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'Absolute disgrace': Anti-vaxxers heckle Spurrier after court ruling

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Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier was forced to run a gauntlet of yelling anti-vaccination protesters after the Supreme Court this morning ruled that she would not have to give evidence in a legal challenge to South Australia’s vaccine mandates.

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Spurrier attended court to hear its decision on an application by AFLW player Deni Varnhagen for her to give evidence about information relied on in her role advising the state emergency coordinator during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lawyers for Varnhagen, a nurse and Adelaide Crow who was placed on the inactive list after refusing to follow the club vaccination policy, told the court the application was not an effort to grandstand or “turn the court into some kind of royal commission” and said any cross-examination of Spurrier would be conducted with “the utmost courtesy”.

In the lead up to the trial, Varnhagen’s legal team issued Spurrier with a subpoena which required her to attend court on Thursday morning. As she arrived, protesters called for her to be prosecuted.

Government lawyers argued an application requiring Spurrier to give evidence should not be allowed as it was taking place against her will and would not add any additional expert evidence.

Justice Judy Hughes rejected Varnhagen’s application this morning.

“I’ve determined there is no relevant evidence that Spurrier can give on the grounds that have been asserted,” she said.

As Spurrier left court, a small but vocal crowd of anti-vaxxers shouted “Shame!” and “I want my job back” as she was escorted to a car accompanied by police and court security officers.

 

Health Minister Chris Picton branded the scenes outside court an “absolute disgrace”.

The legal case is challenging the state’s vaccine requirements for healthcare workers. It remains unclear whether SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens will also be required to give evidence.

Varnhagen has had to work as a labourer after losing her regular employment for refusing a COVID-19 vaccination, the court was told.

The decision to impose the vaccination mandate for state health workers and other public sector employers – including police, teachers and passenger transport workers – was made under the SA Emergency Management Act.

Varnhagan says she has received no nursing shifts since November 2021 after refusing vaccination despite receiving text messages asking for all eligible nursing staff to help fill shortages.

Varnhagen has been joined in the matter by several other people.

-With AAP

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