Abetz abstains on mandatory vaccine bill

The people of Tasmania are entitled to know why I abstained on a Bill purporting to outlaw mandating COVID vaccination.

The Bill, which is a slightly amended version of a Bill introduced into the House of Representatives, is right in principle but clumsy and unlawful in that it is unconstitutional.

My view has always been that as soon as everyone who wants to be vaccinated has had a reasonable opportunity to be vaccinated, we should open up.

If vaccination works, then we who are vaccinated have nothing to fear from the unvaccinated.

For the record, I’m vaccinated and encourage people to be vaccinated.  Also, for the record, I respect those who hold an alternate point of view.  That’s how a civil liberal democratic society operates.

As a representative who has consistently opposed vaccine passports and mandating vaccinations, I am overwhelmingly sympathetic to the Bill.  We are seeing good nurses, teachers, doctors, defence personnel and aged care workers being thrown out of work in circumstances where the loss of jobs and services to the public is highly disproportionate to the actual risk, at a time when we already have a shortage of personnel in these areas.

The thought of a two-tiered society – the vaxxed and the unvaxxed - is to split and divide our community which is to weaken it.

My view has consistently been that we should educate, not discriminate.  We should convince, not coerce.

The Bill before the Senate would seek to over-ride the States and stop funding to them if they mandate in any circumstance.  Its constitutionality is highly questionable and the consequences highly disruptive.  It would see the GST arrangements ripped up.

It stands to reason that if today the Federal Government is clothed with the power to override the States on vaccine mandates, it would also have the power to impose such mandates on the States.

This is a two-edged sword.

We cannot stop living because we are scared of dying.  The lockdowns and restrictions can’t and shouldn’t continue from general health, mental health and economic perspectives.

We need to learn to live with COVID.  Vaccine passports have failed elsewhere and they will fail here while costing huge sums to administer while restricting freedoms.

Tasmanians can be assured I will continue to support their vaccination choices on the basis of the standard set by the Australian Immunisation Handbook, which declares valid legal consent is required and that means no “undue influence, manipulation or coercion”.

The threat of job loss is clearly “undue influence” if not outright “coercion”.

The legislation, while well-motivated and intentioned, was not of a standard to attract my vote.

Given that my vote was not going to determine the success or otherwise of the Bill, I took the unusual step of abstaining.

About Eric

Eric Abetz has been a Liberal Senator for Tasmania since 1994 and has served in a range of Leadership, Ministerial and Shadow Ministerial roles.

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