Shadow Minister for Emergency Services Martin Aldridge MLC has called on the Government to provide clarity around vaccination requirements for emergency services volunteers.
“The Opposition is concerned at how the vaccine mandate for fire and emergency services volunteers has been communicated, especially after the Premier and Chief Health Officer specifically excluded volunteers from the vaccine mandate just last month,” Mr Aldridge said.
Mr Aldridge accused the Government of delivering mixed messages relating to the vaccination mandate at a time when it was vital for all West Australians to be encouraged to roll up their sleeve.
“On October 20, the Premier announced a long list of occupations and workforces which would require mandatory vaccinations, and it specifically excluded volunteers.
“Volunteers were justifiably surprised and confused when directions issued late last week contradicted this without warning, consultation or communication.
“Vaccination is the only way forward to allow WA to reopen, businesses to plan for the future and West Australians to be reunited with loved ones – any hesitation or confusion is detrimental to the State’s vaccination rates.”
Mr Aldridge said the Government was continuing to promote outdated vaccination advice on its official websites: wa.gov.au and the Department of Health.
“These websites still list fire and emergency services volunteers as being excluded from the vaccine mandate, when in reality, they need to be vaccinated within the next six weeks.”
Mr Aldridge said he was concerned the last-minute change could leave volunteer firefighters unaware ahead of the southern bushfire season.
“The revised advice and legal directions will come into force in the middle of the southern high threat period for bushfire.
“My fear is that a percentage of the State’s 26,000 emergency services volunteers may be unaware of their legal obligations as many are mid-harvest, facing workforce shortages on farms and the southern fire season imminent.”
Mr Aldridge said the extent of the mandate was significant and included volunteer organisations like the Salvation Army and Country Women’s Association if they provided welfare services, like delivering food, in response to an emergency.
“The broad application of the directions could see volunteers acting in good faith facing fines of $20,000 and organisations $100,000 respectively.”
Mr Aldridge said the government needed to table the Chief Health Officer’s advice relating to mandatory vaccinations for volunteers.
“Given less than a month ago the Chief Health Officer excluded volunteers from the mandatory vaccination requirements, we deserve some clarity and transparency around why this decision has suddenly been reversed,” he said.