The ACT Human Rights Commission has called for public health directions around vaccine mandates to be accompanied with a detailed statement about its compatibility with human rights.
ACT human rights commissioner Helen Watchirs told an estimates hearing on Monday the commission had concerns that powers under the Public Health Act did not extend to mandatory vaccines. Instead, the vaccine mandate should be implemented through specific legislation.
"It's a very substantial limitation of rights to subject workforces to mandatory vaccination so we would prefer that [in] legislative amendments," Dr Watchirs said.
In a letter from the commission to the government, it said that section 120 of the Public Health Act gives the chief health officer the ability to make directions that are "necessary or desirable to alleviate the emergency".
It expressed concern that this did not "confer clear statutory authority for directing a class of person to be vaccinated".
"In our view, these words are too vague to empower the CHO to impose a vaccination condition on employees by means of a public health direction," the letter said.
Human Rights Minister Tara Cheyne told the hearing she respected the commission's view but the mandate was time limited and it was important to implement it as there were few sitting days left in the year.
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"I have respect to the commission's view that these are serious limitations but by the same token, they are intended as my understanding to be time limited," Ms Cheyne said.
"The sitting calendar for the year is quite short, there aren't many more days but also there is a need in some of these higher risk settings to have mandatory vaccinations.
"And so I think in the first instance doing it through this notification achieves the balance that we're looking to get to."
The commission has previously expressed concerns about human rights implications in vaccine passports and said if the ACT had planned to introduce them there would need to be a purpose-built law.
The ACT has not used vaccine passports, nor followed in the footsteps of other states, such as NSW, and made certain activities only open to those who are fully vaccinated.
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