Vic vaccine challengers lose new judge bid

Victoria's vaccine mandates for essential workers are being challenged in the Supreme Court.
Victoria's vaccine mandates for essential workers are being challenged in the Supreme Court.

More than 100 essential workers and employers challenging Victoria's vaccine mandates have lost their bid for a new judge in their Supreme Court case.

Melbourne couple Belinda and Jack Cetnar filed a case challenging the mandates last week, but after a judge recommended they get legal advice they've joined a larger action led by healthcare worker Simon Harding.

Mr Harding's case against Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton and acting CHOs Deborah Friedman and Benjamin Cowie is being heard by Justice Melinda Richards.

Marcus Clarke QC is representing 18 healthcare workers, 13 construction workers, nine people in education, 58 authorised workers and 21 employers who want the mandates quashed and a declaration that they're invalid.

On Wednesday he requested Justice Richards recuse herself because of a claim of apprehended bias.

He suggested the judge had already made a decision on the merits of the case in her decision last week not to set an immediate trial date.

"It's quite clear that a number of people will, on the orders themselves, lose their employment if they don't become double vaccinated," he said.

Justice Richards, who denied the request, said at the time she made that decision on Friday there had been no evidence to support his claims.

Since Monday there have been 50 affidavits filed on behalf of participants in the suit.

Mr Clarke also raised concerns regarding Justice Richards' previous role as a crown counsel, where she provided advice to the state cabinet and premier about Victoria's Charter of Human Rights, which is central to this case.

Mr Clarke's clients argue that health officials failed to give proper consideration to human rights and the declaration is incompatible with the charter.

Documents filed in the court allege health officials acted under direction and "at the behest of the Premier of Victoria and failed to give any independent consideration as to whether it was appropriate".

The case also alleges the health officers acted "illogically or irrationally" in concluding that the vaccine mandate directions were necessary to protect public health.

Justice Richards has ordered both sides file more documents in the case before it returns to court next Wednesday.

Australian Associated Press