This week, former Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, in the jargon of the media, sat down with Sky News journalist, Sharri Markson. Though the interview covered a range of subjects, there was only one area that interested me: vaccine mandates.
In the interview, Morrison asserted that he and his Government never supported widespread vaccine mandates. Neither, he said, did National Cabinet’s expert advisory panel – the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, (which is the standing committee of all State and Territory Chief Health Officers, with the Australian CMO as Chair). In fact, apart from “aged care and sensitive health settings,” which were mandated by the Commonwealth, Morrison claimed that it was the State Governments who forced vaccine mandates on to Australians.
To say I was gobsmacked, would be an understatement. Over the last twelve months, I have written a number of posts for New Cat on the subject of the vaccine mandates and the role that Scott Morrison had in forcing Australian citizens to take a Covid-19 jab. My motivation for this interest? Simply, that I was appalled that a supposed free country with a representative democracy and a right-of-centre government could mandate away the rights of citizens to their bodily integrity and their rights under the law. So, can Scott Morrison’s assertion to Sharri Markson that the States were responsible for vaccine mandates and not the Commonwealth, stand up to scrutiny? I submit the following:
1) In February 2022, Alex Hawke, the then Immigration Minister in the Coalition Government, sought in the Federal Court the deportation from Australia of the Serbian tennis star and Australian Open champion, Novak Djokovic, because he was not vaccinated.
In a post titled “Scott Morrison’s Fig Leaf” on New Cat dated 16/2/22, I wrote:
‘[T]he reasoning that the Minister is relying on to remove Djokovic from Australia is that he could be a bad influence on the nation by encouraging Australians not to be vaccinated or continue with their vaccination programs, or by encouraging the risk of public dissent among so-called “anti-vaxxers.”
…the Minister considers that a heterodox view of the Government’s vaccine policy and creating the possibility of personal decision-making on whether to have a vaccine could give succour to those in the Australian community who possibly share this non-government view…the Novak Djokovic migration case has shown that Scott Morrison and the Coalition Government is fully committed to all the draconian controls that the State Premiers have used to force up vaccination rates, which is why he has not once condemned any of the controls that the Premiers have used on Australians. The Novak Djokovic case has shown that under Scott Morrison Australia does in fact have mandatory vaccination.”
Alex Hawke’s pursuit of Novak Djokovic in the Federal Court because he was unvaccinated does not support Scott Morrison’s current contention.
2) The Vaccine Mandate:
Without the Federal Government facilitating the release of citizens’ private medical information in the form of their personal immunisation records, (known as Vaccination Certificates), there could have been no vaccine mandate. Had the Commonwealth refused to enable the release of citizens’ highly personal and private medical information, no entity, be that the States, employers, and any other organisation, would have been able to obtain this information without breaking privacy laws. The result of which would be that there could be no mandatory vaccination of the country.
But because vaccination status became the authority to go to work, earn a living and seek all manner of services, it was self-evident that Australian citizens would organise the release of their private, medical data. Having to provide private information to just exist in Australia in 2021-2022 was the reason that vaccination rates were reported to have reached 95 per cent – a much higher percentage than the 80 percent the Doherty Institute had modelled to combat Covid-19. Hence, vaccination certificates became the mechanism to make vaccination mandatory. The Federal Government, not the States, created vaccination certificates and the mechanism to release them to third parties.
The creation and release of Vaccination Certificates – even when the individual himself/herself downloaded that information because of necessity – does not support Scott Morrison’s claims.
3) “Business has the right to refuse service under property laws,” says Scott Morrison.
When Sky News‘ Andrew Clennell asked Scott Morrison in mid 2021 whether the government would introduce legislation into the parliament to enforce mandates, the Prime Minister replied that new legislation was not needed because, under property laws, business had the right to refuse service.
Morrison repeated those assertions on 2GB in August, 2021, with The Guardian reporting that the Prime Minister has ‘…backed the use of a QR code-style vaccination pass that would verify a person’s vaccination status using information from the Australian Immunisation Register. “[A]sk[ing] for that [proof of vaccination], that’s a legitimate thing for them to do…The sheer fact of it is, if you’re not vaccinated, you represent a greater public health risk to yourself, to your family, to your community and others about you, so it’s only sensible that people will do sensible things to protect their public health,” said Morrison.‘
The message was that business could enforce mandates – and be on a good legal footing to do so – simply by using current property laws. In pointing to current laws to remove unvaccinated people from business premises, Morrison addressed for business the mechanism of control of the unvaccinated while the states provided the rules of enforcement. Thus when the States announced that business would be breaking state Covid rules if unvaccinated people – including their own employees – were located on business premises, and could be fined by the police, the circle was complete.
4) In July of 2021, the Prime Minister announced a four-stage plan to re-open the nation.
Yahoo news reported (30/7/21) that, the Prime Minister announcing that he and the “National Cabinet” had ‘”…agreed in principle the plan that will get us there and the targets that will get us there.” Moving through the stages “freedom” is dependent on how many vaccine doses are administered throughout the country, [and] “States and territories move into the next phase when one, the national average for the vaccination program as a percentage of eligible adults is achieved nationally and then that state itself has achieved the vaccination threshold in their own state.”
‘…Australia is currently in phase A. To get to phase B, 70 per cent of Australians who are eligible for a dose of a vaccine must be vaccinated. The prime minister said in phase B, lockdown will be “less likely” but still a possibility…Once Australia’s average and a state or territory’s vaccination rate is above 80 per cent, phase C will roll out. “In this phase, the measures may include maximising the vaccination coverage…” Mr Morrison said.’
By agreeing to a four stage process and requiring that the next stage would not commence until the previous stage has been met, Morrison was effectively forcing Australians to acquiesce to vaccination. For without it, the implication was that Australians’ right to work, run their businesses, see their families and do everything else free people do, would be delayed/denied.
In pointing out that phase C may include measures to maximise above 80 per cent coverage Morrison is effectively signalling that the Government would be moving to a mandatory environment – this is the moment when the Premiers began threatening those who would not get vaccinated would lose their rights. Historical vaccination coverage has seldom if ever reached beyond the 80 per cent level of coverage – see the Doherty modelling – but the Prime Minister was musing on a higher number than was realistic when health decisions are left up to the individual and their own doctor.
5) The Prime Minister’s Mea Culpa?, New Cat post dated February 5, 2022.
In his National Press Club address a few months out from the 2022 general election, Scott Morrison attempted to justify his actions and that of his government over the previous two years. This was the period when the two-jab vaccination rates were reported to have reached 95 per cent of eligible citizens in December, 2021. At that time, vaccine mandates had been in force for a number of months. I wrote:
‘While referring to the up-ending of lives and livelihoods…Primarily, the decisions made, he said, were about “…getting the balance right [between the] twin goals to save lives and to save livelihoods, [and to] balance health objectives with our broader societal and economic wellbeing.” What seemed the only concession was that “decisions are made in real time but with hindsight the view does change.”
For when it came to the most onerous and controlling aspects of that governmental response to the pandemic – the role of the states in locking down and denying the right to work for whole sectors of the community, sometimes for months; mandating vaccinations for everyone and moving to segregate the vaccinated from the unvaccinated, physically and psychologically harming their own residents – areas where lessons should have been learnt and acknowledged, or never have been countenanced let alone undertaken in a liberal democracy – that mea culpa was absent.
Justification instead was the order of the day with Morrison further stating: “The pandemic did not suspend the constitution or the federation. It did not change what the States and the Commonwealth have always been responsible for: they didn’t get any more powers they didn’t get any less; and I have always sought to put the national interest first by seeking to work together with the Premiers and the Chief Ministers through the National Cabinet and not engage in petty fights…my job was keep everybody together in the room working together…and I have sought to work together…”’
I would assert that Morrison’s statement at his National Press Club address, that he did work together with the Premiers is a fact. Unfortunately, it was the citizens of this nation that bore the brunt of this “unholy” tag team.
6) Simon Benson’s and Geoff Chambers’ book – Plagued.
Benson’s and Chambers’ book undermine Morrison’s claim at the National Press Club in February, 2022, that the constitutional power balance between the Commonwealth and the States constrained him and the Federal Government. Plagued, revealed that Scott Morrison had himself secretly sworn into multiple portfolios, starting with the Health portfolio.
In my New Cat post – “The Fixer” – dated August, 16, 2022, I quoted directly from Plagued about how the powers in s475 of the Biosecurity Act, once invoked, conferred ultimate and complete control of the country on the Federal Health Minister:
‘A declaration under section 475 gave Hunt as health minister exclusive and extraordinary powers. He, and only he, could personally make directives that overrode any other law and were not disallowable by parliament. He had authority to direct any citizen in the country to do something, or not do something, to prevent spread of the disease. Morrison knew that if he asked the Governor-General to invoke section 475, he effectively would be handing Hunt control of the country. If they were going to use them, Morrison wanted protocols set up as well as a formal process to impose constraints. The protocols required the minister to provide written medical advice and advance notice of his intentions to the national security cabinet.
invok[ing] section 475, he effectively would be handing Hunt control of the country. If they were going to use them, Morrison wanted protocols set up as well as a formal process to impose constraints. The protocols required the minister to provide written medical advice and advance notice of his intentions to the national security cabinet…‘
Surely, Morrison’s concern at the unfettered power that the Health Minister would wield to direct anything to be done, or not be done, during a pandemic when s475 was invoked, does not support the idea, now pedalled by him, that it was the States that were the actual force behind the vaccine mandates, and not the Commonwealth? For with s475’s unfettered power there would have been no need to seek support from, or be stymied by, the Premiers, as was the case when the W.A. Premier Mark McGowan delayed removing the State’s border controls in February, 2022.
7) Operation COVID SHIELD – National COVID Vaccine Campaign Plan
published 3 August 2021.
Because of the political backlash from the Opposition and the media as a result of the delays to the vaccine rollout and the reliance on lockdowns, in mid 2021 Scott Morrison announced a new plan to get jabs in arms with LtGen John Frewen – a military man – in charge.
In the forward to the Campaign Plan, LtGen Frewen writes:
‘The goal of the Taskforce is to ensure as many Australians are vaccinated as early as possible and this Campaign Plan shows how vaccines will be made available to all eligible people in Australia by the end of this year…This plan establishes the framework to enable the States and Territories the flexibility to execute their vaccination programs based on their own unique environments and priorities. Fundamental to the plan is ensuring the motivation of all people in Australia to receive the vaccine as soon as they are eligible.’
At page 18 of the Plan is this assertion:
‘This Plan flags not only the requirement to accelerate the Nation’s vaccine rollout, but also highlights the need for an unprecedented level of collaboration across boundaries, using all available resources of Governments at every level, industry partners and our diverse communities to ensure our collective health and prosperity.
This vision will have been realised when the vaccination targets which will be set out in the National Plan to Transition Australia’s National COVID Response have been achieved.‘
The best way to motivate another person is to use a carrot and stick approach. In this case, the focus was on a return to “freedoms” if you got vaccinated, which was combined with admonishments that the unvaccinated would have no rights, a refrain that was repeated over and over again once vaccination rates started to rise. So, freedom on one hand vs ongoing controls on the other.
That the campaign plan – Scott Morrison’s own plan – could highlight that to achieve its goals vaccination targets would need to be met, raises the question of how, in a liberal democracy would this occur without the use of coercion in the form of a mandate?
Yes, it’s true that the state premiers zealously pursued vaccination of their residents. But the tools the premiers used the Prime Minister provided. Immunisation data, purchase and supply of vaccines, and the full financial backing of the roll-out, the PCR testing and the job keeper payments, were all in the control of the Commonwealth, not the states. Consequently, Daniel Andrews was able to declare that, post pandemic, we would be living in a vaccinated economy and be backed by Scott Morrison, who said at one point that Andrews had his full support. In the case of NSW, the former premier, Gladys Berejiklian, advised her state that the unvaccinated would have no rights.
As to the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee – the committee of the federal, state and territories CMO/CHOs – and Morrison’s claim to Markson that the AHPPC did not support widespread vaccine mandates. Are we to believe that mandatory vaccination was without sponsors at the highest levels of Australia’s medical bureaucracy yet still became the country’s reality? How can it be that from the National Cabinet, which drew its expert advice from this cadre of health officials, the Federal Government continued to facilitate and fund this huge logistical, financial and medical behemoth while the state premiers continued to medically assault their own residents, and yet none of this was supported by the medical bureaucrats?
In the UK the release over the last few days of the former Secretary of Health, Matt Hancock’s WhatsApp messages, has revealed that many of the most onerous decisions that the UK Government made throughout the pandemic had little if any health reasoning behind them. From what has been reported from the leaking of these messages is that most(?)/all(?) of the decisions were designed to increase the standing with the British people of Matt Hancock as the relevant secretary and the UK government using scare tactics.
Now we have our former Prime Minister casually advising the Australian people on Markson’s show that vaccine mandates was never his “thing!” Given that almost every western country, including Australia, followed almost the same play book throughout the pandemic as what happened in the UK, questions need to be answered if citizens are to ever have faith in their leaders and the medical fraternity again.
Politicians like Scott Morrison, who think they can re-write what they did and were responsible for during the pandemic make a Royal Commission into the Governmental Response to Covid-19 an imperative.
Please let it come sooner than later.