February 13th 2016

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Democratic Progressive Party ousts Kuomintang

CANBERRA OBSERVED Barnaby Joyce: enigma, loose cannon, deputy PM?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Temporary protection visa holders left exposed

ENVIRONMENT Bob Carter, RIP: mythbuster and fact finder extraordinaire

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Farewell, religious liberty, farewell, conscience

EDITORIAL Syria: U.S. backdown opens door to peace talks

ECONOMICS Bubble has burst on globalisation project

EUTHANASIA Media drives sales in the death market

CULTURE What does a good music review sound like?

CULTURE Can we put a rocket under religious Sci-fi?

CINEMA A melancholy heroism: Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie

BOOK REVIEW Partial but thorough

BOOK REVIEW Brutality of battle


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Temporary protection visa holders left exposed

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, February 13, 2016

In Australia, anyone who does not hold an Australian or New Zealand passport is required to have a visa of some sort, to establish their entitlement to remain in the country.

No $300, no jab.


Most visa holders are people who have come to Australia temporarily as holidaymakers, tourists, backpackers or for work. However, people who have arrived in Australia without proper documentation are held in detention centres until their status is determined.

Many of these are asylum seekers, and once their claim for refugee status has been assessed, they are issued with a permanent visa to remain in Australia, or issued a temporary protection visa (TPV), or they are deported.

The fact that a person is issued a temporary protection visa indicates that, at some time, they have established a need to remain in Australia, if only on a temporary basis. When the issue of TPVs was debated in the Senate in 2014, it was stated that there were then about 30,000 people – adults and children – holding these visas.

In contrast to permanent visas, temporary protection visas are issued for a three-year period, and have no automatic right of renewal. TPV holders are not eligible for unemployment benefits, so are encouraged to seek work and therefore to pay taxes.

In this respect, they are very much worse off than people whose refugee status has been settled, who are able to access all Centrelink benefits, and are much more likely to be a burden on the taxpayer.

High cost

One of the unintended consequences for holders of TPVs is that children holding these visas must meet the full cost of vaccinations, which without the Medicare subsidy, amounts to $300–$400 a shot.

The children themselves obviously cannot find this money, nor can their parents, who are often living on the lowest income levels, from which they must feed, accommodate and care for their children. Unwittingly, the government’s refusal to assist TPV holders to receive vaccinations threatens to undermine not only their health, but the success of state and federal immunisation programs.

The issue of vaccinations is one of significance for the whole community.

Both federal and state governments have spent millions of dollars promoting the necessity of childhood vaccination. The federal government has a specific project, the Immunise Australia Program, which oversees the campaign to encourage immunisation.

This program aims to increase national immunisation rates by funding free vaccination programs, administering the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register and communicating information about immunisation to the general public and health professionals.

Immunisation remains the safest and most effective way to stop the spread of many of the world’s most infectious diseases. Before the major vaccination campaigns of the 1960s and 1970s, diseases like polio, tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough killed thousands of young children each year.

Today, deaths from these diseases are extremely rare in Australia, and the rest of the developed world.

If enough people in the community are immunised, the infection can no longer be spread from person to person and the disease can die out altogether.

Smallpox was officially declared eradicated in 1980 after a concerted campaign of surveillance and vaccination. In March 2014, the World Health Organisation declared that measles had been eliminated in Australia. Yet the policy of denying TPV holders vaccination undermines the government’s attempt to eradicate these communicable diseases.

The policy is also mean spirited, because TPV holders are paying taxes yet are being denied benefits available to other taxpayers, and even to people who are totally welfare dependent and pay no taxes.

In the last federal budget, the Treasurer announced a “no jab, no pay” scheme, under which parents of children who had not been vaccinated would be denied child-support payments. In Victoria, NSW and Queensland, state governments have introduced a parallel policy, denying unvaccinated children access to state-funded child care and kindergartens.

In light of all these measures to encourage vaccination, one would expect that both state and federal governments would be moving to remove an anomaly that leaves children of poor families holding TPVs without access to the vaccinations that are available to all others living in this country.

Sadly, this is not the case.

Repeated requests to both the federal health minister and the Victorian Department of Health have elicited little or no interest in tackling this anomaly. The only reason given is that TPV holders cannot be accommodated within existing health budgets.

Australia has long pursued a policy of compassionate assistance towards the poor and marginalised. It now seems that petty-minded bureaucratic obstructionism is preventing the benefits of vaccination to those who need it most.

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