As hundreds of thousands of Australians take to the streets every weekend to protest against vaccine mandates, MPs and state leaders have hit back at public dissent.
The Chief Minister of the Northern Territory Michael Gunner came under fire for his comments labelling anyone who disagrees with mandatory vaccination as an ‘anti-vaxxer’.
Mr Gunner was asked by press if his earlier derogatory comments had a negative impact on vaccine take-up.
“No – and I’ll repeat it,” replied Mr Gunner aggressively. “If you are anti-mandate, you are absolutely anti-vax. I don’t care what your personal vaccination status is. If you support, champion, give a green light, give comfort to, or support anybody who argues against the vaccine – you are an anti-vaxxer. Absolutely. Your personal vaccination status is utterly irrelevant.
“If you campaign against the mandate, if you campaign against the people being vaccinated in vulnerable settings – teachers in classrooms – I’ll be really clear, at that point in time people are actually supporting the idea of a teacher being unvaccinated in a remote community classroom with kids who cannot be vaccinated.
“I reject that – I still reject that – and if you are out there in any way, shape or form campaigning against this mandate you are absolutely anti-vax.
“If you say ‘pro-persuasion’ – stuff it, shove it. We are absolutely going to make sure as many Territorians as possible are vaccinated. That is our best protection against this thing.”
Mr Gunner later admitted that everyone would get Covid eventually, but his government has pressed ahead with harsh and expensive mandatory quarantine. A 14-day stay in a Northern Territory facilitycosts $2,500 for an individual, and $5,000 for a family. An additional 10 days adds $1,750 for an individual and $35,00 for a family making a trip to the Northern Territory very expensive.
Controversy has broken out against the Chief Minister and his government after they were accused of excluding indigenous leaders from the Covid decision making process. The Northern Territory’s recent Covid outbreaks have occurred mostly inside remote Aboriginal communities, but the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance said it had to find out about Mr Gunner’s decisions from the media.
Vaccination rates remain considerably lower in remote indigenous communities across Australia with Aboriginal health groups announcing that they are ‘fighting pockets of vaccine hesitancy’.
“I hear [from people in remote communities] who say that ‘it’s a white man’s disease’ … or ‘I’m young I won’t get infected’,” said John Paterson, the Chief Executive of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (Amsant). “It’s often not that they don’t want [the Covid vaccine], it’s about them wanting more information, more time to think about it.”
Amsant has suggested petitioning the Mr Gunner government to enforce a 95% vaccination rate on remote communities.
The question remains, should the government be attempting to coerce an indigenous population against their wishes?