Queensland frontline workers challenging COVID-19 vaccine mandate granted extension of stay
More than a dozen Queensland Police Service (QPS) and Queensland Health staff who are challenging their workplace COVID-19 vaccine mandate, have been granted further reprieve from disciplinary action for refusing to comply with the directives while their cases continue.
Twenty applicants, including frontline police officers and paramedics, are testing the legality of the compulsory policies in the Supreme Court, arguing they breach the rules of natural justice, human rights and anti-discrimination laws.
Last month the two groups, whose cases are being heard in court together, were granted a short stay of the directives, preventing them from facing penalties, suspension or dismissal from their employers while the legal action was in place.
The groups were also ordered to make individual applications to their employers for an exemption to receiving the vaccine.
During a brief review in Brisbane on Tuesday morning, Justice Jean Dalton extended the temporary stay of the directive to next week.
The court was told that one police officer had applied for an exemption and was told by his employer "it wouldn't be supported" and had been "rejected".
It heard seven Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) employees had made applications, but they "have not heard back".
Use of rapid COVID tests to be explored
Lawyers for the groups told the court they would be seeking expert evidence on a range of "relevant considerations" they argue were not taken into account by decision makers, including data surrounding the spread of the virus within QPS and QAS, and data on infection and transmission in those who are vaccinated.
They will also be seeking evidence about "less restrictive measures" such as the use of rapid antigen testing on unvaccinated workers, as well as data in regard to "the absence of medium and long-term safety" of available vaccines, the court heard.
The Queensland Health mandate was ordered to ensure staff would not pose a significant risk to patients and the broader community after it was determined COVID-19 had been shown to "disproportionately affect healthcare workers".
The Queensland Police Service said it introduced a mandate for similar public health protection reasons, as the nature of police work meant officers interacted with large numbers of people across the state.
Queensland Health staff had until September 30 to receive a first dose of the vaccine, while QPS workers were required to get their first shot by October 4.
Second doses are required at the end of this month and next January respectively.
A two-day hearing has been set down next week to determine whether the Supreme Court has jurisdiction to deal with the matter.