State governments have the power to legislate vaccine passports to protect their residents, according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, noting that vaccinated individuals in future could be exempt from certain COVID restrictions.
Discussion around passports or certification has made headlines in recent days, with major sporting bodies and hospitality venues looking at the option to ensure patrons can return in 2022.
“The federal government can’t legislate that. We don’t have the powers to do that,” Prime Minister Morrison told 4BC radio, noting that health was managed by the state governments.
“So, if venues want to do that, my advice is then they will need the backing of state public health orders to achieve that, to make those sorts of things mandatory. That’s my advice,” he added. “They’re issues that those venues and other things will have to work through with state governments. So, ultimately, that’ll be a decision for them.”
The prime minister said once the country reached Phase B of its vaccination roadmap, there would be a “keen interest” in providing exemptions for vaccinated Australians.
Australia will reach Phase B once 70 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.
“I mean, it’s got nothing to do with politics, or liberty or anything like that. It’s simple,” the prime minister said.
“If you’re vaccinated, you’re less likely to get it, you’re less likely to transmit it, you’re less likely to get a serious disease, and you’re less likely to die. So, you are less of a public health risk if you’re vaccinated than otherwise,” he said. “And, if we want to protect the health of people in whatever state around the country, then, you know, if you’re vaccinated, well, that is a way of protecting people’s health,”
“If you’re not vaccinated, then you’re at greater risk. And, as a result, if you’re not having the vaccination, then clearly state governments are going to have to take decisions to protect people in those circumstances because they’re basically unprotected.”
Morrison’s comments followed that of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who said business owners should have the right to reject patrons who are unvaccinated.
“If you want to come into my barbershop, or my childcare facility… then I have a right to say, maybe, ‘Have you been inoculated?’” he told Sky News Australia. “And if you say you haven’t, I have got a right as the owner of the shop to say I can’t have you sitting in a seat next to someone who has.”
Morrison noted that state laws would be needed so business owners could avoid running afoul of anti-discrimination laws.
New South Wales (NSW) Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that she would not be considering vaccination “privileges” immediately because vaccines were still not readily available.
Tony Shepherd, chairman of Venues NSW, said major sporting bodies in the state were already putting together proposals on vaccine passports that would be submitted to the government in the coming weeks.
“The rollout has been slow, so this can’t be introduced until everyone has had a fair opportunity to be vaccinated,” Shepherd told the Daily Telegraph.
“However, it’s then a case of, if you haven’t been vaccinated, you can’t come,” he added. “If you choose not to have the jab, that is your civil right in a free country, but the Delta strain is extremely transmissible, and we need to do something to reopen our stadiums.”
Vaccine passports and mandates have been controversial, sparking major protests in France.