20 September 2021

Vaccine passports raise potential for human rights breaches: Commissioner

| Dominic Giannini
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Dr Helen Watchirs

ACT Human Rights Commissioner Dr Helen Watchirs. Photo: ACT HRC.

Governments around Australia are investigating vaccine passports as premiers look to open their jurisdictions, but the ACT Human Rights Commission has raised concerns about implementing any vaccine passports in the Territory, warning that it risks creating discrimination and a two-tier community.

ACT Human Rights Commissioner Dr Helen Watchirs said the ACT Government needed to take a proactive role in regulating any vaccine passport to minimise the risk of potential human rights breaches.

These breaches may include limiting a person’s access to everyday goods and services, infringing on their privacy and autonomy, and restricting their freedom of movement and association.

“The ACT can choose to lead or be led on this issue,” Dr Watchirs said.

“This is a complex issue, and the Commission believes that the use of vaccine passports must be expressly regulated by the government to reduce the risks of unfairness and discrimination.

“It should not be left to the discretion of the private sector, where we could see different businesses imposing restrictions on clients and patrons in arbitrary ways.”

The ACT HRC is not advocating either way for a vaccination passport. Dr Watchirs acknowledged this appeared to be the direction the nation was heading, especially concerning international travel.

Gyms, hospitality venues and retail shops in NSW will reopen to fully vaccinated people once the state reaches the 70 per cent vaccination milestone under its new roadmap outlined by Premier Gladys Berejikilian.

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But one of the main differences between the two jurisdictions is that the ACT is a human rights jurisdiction with a legislated Human Rights Act, which NSW does not have, Dr Watchirs said.

Dr Watchirs added that while vaccination passports are a good mechanism to encourage vaccine uptake and combat hesitancy, a conscientious objection exemption needed to be in place.

The exemption would need to be formalised so a person does not undertake the objection lightly.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said using vaccine passports to tackle vaccine hesitancy was “a solution looking for a problem” in the ACT. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

But Chief Minister Andrew Barr poured cold water on the idea that the ACT needed vaccine passports to encourage vaccinations, saying there is little hesitancy in the Territory.

“In the ACT context, this is a solution looking for a problem,” Mr Barr said.

“The argument for [vaccination passports] is that it will drive up vaccination rates – we have no issue in the ACT with our vaccination rates. They are nation-leading in every cohort.

“The only thing holding back this community from getting to 95 per cent vaccination is available vaccine supply, so we are going to get there based on first doses and booking [figures].

“I acknowledge that [hesitancy] might be an issue in other jurisdictions, and that might be why they pursue [vaccine passports].”

Mr Barr also said that giving vaccinated people more freedoms ahead of others at certain vaccination thresholds would only impact the ACT by a couple of days.

“Why would we go through the entire rigmarole of putting in place such a complex set of systems with fraud risks and compliance nightmares associated with it for the sake of five days of extra vaccinating,” he said. “[It will be] five more days to go from [70 to 80 per cent or from] 80 to 90 per cent,” he said.

“Then you get to the range of philosophical questions about what benefits you would bestow on vaccinated people, particularly when the issue in the ACT is not that people are not wanting to get vaccinated, it is that we do not have enough Pfizer in the city.”

Compliance would be another issue, with Mr Barr asking whose responsibility it would be to check only vaccinated people are in a particular setting.

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Mr Barr also raised philosophical and human rights-based concerns about limiting access to services for people who have not been vaccinated, considering not everyone would have had the chance to get the jab or may be unable to for medical reasons.

He ruled out any exclusion from essential services, like healthcare, for people who were not vaccinated.

In some scenarios, Dr Watchirs said that a negative COVID test may be better and more effective than a vaccination passport.

“It is important to ensure that vaccine passports would only be used in ways that are necessary and proportionate for the legitimate public health reason of controlling COVID,” she said.

Legislative and independent oversight would also be required, she said.

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If you choose not to get your driver’s license – you can’t drive
If you choose not to have a TFN – you pay more tax
If you choose to not obtain (or carry) any form of Proof of Age – you might not be able to buy some products (such as alcohol), partake in some activities, or enter some establishments
If you choose not to get vaccinated – you might not be able to partake in some activities or enter some establishments

Living in our society requires people to fulfill their obligations as much as they can.

Stop whining.

Get your COVID prick. Don’t be one!

Capital Retro11:04 am 24 Sep 21

I recently discovered some old papers belonging to my late father. Among them was an “Identity Card” Form C.R.3 which was issued by the divisional electoral offices throughout Australia. It was issued to him in 1942 and also included details of his family at that time.

Its need was to cover ID requirements and “important purposes” under national emergency conditions which at that time would have been WW2. The card had to be carried at all times and was “to be shown, at anytime on demand , to any person authorized by law to see it”.

How would that fit with our human rights brigade these days?

Keep in mind for a stay out Mildura way –

Caravan park owners abused for vaccination stance –


Well I guess our hooman rights people could stop these passports and such, If thats what they’re paid to do.

And so don’ t be surprised when crossing into NSW, or flying into another state, there is a big sign at entry saying “”From the ACT ? No passport ? well bugger off.! Have a nice day.””

Any vaccine passport should be national. From Medicare maybe.

And will be interesting to see how the NSW one works for interstate people seeing it is linked to service NSW app. Sure out of staters can get an account toll so they can check in but there is no proof of ID needed to do that. But to link to Covid passport you would think there needs to be proof of ID and a link. Don’t see that being NSW’s priority.

Which gets back to first point any passport should be federal and from Medicare.

No way. The removal of civil liberties and everyday freedoms is too high a price to pay. A democracy is not compatible with a two class society, pass laws and the equivalent of vaccination apartheid. Read again what she says: “These breaches may include limiting a person’s access to everyday goods and services, infringing on their privacy and autonomy, and restricting their freedom of movement and association.” Protecting democratic freedoms must always take priority over the excessive paranoia of the minority.

Confidently guessing the overwhelming majority of us will read that as human rights for those who are vaccinated/ doing the right thing, so shouldn’t be a big issue in the ACT at all.

Double dose
Vaccinations Passports that allow the vaccinated to regain their lives would breach the unvaccinated’s Human Rights (because they would be excluded).
Without Vaccination Passports, we’ll need a higher vaccination rates – maybe 95% to enable safer gatherings.
The ALP/Greens Government could introduce legislation to abolish their Human Rights Legislation.
Problem solved and the crowd cheered.

Pubs have “No thongs or singlets”, banks have “No Motorcycle Helmets”. Nightclubs refuse entry to inebriated people so, why should refusing entry to non-vaccinated people, to public venues be any different? Refusing entry in these circumstances wouldn’t be in breach of their Human Rights, if it were, my other examples would be as well.

It’s a fine line to be honest. Whilst a business does have right to set standards to enter their premises and the outright right to refuse people from entering, there is a line that gets crossed. An example you couldn’t refuse entry based on ethnicity. So question is where is the line?

Well currently the line is drawn by anti-discrimination legislation. So you can’t exclude people based on race, gender, sexuality, disability etc etc. Vaccine status is not protected, nor should it be.

Capital Retro12:55 pm 21 Sep 21

Good grief! Do we really need this level of oversight?

Big pharma are trustworthy and always have the best intentions (for their $hareholders). Not once has Pfizer ever been caught for fraud or corruption, you don’t need to check that, just trust me the vaccines are safe, don’t do your own research just trust big pharma.

Here we go…sigh

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