THE Turnbull government’s punitive approach to enforcing mandatory vaccinations breaches children’s rights, but the Human Rights Commission remains silent on the issue.
Human rights expert Paula Gerber, a professor at Monash University, told the Herald this week it was clear the withholding of financial entitlements from parents who refuse to inoculate their children breaches numerous articles of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child.
She stresses she supports vaccination and jabbed her own kids, but says children should not be used as a “weapon” to force parents to toe the line and Australia should abide by treaties it signs.
The convention states children must not be punished for the beliefs or actions of their parents, and that governments should go out of their way to ensure children fully benefit from social security. It says children should have a say in any administrative decisions that affect them and all decisions should be in their best interests.
“It’s the same argument as when you are prohibiting children from going to school or daycare,” Prof Gerber says, referring to a similar hard-line vaccination policy from the Victorian government that came into effect on New Year’s Day.
“You are punishing and discriminating against the child.”
Prof Gerber says the debate is so divisive that an article she wrote on Victoria’s school ban was rejected by four mainstream media outlets before being picked up by webzine Crikey.
“Funnily enough, another news service that picked it up and called me was Al Jazeera in Qatar, which was because when the policy was introduced, we were the only country in the world to have adopted this type of measure”.
Prof Gerber says national children’s commissioner Megan Mitchell should be helping to “get the message out” about the breach, but when the Herald contacted the Human Rights Commission, no-one was biting: “The children’s commissioner is not commenting on this,” was the response from her media minder. When the Herald pushed for a reason why, we couldn’t get an on-the-record response.
Prof Gerber fears the commission is wary of attracting controversy after a run-in between president Gillian Triggs and former prime minister Tony Abbott who described her report into children in detention as “a stitch-up”.
Federal community services minister Christian Porter oversees the vaccination program and was contacted for comment.
by STEVE GRANT