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Written by the Hon. Bernie Ripoll, Director

I remember as a young child emigrating to Australia from France by ship. I also remember the vaccinations required before being able to travel, in fact I still have the original vaccination passport book with the doctor’s stamps for the family. This was not considered unusual or onerous as far as I can remember, it was just the Australian requirements for entry.

The world has progressed considerably since the 1970s with the eradication of polio and many other health improvements particularly in Australia. That has all changed with covid-19 firmly entrenched as a global pandemic and the Delta variant proving more difficult to control. As we have seen there will be varying responses from jurisdiction around the world, particularly on how to minimise the impact on people and economies. One way that has proven highly effective albeit at a high cost has been lockdowns. Simply put - stop people's movements to restrict the ability of the virus to spread. Countries such as France are working towards requiring evidence of vaccination before allowing entry and It's not a big leap to imagine the rest of Europe following suit and some States in the US taking similar actions.

For Australia, the restrictions on travel have extended globally on entry and nationally on the ability to leave for work or play. While no specific policy requirement for a vaccination passport has yet been required by the federal government, the Prime Minister has supported the concept of a vaccine passport as a good idea.

Closer to home the States and Territories have been able to slow the spread of the virus with varying degrees of success in border and regional lockdowns which has included mandatory hotel quarantine for travelers wanting to gain entry. As we saw just recently with Olympic athletes returning from Japan via a Sydney hotel quarantine requiring further hotel quarantine in South Australia based on local rules. This appears pretty harsh but is probably an example of the extent to which some States and certainly some countries will want to protect their populations from a foreign virus entry point.

A more challenging question will arise as to whether employers, venues and facilities will be legally permitted to only allow entry or participation with the production of a valid proof of vaccination. This is being played out now in the context of protecting co-workers, protecting activity participants and protecting the broader community at large.

While the jury is still out on what will be the eventual outcome for Australia and how we deal with our internal matters on vaccination, globally we may be required to participate in some form of vaccination passport if we want the benefits associated with travel to that country.

Going back to where I started in migrating to Australia, the vaccination passport debate ship may have already sailed. The question now will be the level at which we decide to expand our freedoms locally and globally via some form of acceptable electronic vaccine passport. In the not-too-distant future it may be a requirement to get a job, work in certain places, or attend community, let alone travel overseas.

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