A group of anti-mandate protesters in Darwin have launched legal action in the Supreme Court against the current government directive, which requires the vast majority of Territorians to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or lose their jobs.
The action comes on the back of a Territory-wide vaccine mandate that went into effect in November and requires that any worker who comes into contact with members of the public in the course of their work had to receive their first COVID-19 jab by Nov. 12, with the second dose required by Dec. 24.
Failure to comply with this health order means loss of employment and those who continue to work unvaccinated face a $5,000 fine.
According to an NT news report on Thursday, lead plaintiff, United NT Businesses president Mario Tsirvas, cited increasing mental health issues and stress among the impacts the mandate is having on local businesses and families.
He also said that suspending normal democratic processes has egged on a government that is “high on their power trip and forcing draconian, unreasonable laws on everyday people,”
“We are reasonable, everyday people who have seen what’s happening and have said this is too much and too far.”
Tsirvas made it clear that his group was strongly opposed to the vaccine mandate, but they were not anti-vaxxers.
“I’m not opposed to any vaccine, I’m not opposed to anyone who disagrees with vaccines, what we are here (to do) today is to fight against the mandatory vaccinations,” he said.
This comes after Chief Minister Michael Gunner recently said publically that “If you are anti-mandate, then you are absolutely anti-vax.”
The NT government has continually stressed that the mandate is to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 outbreaks and protect vulnerable people.
Tsirvas said that his group were not in court to name call or denigrate any members of society but rather stand up for the rights of everyone.
The group’s lawyer, Danial Kelly, said the main argument they were putting forward is that Chief Health Officer, Hugh Heggie, went beyond his legislated emergency powers in the issue of this directive.
“(The directions) purport to regulate work, workers, workplaces, and that’s beyond the power that he’s been given under the parent act,” he said.
Kelly also said further grounds for the legal action is that the health directive is “racist”.
“Make no mistake, the directions are racist, they deem all Aboriginal people to be vulnerable, and that’s simply not the case,” he said.
This comes in response to the directive’s “Category 1” workers who must be vaccinated, which says:
“A worker who is likely to come into contact with people who are at risk of severe illness from COVID, including Aboriginal people and people who cannot be vaccinated due to age or a contraindication to all vaccines.”
When asked at a press conference on Thursday about the legal action being against the NT Government, Minister Gunner replied: “We were expecting that.”
Benjamin William Christie, 31, and Kayne Mitchell Cooper, 20, are among a group of 12 protesters who allegedly participated in an anti-vaccine mandate march on Dec.6, where rocks, chemicals, and punches were thrown at police officers.
Both men were charged with taking part in a riot and contravention of an emergency declaration, while Christie faced an additional charge of hindering a member of the police.
Both were granted bail, with Christie set to reappear on Jan. 20 and Cooper on Jan. 27.