A principled stand or misguided posturing? ‘No jab, no job’ poses tough questions

Ian Bushnell 26 October 2021 85
Rob Kans

Charnwood-Dunlop School principal Rob Lans appears in the video alongside One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts. Image: Screenshot.

An ACT school principal’s stand against mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 for school staff has thrown the spotlight on the growing number of ‘no jab, no job’ orders across the public and private sectors.

Charnwood-Dunlop School principal Rob Lans appeared with One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts in a video posted on an anti-vaccination Facebook page.

Mr Lans spoke out against the public health order, saying it was coercive and violated his right to choose whether he is vaccinated or not.

The Education Directorate has since told parents that Mr Lans won’t be returning to school this week but “will be taking some time out of the workplace”.

READ MORE: ACT public school principal attacks vaccine mandate alongside One Nation senator

While Mr Lans may have been unwise to connect himself with One Nation and the fringe anti-vaxxer group that hosted the video, his situation should concern anyone who professes to uphold civil liberties and human rights.

Vaccination is a medical intervention that, like most of them, is not risk-free, but comes down to a balance of risks and benefits. There are adverse events. It just comes down to whether the overall benefits outweigh them.

In the case of COVID-19, it is clear that without a defined treatment for the virus, vaccines are the best bet to control the pandemic and break the chain of debilitating lockdowns and social restrictions that have crippled societies and their economies across the world.

The death toll, ongoing illness and economic cost make for a compelling argument for vaccination, and it is understandable governments and businesses want to limit the risk of more damage.

In the ACT, the government understandably wants to protect higher-risk categories, such as children under 12 who cannot yet be vaccinated.

This risk management is colliding with the minority of people who feel they should have the right to take their chances and manage their own health.

It is an extension of the ‘no jab, no play’ controversy that embroiled child care settings, but on a broader scale.

Some governments have also adopted the requirements for vaccine passports or certificates to move freely about or receive services, something Chief Minister Andrew Barr has fiercely resisted.

He argues that it is too big a step to take to limit a person’s human rights, raises too many legal and compliance questions and that such actions have the potential to become permanent.

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The same could be said of vaccine mandates, although at least in the ACT, there appears to be leeway for exemptions or redeployment to manage those who cannot comply for whatever reasons.

The ACT Human Rights Commission says public health directions around vaccine mandates should be based in legislation accompanied by a statement about its compatibility with human rights.

“It’s a very substantial limitation of rights to subject workforces to mandatory vaccination, so we would prefer that [in] legislative amendments,” Commissioner Dr Helen Watchirs told Budget estimates last week.

The mandates, time-limited though they may be, are infringements on our civil liberties that provide precedents for governments to interfere in the lives of its citizens, not so much a conspiracy as the good intentions that proverbially pave the road to hell.

Such coercive directions or laws should not be entered into lightly. They need to be framed carefully, have strict time limits, defined purposes and have the legislative guard-rails that prevent them from spreading into other areas of life.

The ACT’s mandates are tied to public health directions and will lapse with them, and Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman has said that when children are vaccinated it will be unlikely there will be a need for the schools one.

Dissident views such as those expressed by Mr Lans need to be respected and their proponents not vilified. They do not need to lose their employment and careers because of a principled or misguided stand, depending on your viewpoint.

The normalisation of coercive laws should not be entertained, just as the ongoing limits to our freedoms from anti-terror laws should not be accepted simply because the government wants to keep us safe.

It is hoped Mr Lans can return to his school when the situation has calmed and the ACT moves to some kind of normal with a vaccination rate close to 100 per cent.

If we can’t live with the 1 per cent who aren’t vaccinated, then the notion of living with the virus is meaningless.

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85 Responses to A principled stand or misguided posturing? ‘No jab, no job’ poses tough questions
Elizabeth Ann Thurbon Elizabeth Ann Thurbon 9:11 am 28 Oct 21

We live in a free society. I can choose not to mix with unvaccinated people.

As lockdowns ease across New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT, we’ll be mixing more with other people, including some who are unvaccinated. Some people wonder, if you’re vaccinated, why does it matter whether other people are? Well, it does matter, as Chris Baker and Andrew Robinson explain. An unvaccinated person is around ten times more likely to be infected than a vaccinated person, and around twice as likely to pass it on. So socialising with them is 20 times more risky in terms of COVID transmission.

Elizabeth Ann Thurbon Elizabeth Ann Thurbon 9:09 am 28 Oct 21

I choose not to mix with unvaccinated as they are 20 times more likely to infect me

Acton Acton 7:43 am 27 Oct 21

We can’t hide from a virus and although vaccination mitigates the effect on yourself, it doesn’t stop you getting it, or passing it on. So best to get yourself vaccinated to protect yourself, but insisting on others being vaccinated to protect yourself is a dubious proposition.
If a few people don’t want to protect yourselves and the majority of the population is vaccinated then there is no need to force a vaccination mandate, with all its privacy and civil rights complications.
There are media reports about a 40 year old actress, Melle Stewart, who had a stroke after an AstraZeneca vaccine and had to spend weeks in hospital learning to talk and walk again. In Australia, the risk of dying from TTS after vaccination is approximately one in a million, the TGA says. People who have had adverse reactions to a vaccination in the past have legitimate reasons to be wary.
While all vaccines carry this small risk of serious life-threatening reactions, those who decline vaccination should not be pressured, ridiculed and abused on social media or threatened with exclusion and penalties. We didn’t have a flu vaccination mandate before Covid and there is no need for one now. Also think about the impracticalties of requiring, monitoring and enforcing annual booster shots given that we now know these vaccines have limited efficacy.

    Maya123 Maya123 10:57 am 28 Oct 21

    It’s a much higher risk of blood clots with catching Covid than from the vaccine. In ICU I have read about 30% get a blood clot. To put some perspective on the risk, women on HRT apparently have a higher risk of blood clots than from the vaccine.

    Unvaccinated people affect everyone, because they increase the risk of variants forming. This is another reason why poor countries must be helped to vaccinate their populations.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:44 pm 26 Oct 21

“If we can’t live with the 1 per cent who aren’t vaccinated, then the notion of living with the virus is meaningless.”

Very well said, even if our vaccination rates are slightly over-stated due to mistakenly recorded cross-border servicing and/or an under-estimate of the true population level of the ACT.

People who are outraged that Mr Lans has not been summarily dismissed (and, perhaps, publicly drawn and quartered, just to remove any doubt) should stay at home with the doors and windows sealed until we have vaccines which are 100% effective in stopping illness and transmission, and which never wane in efficacy.

The news-worthy aspect of this story is that someone who would publicly associate with a One Nation Senator has risen to the level of principal in the ACT public schools system. That’s almost like Canberra’s equivalent of the British royal family discovering that Anthony Blunt, supremo of the royal art collection, was a Soviet double agent.

Almost as interesting is the news today about concerns over a relatively low vaccination rate in the Inner North – curiouser and curiouser.

    chewy14 chewy14 10:44 pm 26 Oct 21

    Why is the inner north Vaccination rate surprising?

    There’s a higher proportion of younger adults in the area who were amongst the last to become eligible for vaccination.

    Not really curious at all.

Ash Latimer Ash Latimer 12:53 pm 26 Oct 21

I find it ironic that people will complain about being forced to get a vaccination (as a socially responsible Australian) but won’t mention anything about how our online privacy is currently being dismantled;


    Martin McMaster Martin McMaster 3:11 pm 26 Oct 21

    Is that because it is a different topic? Perhaps they mention it elsewhere.

    Ash Latimer Ash Latimer 4:38 pm 26 Oct 21

    Martin McMaster feel free to link me to these discussions groups where people are as outraged over the actual erosion of our freedoms as they are about mandatory vaccination.

Andrew D'Arnay Andrew D'Arnay 6:06 am 26 Oct 21

We live in a free society where you can make your own choices, this is the greatest thing about living in Australia, but those choices at times have consequences. I can choose not to work, but will have to live on welfare and do work for the dole, no one can make me get vaccinated, but there will be consequences to my decision

    Garvin Francis Garvin Francis 2:39 pm 26 Oct 21

    Andrew D'Arnay So you are ready to forego your job to make a stand about not being asked to do something for the sake of society and the greater good. But you then will expect the same government to support your choices by demand welfare? Your choices are interesting the say the very least. No social consciousness at all.

    Nada Krstin Nada Krstin 12:35 am 27 Oct 21

    Garvin Francis yep, unfortunately this mandate has forced many along this line - it is what is is across this spectrum - these are the real consequences...

    Digest this rather than disparage their no covid vaccine choice ...as I see it, if you, I and our family are all vaccinated, then we are all safe, right?

    That's the point of the vaccine & getting vaccinated - to protect ourselves - right?

    So what's your issue? If others don't want to get covid vaccinated, so what - we should technically be safe, right?

    So how will these other peeps affect us with 'sake of society and the greater good...No social consciousness" - how?

    Garvin Francis Garvin Francis 6:22 am 29 Oct 21

    Nada Krstin I have read it all and all and all. What I presented to you was so close to the truth for you that you reacted why you di.d. Expecting welfare to support you because you choose not to be vaccinated and therefore choose not to work is not how it's done

TimboinOz TimboinOz 7:31 pm 25 Oct 21

But they are NOT taking just ‘their chances’ they are behaving as if they are more important than anyone else.

Ian Barnes Ian Barnes 6:11 pm 25 Oct 21

It's called the social contract. Along with the benefits of living in a community, like roads and hospitals, there are responsibilities / obligations, like paying taxes, driving on the same side of the road, not murdering other people... and now, getting vaccinated. All of these are reductions of freedom. Don't like it? Go live in the US.

Sher Bee Sher Bee 5:09 pm 25 Oct 21

What about the “civil liberties” of vulnerable people 🤷🏻‍♀️

Dilkera Dilkera 4:09 pm 25 Oct 21

This opinion piece is an annoying follow up to the reader response to the original article in order to provoke further interest.
Two key issues…
1. With COVID we are all in this together. The public good is critical to keep children under 12 years safe. This is a no brainer and anti-vaxers clearly have scant regard for the safety of our children while reaping the benefits of 99% of the Canberra population, who are willing to get vaccinated.
2. Do we really want to inflame the issue of individual rights with conspiracy about the privacy of our health records. We could take individual rights to the extreme and end up like the US, where placing individual rights above the common good means that school massacres are common and result in inaction.
Anti-vaxers certainly have the right to choose, however they must take responsibility for their decision and isolate from our vulnerable citizens.

jennifer100 jennifer100 3:06 pm 25 Oct 21

Let’s not forget the WHS laws which employers are required to comply with. The education directorate has an obligation to keep Mr Lans safe (this is now a pandemic of the unvaccinated), together with the staff and school community.

ChrisinTurner ChrisinTurner 2:29 pm 25 Oct 21

I wouldn’t want my child to go to a school where the Principal doesn’t believe in evidence-based science or the rights of others to avoid infection and possible death. What other freedoms does he believe in? The freedom to drive on his own choice side of the road? In principle our freedom to do what we like applies only if it does not adversely affect others. I still have my little orange UN Vaccination book that was, for years, mandatory for overseas travel. No book, no travel. I now worry about the selection criteria for school Principals.

Argo Jones Argo Jones 2:07 pm 25 Oct 21

I'm also a little exasperated by the extreme reactions to the Covid vaccinations. On the "compulsory" side, if I want to visit an aged relative in residential care, I must have a flu vaccination (except for 2021). No-one is complaining to One Nation about that ?! I remember being required to have to Smallpox vaccination before being allowed to go overseas. If I objected to the vaccination, there was nothing preventing me from staying at home. As a child of 10, I was given the Polio vaccine – and thank heavens for that ! I don't remember my parents being consulted but, maybe they were. Most of us are not clever at assessing risks. That's why some laws are made e.g. seat belts. Those laws are not imposed just to "take away our rights". They are imposed because of the risk calculation that can be made by those among us who spend their lives researching and understanding those risks. Thus, we have speed limits and now limited vaccine mandates. The argument that vaccine mandates "take away our rights" is specious. As said by others earlier, we don't have unfettered rights to do what ever we want or to control entirely how we live. To take a utilitarian view, by living in a society we trade-off some of our scope of action/control for the greater benefits coming to us from all the other people. So, at present, if we wish to continue to live fully in the ACT society, we might have to tradeoff some scope of action/control in return.

    Bernard Miller Bernard Miller 6:08 pm 25 Oct 21

    One slight ommission from what you are saying, that is the vaccinations for the other virus's and illnesses had all been trialled, tested and approved before be allowed to be implemented. The Covid Vax is NOT fully trialled, it NOT fully tested and it is only approved for use on emergency grounds. There is no data available to substantiate it's safety in either medium or long term timeframes. The short term prognosis, is frankly very concerning due to the shear volume of adverse events and deaths.

    Naimad Doowneerg Naimad Doowneerg 4:13 pm 27 Oct 21

    Bernard Miller not sure what you mean by "shear (sic) volume of adverse events and deaths". According to the TGA There have been about 32.5 million doses of COVID vaccines administered in Australia with 23,000 adverse reactions recorded, but these include slight reactions such as a sore arm. Total deaths directly attributed to the vaccines so far is 9. Out of 32.5 million. You're more likely to be struck by lightning while talking on the telephone.

Andrew McCredie Andrew McCredie 1:19 pm 25 Oct 21

I would expect a principal to support conventional, fact based learning and to caution against finding ‘alternative realities’ on the internet. Of course in a democratic society we should tolerate all kinds of strange beliefs, but there is a reasonable expectation that school principals do not lend their authority to encourage credulity and undermine an understanding of science and the scientific method.

Alan Ampna Alan Ampna 1:08 pm 25 Oct 21

This coomrnt only applies to those who choose not to be vaccinated, not those who can’t be or don’t have access to a vaccination. So, personally I have no issue “with the minority of people who feel they should have the right to take their chances and manage their own health” as long as they keep away from every other person who also has a right to be safe and not exposed to the unvaccinated. That would of course apply to every one of their relatives too. If you don’t want to be vaccinated fine, but you don’t have the right to expose others. Maybe wear a sign so everyone has a choice whether they want you anywhere near them.

Gerry Satrapa Gerry Satrapa 1:02 pm 25 Oct 21

Just how ‘special’ must one think they are that the government would be interested in *THEIR* health records 🤷🏼‍♂️🙄

Daniel Symons Daniel Symons 12:33 pm 25 Oct 21

Alicia Symons this noodle he shouldn’t have been a principle in the first place best thing that could happen for the school.

Michael Ahern Michael Ahern 12:10 pm 25 Oct 21

‘Coercive rules’ like wearing seatbelts and prohibiting drink driving to keep people safe? oh please 🤦‍♂️

Darren Bryant Darren Bryant 12:08 pm 25 Oct 21

I’ll be the anti-vaxxers dislike button (laugh reacts only pls)

Cameron Thomas Cameron Thomas 12:00 pm 25 Oct 21

Coercive rules to mitigate risk.

No hat no play!

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