Fair Work permits mandatory jabs

The nation’s workplace regulator has updated guidance for employers on whether they can require workers to get vaccinated for Covid-19, setting out a tiered system backing mandatory vaccinations for key industries.

What we know:

  • The Fair Work Ombudsman has unveiled a four-tier system to guide employers on whether they can mandate vaccines in their workforce (ABC); 
  • Mandatory vaccines for Tier 1 or Tier 2 workers are more likely to be legal, Tier 3 will depend on whether there has been transmission in the area of the workplace, while Tier 4 workplaces are considered unlikely to be appropriate for mandatory vaccines;
  • Tier 1 work covers employees required to interact with people at high risk of being infected, such as hotel quarantine or border control;
  • Tier 2 includes employees required to have close contact with vulnerable people, such as healthcare or aged care;
  • Tier 3 covers employees who regularly interact with others, such as shops providing essential goods and services;
  • Tier 4 includes employees who have minimal face-to-face interaction, such as those who can work from home;
  • Business Council of Australia chief Jennifer Westacott says vaccination should be “driven as much as possible through public health orders, not left to individual employers” (The Conversation); 
  • Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus says any mandate “has to be based on the advice of health professionals, not just made up by employers, and workers must be consulted, along with their union”.
  • Two companies so far have declared Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for their workers: regional air carrier Alliance Airlines and canning company SPC.
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Covid reaches the capital

The ACT has gone into a snap seven-day lockdown, after Canberra recorded its first local cases of Covid-19 in more than a year.

In the ACT:

  • Four local cases were detected, three of which were close contacts of a a young man infectious in the community for four days (ABC); 
  • Canberrans have been asked to only leave their homes for essential wo, healthcare, Covid-19 vaccinations, shopping for groceries and supplies and up to one hour of outdoor exercise;
  • Schools will be open for children of essential workers and vulnerable students, but parents have been urged to keep their kids home on Friday as schools prepare to transition to online learning (Canberra Times); 
  • It is the first time the ACT has entered a lockdown of this nature since the early days of the pandemic;
  • ACT contact tracers are compiling a growing list of exposure sites

Across the country:

  • NSW recorded 345 new cases and two deaths on Thursday, with Bayside, Strathfield and Burwood placed under tighter restrictions (Nine); 
  • Victoria identified 21 new cases, with authorities most concerned about three mystery cases yet to be linked (ABC); 
  • Queensland recorded 10 new cases, all of whom were in isolation as close contacts of existing cases (7News). 
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Indigenous communities sitting ducks

Authorities have been accused of leaving Aboriginal communities of western NSW as “sitting ducks”, with vaccination rates in the region among the lowest in the nation.

Less than 20% of the Aboriginal population aged 16 and over in western NSW has received one vaccine dose, and only 8% are fully vaccinated (The Guardian). 

The majority of the six Covid cases detected in locked-down western NSW are Aboriginal people (The Newcastle Herald).

Health experts have expressed concern about the lack of hospital access in remote areas and the specific risks faced by Aboriginal people in crowded households or who suffer comorbidities (The Lancet). 

The Bila Muuji Aboriginal corporation expressed concern that giving police a greater role in enforcing health orders could lead to Aboriginal people being targeted.

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Stopping the boats a myth

Offshore processing of asylum seekers has been dubbed a “policy failure” in a review that found the system has not stopped boats or saved lives.

Researchers at UNSW’s Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law assessed Australia’s use of offshore processing since 2012, with today marking the ninth anniversary of the reintroduction of the controversial policy (The Mandarin). 

The review found offshore processing failed to deter irregular maritime migration and imposed enormous financial costs on Australian taxpayers.

There was no evidence offshore detention served as a deterrent for boat journeys to Australia, which continued in great numbers until the policy of boat turnbacks was introduced.

Researchers identified 18 people to have died due to the offshore detention system, six of whom reportedly committed suicide.

They recommended that the federal government immediately end offshore processing and  terminate laws underpinning the policy.

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WA bans abortion clinic picketing

WA has banned protests outside abortion clinics – the last state in Australia to do so.

The WA parliament on Thursday passed a bill that will prevent people from picketing within 150m of abortion clinics (SBS). 

Family planning provider Marie Stopes said picketers spent almost 2300 hours each year outside the Marie Stopes Midland clinic and that staff had also been targeted.

Health Minister Roger Cook said the new law would also ban people from sharing footage of people accessing abortion clinics.

A maximum penalty of $12,000 and 12 months’ jail applies to anyone engaging in prohibited behaviour.

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I kinda like it, it’s the goal of summer to be hot and sweat and just enjoy it!

A 20-year-old from France embraces Europe’s most extreme heatwave yet, with Sicily hitting a possible continential record of 48.8C. They perhaps won’t be so excited when the time comes to enlist in the Great European Water War of 2035 (France24).

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Postscript: Virus Mutates Into Corrupt, Sexist, Attention-Seeking Parasite, After Just One Day In Canberra

Just hours after entering Canberra for the first time in over a year, the COVID-19 virus has mutated into a dangerous new variant that has already misused taxpayer money, got pissed in Parliament House and had a wank on a desk (The Shovel).

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Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.