Canberrans could soon need to prove they have received a vaccination against COVID-19 to go out for dinner or have a pint in their favourite pub, if businesses move ahead to make vaccinations compulsory for their patrons.
But the ACT government says it will be up to businesses to decide whether they will make vaccinations mandatory, and authorities will instead focus on driving up vaccination take up.
Hospitality businesses need clear advice about compulsory jabs so operators can keep venues safe, an industry peak body said.
ACT Australian Hotels Association general manager Anthony Brierley said he did not accept the argument that vaccine passports would need to wait until every Canberran has had the opportunity to receive a vaccination.
"We have a perfectly good vaccine at the moment, called AstraZeneca. We have heaps of doses of it. So there is the opportunity for people to get vaccinated at the moment. They go and see their GP and they can get vaccinated. Or from later this week they can go and see their pharmacist and get vaccinated," Mr Brierley said.
Mr Brierley said mandatory vaccinations should sit with business operators' requirement to provide safe workplaces for staff and patrons, under workplace safety and liquor licensing laws.
"We've already got an obligation to provide a safe venue and if that means patrons have to be vaccinated, then so be it," he said.
"But give us the technology to be able to do that. We can't expect someone on the front door checking every patron and putting that person at risk from the 20 per cent of people who are going to get turned away."
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said hospitality businesses would be able to require vaccinations for staff and patrons if the rules did not breach existing discrimination laws.
"That's a delicate balance, which would need to take into account an individual's health conditions, and there might be a legitimate reason why they can't be vaccinated, for other health reasons. That's going to require a bit of research on the part of an individual business," Mr Barr said.
"It will be a decision that individual businesses will need to take, it won't be a blanket government mandate."
Hospitality businesses were some of the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, which prompted strict limits on the number of people permitted in venues.
Mr Brierley said greater Sydney's experience with the Delta variant of COVID-19 showed vaccinations were the path forward for hospitality businesses to continue operating safely, and Canberra needed to move quickly in the event of a local outbreak.
"How do you keep one staff member safe from another staff member who refuses to get vaccinated? The experience in NSW shows us that Delta is highly transmissible in workplaces. That's exacerbated in workplaces that have significant customer facing roles, like hospitality, retail and tourism," he said.
Mr Brierley said Canberra was likely to have strong vaccine take up anyway, and that mandatory vaccinations for staff and patrons in hospitality venues was unlikely to be a significant tool to drive down vaccine hesitancy.
Mr Brierley hit out at the ACT's labour movement, saying a year ago it was fighting to have COVID-19 recognised as an occupational disease.
"One year on, we've got a vaccine that can fight that, and as far as I'm concerned, they've gone missing," he said.
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The ACT government has previously ruled out using vaccine passports until everyone in the community has had an opportunity to be vaccinated, and has remained lukewarm on their use after that point.
"Any policy decisions such as this really need to have a nationally consistent approach. Future phases of the national Covid exit plan may include expanded freedoms for vaccinated Australians," an ACT government spokeswoman said last week.
The ACT division of the Property Council of Australia launched a "Jabs Protect Jobs" campaign on Wednesday, calling on employers to encourage their workers to get vaccinated.
The ACT council's executive director, Adina Cirson, said the building and construction sector was in a strong position to promote the message of vaccination to a sector that employed one in six Canberrans.
"We are in a unique position to get a head of the curve with more than 12 months without a known Covid transmission in the community, and we know that Canberrans are leading the way on vaccination rates," Ms Cirson said.
"But we must not be complacent, and getting vaccinated is the only way to prevent a potential lockdown and the devastating economic impacts they bring. Canberra is resilient, and we have been lucky, but the only way to ensure we remain Covid free is to get the jab."
Mr Barr on Tuesday said mandatory vaccination requirements would likely vary by business type, with mandates more reasonable for employees who come into contact with "thousands and thousands of customers or working with vulnerable people".
"I suspect that the the grey area will be those who have some contact with other people as part of their day-to-day work. A journalist, for example. [It will be] pretty interesting to see how media outlets respond on this question," Mr Barr said.
with Lucy Bladen
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