Liberty from lockdowns or a two-speed society?

Hairdressing salon owner Colin Moxey is afraid the government will make him work out his own COVID-19 vaccine policy for clients, instead of setting clear rules for all businesses.

19/09/2021 5:50:00 AM

Hairdressing salon owner Colin Moxey did not sign up to be a bouncer. He's afraid the government will make him work out his own COVID-19 vaccine policy instead of setting clear rules for all businesses | nickbonyhadyMsEmmaK

Hairdressing salon owner Colin Moxey is afraid the government will make him work out his own COVID-19 vaccine policy for clients, instead of setting clear rules for all businesses.

, the debate is only becoming more intense.If states reopen venues like pubs and restaurants to the vaccinated once 70 or 80 per cent of the eligible population is jabbed, as NSW and Victoria have suggested, the number of people missing out on freedoms will be double or triple that.

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AdvertisementOne of the medical experts who helped guide Australia through the early stages of the pandemic, Dr Nick Coatsworth, foresees people becoming furious at each other over vaccinations if the situation isn’t handled properly.“We’re seeing sufficient people start to question the lack of clarity at 80 per cent that unless we give more clarity and hope and a psychological runway, we’re going to start to lose more people in terms of adherence to restrictions,” Coatsworth says.

But if all those freedoms are made conditional on vaccination targets that are set too high, then Coatsworth, who is as far as anyone can be from being an anti-vaxxer, fears intense shaming of those who can’t or won’t get the jab. “I don’t want people who haven’t been vaccinated actually vilified for that choice.”

LoadingIf targets are set too low, the prospects are also dire, as soaring deaths in the United States, largely among the unvaccinated, show.At one level, the choice is about how great a public health risk premiers and the public are willing to accept.

But it is also a moral choice about whether society should decide that people are competent to make their own decisions about vaccination, even when the consequence of declining a jab can be a painful illness and a lonely death.AdvertisementThat dimension seems to have sparked the political divisions.

North Sydney MP Trent Zimmerman is a small as well as capital-L Liberal who supports NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s vaccine passports plan.Under that scheme, when the state hits a 70 per cent double-dose vaccination rate, only the inoculated will be allowed at church services, gyms, sporting matches, pubs and restaurants.

Moderate Liberals Trent Zimmerman and Katie Allen have different views on vaccine passports.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen“A lot [of coronavirus restrictions] do sit uncomfortably with anyone liberal by nature, but there’s such an essential need for these things to be in place for a health perspective,” Zimmerman says. He believes the passport plan will encourage and reward vaccine uptake and last only as long as necessary before being unwound if the virus abates.

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The timing question has caused ructions inside the NSW government.Deputy Premier John Barilaro suggested on Monday the passports could be valid for only a few weeks, whereas Berejiklian has signalled they could go longer.Advertisement“Don’t assume that at 80 per cent double-dose vaccination that unvaccinated people are going to have all those freedoms. I want to make that point very clear,” Berejiklian said this week.

Some of her Liberal colleagues disagree. Conservative Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz is concerned about creating a second class of citizen. “In a liberal democracy, you’re allowed to make unwise decisions or decisions which are not mainstream, and being allowed to move around in your country is, I think, a basic right,” he says.

Dr Katie Allen, a Victorian Liberal MP who is among the most progressive in her party, also has reservations. She is afraid that mandates — except for key industries such as aged care — and passports will harden the hesitant into outright anti-vaxxers.

Loading“The word passport, particularly domestic vaccine passports, is something that in my electorate has made people extremely angry,” she says. People should be offered a chance to have regular testing instead if they want access to mass gatherings, Allen says.

That perspective has created an unusual political dynamic because NSW Labor leader Chris Minns has beenof mandates in high-risk industries and passports more broadly.Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has alsofor when his state hits the 70 per cent double-dose threshold that seems similar to Berejiklian’s.

Advertisement“You’re going to be able to go to a pub, the cinema, to a sporting event. You’re going to be able to do all sorts of things that an unvaccinated person is not going to be able to do,” he says.Then there are the largely COVID-19-free jurisdictions of Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania, which are in a different phase altogether because every one of their residents has those freedoms at present.

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It will not last forever though, and figures from the non-partisan Melbourne Institute show the problem could become more acute when those states do open up because vaccine hesitancy is higher at 22.1 per cent in WA and 21.6 per cent in Queensland compared to less than 15 per cent in Victoria and NSW.

LoadingFrom Moxey the salon owner to Andrew McKellar, chief executive of the country’s largest business lobby, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, employers are getting fed up at the divergent state stances and lack of detail about how reopening rules will be enforced.

“Leaders have got to start thinking about the fact that they’re Australians first, and start thinking about how as a nation we get to a cohesive outcome here rather than thinking narrowly about how one state can be all right and other states can go to hell,” McKellar says.

He wants nationally consistent rules enforced by government authorities, not businesses, but Canberra, which is making the technology to integrate vaccine status with state QR code apps, has largely left it to the states to decide how it will be used.

AdvertisementPrime Minister Scott Morrison has instead said businesses can decide on their own rules and emphasised the government does not support broad mandates. He will not use the term “vaccine passports” either.“Any venue, any venue, any pub, any cafe, any restaurant, any shop can, has every right under Australia’s property laws to be able to deny entry to people who are unvaccinated,” Morrison said on Sky in early September.

Asked whether that meant the government was rolling out vaccine passports, he demurred, saying, “that’s not how I refer to them”.Legally, the Prime Minister is correct.Discrimination law does not directly protect the unvaccinated, but if someone who can’t be vaccinated due to a disability for example was denied entry to a venue, that could raise problems.

Privacy law isunlikely to be an issueeither as long as firms stick to government apps because the government keeps the vaccine data secure through the QR code system, rather than individual businesses.Likewise, most legal experts have said companies employing front-line workers who have to be physically present at work are likely to be allowed to require vaccinations under laws that let firms give staff “lawful and reasonable” directions.

So far, the employers that have announced mandatory vaccinations have almost all been in that category – fromtaxi company 13Cabs, where drivers and customers sit in close proximity, to airline Virgin Australia and stevedores DP World, where workers might come into contact with people and goods from overseas.

DP World stevedores, which operates at ports around the country, has some of the workers most likely to come into contact with people and goods from overseas.Credit:Glenn HuntBut the picture is much more complicated where staff are in an office. Only Qantas has said it will make its office staff get vaccinated, setting a deadline of March 31.

That is because the Fair Work Ombudsman, which is the federal workplace watchdog,has cautioned that staff who work from home are least likelyto be subject to legal jab mandates. They have the least contact with others who are likely to be sick and the least chance of passing it on.

That dovetails with an increasing trend of companies allowing more staff to work from home that is set to outlast the pandemic. Read more: The Sydney Morning Herald »

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How about working out the percentage of vaxxed people v vaxxed - then there's your answer. People don't want the government to make decisions for them unless it suits them? Personally i won't be visiting any hairdresser who does not check vaccinations on entry. no1 wants to make their decisions, Colin somehow managed to decide whether to pay rent or buy his house/business premises, he decided what equipment he would use/buy, he chose his employees but, yet somehow is unable to decide whether to let unvaxed/vaxed patrons into his salon.

Well this was good while it lasted. The press conference confirmed he won’t have to set his own policy. You can probably take down the story. This new fad of whiny business owners is doing my head in. Govt has explicitly said there will be health orders And if you can’t have an employee or yourself check vax status, what kind of business are you

Colin has had more than 18 months to get his head around this. As a business owner he has to be able to evolve or he left behind. A post pandemic world is going to be markedly different. It his property. He is inviting people in so that he can make money. He has always been the bouncer. These people need to get over themselves. Many customers will avoid going to them if they don’t check vaccination status

GladysB If only she was a leader 😷 I wouldn't go into a hairdresser: too many antivaxxer non-mask wearing businesses.

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