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25 November 2021

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner has criticised opponents of his vaccine mandate in the Northern Territory, calling labelling them ‘anti-vaxxers,’ regardless of whether they are vaccinated.

These remarks follow a hard lockdown in parts of the NT, preventing some residents from leaving their homes entirely, except to seek medical treatment, provide care, or if required by law. These are some of the toughest lockdown measures seen in Australia.

The NT’s vaccination rates are some of the highest in the country, due to the vaccine mandate forced on the NT by Gunner.

According to the ABC, it is one of the strictest mandates in the nation, with the vast majority of workers required to be double vaccinated before the end of the year.

This has meant that the state is reporting a double vaccination rate of 84%, with 95% of residents having one dose of the vaccine.

In a press conference that garnered over half a million views on Twitter alone, Gunner claimed that anyone who opposed his vaccine mandate was an anti-vaxxer.

This includes people who have chosen to take the vaccine, but are against it being mandated by the government.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner labels every opponent of the vaccine mandate an ‘anti-vaxxer’ in a heated press conference

Gunner went so far as to suggest that merely supporting people who are opposed to the vaccine mandate is sufficient to make someone an anti-vaxxer.

Under this statement, vaccinated politicians who are anti-mandate, like David Limbrick and Tim Quilty, members of the Victorian Legislative Council for the Liberal Democrats, would be considered ‘anti-vaxxers.’

A Victorian construction worker, under the alias Ebony, was interviewed by the ABC, and she claimed that she was unsure about vaccination until Victoria introduced a vaccine mandate, which she refused to comply with and was suspended from her job as a result.

She said that she does not consider herself to be an anti-vaxxer, but she was opposed to a mandate.

Indeed, she may have been willing to get the vaccine when Novavax became available in Australia, but the mandate was put in place before that became a possibility.

Ebony is one of many workers around the country to lose their job over vaccine mandates. Similarly, Limbrick and Quilty, along with Catherine Cumming, an Independent, were unable to vote in Parliament after Parliament voted to prevent its members who did not provide proof of vaccination from entering its grounds.

Statements like Gunner’s do not take into account people who are pro-vaccine but anti-mandate, along with their supporters, meaning that the entire voter base of parties like the Liberal Democrats are considered anti-vaxxers.

If the goal of the government is to promote vaccination, labelling everyone who is remotely opposed to mandates as an anti-vaxxer does not help achieve that goal. Instead, it increases division in the country, especially when vaccine mandates are already a divisive and controversial topic.

Although rhetoric like this will build more support for Gunner from pro-mandate Australians, it is not those people who he needs to convince to take the vaccine, as they have already done so. Continual fearmongering and accusations from the media and politicians only serve to fuel tensions in Australia, less than 6 months out from the next federal election.

Forcing compliance through fear and coercion may have some success in increasing vaccination rates, but the longer this goes on for, the more likely it is that, come the federal election, Australia will see more people like Ebony, as people are driven to vote for minor parties that are opposed to mandates.

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Stuart Jeffery, aka LibertyDownUnder, is the founder of the Australian Liberty Network. He is also the host of the Gumtree of Liberty and Gumtree of Liberty Live podcasts, and is editor of the Liberty Review. Stuart is currently studying a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts, majoring in international relations, at the University of Southern Queensland.

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