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Australia To Cut Child Benefits For Families Who Don't Vaccinate

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Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced Sunday that the country would cut government benefits to anti-vaccination parents, calling it a "no jab, no pay" policy.

ABC News reports that Australian parents have been able to opt out of vaccinations citing philosophical or religious beliefs, but Abbott says the rules will be significantly tightened. Parents who choose not to vaccinate could lose out on as much as $15,000 (AUD) per child under the new rules (about $14,500 in Canadian dollars).

Exceptions will only be made for families registered with a religious organization that formally opposes vaccinations. The new policy would come into effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

About 90 per cent of Australian children are vaccinated against illnesses such as measles, mumps and rubella, reports NPR. But the number of children under seven who haven't been vaccinated because their parents have opted out has gone up by more than 60 per cent over the past decade, totalling 39,000 children.

Australia's opposition leader Bill Shorten spoke out in support of the policy, which has bipartisan support in government.

"We believe fundamentally in the science of vaccinations and we fundamentally believe that policy should be made by the best evidence and the best science," he said.

The tightened rules have also gained the support of the Australian Medical Association, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

"People have become so complacent because they have never seen these diseases," said Brian Owler, the association's president.

While Canadian politicians have spoken out to encourage parents to vaccinate their children in recent months, the country has yet to impose a penalty on parents who choose not to vaccinate.

Do you think Canada should follow suit with Australia's new policy? Tell us in the comments below.

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