House debates

Thursday, 24 June 2021


COVID-19: Vaccination

4:55 pm

Photo of George ChristensenGeorge Christensen (Dawson, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Two years ago the idea that people could be discriminated against based on their private medical history would have disgusted the majority in this country. However, over the last 18 months we've seen so much of our God-given freedoms eroded by power-hungry state premiers and bureaucrats that such an idea has become increasingly palatable and even appealing to some. I referred to it as a vaccine passport in the past, but I'm not talking about a certificate or a stamp which allows you to travel to another country. I'm talking about a pass documenting an individual's vaccination history which corporations, governments and others can ask for that enables them to legally discriminate against an individual. Imagine someone telling you that you can't enter their restaurant, their shop or their hotel because of your private medical choices. Imagine being denied a job or getting laid off because you chose not to get a vaccination. Imagine being told you can't cross a state border because you decided to exercise your free will to not receive an injection. These are not far-fetched scenarios from some dystopian novel about a totalitarian government. They are very real prospects that could turn into reality, if we choose the wrong path.

As a nation I believe we're at the crossroads. We've had the situation thrust upon us. This is a virus that kills about three out of every 1,000 people it infects. Of course every life lost, whatever the cause, is a tragedy and not just a statistic. But we must make a choice here. We are blessed to live in what I believe is one of the greatest countries in the world, and the reason it is one of the greatest countries is the freedoms that we enjoy. Are we going to choose to trade in those freedoms that this great country was built upon and people sacrificed their lives for? I've heard people dismiss this as nothing. They say it's a small sacrifice and an inconvenience. Where do these sacrifices end? Where do we draw the line? I hope we'd all agree that forced vaccinations would actually cross that line. We need food to survive, we need money to buy food, we need a job to earn money. If we need a vaccine to get a job, how is that not coercion? Is that not someone being forced into getting a vaccination?

Then there's the issue of domestic state borders. We hear rumblings from certain Labor state governments that they may require people to show proof of vaccination before crossing the state border. This cannot be allowed to happen. We are one country. Any Australian should have the right to travel wherever they please within their own country, without having to disclose their private medical records. We've seen our state borders closed enough times under questionable circumstances over the last 18 months. This has been under the guise of stopping the spread of COVID-19 as a temporary measure, but we should not have any hard borders within Australia. We do not need checkpoints within Australia. We do not need to present our papers to travel from one state to another in Australia. If someone chooses not to have a vaccine, they should be afforded exactly the same rights as any other Australian. The elephant in the room regarding the vaccines themselves is that people who've received both doses or a dose can still actually transmit the virus. Although it's less likely, it's a possibility. So where would that leave us a nation? The answer is divided. We would be a nation of vaccinated first-class citizens and unvaccinated second-class citizens. But we've already seen enough division.

There has been blaming and shaming of people who've caught the virus and unknowingly spread it. I don't want to fuel that fire and I'm sure no-one else wants to fuel that fire anymore. There are many Australians like me who aren't anti-vaxxers, but who have legitimate concerns about being injected or having family members injected with a vaccine that has been produced in quite a hurry and who want to wait to see whether there are side effects from that vaccine. These are legitimate concerns. We've already seen side effects manifest in the form of blood clots from the AstraZeneca vaccine. People concerned about their health and the health of their families should not be treated any differently, whether or not you think their concerns are legitimate. They should not be subject to discrimination or denied employment, services, travel and health care. How often do we as Australians laud our country as a land of opportunity, a fair go for all? Vaccine passes are the antithesis of that idea. Australia should be free, Australians should be free to decide their own path without the shackles of an overbearing government, and that's why I firmly say no to the idea of vaccine passports in this country and the idea of vaccine certificates that others shouldn't have any right whatsoever to see.

House adjourned at 17:00