Legal action against vaccine mandate dead after Fyles Government ‘covers their backsides’ with legislation: UNTB

by | Jun 2, 2022 | COVID-19, News | 0 comments

The Fyles Government’s last-minute push to retrospectively “validate” the Chief Health Officer’s vaccine mandate in Parliament last month has killed a highly-publicised lawsuit against the NT Government, the backers of the legal action have said.

The discontinuation of the legal action also comes as Chief Minister Natasha Fyles has refused to say if or when the NT Government will follow every other jurisdiction in Australia and scrap the vaccine mandate for workers.

United NT Businesses, who had backed the court action to challenge the legality of the CHO’s vaccine mandate on behalf of four employees who had lost their jobs in different fields because of the order, said the government had “abused its power” by retrospectively legislating but that it ultimately rendered the lawsuit “futile”.

UNTB president Mario Tsirbas told a meeting of the group last night that their case was dead.

“This obviously, isn’t the outcome that we wanted. It’s certainly not how we envisaged all of this turning out,” he said.

“Fundamentally this points to a couple of very important facts. One, this government admits that they were at fault and that the original directions given were unlawful and invalid. There’s no other reason to pass an amendment such as this, if they felt at all that they would win.

“The second thing that it shows is that this government is so afraid of being held to account, and the truth coming out of what they did, that they have taken such extreme action, which amounts to an abuse of power in and of itself. This is the most extreme action that this government could have taken, and simply to cover their backsides because they know they did the wrong thing originally.”

The NT Solicitor General Nikolai Christrup had repeatedly delayed the case in the Supreme Court for months, claiming his office was “conducting extensive searches” of the government’s files in relation to the CHO’s directions.

But in late May, the government used its legislative powers to ram through the legislation to retrospectively validate the laws during the last sittings of Parliament before the case was to be back in court.

The group had claimed the Chief Health Officer had overstepped his powers when it came to Direction 55 – which forced employers to demand employees get vaccinated or face being fired and fined and that the specific reference to Aboriginal people in the order was racist.

Lawyer Danial Kelly, who was working on the case, told the NT Independent the government’s conduct was inappropriate.

“They had seven months in which they could’ve enacted the legislation,” he said.

“Retrospective legislation has been used by decent governments in the past to fix problems that were not foreseen. This government has been put on notice for seven months by the judicial review conducted by the plaintiffs and the best they could manage in a last-minute desperate bid to avoid facing scrutiny in the court, was to enact retrospective legislation which brings the case to nothing.

“Clearly the government were terrified of the case brought against them by United NT Businesses.”

Mr Tsirbas said the UNTB group would continue to put pressure on the government “until every single mandate is abolished and removed”.

Ms Fyles’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

She would also not commit on Thursday to ending the vaccine mandate in line with every other state and territory, after WA scrapped their vaccine mandate earlier this week.

Ms Fyles told ABC radio she would be looking at the issue and expected to make an announcement before June 16, when the latest public health emergency is scheduled to end.

“The emergency is due to end on the 16th and we have to make a decision based on health advice,” she said.

“Do we re-sign for a public health emergency or do we shift to that transitional phase where you may see some CHO directions in place but not the emergency setting that we’ve been in in the past two years.”

The government also passed legislation last month to extend the CHO’s powers for the next two years without a public health emergency needing to be declared.

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