As businesses grapple with the crippling effects of lockdown, politicians and retailers have added to the ongoing discussion over additional freedoms for those who are vaccinated against COVID-19.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in an interview with radio station 2GB that businesses “under property law” have the right to say “no, you can’t come in” to unvaccinated people and “that’s a legitimate thing for them to do”.
“They are doing that to protect their own workers. To protect their other clients,” he said.
His comments come at the same time as NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian indicated in her press conference yesterday (Thursday) that once the state reaches 70% double vaccination, some restrictions will be lifted for the vaccinated. Already, a few additional freedoms will be allowed for fully vaccinated adults in the state from 13 September — for example, five people will be allowed to meet outdoors in LGAs not of concern, as long as all adults are vaccinated. The Premier also said that work has begun on an app that will allow sign-in and proof of vaccination all in one.
Federal cabinet is also meeting today (Friday) to again discuss its COVID response and vaccination strategy.
Retailers say staff vaccination is the answer
Meanwhile, a national survey of more than 250 members of the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) shows 67% believe COVID-19 vaccines should be mandatory for frontline retail staff (except government-approved exemptions), but 76% would not mandate the vaccine in the current environment while there are legal ambiguities. There’s strong support for retail workers to be prioritised for vaccines, with 83% in favour, while 82% of ARA members support a vaccine passport system.
“Retail workers are at the coalface of the crisis and deserve prioritisation and protection. However, the issue of mandatory vaccinations for certain workforce cohorts is complex. Unfortunately, the federal government has left this decision in the hands of employers, and this comes with great risk,” said ARA CEO Paul Zahra.
However, retailers are more hesitant about vaccine passports being used as a condition of entry — only 57% are in support. The ARA believes vaccine passports are not appropriate for general retail, where they would interfere with Australians’ rights to access basic living essentials and also called them a “legally challenged area”.
“The resources required to introduce store checking requirements and respond to customer enquiries and potential customer abuse resulting from the introduction of this measure adds a layer of distress to a retail workforce which is already struggling under the burden of COVID compliance demands,” Mr Zahra said.
Denying entry to unvaccinated people is a fraught area, with the Human Rights Commission previously saying that if there is no law requiring vaccination, “providers should be cautious about imposing a blanket rule requiring vaccination as a condition of entry”.
“Our greatest current priority is giving Australians and the retail workforce access to vaccinations. Only then can we see a staged reopening of society as vaccination rates improve so these businesses can thrive once again,” Mr Zahra said.