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Thursday, 17 October 1996
Page: 4389


Senator WOODS (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Family Services)(12.53 p.m.) —It is good to see that there is a great deal of bipartisan support on this issue. It is a vital issue. There is no doubt that, as Senator Neal has pointed out, there has been an unnecessary increase in the incidence of, particularly, rubella, measles and whooping cough. As she points out, there have been deaths. As she did not mention, but I am sure implied, there have also been a number of children suffering long-term brain damage from those particular diseases, in particular from measles—far more than have ever been accounted for as caused by the immunisation process itself.

There is a bit of folklore around the community at present which says that immunisation is harmful. The facts are that the evi dence to correlate immunisation with deaths—in Australia in particular—is incredibly scanty. There is very little evidence, if any at all, to indicate that there is a correlation between the two. Certainly, there is a temporal relationship, but beyond that it has been impossible to prove a correlation.

There is no question at all in my mind, and in the mind of every sensible person, that we should encourage a 100 per cent immunisation rate in our children. This legislation will encourage that. It has been a bipartisan approach and I am delighted that my colleagues in the chamber have supported this issue.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

Sitting suspended from 12.55 to 2 p.m.