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Australia Tasmanian vaccination mandate for health workers under challenge days out from implementation

13:40  28 october  2021
13:40  28 october  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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More than 500 healthcare workers have launched legal action in the Supreme Court in Hobart challenging the government's vaccine mandate, which is days away from enforcement.

But before the challenge can be heard, the group is seeking an injunction on the mandate — meaning it would be temporarily suspended until the outcome of the case can be determined.

A mandate requiring all healthcare workers to have had a least one vaccination or have an appointment booked is set to come into force on Sunday, October 31.

The workers have been warned they will be sacked if they do not comply. 

They are therefore asking the court to hold an emergency hearing tomorrow, Friday, October 29, to seek the injunction.

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Speaking outside court after filing the papers, lawyer Raymond Broomhall said the vaccine mandate was an "abuse of power".

"It breaches the State Services Act and also breaches the Public Health Act, where the director as a medical officer must comply with the accepted professional standards," he said.

Earlier in October, a judge dismissed two challenges to a NSW mandate requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for workers.

Mr Broomhall said there were 519 healthcare workers who were part of the action. Some, he said, were vaccinated but had only done so because of the mandate.

He said if their quest for an injunction was unsuccessful, they would appeal the decision "all the way to the High Court".

"But unfortunately if it is not done tomorrow then all these workers are going to be sacked," he said.

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Mr Broomhall said they had about 250 statements from healthcare workers supporting the legal action.

"They're talking about workers who've been vaccinated under the coercion," he said.

"They didn't want to get the jab in the first place but they felt pressured because if they didn't have it they'd lose their job. So technically that's not a voluntary consent under the law."

"[All the statements] talk about coercion and that they either had no choice but to submit to getting the jab, some say they're afraid they are going to have to do it before the deadline," he said.

The court case argues that the mandate breaches the public health act in that it discriminates against those who are unvaccinated.

"To discriminate against someone for the attribute of being vaccinated or unvaccinated is discrimination," he said. 

"In essence we say it's unlawful to discriminate against someone for their vaccination status."

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Documents filed with the court allege the mandate is "contrary to law in that it causes the applicant to suffer unlawful discrimination and … places the applicant in an untenable situation, through means of coercion, and threats of expulsion and punishment".

In a statement on Wednesday, the group of healthcare workers, that have dubbed themselves The Tasmanian Healthcare Services and Providers group (THSP), called on the state government to "urgently rethink its unlawful 'no jab, no job' COVID-19 vaccination mandate".

"The THPS is a growing group of over 500 highly concerned healthcare sector workers that has formed in response to the Tasmanian government's unreasonable, coercive and threatening behaviour". 

The group said it includes surgeons, specialists, GPs, doctors, nurses, midwives, dentists, paramedics, allied health, psychologists, psychiatrists and other people who work in health care settings.

"A number of our members are so specialised that should the Tasmanian government terminate their employment on 31 October, there is no one else in the state to deliver these services."

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They go on to describe the vaccine mandate as an "oppressive and heavy-handed ultimatum".

Associate Professor David Dunn, who lodged the paperwork, described himself as a now semi-retired general surgeon.

He said the mandate was a "criminal action".

"You can't give voluntary consent if something's mandated because that automatically means that you're coerced into signing a consent," he said.

"If it's mandated and there's penalties for not complying then that's coercion and that's illegal."

He said the healthcare workers were extremely concerned about the looming mandate.

"A lot of them are a lot younger than I and have long professions ahead of them," he said.

"We are committed to serve the public and we want to continue to do that. Besides loss of income and all the things that come with it — depression and oppression." 

Mr Broomhall said it could be months before the actual case against the mandate is heard.

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