Outspoken senator Jacquie Lambie has called for Australians opposed to mandatory vaccinations to “be a goddamn bloody adult”, put others before themselves and step forward to get the jab.
Her impassioned plea came after One Nation leader Pauline Hanson attempted to introduce a private members bill seeking to ban mandatory vaccinations and overturn state and territory leaders’ requirements for full vaccination to be required in some settings.
The bill, which was eventually voted against by an overwhelming majority, was seconded by Nationals senator Matt Canavan and supported by Liberal backbencher Gerard Rennick, who alongside Alex Antic crossed the floor to support the bill.
Senator Hanson and fellow One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts were not able to vote for their own bill, because they were attending parliament remotely. She requested for leave to be granted that the record show they were in support of the bill.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison granted Senator Hanson approval to introduce the bill, but said the government would not support it.
In introducing her bill, Senator Hanson said it was “absolutely vital” that Australians had the right to choose whether they wanted to receive the vaccine.
“You might not agree with the choices that people make, but that doesn’t mean the right to choose should be stolen from them,” she said.
“We (in the Senate) are charged with protecting their rights … This is a pandemic of discrimination.
“What is our country coming to.”
Senator Rennick said he had been contacted by “thousands” of people who wanted the Prime Minister and the government to stand up to state premiers attempting to introduce mandates.
“Politicians should not be holding people to ransom … People should not be held to ransom with their livelihoods.”
Senator Lambie said One Nation could not be champions for “discrimination” given their long history of discriminating against people with disability, people of multicultural backgrounds, and the LGBTIQ community.
“If you get behind the wheel of a car and drive twice the speed, you are putting other people’s lives at risk. You don’t have the right to do that,” she said.
“You are not being discriminated against. You choose to do something that puts other people’s lives at risk. You will be held accountable for that.
“People who don’t get the vaccine have a choice. We all get a choice … You’re making a choice that means you’re more likely to get COVID-19 and spread it, that is your choice, that is your right.
“Having the freedom to choose isn’t the same as having the freedom to avoid the consequences of that choice. You have freedom to make a choice, but if you make a choice, those choices have consequences.
“But you don’t get to decide how the rest of Australia responds to that choice … We have to put others before ourselves.
“Being held accountable for your own actions isn’t called discrimination, it’s called being, you wouldn’t believe it – a goddamn bloody adult.”
The introducing of the bill was set to cause major headaches for the government, which is hoping to introduce controversial voter identification legislation and the Religious Discrimination Bill.
In the end five government senators crossed the floor, a move the Prime Minister said they were fully entitled to make.
“We do not run as an autocracy,” Mr Morrison said.
“We do not agree with the measures that were in the bill, which would indeed threaten funding for hospitals and schools to state… I respect that individual members will express a view and vote accordingly, as happened today.
“We as a party can deal with any differences that occur from time to time.”
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said earlier that all senators needed to “do their job” as they were elected to do.
“That means they need to look at the legislation that is before the House and before the Senate. There is some pretty significant legislation that will be in the Senate this morning, including the Critical Infrastructure Bill (which is) a national security matter,” she said.
“Now, there is nothing more important in terms of keeping Australians safe and secure than passing national security legislation.
“So I would encourage all members and senators to focus on the job they were elected to do, which is to turn up to parliament and look at the legislation and give their views on it.”
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said it was a “time honoured tradition” for Coalition MPs to be able to cross the floor, but it should “be used sparingly”.
Country Liberal Party Senator Sam McMahon said Senator Hanson’s “hijacking” of the senate would cost her Northern Territory constituents greatly, with the Northern Territory Rights Bill 2021 pushed off the notice paper amid the chaos.
Senator McMahon had hoped to have the Bill debated in the sitting fortnight, but will not be able to given Senator’s Hanson threat to withhold passing any government legislation unless her bill was given priority.
“I am extremely disappointed this has occurred to all Territorians,” she said.
“I was pushing, along with other Senior Government leaders for this to occur, however Senator Hanson made it quite clear where her priorities were, and they aren’t Territorians.”
The sitting fortnight follows a weekend of anti-vaccine mandate protest action across the country, most notably in Melbourne.
Mr Morrison last week said the government did not believe in making vaccines mandatory, saying Australians are “sick” of being told what to do.
While the federal government has only legislated vaccines for aged care workers, individual states and territories have gone further, with unvaccinated residents restricted from numerous activities in Victoria and NSW, with Queensland to follow suit.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said Australians were frustrated.
“You can’t say every person in the crowd is somehow a mad person, they are not … They are frustrated,” he told Sunrise.
Of the two key pieces of legislation on track to be derailed by the senate chaos, the Religious Discrimination Bill is gearing up to be among the most controversial.
The Bill, set to go before the Coalition party room on Tuesday before being introduced to parliament, would seek to prohibit discrimination in public places such as workplaces, schools, clubs and healthcare settings on the basis of religious belief, including if a person does not have a religious affiliation.
Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon said the Religious Discrimination Bill should have been introduced for debate years ago.
“We shouldn’t be having this important debate in the shadow of an election campaign,” he told Sunrise.
“The Prime Minister promised this legislation at the last election and here we are, five minutes to midnight, to another election and we are having this very difficult debate.
“Now he has been hijacked by members of his own party who are trying to conflate or mix up two issues, the other being vaccination mandates.
“It’s disappointing because this is really important, we need to ensure people of faith and faith-based institutions don’t feel threatened by an excessively progressive agenda, but at the same time, I’ll fight with everyone determined to ensure people are not discriminated against.
“It’s a fine and difficult balance, one we need to get right, and it’s a debate we should have been having at least two years ago.”