CANBERRA, March 6 (Xinhua) -- The Australian government has on Monday refuted claims it was acting like a "dictatorship" by denying Aussie parents the right to choose whether or not they immunize their children, after controversial Senator Pauline Hanson criticized the nation's "no jab, no pay" policy.
In 2015, the federal government introduced the policy, which restricted parents from claiming generous government benefits unless their children were immunized, something which received support from both major political parties at the time.
Speaking to Sky News on Monday, Alex Hawke, the nation's Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, said Hanson's views, which likened the government's stance on "no jab no play" to that of a dictatorship, were "bizarre".
In a comprehensive television interview on Sunday, the controversial and often outspoken Queensland Senator said the government should not be denying parents the right to choose whether or not their child gets vaccinated.
She said lawmakers were "blackmailing" families into getting vaccinations, as parents are not entitled to claiming government benefits such as welfare payments and childcare rebates unless children were fully immunized.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was also critical of Hanson's comments; he said the nation's vaccination policy received strong bipartisan backing and was well supported by an endless list of medical experts and health professionals.
"If parents choose not to vaccinate their children, they are putting their children's health at risk and every other person's children's health at risk too," Turnbull said at a press conference on Sunday.
"It is a vital health objective to ensure that everybody is vaccinated."
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt also weighed into the debate, saying that experts had made it "clear" that vaccinating children "saves lives".
"The clear and categorical advice from experts including the chief medical officer, based on decades of research and evidence, is that vaccinations save lives," Hunt said.
"(The 'no jab, no pay' policy) is good news for kids, their families, and the community."
Meanwhile opposition spokesperson Catherine King said Hanson's comment were "wrong and dangerous", and former Australian Medical Association (AMA) president, and pediatric neurosurgeon, Brian Owler said the controversial Senator's comments were "ignorant".
"Vaccinations are the most effective public health measure ever," he posted to social media overnight.
It's not the first time that Hanson has come out in vocal opposition to immunization; last year she said she would "think twice" before vaccinating her own children, while she also claimed that having children immunized was a cause of the neurodevelopmental disorder, autism.