Workers withdraw legal challenge to COVID-19 vaccine mandate

A legal challenge to Victoria’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate has been withdrawn.

More than 100 workers, including nurses, other healthcare professionals, teachers and emergency service responders, last year initiated legal action against Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton and his colleagues, accusing them of breaching the state’s Human Rights Charter by imposing a no jab, no work policy.

Simon Harding was the lead plaintiff in a legal challenge against Victoria’s vaccine mandate.Credit:Chris Hopkins

A trial was scheduled to start this month, but the Supreme Court was told on Wednesday the plaintiffs had chosen to discontinue their legal challenge.

Barrister Marcus Clarke, QC, acting for the plaintiffs, said recent changes to state legislation meant his clients’ case had been “rendered futile”.

He said that under the amendments to the law, which make Health Minister Martin Foley responsible for pandemic rules, if others were to challenge the vaccine mandate they would have to pursue action against a different defendant than Professor Sutton.

It remains unclear whether two plaintiffs no longer represented by Mr Clarke and his team will continue with their challenge against the policy. Those workers were not represented in Wednesday’s hearing.

Justice Melinda Richards ordered the plaintiffs to pay the state’s legal costs.

The lead plaintiff in the case was G4S corrections officer Simon Harding, who was placed on unpaid leave in October after he chose not to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Lawyers for the group told hearings last year that some workers had their jobs terminated for refusing to get jabs.

The Andrews government has been in talks with business groups about making a third vaccine dose mandatory in a range of industries to protect against future waves of coronavirus infections.

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