Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has written to state and territory leaders to push for nationally consistent laws to protect young children from disease.
Under his new proposal, the immunisation rates of all preschools and daycare centres would be made publicly available to parents, and the right to make a formal objection to vaccination would end.
Mr Turnbull said in the letter that he will take the policy to the next Council of Australian Governments (Coag) meeting.
He writes: “At our next Coag meeting I propose we agree that all jurisdictions implement legislation that excludes children who are not vaccinated from attending childcare or preschool, unless they have a medical exemption.
“Vaccination objection is not a valid exemption. We must give parents the confidence that their children will be safe when they attend childcare and preschool.
“Parents must understand that if their child is not vaccinated they will be refused attendance or enrolment.”
Mr Turnbull told News Corp: “If you don’t vaccinate your child you are not just putting their own life at risk but you are putting everyone else’s children at risk.”
The federal health minister, Greg Hunt, said the government’s “no jab, no pay” policy of withholding family payments to parents of unvaccinated children was being supplemented by an “equally tough” policy of “no jab, no play”.
“We want to work with all of the states and I’m very confident that they’ll come on board,” he told the Seven Network. “Ultimately it’s about protecting kids against horrendous illnesses that are agonising and potentially in some cases tragic.”
Senior Labour MP Mark Butler said the opposition was willing to sit down and talk constructively with the government on the issue.
“The AMA says that, next to clean water, this is probably the most important public health measure that a country can have,” Mr Butler told ABC television. “We’ve said that we think there is also some need for consideration of a public advertising campaign at a national level, just to reinforce that public health message that the AMA is talking about.”
The policy to increase vaccination rates was proposed after a public debate sparked by the leader of the right-wing, nationalist One Nation party.
Pauline Hanson was forced to apologise after she was criticised by the Australian Medical Association and others for suggesting vaccines were not safe and incorrectly claiming that parents could conduct their own tests to evaluate vaccination safety.
She told the ABC’s Insiders programme that successive governments had “blackmailed” people into having their children vaccinated because Australia has a policy of withholding childcare fee rebates and welfare payments from parents who do not have their children fully immunised.
Mr Turnbull had attacked Ms Hanson’s comments, which came a week before the Western Australian state election.
Her comments were denounced by both the Coalition and Labour, with Mr Hunt saying: “The clear and categorical advice from experts including the chief medical officer, based on decades of research and evidence, is that vaccinations save lives.”
Additional reporting by Australian Associated Press
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