Legislative Council: Thursday, March 21, 2024


COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates

The Hon. S.L. GAME (14:29): 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: On 8 February, in this chamber, I voiced my concerns to the Attorney-General regarding COVID-19 vaccine mandates. My concerns were about the infringement of individual rights, specifically informed consent, referencing the Shepherd v The State of South Australia ruling, which supported Mr Shepherd, a victim of vaccine-related injuries.

I asked the government about their plan for managing potential increases in COVID-19 mandate lawsuits and whether they recognise the issue of employees not being provided with full and informed consent. My concerns pertained to government guidelines relating to the COVID-19 vaccine mandates that allow employers to undermine employee rights, resulting in concerns for both employers and employees.

As anticipated, on 8 February, 19 days following my initial query, news of another COVID lawsuit against the government surfaced. In that case the Supreme Court in Queensland ruled in favour of 86 parties representing police and ambulance officers challenging mandate legitimacy. The court cited the absence of full consent as a key determinant for their ruling, referring to Queensland's Human Rights Act 2019, a piece of legislation that unfortunately has no comparison in South Australia.

My question to the Attorney-General is: does the minister acknowledge that in the absence of a human rights act in South Australia the government has enabled overreach on both their part and that of the employer?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:30): I thank the honourable member for her question. I think I won't need to refer that. I can simply answer: no, I don't think there's been overreach. I know the Hon. Sarah Game has a fundamental difference of view both with this government and the former Liberal government when it comes to vaccinations. I think we, as the former Liberal government did, rely upon the best medical science and the best medical evidence and base our policies on that.

The overwhelming good that vaccines have been shown to do since their introduction as a healthcare modality—they have saved thousands and thousands of lives, millions of lives. If there are a tiny percentage of adverse consequences, there are tribunals around the world that are designed for those, recognising the overwhelming good they do in saving people's lives. We have a fundamental difference of opinion with the Hon. Sarah Game, where both Liberal and Labor rely on scientific evidence.