Queensland hospitality businesses concerned — and confused — by state vaccine mandate mount defiant Facebook campaign | #socialmedia

A social media campaign that has attracted thousands of Queensland business owners planning to defy the state government’s vaccination mandate has been condemned by police.

The group has grown to more than 25,000 members in a week, and hosts discussions about contravening the state government’s December 17 vaccine mandate.

Haley Mortenson, co-owner of Coffee Cat at Kings Beach, is a member of the group and says the rules around the vaccine mandate are unclear.

“All the advice speaks about the vaccinated person themselves but doesn’t speak about the business and what we can do and can’t do. It seems very unclear to us.

“Do we force our staff to get vaccinated, or turn away people? We just don’t know where we stand.

“Does that mean we shut our doors on the 17th? Do we get compensation?”

A mandate is law

Queensland Police Superintendent Craig Hawkins said the argument that many on the Facebook group were making, that the mandate isn’t law is wrong.

He said businesses included in the mandate  must ensure customers are vaccinated.

“Those businesses that don’t comply with the direction do put themselves at risk of significant fines.”

Sunshine Coast superintendent Craig Hawkins says if people or businesses don’t pay the issued fines then it will go through the usual debt collection process.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Owen Jacques)

He said coordination, like the Facebook group, to not abide by the public health directive was tremendously irresponsible.

“The whole intention of the CHO (Chief Health Officer) direction is to keep Queenslanders safe.

“We fully expect the virus will come into Queensland once we start getting more movement into the state.

“And the higher vaccination rate we’ve got, the better chance we have of people not being made critically ill.”

Queensland Police will be performing spot checks but Mr Hawkins said police would focus on education as their first response.

“If we see evidence a person or people are unvaccinated, we will take appropriate action.”

‘Wrong approach for government’

Angus Murray, vice-president of the Queensland Council of Civil Liberties, said he had spoken to a number of businesses about challenging the mandate in court.

“I think it will be the proper place to challenge this through the courts,

“And the concept of rewarding the community with freedoms; it’s not an acceptable thing for governments to be doing, it’s an incredibly dangerous path to be going down.

“Freedom should be inalienable and enjoyed by all people, regardless of their opinions, religious beliefs or engagements within a community.”

Fear for small business

Mr Murray said industries like hospitality had been bearing the brunt of the government’s pandemic response.

“I genuinely feel for small businesses and businesses in hospitality that have been hit hard this past 18 months … It must just feel like blow after blow after blow.”    

Ms Mortenson’s Coffee Cat was a COVID contact site earlier in the year.

She said it took some time for her business to recover.

The Coffee Cat had been listed as an exposure site.(ABC News: Owen Jacques)

“We had a lot of people stay away for a couple of weeks,” she said.

“It took us probably a good two months to bounce back and have regular customers come back to us.

“I don’t want other businesses to suffer by any means, but I feel like hospitality keeps getting included in every mandate and restriction.

“I just want to be able to run a business, I don’t want to push anything on anyone, but I am trying to run a business safely and legally.”

The maximum penalty for contravening a public health directive is $5,514.

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