Vaccine passports - or fewer restrictions for those who are vaccinated - are on the cards for Australia, although the details have yet to be worked out. While we support the right to refuse a vaccine, we also support the introduction of passports, although any restrictions must be temporary and proportionate.
We support your right to refuse a vaccine
The decision whether to have a vaccine should be voluntary and there should be no blanket mandatory requirement for vaccination across Australia. People have valid reasons for saying no to being vaccinated. It might be medical, religious or something else – whether you have a vaccine is your choice. At the same time, you and other people have other rights that also have to be respected – and that might have an impact on you if you are not vaccinated.
We support the right to a safe workplace
To make workplaces safe, employers have a right to require that their staff be vaccinated and/or that they undergo regular COVID testing. Equally, where it's practical, they may make alternative arrangements such as working from home available for those staff who can't - or choose not to - be vaccinated. They may also require that clients and visitors be vaccinated or show medical proof that they are COVID-free before entering their premises. Being able to show medical proof of being COVID-free helps those people who can’t get a vaccination. For example, some people who are immunocompromised may not be able to be vaccinated.
We recognise the need to reach high community vaccination rates quickly
Some groups within society are particularly susceptible to COVID-19. This includes people who are immunocompromised. Low vaccination rates mean that these people remain at a heightened risk. COVID is also disproportionately affecting people from CALD and low SES backgrounds and those who are elderly and living with disability. It is important that people get vaccinated in order to limit inequalities of outcome arising from the pandemic and to ensure that as many people as possible who constitute our community can return to the full realisation of their rights and freedoms as soon as possible.
What about 'vaccine passports'?
There’s a bit of confusion out there about the meaning of 'vaccine passports', with the phrase being used to cover fundamentally different schemes.
We do not support government mandated passes, such as that introduced by the UK dictating whether people can go to certain places, including private premises. Particularly problematic is the exclusion of a recent negative test - only a double vaccination will do.
But when it comes to travel, while the pandemic is in full swing, for governments to impose conditions on people crossing borders to show proof of vaccination or being COVID-free does not seem unreasonable. If that’s what is meant by a 'vaccine passport', NSWCCL wouldn’t oppose it. Governments across Australia have the right under our Constitution to impose conditions about who passes borders, including imposing health restrictions and proof of vaccination.
Vaccination requirements are nothing new
We are accustomed to schools asking for a child’s vaccine certificate and reserving the right to exclude unvaccinated children in some circumstances; in NSW, unvaccinated children can no longer be enrolled in childcare under the “no jab no play” policy. And we won’t be the first country to introduce a COVID jab passport system - they’re already in place in France, Israel and China and are being introduced for the EU.
Restrictions should be temporary and proportionate
Any workplace, business, travel or other restrictions whether imposed by businesses or governments, should be temporary and proportionate to the risk in the community posed by COVID-19. Also, the least restrictive measures to address the problem should be chosen. As soon as our levels of vaccination are high enough, the present restrictions on our freedom of movement should be removed. And if a person can prove that they are either vaccinated or that they are free of COVID-19 then they should be free to work, go into entertainment and sporting premises and travel.