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Qantas move makes mandatory job jabs clarity yet more urgent

18 August 2021

11:34 AM

18 August 2021

11:34 AM

Today, Qantas has become our largest corporate so far to announce it will make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for all staff.

There are demands of Australian politicians to show leadership and create clarity about whether businesses must require workers to be vaccinated.

Governments are locking us up and denying us freedoms in the name of health and safety. But when it comes to businesses (small and large) and vaccinations, the law is an ass.

It doesn’t matter what a businessperson does. If businesses require vaccinations, they can be in breach of employment, privacy, discrimination and other laws. If they don’t require vaccinations, they arguably put their staff and others at risk and breach work safety laws.

I can just see money-grabbing, mongrel, ambulance-chasing lawyers falling over themselves to sue businesses. And unions will gleefully join in. Politicians will say ‘nothing to do with us!’

It’s a dereliction of their duty to all Australians for our governments (state and federal) to walk away from their responsibilities in this area. It’s weak, insipid government which, in this crisis, makes the crisis worse.

But politicians only make laws. It’s the bureaucrats in the enforcement authorities that apply the law. The rapid spread of Covid-19 means laws cannot be changed fast enough. The enforcement authorities have the power and responsibility to make statements of legal clarity. They can do this now.

Last week the Fair Work Ombudsman released a statement of advice but says that businesses should “get their own legal advice”. Pardon me if I label this statement ‘bull manure’.

That’s why last week we wrote to all the WorkSafe authorities in every government saying they should urgently issue statements as to whether they will prosecute or not over failure of businesses and other organisations to require vaccinations.

There are three simple questions.

If a business requires workers to be vaccinated, will the business have satisfied its work safety obligations?

If a business does not require workers to be vaccinated, will the business have breached work safety laws and risk prosecution?

If a worker is not vaccinated and attends work, will the worker have breached work safety laws and risk prosecution?

Here’s our letter to the Worksafe authorities.

My sense is that they will seek to squirm out of their responsibility and stay silent, but I’d be delighted to be proven wrong.

No one should be above the law. But politicians and bureaucrats routinely put themselves outside and beyond the law. This is bad government in normal times, made worse in a crisis. The Australian community deserves better.

Ken Phillips is Executive Director of Self Employed Australia.

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