Sky News with Peter Stefanovic
Subjects: lockdown in NSW, employer vaccination requirements
PETER STEFANOVIC: Joining me now is Senator Amanda Stoker, Assistant Minister to the Attorney and Assistant Minister for IR. Senator good to see you, thanks for your time this morning. No jab, no job – do you agree?
AMANDA STOKER: The idea that the individual should be able to choose what they want to do with their own body is a fundamental liberal value and that’s why we have never said vaccination will be mandatory. It has always been the case that we strongly encourage people to make this choice but make it for themselves with the advice of their doctor, making a decision about what suits both their physical condition and pre-existing illnesses they may have, and their conscience position, but it should always be voluntary. That is something we deeply believe in and it’s worth noting that that is a principle that has permeated Commonwealth policy from the start-
PETER STEFANOVIC: Yeah.
AMANDA STOKER: -to the extent that if there has been any compulsion, it’s been the product of the state governments’ public health orders, never anything from the Commonwealth level.
PETER STEFANOVIC: But you’re encouraging and we’re all demanding that people go and get the jab in the first place, so what’s the difference?
AMANDA STOKER: There’s significant difference. It needs to be the case that people who, for whatever reason, find the vaccine is not for them have the right to decide what they do and don’t do with their bodies. But the evidence is also clear that the best weapon we have to protect yourself, to protect your family and to protect your community from this illness is vaccination. And so if there is any silver lining from this period of hardship from lockdowns, it’s that Australians have come to realise in more numbers than ever before that vaccination is something they need to do, it’s the path out of this difficulty and that means we now have 1.3 million doses of vaccines being administered every week. Now more than 14 million Australians have had at least one dose so we are on a path to getting Australia ready to open up once more. Not immediately, it’ll take some time to get to where we need to be and I don’t underestimate the hardship that comes with that but vaccination is the way out so the strongest of encouragement should be given to everybody to take this step for themselves and for their communities, but we can’t force people and we shouldn’t.
PETER STEFANOVIC: But is it a business’s right to be able to demand that of its staff?
AMANDA STOKER: I don’t think so. The circumstances where there has been an exception made by state governments is where there is a public health order over that workplace and so it covers things like hospitals for instance. You can understand at a philosophical level why that might need to be different. But in general it needs to be the case that people are making a decision for themselves. I mean we have the tool in our hands here. A person who is concerned about their risk of contracting the virus has a tool with which to protect themselves; and it’s the vaccine. The people who don’t think that that’s for them, who are prepared to take the risk, are doing so on an eyes open basis -
PETER STEFANOVIC: Yep.
AMANDA STOKER: - and that is, I think, the appropriate way for individual adults, who may at times think differently on this stuff, to be able to coexist and work together.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Does a decision or clearer messaging need to be made though from the government? Because at the moment a business such as SPC might mandate vaccinations for its staff members but then, for whatever reason, it can lead into the courts and then you’ve got this standoff which becomes very expensive. That’s how things are at the moment. So does there need to be clearer messaging, or at least a decision made so everyone’s on the same page?
AMANDA STOKER: Well let me be perfectly clear for anybody who’s in doubt. This should be voluntary. The individual has the right to choose what works for them. An employer can encourage, an employer can – if they want to – provide an incentive to people to make this call, if it’s in their interests. But forcing someone is a different thing altogether and I think that is a clear message.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Yep. I mean, I think, we're talking about a minority of people here anyway if we start getting to 70, 80 per cent of vaccinations?
AMANDA STOKER: If we start hitting the vaccination targets that we really do think are achievable then the risk that exists to the small number of people who have a health reason not to be vaccinated or a conscientious reason not to be vaccinated, will be low anyway. But to get to that point where the people who have a special sensitivity are able to be in our community safely, everybody who is able, everybody who can, needs to step up and get the jab. Last week, I got myself the AstraZeneca jab. I was able to get it the day I went to go and get it. There was no waiting. And I’m under 40. I’m fit and well, and it was not a problem at all. There is vaccination available for every Australian who wants it. And, as I say, the only upside I can see from the difficulties of this period, is that people are understanding just how important this is. And while we’re going through a hard time right now – and I don’t discount that for a moment – we are, as a nation, better placed than anywhere else in the world at this point in time. We’ve had fewer fatalities, we have had, in general, better health in our community, we have a stronger economy and we have more people in work. We’re not through it all yet, but there’s nowhere else you would want to be in the world than Australian, in terms of the way we’ve been able to get through this as a community, and I’m optimistic we’ll keep doing that.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Amanda Stoker, thank you.