WA Police say more than 50 officers are facing disciplinary action over their refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19 — as a legal challenge against the state’s vaccine mandates by one of their own was comprehensively rejected by a WA Supreme Court judge.
Ben Falconer has spent almost nine months fighting against the mandates issued by WA Police to all its workers late last year — a battle that took so long that the mandates were lifted in the meantime.
That battle was lost on three fronts on Tuesday, when Justice Jeremy Allanson methodically picked apart arguments around irrationality, proportionality and bodily integrity.
“It was not, in the words of counsel for the applicant, a maelstrom in a petri dish. The measures that were taken are undoubtedly extraordinary, but that does not establish that they lacked rationality so as, for that reason, to be beyond power,” Justice Allanson said.
Responding to the defeats, Mr Falconer — flanked by supporters wearing purple and sporting banners — quoted Martin Luther-King.
“I just have a quote from Martin Luther King that comes to mind, that, in Australia, we have ‘a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws’. I think the country needs to spend some time with that,” he said.
“You don’t start a fight like this unless you’re willing to lose it.
“This is only the beginning, we’ll get some advice from our lawyers and see what appeal options we have.
In response to the judgments, Police Commissioner Col Blanch said that overwhelmingly WA Police officers and staff “continued to do their duty during the height of the pandemic.”
“They took measures to protect themselves, their colleagues, their loved ones and the community that they serve from COVID,” Mr Blanch said.
“The devotion to duty of WA Police was crucial to Western Australia safely navigating this global pandemic.”
A statement said that the force would continue to work through the disciplinary processes regarding vaccination directions.
“There is a total of 51 police officers and 21 police staff facing disciplinary action. Of those, 25 police officers and 17 police staff remain stood down on full pay,” they said.