Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that the Coalition government does not support vaccination mandates used by the Australian state governments to incentivise the uptake of the COVID-19 inoculations.
The statement came while he was touring the Tooheys brewery in Sydney on Thursday.
He had been speaking about the anti-vaccine-mandate protests in Melbourne, stressing the importance of civil behaviour no matter how frustrated people might be, but then turned the focus to why they might feel that way.
“Of course, there are many people who are feeling frustrated,” he said. “I mean, over the last couple of years governments have been telling Australians what to do. Now there’s been a need for that as we’ve gone through the pandemic, but the time is now to start rolling all of that back.”
This comes on the back of vaccine mandates around the country that have forced many Australians to get vaccinated or lose their jobs. The mandates have also prevented unvaccinated people from entering all but essential stores and premises.
Morrison praised Australians for reaching the 80 percent mark for double-dose vaccination, highlighting the fact that Australia has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world and one of the lowest fatality rates from COVID-19 in the world.
For those reasons, he said it is time for governments to step back and for Australians to take their lives back, allowing them the freedoms that should be theirs.
The government’s position on mandatory vaccines is in “very specific circumstances,” he stressed.
“We’re not in favour of mandatory vaccines imposed by the government. Businesses can make their own choices under the law, but we’re not about telling them what to do or telling Australians what to do.”
Morrison has previously stated that mandatory vaccinations should only apply in environments where health workers work with vulnerable people.
“They (Australians) should be able to get a cup of coffee in Brisbane when you’re over 80 percent regardless of whether you’ve had the vaccines or not,” he said.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton supported the Prime Minister’s stance, emphasising that there are only a small number of people who have declined the jab, and they should be allowed to take part in society.
“You cannot segregate a part of the community even if you disagree with the decision they’ve made,” he told 9 News on Friday.
However, there has been considerable backlash to the prime minister’s comments.
Queensland (QLD) Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said it is extremely disappointing that the prime minister is “seeking now to undermine Queensland’s strong vaccination program.” While Western Australia (WA) Premier Mark Mcgowan said there should be no “walking on both sides of the fence,” 9 News reported.
Additionally, the federal opposition deputy leader Richard Marles accused Morrison of picking a fight with Labor premiers, adding that what he said undermines the vaccine rollout in both WA and QLD.
He emphasised that it’s the states that have done the heavy lifting in terms of keeping their states safe and that the rules imposed have been necessary.
“Those rules have been a really important part of getting us to where we are today,” he said.
New South Wales, Victoria, and the Australian Capital Territory have all passed the 80 percent double-dose milestone, whereas the other states and territory are between 70 and 80 percent fully-vaccinated.