Protesters call for unity in our shire


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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More than 170 peaceful protesters converged on Council today hoping that the Councillors would not endorse the state government's Covid-19 mandates. The Councillors voted 4-1 in favour of a Mayoral Minute that called on the Douglas Shire Council to accept the government's mandate. Image: Paul Makin FAB FM
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In reiterating that the Douglas Shire Council has always been pro-vaccination, Mayor Michael Kerr said today in a Mayoral Minute that it is disappointing that this has become an emotive issue in parts of the community.

And in a 4-1 vote in favour of the Minute – Kerr and Councillors Roy Zamattaro,. Abigail Noli and Peter McKeown voted for it with Councillor Lisa Scomazzon against – the Douglas Shire Council has endorsed the state government’s Covid 19 mandates which come into effect on December 17.

Today’s meeting was not without incidents, heated debate and the presence of more than 170 peaceful protesters along with a police presence. Their message was clear: understand our challenges, do not discriminate, do not destroy our economy and the poignant message “no jab, no job is not choice, it’s coercion”.

“It is extremely disappointing that this topic is creating a division in our community, with what is entirely a State Government health decision and directive no different to those made for limited trading, limited customers, border closures and the like.

“Council opinions and letters going against a state health order made for the benefit of the majority of the state, does not sit well. I have to say that I think it is also appalling to compare these health mandates, which have been made to protect people, to the hideous history of apartheid: there is no comparison. Then also watering down of the absolute pain and suffering that actual discrimination in all forms has given so many is heartbreaking when compared.

“While I respect there is a personal choice, the Douglas Shire Council has always been pro-vaccination and will continue to support the State Government and the Cairns Hinterland Hospital and Health Service in encouraging residents to get vaccinated in order to protect themselves and their families,” said Kerr.

Kerr’s Mayoral Minute noted the following:

1. Douglas Shire Council notes Queensland Health’s recommendation that residents seek to be vaccinated for their protection and that of their community.

2. Douglas Shire Council is committed, and obligated, to follow any health direction made by the Queensland Government under advice from the Chief Health Officer.

3. Councillors have considered those community concerns regarding the impacts and confusion over the roll out of the vaccination mandates. That Council informs Queensland Premier Palaszczuk and the Queensland Government of the negative effects the impending vaccine mandate will have on many small businesses, employers, employees, and our community as a whole.

4. The health, safety and well being of this community is Council’s highest priority, and Council will continue to work with the appropriate agencies to assist our community in navigating a way forward. Council understands people’s personal choices for vaccination

5. Douglas Shire Council writes to the State Government and respectfully request that they acknowledge the concerns received from the business community, give clarity to the businesses regarding the health directive, and when implementing “Public Health and Social Measures Linked to Vaccination Status”, they consider appropriate steps necessary to mitigate the risks for businesses when it comes to compliance and enforcement of this mandate.

Kerr said he is concerned about those within our community who claim that there is a lack of clarity and detail from the State Government regarding how the new COVID measures and restrictions will be enforced from December 17.

“Their website has plenty of detail on what the mandates are and what the benefits will be to those businesses that are currently trading with Covid restrictions.” If unsure, visit:

Kerr said he had sympathy for those businesses, particularly small businesses in our region who currently believe that these restrictions will have serious effects on their trade and staffing.

Government response

“I categorically understand and appreciate their concerns around staffing and also being required to enforce the Government restrictions that have been publicised. I wrote directly to the Premier on the day these mandates were released regarding the enforcement issue and her office advised the following:

“Businesses are expected to take reasonable steps to enforce the restrictions. This means businesses should display the vaccination rules at the business premises and businesses may ask for evidence of vaccination from customers at the time of check-in.

“If a customer cannot, or refuses to, provide evidence, businesses can ask the person to leave the premises. If the person refuses to leave the premises, businesses can call the police. In these cases, police responses to calls for service will be prioritised according to the circumstances reported to police.

“For example, where there is a threat to life or property, these calls for service will be categorised as high priority and police will respond accordingly. The Queensland Police Service and the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation will support businesses to enforce the public health measures after Queensland reaches the 80 per cent fully vaccinated milestone.

“Police will work closely with local businesses and the community to educate business operators and patrons, on their obligations under the new public health measures and promote compliance, as well as high-visibility policing and compliance checking of individuals, attending restricted businesses and vulnerable settings to which the public health measures apply.”

Stressful time

Kerr concluded by saying this is a very stressful time for all concerned.

“There is obvious fear of the unknown, whether that be the virus or the vaccine, and so much misinformation is being peddled it is often hard to tell what is fact and what is a misleading opinion.

“What I do know is that the health of all the people in this community needs to come first. Whether you are vaccinated or not vaccinated there is a clear and present concern coming at us and we need to deal with it. There is no easy answer to the ongoing issues that this virus is bringing communities all over the world.

“We can and we will get through it and the more we work together as a community the easier that will be. The mandates are not optional and they are about to be with us along with Covid. I ask everyone to please take a step back, take a deep breath, stop and appreciate what we have here in this community.

And remember that the person in front of you didn’t create this issue, they are only attempting to be part of the solution” he said.



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