MPs suspended over vax refusal
Reports say several members of Victoria’s Legislative Council have been suspended after they refused to provide proof of vaccination.
Victorian Liberal Democrats MP David Limbrick, Liberal Democrat MP Tim Quilty, and Independent MP Catherine Cumming have been suspended until the second sitting day of the 2022 Parliamentary year, after Victoria became the first Australian state to require all MPs be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be barred from parliament.
“We've now reached the point where the Government has decided it can dictate which medical procedures someone must have to be a democratic representative,” Mr Limbrick told reporters this week.
“This is a terrible precedent. Shamefully, it was supported by the Liberal party and many minor parties.
“I attempted to amend the motion to substitute for universal rapid antigen testing, which would have provided a better way to reduce the chance that COVID19 would have entered Parliament.
“As vaccinated people can also carry and transmit the virus, this suspension will have little effect on workplace safety. Its only real effect will be to remove votes that are in opposition to the Government.”
Senior Lecturer in Law at Charles Sturt University, Dr Bede Harris, says the move to suspend parliamentarians who do not show proof of vaccination appears to be unprecedented.
“It is the first Australian jurisdiction to do this,” he told the ABC.
“So many different countries have taken so many different approaches.
“I haven't heard of legislators being excluded on the basis or not of being vaccinated, but that's' not to say it hasn't happened somewhere.”
Dr Harris says the suspensions could be questioned on the basis of the implied freedom of political communication.
The High Court holds that there is an implied freedom of political communication in the system of representative and responsible government created by the Constitution.
“Applying [the suspension] to this legislation, the question is does it limit the implied freedom of political communication?” Dr Harris asked.
“Well, it certainly does in relation to an MP who is suspended because they refuse to be vaccinated.
“And it does that because it is of the essence of representative government that people are represented by their MPs in the parliament, and their MPs can express their views on behalf of their constituents.
“It is really up to a parliament in this instance to ensure it doesn't go so far, intrude so far into the implied freedom, as to cross the line.
“I understand that Mr Quilty and the other MPs have been suspended until the second sitting day of 2022.
“During that time, he's disabled from attending parliament and conducting meetings in the parliament building, so yes, I think there certainly is some kind of arguable case here.”