Bills Digest no. 1, 2006–07
National Health Amendment (Immunisation) Bill
This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as
introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest
does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be
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Health Amendment (Immunisation) Bill 2006
introduced: 21 June
House: House of Representatives
Portfolio: Health and Ageing
The purpose of the National Health Amendment (Immunisation) Bill
is to amend the National Health Act 1953 (the Act) to
allow the provision of goods and services that are associated with,
or incidental to the provision or administration of designated
vaccines for preventable diseases.
These goods and services could not be provided under the Act
following amendments to the Act made by the National Health
Amendment (Immunisation Program) Act
Australia has had a long standing commitment to mass childhood
immunisation programs. However, in 1997 in response to continuing
interest and significant concern about regular outbreaks of vaccine
preventable diseases due to inadequate immunisation
rates,(2) the government introduced a national, state
and territory initiative, the Immunise Australia Program.
Under this program, government spending on vaccines has
increased from $13 million in 1996 to $292 million in
Immunise Australia has included a range of initiatives
specifically focussed at increasing Australia s childhood
immunisation rates in order to reduce incidence and if possible,
interrupt transmission of vaccine preventable diseases.
Under Immunise Australia, which includes a National Immunisation
Program, roles and responsibilities of the Australian, state and
territory governments that were developed under the 1993 National
Immunisation Strategy have remained. The Australian Government
provides funding to state and territory governments to purchase
vaccines, which the states and territories in turn provide free of
charge to providers to administer to target
According to the Explanatory Memorandum
for the National Health Amendment (Immunisation) Bill, a recent
amendment to the Act under the National Health Amendment
(Immunisation Program) Act 2005 did not give the Minister for
Health and Ageing power to continue arrangements with states and
territories for assistance in procuring goods and services related
to vaccine provision. These include arrangements for example
relating to vaccine storage and delivery.
This amendment also prevented the Australian Government from
providing funding under the Act for essential pre- or post-vaccine
requirements under current arrangements(5) (for example,
the pre vaccination test for Q fever vaccine).(6)
The National Health Amendment (Immunisation
Program) Act 2005
The government introduced amendments to the Act under the
National Health Amendment (Immunisation Program) Act
2005 (the Immunisation Act) following the 2005/06 Budget,
which transferred responsibility for providing advice on funding
for vaccines under the National Immunisation Program from
Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) to the
Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) which advises
government on pharmaceuticals for listing on the Pharmaceutical
Benefits Scheme. The ATAGI retained its responsibility for making
recommendations on technical and scientific elements of the
National Immunisation Program.(7)
In making this change, the government
argued that the PBAC, which considers the clinical and cost
effectiveness and safety of medicines compared to alternative
treatments(8) was a more logical body for making
decisions about funding, noting that the PBAC was a world leader
using rigorous evidence based assessments in developing funding
There was some controversy surrounding changes introduced under
the Immunisation Act. The Chairman of the ATAGI resigned, for
example. This was reportedly because the government failed to
consult with ATAGI about the changes.(10)
Additionally, the Opposition argued that the Immunisation Bill
amounted to a political payback to ATAGI, as the Group s
recommendation in 2002 for funding of pneumococcal vaccine had led
to political embarrassment for the government.(11)
(ATAGI had recommended the pneumococcal vaccine for inclusion on
the Australian Standard Vaccination Schedule in 2002, but the
government decided not to include it in the National Immunisation
Program, citing a worldwide shortage in vaccine supply. After
considerable media attention, the government reversed its
It appears these issues are not relevant in the context of this
This Bill has not attracted interest group or press
The Bill continues an existing funding arrangement between the
Australian Government and the states and territories which ensures
that the national vaccination program is resourced.
It is unlikely that objections will be encountered to these
funding arrangements, which allow the states to fund providers they
consider appropriate to supply vaccines.
There may be some remote possibility that the Bill could trigger
further debate about the financial pressures of health spending for
state and territory budgets. It is more likely that such a debate
would be activated by higher profile issues such as federal funding
for hospitals, however.
Labor, the Australian Democrats and the Greens have not
commented publicly on the proposed change under this Bill. As there
were no further comments from Labor regarding the ATAGI issue on
the appointment in October 2005 of a reconstituted Group, it is
most likely that the issue of political payback will also not
The Bill will have no financial impact. It will allow current
financial funding arrangement with states and territories to
Schedule 1 Amendment of National Health Act
The following amendment proposed by the Bill relates to the
National Health Act 1953.
Item 1 repeals the existing section 9B of the
Act and inserts a new section 9B, under which the Minister may
arrange for the provision of designated vaccines and goods and
services that are associated with, or incidental to the provision
or administration of designated vaccines.
As noted above, it appears unlikely there will be controversy
surrounding the passage of this Bill. It is a minor amendment that
preserves current Australian government and state and territory
financial arrangements for the continuation of activities such as
vaccine storage and distribution.(15)
Explanatory Memorandum, p. 1.
Department of Health and Ageing website. Immunise Australia
page. Accessed 29 June 2006:
Tony Abbott, Minister for Health and Ageing, Government
Childhood Immunisation Programs , Press Release
14 March 2005. Accessed 29 June 2006:
Tony Abbott, Minister for Health and Ageing. (National Health
Amendment (Immunisation) Bill 2006 , House of Representatives,
Debates, 21 June 2006. p. 1.
Explanatory Memorandum, p. 1.
Department of Health and Ageing website, Immunise Australia,
National Q Fever Management Program Information Sheet. Accessed 29
June 2006: http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/qfact.pdf
Department of Health and Ageing website, Australian Technical
Advisory Group on Immunisation page. Accessed 29 June 2006:
Department of Health and Ageing, see:
Christopher Pyne, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for
Health and Ageing, National Health Amendment (Immunisation Program)
Bill 2005 , House of Representatives, Debates, 14
September 2005. p. 3.
B. Nogrady, Vax group
head quits after restructure , Australian Doctor, 17
June 2005, p. 2.
Julia Gillard, Press Release, 9 August 2005.
See, for example, M. King, Children are dying but Howard refuses
to help , Courier-Mail, 13 April 2004, p. 13; L.
Gooch, Australia dropped the ball on vaccine , The Age, 14
May 2005, p. 5; J. Frenkel, Political games with children ,
Herald-Sun, 11 May 2004, p. 19.
Tony Abbott, Minister for Health and Ageing, Press
Release 21 October 2005.
Explanatory Memorandum, p. 1.
Tony Abbott, Minister for Health and Ageing, Debates,
op. cit., p. 2.
25 July 2006
Bills Digest Service
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