The Commonwealth Senate inquiry into the “No Jab No Pay” amendment to Social Services Legislation has reportedly received more than two thousand submissions from individuals and organisations across Australia
“The vast majority of those are against the legislation, expressing concerns about the legislation,” according to a Sydney Morning Herald interview with Committee Chairman ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja.
The amendment is designed to ensure children fully meet immunisation requirements for payment of child care benefits, child care rebates or the family tax benefit Part A supplement, and extend the immunisation requirements to include children of all ages.
The Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee looking into the amendment has received “a large volume” of submissions, though some of these are duplicates. The Committee says it “wishes to assure submitters that each piece of correspondence to the inquiry is being read and considered”.
The committee has decided to publish all submissions from organisations and a representative sample of the submissions received from individuals.
“Owing to the sensitive and personal nature of many submissions, the committee has decided that the representative sample will be drawn from those for which it has received clear advice from the submitter supporting publication. The committee has decided not to publish submissions comprising short or general statements, form/campaign letters and petitions, but has noted the concerns raised in them.”
Eighteen organisations are listed as having made submissions, including Australian Skeptics Inc, Friends of Science in Medicine and Northern Rivers Vaccination Supporters, as well as a number of anti-vaccination groups.
Among these is the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network. (Apart from four uses of its full name – two as footers – the organisation refers to itself throughout the submission by its former abbreviated name of “AVN”.)
Its 70+ page submission is a compendium of past claims by the anti-vaccination organisation, including the thoroughly-debunked claims that vaccination causes autism, and that smallpox and polio were eradicated or near-eradicated “not by vaccines, but rather, by changes to living standards, food standards such as pasteurisation, sanitation and, just as importantly, diagnostic substitution via a shift from clinical to laboratory-based diagnosis”.
Many of the references used to support its statements are secondary sources, such as news reports, blogs and even its own publications (or those of its members).
The AVSN submission includes suggestions of conspiracy against the anti-vaccination movement, including “A concerted and repugnant media campaign in progress for most of 2015 [that] has sought to cast conscientious objectors to vaccination as responsible for the deaths of babies too young to be vaccinated against whooping cough, and to suggest that they are responsible for a resurgence of the disease. This campaign appears to have been, at least in part, the impetus for this ‘vaccination crackdown’.”
Elsewhere, the AVSN says that “Australia is in the grip of an unprecedented, fear-based media campaign to mislead and convince an unwitting general public of the dire risk conscientious objectors to immunisation pose to the public health, particularly in relation to whooping cough. … Some segments (not all) of the medical and scientific community have been complicit in this fear-mongering, by failing to correct blatant falsehoods perpetuated by tabloid journalists and shock-jocks, as well as actively propagating misinformation themselves.”
A longer report on the amendment and the various submissions (including that of the AVSN) will appear in the next issue of The Skeptic.
Copies of submissions that have been published can be found on the Senate Committee website.