The first thing that needs to be said about vaccinations is that there is absolutely no link between childhood vaccinations and Autism. Numerous studies have confirmed this. And while vaccines do have an adverse effect on some people, the vaccination process is closely controlled and monitored to ensure very high levels of safety for recipients.
It is also worth noting that not vaccinating actually carries a higher level of risk for children. The decision not to vaccinate is not entirely a personal one - unvaccinated children put all those they come into contact with at greater risk. That is the reason behind the government's policy of 'no jab - no pay' for welfare recipients.
The government has hailed their program a success. The problem is that the children of lower income earners and those dependent on government payments are not the most important target group.
Some of the wealthiest suburbs are at high risk due to dangerously low vaccination rates. There are numerous explanations for this (none of which relate to vaccine safety), but what is clear is that families living in areas such as Mossman and Manly are unlikely to be influenced or affected by a 'no jab no pay' policy.
The other areas with dangerously low levels of vaccination are among indigenous people and among select indigenous communities (especially in NT). There is no evidence that these groups are avoiding vaccination based on personal choice or fear of side effects. and the government's own website suggests:
These disparities point to the importance of identification of Indigenous status, particularly in mainstream health services, and particularly in urban areas. The use of patient information systems to record Indigenous status and schedule preventive health services has the potential to increase opportunistic vaccination and enable the provision of patient reminders, with resultant improvements in coverage and timeliness. Culturally appropriate service delivery and communication strategies, as well as use of Indigenous-specific Medicare items, will also assist in improving access to health services for Indigenous Australians.
No mention of 'no jab no pay' so clearly these measures are not intended to close the gap.
Peter Mares from the Swinburne Institute for Social Research suggests that there is another large group that the government isn't targeting and is in effect withholding support from.
Vaccination rates are low is among the 800,000 temporary residents in Australia, people the government has allowed and even encouraged to enter. Public health staff have been instructed not to give free vaccinations to the babies of workers on 457 visas, international students and other temporary visa holders. Instead they have been instructed to seek out a GP and pay for the vaccinations themselves. By asking people from a group that largely has very limited financial resources to pay for immunisation is a formula for low vaccination rates.
Based on the way the government is treating the above higher risk groups, it does make you wonder whether the government is really interested in driving up immunisation rates, or whether immunisation is being used as an excuse for using another tool (no jab no pay) to hit the poor and those depending on financial support from the government. It seems plausible that this government wouldn't be overly disappointed with less than 100% take up as this would be an opportunity to both make savings in the budget and to level blame at those in need for their increased financial hardship.
Because based on the evidence, and based on what strategies are most likely to target key at risk groups, the government isn't being effective and isn't following its own advice. Either they are incompetent or they have a different agenda.
by Mark Enders
This far in to the longest election in living memory, you'd be forgiven for thinking there is nothing good about an election, other than it being over.
Elections are interesting times. We starts to see more of our local representatives, whether we want to or not. On one side we are reminded how well we are being served by our government, and on the other we are reminded of how we are being failed by those same people. Interest groups become more vocal, and those who are given the biggest megaphone can leave us wondering why.
And in among all that, we start to have the kind of conversations we need to have… about the present and the future.
The Conversation website is always a great source of information and inspiration. During this election period they have provided some great stories. Below are a few worth checking out.
The storm system along the East coast has done a great deal of damage, led to a number of tragedies, and has got people asking great questions… like - Is climate change playing a role in these events?
It also has people considering the unseen damage occurring from water run-off and the associated pollution of our waterways caused by the way our cities are designed. There is clearly more we should do, and you’ll find some suggestions in the article by Katherine Dafforn and Emma Johnston from UNSW.
Innovation has been a word that Malcolm Turnbull has been using frequently, without well-defining what he is talking about, or even proposing where our innovation investment should be focussed. Perhaps he doesn’t know, or perhaps he just needs a distraction from the record of his government. Either way, there are people who are making real and concrete suggestions about where our potential lies.
Peter Fisher from RMIT asks what a smart modern city looks like. This includes digital entanglement, densification and managing the risks of climate change. The Greens see these same risks and are addressing them through its policy on the NBN, protecting the envirnoment, addressing the reef's challenges, meeting our future transport needs, supporting and investing in innovation and research.
Professor Peter Doherty suggests that we play to our strengths and take advantage of our abundant renewable resources and our ability in medical and scientific research.
And what about the issues facing rural and regional Australia? According to Stewart Lockie from JCU they are: Infrastructure, Unemployment, Diversification and New economy jobs, ATSI participation, Health, Education and Social services, Climate change, Natural resource management, and Agriculture. You can read more of his views here.
The Greens understand this and have policies which include supporting our clean energy future, community owned energy, getting the community into active transport, investing in health, closing the gap, and empowering ATSI peoples.
Part of the process of being clear about the facts and the truth, is the ability to identify the lies, the exaggerations, and the popular myths. Again The Conversation and their fact checking unit is a great source of information.
While most rational people would take anything Pauline Hanson said with a grain of salt.. fact check has debunked her claims that crime is getting worse in Australia. And while Pauline relied on anecdotes, sensationalist news reports and her own gut feeling, fact check looked at the official data.
So rather than feel like you are being let down by politicians or news services who want to sell you the idea that all we need is a big new dam, or a new football stadium and all our problems will be solved for the next three years… feel encouraged that you can always search out other, more reliable sources of information, advice and opinion.
The Greens want people to be informed, they embrace a diversity of ideas and opinions, they support the research and the science, and they want people to make their own informed decisions. And the Greens have a full suite of policies which supports and integrates all the outcomes it believes in.
We might be in the middle of an election campaign but we will keep telling the truth, we will keep the hyperbole under control, and we will continue to highlight the kind of ideas that will serve the interests of all Australians.
In our opinion The Conversation website is such a reliable source. When you get the chance, check it out.
by Wendy Tubman
About a month ago a 10 year old Indigenous girl in the Kimberly took her own life. A sad event on so many levels... that a 10 year old saw no future, another death in a remote community where suicide is the most common cause of death for young people, and yet more evidence of indigenous disenfranchisement.
The story hit the news, lasted slightly more than 24 hours, and then essentially disappeared. You might think this is a function of the pace at which news travels and is reported. But last year when Indigenous footballer Adam Goodes was booed whenever he touched the ball, the story continued for three months. Targeting an athlete because of their colour, race, or even their religion is wrong and innately unfair, but sport is easier and safer to talk about and it pales in comparison to a 10 year old suiciding... or the unreported events which have led to children as young as 9 taking their own lives.
The question is why we won't discuss it publicly
I was heartened to see that The Saturday Paper took on the story and dug deeper. They revealed that Howard-era policies like the intervention, welfare spending restrictions, and linking welfare payments to school attendance were not working. They were a one size fits all approach which need to be better targeted - there needs to be engagement so that things are done WITH those in need, not done TO them.
While the emergency of Howard's imminent election defeat spawned the intervention, the emergency of young kids continuing to take their own lives has instilled.... mostly silence.
Experts and those who are engaged with these at risk and needy people say that more money is needed (as opposed to the cuts Abbott drove as 'Indigenous Prime Minister'), programs need to be longer term, they need to occur with a greater level of consultation with the recipients, and they need to multi-factorial... addressing employment, support around domestic violence, managing tobacco and alcohol consumption (and reducing the level of foetal alcohol syndrome), policies to reduce the level of indigenous incarceration.
It's a great article... you'll find it here
There is no quick fix. Sadly many more children will suicide. But the less talk about it and the slower we are to act... the more that will suffer, the more that will die, and the more people that will live an impoverished life in one of the world's richest nations.
It is our national shame... but we need to own it and we need to do something about it.
In the same edition of The Saturday Paper there is another related story. While Uluru was handed back to the traditional owners 30 years ago, and it is the express wish of those owners that people don't climb the rock... it's still happening.
Ongoing disrespect for sacred aboriginal sites and the practices and beliefs of aboriginal people is another blow to their cultural wellness, of which there have been many repeated blows for over two hundred years.
Suicide is a health problem... mental and cultural ill-health are key contributing factors. Fully handing control of the rock back to its traditional owners is one small but necessary step towards greater cultural wellness and ultimately towards reducing youth suicides.
We all need to be vocal advocates for avoiding these deaths by a thousand cuts.These problems can be fixed - one cooperative and consultative step at a time.
by Mark Enders
The Townsville Greens will publish blogs considered to be of merit. The opinions expressed are those of the Author.