Victoria has become the first Australian state to require all MPs to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be barred from parliament.
The Victorian parliament’s Upper House last night voted to pass a bill requiring MPs and their staff to show proof of their vaccination status or be excluded from the building.
That move came as the deadline for Victoria’s essential workers to receive at least one COVID-19 dose passed last night.
About a million workers from dozens of industries will now have to show proof they have had one dose of vaccine or have an appointment booked before October 22, unless they have a medical exemption.
The bill was introduced in the Upper House by Emergency Services Minister Jaclyn Symes.
“It fundamentally is about ensuring that members of parliament are treated no differently to other Victorian authorised workers,” Ms Symes said.
Four members voted against the bill, including Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MP Jeff Bourman, Liberal Democrat MPs David Limbrick and Tim Quilty, and independent MP Catherine Cumming.
During debate on the bill, Ms Cumming accused the government of using the mandate to silence members who might oppose the extension of emergency powers during the pandemic.
“This seems to be a blatant attempt to make it easier for the government to get this legislation passed, and I know so,” she said.
Ms Cumming proposed an amendment that would allow MPs to enter the parliament building if they passed a rapid antigen test, but the amendment was rejected.
Several Liberal MPs speak against vaccine mandate
Despite the motion being supported by the Coalition, several Liberal MPs spoke against it in the Upper House before then voting for it.
Liberal MP Bernie Finn abstained from the vote.
“I do not believe that there should be any mandate of the vaccination at all,” Mr Finn said.
“I believe that that is a breach of human rights. I believe that that is something that we as a parliament should not be condoning.”
The veteran anti-abortion campaigner said everyone had “the right to decide what they put into their bodies and as adults we all make our own medical choices”.
“I am against creating a separated society — the vaccinated and the unvaccinated,” he told the parliament.
“I do not ask other people their vaccination status, and I do not want anyone asking me my vaccination status, because I will treat everyone the same, vaccinated or unvaccinated. I will not treat you like a social leper.”
His Liberal colleague Gordon Rich-Phillips called it a “very troubling motion”.
“That is why this motion is not about us, not about the 40 of us in here and not about whether we are vaccinated or not. It is actually about the institution of parliament and what this means for the future of this institution, because this motion — and it will pass — will set a dangerous precedent,” he said.
The bill earlier passed the Lower House, with Liberal MP Neil Angus the only member to vote against it.