their children vaccinated.

WA’s Department of Education is looking at changes to the WA School Education Act to allow the No Jab, No Play policy to be implemented.

The WA Health Department has also sought to draft regulations that would establish tougher rules for immunisation monitoring and medical exemptions.

In a letter to premiers and chief ministers in February, Mr Turnbull said he was “confident we can agree a way forward with further consultation in the near future”.

But it is understood nothing has progressed through the Council of Australian Governments and it remains unclear if further consultation will take place.

Mr Hunt said WA was “lagging behind”, with policies already in place in New South Wales and Victoria.

“This policy is about saving young children’s lives and providing them with protection against deadly diseases,” Mr Hunt said.

“If the McGowan Government strongly supports this policy, why have they sat on their hands? While the development of a national framework is still going through the COAG process with all premiers, this does not present a barrier to any State that wants to protect their children through their own No Jab, No Play legislation.”

Mr Hunt said the Government strongly endorsed action taken by NSW and Victoria, where children were excluded from child care unless a medical exemption applied.

But Mr Cook was “extremely disappointed” that Mr Hunt had “chosen to criticise, when ironically he is the one person who can lead an effective, nationally consistent approach to these important changes”.

Mr Cook said the WA Government had already made preparations to draft legislation, but the country’s “patchwork approach” first needed to be addressed.

“It’s easy for the Commonwealth to be critical of the States when it is us, along with the childcare sector, who will incur the cost, administrative and regulatory burden of these changes,” he said.

“We will not be told what to do by Canberra. This is a difficult policy to implement and it will not be rushed through.”

Mr Cook said he would raise the matter with other health ministers at the Health COAG meeting in August.

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Entered Date: 
11 Jun 2018
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