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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 8558

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (10:50): I support this bill, the Social Services Legislation Amendment (No Jab, No Pay) Bill, and I will be voting for it. I have no particular expertise in this area, but I accept what appears to be the overwhelming support of professionals and learned people who make immunisation and the control of diseases are a full-time study.

I was approached by a group of very sincere Australians who had an objection to this bill. Whilst I indicated to them that I did not necessarily support their arguments, I was very keen to ensure that they had the opportunity of putting their case and their concerns to the parliament—and through the parliament, to the general public. I was also pleased to see that the minister and the government allowed a committee investigation—which I note, Mr Acting Deputy President, that you were chairman of; as usual, a very distinguished chair. I note the recommendations of the committee which, broadly speaking, I support. The principal recommendation is that the bill be passed. The report contains recommendations that, in broad, call upon the government to keep the matter under review, to embark on education and communication strategies, and to look more closely at the question of conscientious objection. I note the thoughtful comments of the previous speaker in that regard. I will not take the time of the Senate by repeating a lot of those issues; suffice it to say, I think that the people who have a serious objection to the proposal are genuine. They are serious in their concerns and I think, in a country like Australia, we have the democratic right to make these views known. I was pleased that this group of people had that opportunity. I note that there were over 2,000 submissions to your committee's inquiry, Mr Acting Deputy President. I suspect and I see that quite a number of them were what we in this business call 'campaign letters' but, notwithstanding that, there is clearly a group of people who have concern about the compulsory nature of this.

In general, I am reluctant to impose these sorts of things on fellow citizens, particularly where there are serious objections, if—as most would say—not valid objections. I am a little bit uncomfortable about that. But I go along with the majority view—and Senator Xenophon mentioned this as well—that it is not just about the children involved: if particular children do not have these immunisations, there is a belief that this could impact unhealthily on other children in their sphere of influence.

I congratulate the committee on its report, and on its work in hearing the evidence and presenting this report to parliament. I think on balance that it is a bill that should be supported. However, I like the committee's urging—and I am paraphrasing here—that this matter should be kept under review, and perhaps some of the international incidences and experiences which have been spoken about in this debate should be looked at. I will be supporting the bill.