Senate debates

Thursday, 1 December 2022


Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022; In Committee

5:07 pm

Photo of Malcolm RobertsMalcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | Hansard source

by leave—I move Pauline Hanson's One Nation amendments (1) to (8), on sheet 1768, together:

(1) Schedule 1, item 426, page 116 (before line 10), before the definition of gender identity, insert:

COVID-19 vaccination status means the status of a person relating to whether, and to what extent, the person has been vaccinated against the coronavirus known as COVID-19 (including any subsequent variants of that virus).

(2) Schedule 1, item 427, page 116 (line 17), after "intersex status,", insert "COVID-19 vaccination status,".

(3) Schedule 1, item 429, page 117 (line 3), after "intersex status,", insert "COVID-19 vaccination status,".

(4) Schedule 1, item 432, page 118 (line 3), after "intersex status,", insert "COVID-19 vaccination status,".

(5) Schedule 1, page 118 (after line 3), after item 432, insert:

432A Paragraph 351(2)(a)

Before "not unlawful", insert "for action taken other than because of a person's COVID-19 vaccination status—".

(6) Schedule 1, item 433, page 118 (line 6), after "intersex status,", insert "COVID-19 vaccination status,".

(7) Schedule 1, item 436, page 118 (line 23), after "intersex status,", insert "COVID-19 vaccination status,".

(8) Schedule 1, item 437, page 119 (line 23), omit "or intersex status,", substitute ", intersex status or COVID-19 vaccination status".

In proposing this bill, the government says the bill aims to secure jobs. My amendments on sheet 1768 go to the heart of ensuring job security and protecting workers' rights. To ensure job security, my amendments on sheet 1768 ensure that unjustified vaccine discrimination is stamped out in employment.

The original bill inserts breastfeeding, intersex status and gender identity as attributes that the Fair Work Act protects from discrimination. These amendments copy that approach and simply add COVID-19 vaccination as an attribute protected from discrimination. The protection is still subject to the limits imposed on the other discrimination grounds in the Fair Work Act. An employer, for example, will not be in breach of the antidiscrimination grounds where the employer can prove, as they should have to, that it is a genuine and reasonable requirement of the position. These amendments are reasonable. In their approach, they are not radical because they use and simply extend the existing mechanisms in the Fair Work Act.

We've long known that COVID vaccines do not stop transmission. Before this became apparent, getting vaccinated 'to protect others' was the justification many businesses used to roll out vaccine mandates that squashed people's jobs, livelihoods and careers. As a condition of keeping their job, many employees were coerced—and still are being coerced—into receiving COVID vaccinations and boosters they do not want. These vaccine mandates cannot be justified, given the fact vaccines do not guarantee protection from transmission. The New South Wales Personal Injury Commission recently agreed with this view, with workers' compensation being awarded for psychological distress stemming from the mandates in the determination of Dawking v Secretary (Department of Education), handed down on 3 November.

Sometimes the wheels of justice turn slowly, yet we are happy that judicial bodies are taking up this self-evident position that broad vaccination mandates cannot be justified. Despite this, mandates are still in effect across the private sector. It's clear that further legislative action needs to be taken. Businesses are simply ignoring the evidence against unjustified vaccine mandates. A clear message needs to be sent that unreasonable directions that infringe on workers' rights have no place in Australian workplaces.

Often, mandates do not even account for Australians who have accepted medical contra-indications to vaccination. The Australian newspaper reports that Qantas sacked a pilot for failing to comply with a vaccination mandate while he was off work, in a serious condition, being treated for bowel cancer. Separately, I have met with a Qantas employee, who after being injected with the first COVID injection, was rushed to hospital with severe, possibly life-threatening, disability due to the COVID injection. After hospital care and partial recovery, he returned to work, where Qantas insisted he get the second injection. He contested it and is now on vastly reduced pay on workers compensation. He fears his career with Qantas is finished That is discrimination.

This amendment seeks to reinforce workers' rights to refuse a workplace direction where it is not a reasonable and justified requirement of the job. It leaves no doubt for employees and employers that vaccine mandates must not be in place unless there is a reasonable and justifiable need for them. Minister, given that businesses continue to ignore workers' rights in this area, will the government support this amendment to reinforce the decisions of the Fair Work Commission and codify protections for workers against unreasonable workplace directions?


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