Police Officer Challenges Government’s Vaccination Policy

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A New South Wales Police officer is taking legal action against the state Health Minister Brad Hazzard over the COVID-19 injection, which for many is for all intents and purposes mandatory if they wish to work and lead semi-normal lives.

Although police officers have not been singled out for mandatory vaccinations, they are still considered to be essential workers and are being urged to obtain vaccinations.

Over and above that, officers officers who live in Local Government Areas (LGAs) of concern in Greater Sydney, must be vaccinated before they can leave those LGAs to go to work.

Legal action

Senior Constable Belinda Hocroft, who is attached to the Dog and Mounted Police unit, has filed civil proceedings in the Supreme Court of NSW against the health minister seeking a declaration that the government does not have the power to pass orders which essentially coerce people into being vaccinated.

Ms Hocroft’s legal team says the lawsuit, “specifically challenges the extent to which the Government may coerce its citizens to have themselves injected with a drug they object to taking, especially when there is a less intrusive alternative of having the unvaccinated citizens tested to ensure that they are not carrying the virus.”

The Senior Constable has been working as a NSW Police Officer for 14 years and has been told that she cannot return to work until she has had one dose of the Covid-19 vaccination because she comes from a ‘hotspot’ zone.

“I am not against vaccines as such. However I am concerned about the long term effects of Covid-19 given they are relatively new vaccines,” Ms Hocroft said in an affidavit to support her legal action.

Ultimatum: No jab, no job

“I am concerned the NSW Government is giving me an ultimatum by forcing me to take the vaccine otherwise I will become unemployed,” she said.

Ms Hocroft said she is willing to undertake the rapid antigen testing before attending work.

Given the haphazard rollout of vaccinations across Australia, and unreliable supplies, many workers who wanted vaccinations have been unable to receive them so the NSW Government was forced to extend the vaccination deadline until Sunday, September 19.

The vaccine requirement applies to the areas of Bayside, Blacktown, Burwood, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool, Parramatta and Strathfield.

Ms Hocroft certainly isn’t alone in her stance. Construction workers planned to start a class action against mandatory vaccinations, although have so far failed to raise adequate funds to do so.

And let’s face it, being able to pay the bills and keep food on the table is a powerful motivator to stay employed. Many feel they don’t actually have a choice.

Businesses urged to pass vaccination policies

Another issue of concern is the fact that recently the Fair Work Ombudsman has issued advice that businesses are at liberty to make their own workplace policies regarding the vaccination of employees.

The Ombudsman has qualified this by saying any such policy must be lawful and reasonable. However, the ambiguity of the advice gives little certainty to employers regarding what they should or should not be doing.

Certainly in the few cases of unfair dismissal over vaccination refusals that have already made it to the Fair Work Commission, rulings have been made in favour of the employers.

However, industry groups have warned that many businesses could well face staff shortages if they make vaccinations mandatory, because many workers will vote with their feet – and walk right out the door. Many will choose freedom of choice, rather than be forced to have a vaccine they don’t want to.

The outcome of Ms Hocroft’s legal challenge is likely to affect thousands of workers, not just in New South Wales, but across Australia.

Recently Queensland put rules in place which stop essential workers who are not vaccinated from crossing the border to work. Workers in quarantine, aged care and some areas of health have already been told they must have the vaccination to work.

Human Rights

The Human Rights organisation says there is “no specific law requiring a person to be vaccinated and individuals, businesses and service providers are encouraged to obtain legal advice about their own specific circumstances, and to carefully consider the position of vulnerable groups in the community before imposing any blanket COVID-19 vaccination policies or conditions.

These may have unintended consequences, particularly for some people with disability, and may also breach federal discrimination law.

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Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Spring 2022.

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