Controversial vaccine poster in Byron Bay sparks heated debate

·5-min read

A Byron Bay man has created a controversial poster in response to new penalties for serving unvaccinated customers.

The NSW Government has confirmed businesses face hefty fines of $5000 if they fail to stop unvaccinated customers from entering their venues when the state begins reopening on Monday. 

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said businesses will be responsible for “taking reasonable measures to stop unvaccinated people entering premises”.

This includes having signs explaining entry requirements, checking vaccination status, ensuring Service NSW QR codes are used and only accepting valid forms of vaccination evidence.

Close up of somebody checking into a venue using a QR code. Source: Facebook/NSW Health
NSW businesses will be fined $5000 if they fail to stop unvaccinated customers from entering their venues. Source: Facebook/NSW Health

Post sparks debate about vaccine enforcement

This added responsibility is a major concern for many business owners, with one man in Byron Bay taking to Facebook to vent his frustration and encouraging local business owners to refuse to enforce the rules.

“Is it OK with you that the government has offloaded their responsibility for vax enforcement onto you, threatening you with a $5000 fine if you let an UNVX person into your store? It's certainly not with me,” Ian Blair Hamilton posted to a Byron Bay community group.

Mr Hamilton also shared a sign which welcomes anybody, regardless of their vaccination status, for others to download, print and display.

“I am not pro or anti vax, frankly, but I am anti a government unwilling to take responsibility for its own policy,” he wrote.

“Like all ideas, this one is only as strong as the number of people who agree with it, but if enough local biz people display this poster, your customers, the community, the press and the government will take notice. Enough is enough.”

A shop owner in Byron Bay has lashed out on social media over NSW businesses facing $5000 fines for serving unvaxxed customers. Source: Facebook
A shop owner in Byron Bay has lashed out on social media over NSW businesses facing $5000 fines for serving unvaxxed customers. Source: Facebook

The post was swiftly inundated with comments, igniting a heated debate on the issue.

“If I saw that sign outside a shop or cafe, I would take my business elsewhere,” commented one man.

Another compared the situation to the same duty of care bottle shop workers and tobacconists have.

“Bottle shops are fined up to $11,000 or they can be imprisoned if they sell alcohol to a minor.

Tobacconists are fined $11,000 to $55,000 if they sell cigarettes to a minor.

“Licensed venues are fined up to $11,000 if they sell alcohol to a customer who is clearly inebriated”

“Business owners will be fined $5000 if they fail to stop unvaccinated customers from entering their venues.

“Businesses have a duty of care and they are obliged by law to protect themselves, their staff, and their customers,” they posted.

A controversial poster the Byron Bay business owner shared which welcomes anybody, regardless of their vaccination status, igniting a heated debate on the issue. Source: Facebook
The man shared a controversial poster which welcomes anybody, regardless of their vaccination status, igniting a heated debate on the issue. Source: Facebook

One woman praised Mr Hamilton for taking a “brave stand”.

With others saying they “100% back free choice on the vax” and they will “stand by you if you're vaccinated or unvaccinated.”

But many argued it wasn’t worth the risk to publicly defy the government order.

“I doubt anyone is okay that the government has put the onus on small businesses to police their botched vaccine rollout. But how can we risk being penalised again for not following these health orders after all the income we’ve already lost due to lockdowns. A $5,000 fine would end me right now,” commented one business owner.

Hate directed at compliant businesses 

A few hours later, a woman posted to the same page asking to know which businesses would be complying on Monday.

“I take folks out into the community, and they all have compromised immune systems. I’m not looking for an argument: simply would love to know what businesses they can feel comfortable entering,” she wrote.

While many agreed it was a good question, local businesses didn't respond to her post.

“Wouldn’t it be great if these brave businesses felt safe to speak up! Lots of people would patronise them I am sure,” commented one person.

Another said: “I doubt they’ll comment as they’d get flooded with hate. Best bet is to call the groups favourite businesses and ask them directly. I just can’t see business commenting, they’d be thrown to the sharks to be shredded. So much hate is being bred lately in these comment sections, people have to tread lightly.”

"No one is going to speak out publicly for fear of retaliation," another warned. 

The holiday hotspot has one of the worst rates of vaccination in NSW — partly due to supply issues but also an anti-vaccination sentiment among some locals.

Vaccine app delayed ahead of Monday reopening

Shadow Minister for Customer Service and Digital Yasmin Catley said delays to the government’s Service NSW vaccine app is also adding to the anxiety among small business owners.

Deputy Liberal Leader Stuart Ayres was murky about the technology’s timeline, admitting it could still weeks away despite businesses reopening in a matter of days.

NSW Deputy Labor leader Yasmin Catley looks on as Jodi McKay addresses media in Sydney, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. Source: AAP
Shadow Minister for Customer Service and Digital Yasmin Catley MP said the delay of Service NSW vaccine app is causing significant anxiety amongst businesses who face fines of $5000. Source: AAP

‘So that’s only a week or a few days away. Ten to 14 days I hope’, he told ABC RN Breakfast.

“We know the reason this app was delayed is because the Government was late to move on it. They wasted crucial time and now business is paying the costs,” Ms Catley said.

“This app should have been ready to rollout out from Monday, instead businesses will be waiting weeks with what Minister Ayres calls a transition period, which provides absolutely no certainty for businesses across this state”.

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