Joe Hockey’s suggestion to force new parents to get their children vaccinated has gone viral but Victoria’s sports minister says the plan was not aimed at the tennis star.
Commentators and politicians have seized on the fact that the former Australian treasurer told Fairfax Media he personally used a vaccine waiver because of his son’s medical condition.
“I think that a large number of kids in this country are getting sick from these vaccine programmes, and they’re being used as an excuse for schools to throw under the bus legitimate sick kids,” Hockey said.
“This isn’t a one-off, this is a large-scale destruction of human beings and I think that’s what people are rightly offended by and rightly appalled by.”
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He also suggested politicians should force parents to immunise their children or face criminal sanctions.
“Maybe we should bring the law in Australia to have parents to have the kids immunised or we need to criminalise them. But that’s a real difficult one because it affects the family so much.”
Sport Victoria has hit back at Hockey’s comments, noting they were completely outside the government’s mandate.
Victoria has a policy to “remain at world and Olympic leaders” in a vaccine-preventable disease index, with children now deemed to have been vaccinated before attending school.
“The policy continues to ensure that parents are aware of the importance of vaccinating their children,” the department said.
That policy was introduced as a part of immunisation prioritisation by the Victorian government to address the high rate of unvaccinated children in school systems across the state.
Victoria’s sport minister, Jacinta Allan, said people should give Hockey a “full rest”.
“This government has maintained a robust, transparent and balanced approach to vaccination and is committed to ensuring all Victorian children are up to date with vaccination,” she said.
“I think the reason people have taken Peter’s comments to be a blip on the radar is that it’s really not intended to be a blow to the person he’s meant to be rooting for.
“That’s the understanding that I have at the moment.”
The Australian Medical Association’s Victorian president, Tony Bartone, said he feared for the future of sport if the idea went ahead.
“If politicians start to say that we need to get the vaccination side first, then what is the second issue – how do we get the swimming side or the football side?” he said.
“We think if that conversation goes further than the vaccination issue, we will be sending a signal to the community that children are not safe if they’re playing sport.”
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