Rudd is today heading towards requiring all parents to have their children immunised or lose the family tax benefit part A, i.e. removing the conscientious objection provision. I don’t understand who he’s appealing to with this policy, so I must be missing something.
It seems to me that the people who don’t immunise are usually people who don’t believe the science and believe one of the variants of bad things about immunisations that you can find on the internet – ranging from it causing autism through to it giving you the very disease that it’s supposed to immunise against. Let me generalise and say that these people would be one of two groups:
- Green voters who dislike science and disbelieve it
- Strongly religious people who dislike science and disbelieve it
What Rudd needs so as to win is for people to shift their votes from Liberal to Labor, or (less so) to shift their votes from Green to Labor. This seems to me the kind of issue that isn’t going to draw people in to vote for you – the people who are getting their kids immunised today aren’t going to shift their votes because of this. But it could be the kind of issue that shifts votes away from you. Now he’s retaining the religious exemption (which in itself seems unusual, surely a bunch of people will just claim that exemption instead?), so he probably won’t drive away the religious vote. But I’m not sure he had that anyway. But he’s probably going to drive some voters to the Greens, and keep some Green voters from voting for him.
I can see only two possible motives for this change:
- He’s trying to demonstrate distance from the Greens, so he’s picked something that’s sure to draw howls from the Greens whilst still keeping enough loopholes that it actually impacts nobody;
- There’s perhaps something hiding under the comments about some specific communities having low immunisation rates – so there’s some sort of dog whistle in here that I’m not picking.
I’ll also have a free swipe at the Australian for lazy reporting. They report the immunisation rate as being 90%, that the rates are unevenly distributed, and that in one Medicare local there are 3600 children not immunised. But don’t tell us 3600 out of how many – so we don’t know whether this is 89% immunisation – i.e. close to the National rate – or 10% immunisation, which we might be concerned about.
At the moment my money is on option 1 – this is attempting to make the Greens say bad things about Labor, and therefore create media coverage that suggests the Greens and Labor aren’t working closely together.