Mandatory vaccinations without making vaccinations mandatory

In a little over a month, the Australian conversation about mandatory vaccinations at work has changed dramatically. In early August, food processing company SPC was treated suspiciously over its requirements for its workers, customers, and contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Recently, the New South Wales Premier, Glady Berejiklian, required vaccinations for workers to move outside of certain residential locations. And today, the Victorian Health Minister, Martin Foley, has all but made vaccinations mandatory for the construction industry.

As Berejiklian has shown, you don’t need to impose mandatory vaccinations to make vaccinations mandatory.

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Best Practice? Gold Standard? let’s call the whole thing off

Australians are starting to understand that having something described as “gold standard” – most recently in relation to the contact tracing services of New South Wales – is as helpful as describing occupational health and safety (OHS) laws and systems as “best practice”. These phrases are optimistic bullshit and politically fraught. The fragility of these phrases has been revealed in events as far apart as the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-21 and the Esso Longford Royal Commission of 1999. Consider this paragraph from the Esso Longford Royal Commission report and its pertinence to NSW’s contract tracing:

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Seeking accountability in a pandemic

The Australian newspaper’s Robert Gottliebsen continues to bash the Victorian Premier and WorkSafe Victoria over the outbreak of COVID19 that originated from workers in the Hotel Quarantine Scheme. He insists that the government has occupational health and safety (OHS) responsibilities for the workers in the hotels, especially the security guards through which transmission to the community occurred. His arguments are logical, but what he is really searching for is accountability and, perhaps, in a global pandemic, there is none.

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Young worker’s death increases OHS pressure on State and Federal governments

This week an 18-year-old construction worker died in a scaffold collapse on a New South Wales construction site. The occupational health and safety (OHS) regulator has instigated an investigation into Christopher Cassaniti’s death and the serious injury of a work colleague in the same incident, as well as an inspection of scaffolding throughout the State.

An excellent podcast on the incident and the OHS context is available at Triple J’s Hack podcast.

In May 2019 Australia has a general election and, following yesterday’s Budget announcement, Australian politicians are in campaign mode. That might seem irrelevant to the workplace death of a young man but the Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Brendan O’Connor, was interviewed the day after Cassaniti’s death by Triple J’s Hack program. The discussion eventually reached Industrial Manslaughter laws.

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