Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (14:27): I rise to speak briefly to the Health Services Amendment (Mandatory Vaccination of Healthcare Workers) Bill 2020. As previous members have said, this enables the secretary to direct public hospitals, health service establishments, ambulance services and those employees to be required to be vaccinated or prove immunity to certain specified diseases.
I think for the most part the community already assumes that that takes place. I think the community would be quite surprised that hepatitis, for example, was not already mandated for our healthcare workers. Certainly I recall when I started working at the AIDS Action Council it was strongly suggested to me that I do the course of hepatitis C vaccinations before working, and I quite readily did that. I am also aware that in numerous other states—South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales—it is mandated to have certain vaccinations. The sky has not fallen in in those places, and so I do not think that it is going to fall in here.
I acknowledge that we have received a number of emails from a number of people. Some of them are just completely anti-vaxxers, and this gave them an opportunity to express that view to us all, but some of them were more nuanced in their approach to vaccinations, and I think that goes somewhat to some of the comments that Mr Limbrick has made on this.
But overall I wholeheartedly support these measures. As Ms Terpstra mentioned, in a time when we are looking at this pandemic of COVID-19, when we know that it is going to intersect with our flu season and influenza, it is more important than ever to ensure that our health workers are as healthy as possible and to do whatever we can to reduce demand on the health system but also to ensure that the workers in our health system are protected.
This is mandatory, and being on the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee, I can say this did raise some issues around how this maybe went against the charter. I note that the minister wrote a very long response to SARC on the reasoning for their belief that this should not raise issues with the charter. It was well articulated and I think well argued. It will be interesting to see, if the federal religious freedom bill goes ahead, how this may be affected, given the protections that are provided in that current bill for people in the workplace who feel that they may be discriminated against on the grounds of their religious beliefs. That is something to speculate on.
This is, I think, entirely sensible public policy. We are not talking about, I would say, very unusual or unexpected vaccinations. We are talking chickenpox, measles, mumps, diphtheria, hepatitis and in certain circumstances certainly influenza. I think this is sensible public policy. It is entirely consistent with evidence-based policy that the Reason Party fully supports. That is where our policy comes from and grows from. I do say to the people who wrote to me with wild claims about the effects of vaccination on them that really in this circumstance they just need to grow up. I think this is good evidence-based policy, and we are happy to commend it to the house.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Second reading speech 17/3/20