Mr D O’BRIEN (Gippsland South) (15:17): The Andrews government must give an end date for its divisive and unnecessary vaccine mandates that have caused hardship and anxiety for many in our community. Vaccinations protect all of us, and I strongly encourage everyone to be vaccinated. I am double dosed, and I just wish the small group of people who are resisting would trust the science. The evidence is there every day, in the declining hospitalisations here and in New South Wales, that vaccines do their job. However, the government’s policy has caused untold stress in the community and placed a completely unfair onus on small business people and their staff to confront customers about their vaccination status.
The mandates are now pointless as we head towards 95 per cent coverage. New South Wales has already indicated that all restrictions will be removed at 95 per cent, and Victoria should follow suit. The Age reported last week that leading pandemic specialists Julie Leask, Catherine Bennett and Tony Blakely all support lifting mandates at 95 per cent, with Professor Leask saying ongoing mandates are ‘not proportionate’. I have been inundated with complaints about this policy and am aware it has caused division and anger among workers and their staff, with customers and within families. Just like the government’s pandemic bill, the mandates are overreach—unnecessary authoritarianism in a situation where we were already heading for very high vaccination rates without mandates, because Victorians know what to do to protect themselves and their families. The vast majority of Victorians trust the science. It is time the government trusted Victorians.