Australian State Defending Third ‘Wave’ of Lawsuits Against COVID-19 Restrictions

By Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
September 17, 2021 Updated: September 21, 2021

Updated: This article has been updated to include the latest GoFundMe figures.

New South Wales is defending a third tranche of lawsuits challenging the state government’s response to COVID-19, including vaccine mandates and health restrictions.

On Sept. 17, the NSW Supreme Court heard from the state health minister’s lawyer Daniel Reynolds that it was facing a new civil suit launched by John Larter, veteran paramedic, and deputy mayor of the Snowy Valleys Council.

Larter is challenging a public health order mandating that health workers in the state receive the first dose of the vaccine by Sept. 30, and the second dose by Nov. 30.

He launched an online fundraiser to cover his legal costs, which has raised $104,228 as of Sept. 21.

“I am fighting for this as I strongly believe no person should be discriminated against due to their medical status, and under no circumstances should they be excluded from the workplace due to that medical status,” his GoFundMe page stated.

He has received support from NSW state MPs Tanya Davies and Mark Latham.

Reynolds said this was the third wave of lawsuits facing NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard, including a summons from another plaintiff, Ibrahim Can, who is seeking a declaration that public health orders be deemed invalid.

“The demand of the other litigation is already placing quite significant strain on the key witnesses who will be giving evidence in this matter, whose job it is to manage the public health response to the pandemic,” Reynolds told the court.

He also questioned why Larter did not launch the action when the vaccine mandate was announced four weeks ago.

“We don’t understand why they couldn’t have been brought much earlier and, in that regard, this is now the third wave of litigation,” Reynolds said.

The first tranche of lawsuits was brought against the health minister and relevant government departments two weeks ago in the Federal Court of Australia by religious leaders seeking exemptions from health restrictions around places of worship.

The action was dismissed.

The second wave saw four legal actions launched involving a teacher, aged care worker, Sergey Naumenko (seeking a list of orders including an exemption from “microchipping”), and Belinda Hocroft—a mounted unit police officer.

Hocroft originally sought to overturn an order preventing her from working outside her local government area (LGA) until she had received one dose of the vaccine.

The restriction was applied to LGAs deemed to be hotspots during Greater Sydney’s current outbreak of the Delta variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.

The senior constable withdrew her lawsuit by consent this week, the court heard.

The remaining three matters will be heard during a three-day hearing beginning Sept. 30, with nine expert witnesses and a dozen lay witnesses to be called.

Regarding Larter, the presiding Justice Robert Beech-Jones ordered him to file an amended summons and witness evidence next week before the matter returned to court on Sept. 28.