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No NT vax law challenge before deadline

Three men fighting the Northern Territory’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate in a bid to save their jobs won’t get their day in court before the Christmas Eve jab deadline.

Ray Phillips, Conan Hammet and John Anstess are challenging a health order requiring most workers to be fully vaccinated by December 24.

The trio says Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie didn’t have the legal power to make the directive.

They applied for an expedited hearing in the NT Supreme Court on December 23 saying they are likely to lose their jobs on Christmas Day if the law stands.

But their request was denied on Wednesday.

Justice Sonia Brownhill said there was not enough time for the parties to prepare for such an important case.

It would also give the court only one day to determine the outcome before the deadline, which she said was inadequate.

The men are part of a broader group called United NT Businesses that is fighting the mandate, saying it is a bad law that must be repealed.

The group’s legal team initially applied to the court in early December for a hearing based on six grounds of argument against the vaccination law.

But that was slimmed down to the primary argument that Dr Heggie had exceeded his authority when he made the far-reaching directive.

The broader case, which is likely to be heard next year, is set to raise constitutional issues and may see other parties from outside the territory joining the case.

The territory’s vaccination mandate was announced in mid-October.

It required tens of thousands of workers who interact with the public and vulnerable people to get vaccinated or face losing their jobs.

Essential infrastructure, security, transport and logistics workers were also ordered to get the jab.

The first vaccination was required by November 12 but many workers were given extra time until Christmas to get jabbed.

The law allows employers to demand proof of vaccination from staff and to keep information on those who have had the jab.

Fines of $5000 for non-compliance are enforceable.

United NT Businesses says it has 500 member businesses.

Outside court, president Mario Tsirbas said the men would fight on to stop similar laws being made in the future.

The matter will return to court on Tuesday to determine a date for the hearing.

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