Legislative Council: Thursday, February 08, 2024


COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates

The Hon. S.L. GAME (15:16): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question to the Attorney-General, representing the Minister for Health and Wellbeing, regarding COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Leave granted.

The Hon. S.L. GAME: The ruling in Shepherd v State of South Australia by the South Australian Employment Tribunal favoured Mr Shepherd, a youth worker who developed pericarditis post a COVID vaccination. Additionally, an ongoing class action lawsuit involving 230 health practitioners who are in mediation against SA Health for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine further intensifies concerns about the impact on both people's health and their livelihoods. My questions to the Attorney-General are:

1. How does the minister plan to confront a surge in cases challenging COVID vaccine mandates?

2. Does the minister acknowledge the risk of informed consent violations spreading across sectors as employers mirror health sector policies, leading to adverse reactions?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:17): I am happy to in large part answer this question without referring it on. As the member has talked about, the matter that was before the South Australian Employment Tribunal is an industrial relations matter, so I can provide some information about that.

The idea that the awarding of workers compensation rights for a work injury creates some challenge to the legitimacy of vaccines is just not supported by any evidence whatsoever. It is a bipartisan position that the Labor and Liberal parties have had in South Australia that the vaccination program during COVID-19, like vaccination programs that we have seen over decades around the world, was overwhelmingly a massive health benefit to society.

There are in many jurisdictions, for those very few, very rare cases where there are adverse reactions to the vaccine, vaccine tribunals that have been set up to recognise that there are very, very rare cases where individuals will have an adverse reaction, but overwhelmingly the societal effect it has on public health is that great that there are tribunals set up around the world for different vaccination programs to compensate.

There is a fundamental presumption in the Return to Work system that if you are injured as a result of what you have to do at work you are entitled to some sort of compensation and recognition of that. If you are one of those people who have had an adverse reaction to a vaccination, whether it be COVID-19 or another sort of vaccination, if it is required by your work the fundamental principle that that can be a work injury is not surprising or not startling, and it does not place, I think, any adverse reflection on COVID-19 vaccinations or vaccinations generally, which are one of the most effective public health programs that we have seen implemented worldwide this century.