Let’s go for the carrot instead of the stick
THE national debate about when and how Australia will safely open up and learn to live with Covid is well under way.
There are many differing views in the community about the right triggers, thresholds and ongoing restrictions and rules in our post pandemic future.
What all but the anti-vaxxers can agree on though is the absolute importance of encouraging eligible Australians to get the jab.
Our industry, among others, cops it in the neck every time a lockdown happens or a border to a key market is slammed shut. We strongly encourage all workers in our industry and our customers to get vaccinated as quickly as possible.
As debate rages on where someone may have to show their vaccination status to gain access, e.g. when flying, when attending a gym or going to a pub or restaurant, we believe there is too much focus on the stick and not enough focus on the carrot.
Governments shape household and public behaviour all the time through the use of incentives to encourage perceived social benefits. First homebuyer tax exemptions, home improvement schemes, learn to swim vouchers for toddlers and sport vouchers for our school age kids.
So why not use some of those same incentives to encourage vaccination rates? By January next year all eligible Territorians will have had access to vaccination. Why then can’t the 2022 vouchers that go to families be conditional on the parents being on the pathway to vaccination? No vax, no voucher?
There already are No Jab No Pay policies at the commonwealth level linking access to childcare subsidies and family benefits to parents making sure their babies and children have been vaccinated. You can see this being expanded to a range of welfare payments to further drive vaccination rates both in urban and remote communities.
But why not have a look at what NT levers can be pulled? By term one of next year, why can’t the back-to-school vouchers be linked to parents being Covid vaccinated, or at least on the path? Schools administer the vouchers and already safely and securely hold personal information about parents and their children, why not simply provide the double tick to your local school if you want that important assistance?
Rather than just restricting permits to remote communities to vaccinated visitors, why can’t the Land Councils lead the conversation linking vaccination rates to royalty payments? If too contentious at the very least, better co-ordinate the royalty and vaccine disbursement visits given the traditional high number of transient community members that identify in those communities at that point in time.
Many in our industry are keen to explore what community and government appetite is for these and other ideas as we seek to make the job of frontline healthcare workers easier and better use existing carrots rather than just create new sticks that dangle hard fought freedoms as trade-offs for vaccination status.
Why then can’t the 2022 vouchers that go to families be conditional on the parents being on the pathway to vaccination?
The cost to our industry and our staff and their families is far too great for our vaccination rate to fall further down the national league table.