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13 March 2023

Vaccine mandates remain in force across many industries and workplaces

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Sydney Criminal Lawyers

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All Australian states and territories have taken individual approaches to Covid-19 vaccine mandates.
Australia Coronavirus (COVID-19)
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Despite the immediate threat of Covid having long passed, vaccine mandates are still in force in some workplaces across New South Wales and the Premier says he is not able to overturn them. 

Vaccine mandates caused major controversy and massive social divisions when they were introduced, with many arguing that they encroached upon human rights, specifically the right to freedom of choice and bodily integrity. 

At the time, there were a number of failed attempts by individuals to have mandates rescinded in the courts, which proved to us all that the Berejiklian Government's power to enforce the jab under Emergency Public Health Laws, was unlike anything we had ever experienced in our lives before. 

New South Wales was no exception, all of the states and territories took their own individual approaches to Covid-19 vaccine mandates, but those in New South Wales, and Victoria were considered to be the most harsh. 

Thousands of people lost their jobs and were ostracised from communities because they didn't want to be what they considered ‘coerced' or  ‘forced' into having the jab.   

Fast forward to 2023 – the significant threat once posed by Covid and its variants  is subsiding and we have a new Premier who has ‘strongly encouraged' both the public and private sector to scrap vaccine mandates, because, as has long been recognised, “there is no evidence that the vaccines stop transmission.”

Despite this, hundreds of workers in the public sector – the police force, in lth and aged care services and education, along with workers in some areas of the private sector, are still required to be vaccinated, and there's growing resentment about it. 

There's also growing resentment from a group of people who did get the jab under previous mandates which no longer exist. 

Post-pandemic problems 

The short-sightedness of the NSW Government at the time mandates were introduced has created a long term problem for the people of New South Wales, and for current Premier Domenic Perrotet, because some mandates – for health workers and aged care workers – were set by the Morrison Government. Others have been set by businesses themselves, and there is, according to the Premier, no blanket measure that can simply overturn them. 

In August 2021, businesses nation-wide were given permission by the Fair Work Ombudsman to make their own workplace policies. At the time, the statement released by the FWO, determined: “…employers can require their employees to obtain a COVID vaccine, provided the direction to do so is “lawful and reasonable”.

The FWO explained that this assertion, “is guided by applicable laws and judicial decisions, enforceable government directions (such as public health orders) and advice issued by relevant Commonwealth, state and territory agencies.”

Given the number of cases launched by employees during Covid over unfair dismissal in relation to vaccine mandates which failed, precedents may have already been set.  

What now? 

In New South Wales, The Public Health (COVID-19 Care Services) Order (No 3) 2022 ended at 11.59pm on 30 November 2022. All requirements, provisions and exemptions under this Public Health Order have been repealed.

General health advice continues to recommend Covid-19 vaccinations as well as boosters as additional protection. The Federal Government's website states that “to be considered up to date with COVID-19 vaccination, you must have had all the doses recommended for your age and health needs.” 

Last month, an Omnicron specific booster became available – a possible fifth dose for Adults.  

As time goes on, there's also a growing awareness around ‘vaccine injury', although it is something that Governments (including our own) are slow to acknowledge. Former AMA president Kerryn Phelps is one of many Australians speaking out about vaccine injury and wrote a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into long Covid. 

Despite wanting people to still partake in the vaccine programme, the Government does need to facilitate more open discussion about vaccine injuries, which currently seem to be shrouded in a veil of secrecy and silence – it's important to share this information in order for Australian's remain adequately informed of the risks. 

Adding to the general confusion around vaccines, what's considered ‘up to date' and whether mandates are still necessary, the Australian Federal Government is reportedly in discussions with other World Health Organisation member-countries about the introduction of a global vaccine passport, which, if introduced, will be required for international travel. 

Certainly, governments showed us how efficiently they could communicate during the pandemic, but during this post-pandemic period much more clarity is needed around a number of issues that continue to emerge and are still affecting the everyday lives of Australians

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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