Queensland Supreme Court Finds Covid Vaccine Mandates Were Unlawful

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A recent decision by the Supreme Court of Queensland which found that Covid-19 vaccine mandates against the state’s police officers and paramedics were unlawful as they were not issued in accordance with legal requirements could pave the way towards similar action being taken by those in other jurisdictions and, indeed, other industries who similarly lost employment for not taking the drugs.

The landmark decision resolved three separate lawsuits brought by 86 parties including police officers, civilian / administration staff and paramedics against the Queensland Police Service and Queensland Health for Covid-19 vaccination mandates issued in 2021 and 2022.

In a 115 page judgment, Supreme Court Justice Glenn Martin ruled that Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll’s December 2021 vaccination direction to Queensland Police Officers was “unlawful” under the Human Rights Act, and that Queensland Health Director-General John Wakefield’s vaccination requirement policy was “of no effect”.

The Police Commissioner and Director-General have been prevented from taking any further steps to enforce directions relating to the madates, or from taking disciplinary actions against the applicants based on the failure to comply.

Justice Martin noted: “I have held that the Commissioner, in making the decisions the subject of contention, failed to give proper consideration to human rights relevant to those decisions.” 

“As a result, those decisions were unlawful. Similarly, I have held that Dr Wakefield has not established that the direction he made is a term of the employment of the (Queensland Ambulance Service) applicants.”

The potential impact of the Supreme Court decision 

The decision is likely to set in motion a wave of more challenges to vaccination mandates which were put in place not only by the Queensland State Government, during the pandemic but other states too, and also individual organisations. 

However, it is important to note that NSW, unlike Victoria and Queensland, does not have a charter of Human Rights, which could essentially make a difference to the way these cases are presented in court, and also how they are ruled upon. 

Vaccination mandates in New South Wales

In New South Wales, vaccine mandates were in place for police officers, frontline health workers (including ambulance officers and nurses) as well as construction workers, aged care workers, child care workers and teachers. 

During the pandemic when mandates were first introduced, there were a number of challenges in the NSW Supreme Court. At the time, these failed, only seeming to highlight the Berejiklian Government’s power to enforce the jab under Emergency Public Health Laws in place at the time.

And despite the threat of Covid being long gone, many industries have kept vaccination mandates in place. It may now be wise to reconsider, particularly in light of the number of Covid vaccination related injuries present in Australia and around the globe. 

The Covid-19 Inquiry 

As yet, the watered down Covid-19inquiry announced by current Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is still yet to finish, with a report due by September. And while its charter was not to look at the decisions made by individual states, decisions such as these cannot be ignored, if we are to consider the impact of the pandemic on Australians, and how we may improve our national pandemic response, should there be a next time. 

It is, in many ways, ridiculous not to consider state and territory decision-making when Australia’s constitution gives the right to states and territories to manage health, and it was these Governments who took advantage of sweeping powers introduced under ‘Emergency Health’ legislation. 

Pandemic leaders long gone, and were never made accountable 

Of course, those in power at the time are now long gone, and very much accountability-free for decisions they made during Covid-19 which had very significant impacts on so many people. 

Annastacia Palaszczuk announced her retirement from politics in 2023. 

Gladys Berejiklian retired in 2021 when The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) announced an investigation into her in relation to the dodgy business dealings of her former boyfriend and former fellow MP,  Daryl Macguire. Ms Berejiklian currently works at Optus and is disputing ICAC’s findings against her. 

Dan Andrews, former Premier of Victoria is Australia’s representative of the World Economic Forum. 

The class action seeking compensation for vaccine injury from Covid Vaccines is also yet to play out in the courts. It was filed last in the Federal Court last year against: (at least) the Australian Government, the Department of Health and Aged Care Secretary Dr Brendan Murphy and the Deputy Secretary of Health Products Regulation Group Adjunct Professor John Skerrit (“the Respondents”). 

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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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