Unvaccinated members of Western Australia’s (WA) Police force have narrowly avoided disciplinary action with a court hearing forcing the state’s police commissioner to temporarily halt the dismissal of unvaccinated WA police officers and staff.
One member of the state’s solicitor’s office was also required to leave the courtroom to call police management and halt the sacking of an unvaccinated staff member who was in the middle of being fired the same day, on Dec. 16.
The supreme court hearing was the first step in legal action taken by WA cops headed by Senior Constable Ben Falconer against the state, its chief health officer, and Police Commissioner Chris Dawson over the vaccination mandates.
Jordan McDonald, a former police officer who has left the WA police force over the state’s vaccination mandates, expressed concerns that Dawson had unfairly fought to punish unvaccinated staff.
In particular, McDonald claimed Dawson’s recent appointment as the state’s Vaccine Commander meant his responsibility to ramp up vaccination rates conflicted with his treatment of unvaccinated police staff.
“He’s the boss of all police employees, yet he’s also now a vaccine commander dealing with the logistics and uptake of the vaccine. So there’s a clear conflict of interest there,” McDonald told The Epoch Times.
Despite the ongoing legal process, Dawson initially sought to continue the dismissal of unvaccinated staff which had begun on Dec. 1, prompting Falconer to launch an injunction that temporarily succeeded in delaying the lay off of staff.
Dawson and the chief health officer also announced they would be lodging their own applications to strike out both proceedings as having no legal substance—which included the initial action against the mandate, and the injunction requesting the state hold off on firing staff.
“The state solicitors, through his direction, have said that they will vigorously challenge and oppose the injunction. Now, the only reason you would do that is if you wanted to proceed with the disciplinary matters,” McDonald said.
“The commissioner, through the state solicitor’s office, is being overtly relentless and ruthless with wanting to proceed with sacking all unvaccinated staff. He wants all unvaccinated staff to be fired before the new year starts, and he doesn’t hide that fact.”
WA Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The next court date on Dec. 23 will address the injunction and could, depending on the outcome, see police staff unable to be fired until at least April 2022, when the final hearing for the original court action will take place.
While the initial proceedings were initially directed only against the state and its chief health officer, Dawson was added to the list after Falconer posited that the vaccination directives for police were more far reaching than those issued by the chief health officer.
Specifically, it was argued that the health orders only prohibited police officers and staff from attending a WA Police facility without being vaccinated, but which should have allowed staff to continue working if they were able to find other arrangements, such as working from home.
It is understood that a verdict in favour of the unvaccinated police on Dec. 23 would be a watershed moment for other workers launching similar legal proceedings—such as health and mining—who could see their own staff protected from dismissal until the final April hearing.
This comes following the WA Labor government’s decision to enact stringent vaccination requirements for 75 percent of the state’s workforce—over a million workers—for health, mining, police, and other industries required to choose between jab or job.
But the mandates have been met with resistance, with West Australians coming out to protest 16 times since the start of October.
The state’s peak industry body revealed last month that an estimated 71,000 staff, or 4.8 percent of the workforce, had yet to receive a first dose. Of this, 39,000 are required to do so by February 2022, with non-compliance estimated to cost the state’s economy $2.9 billion (US$2.1 billion).
The state government had also announced it would ease border restrictions for vaccinated residents from Feb. 5, 2022, but would implement stricter vaccination passports for less vaccinated regions.