Opinion Number. 1099



Key Legislation

QUARANTINE ACT 1908, ss. 18, 75

The Director-General, Department of Health

The Director-General of the Department of Health has forwarded me the following memorandum for advice:

The s.s. Gracchus arrived in Melbourne on 7 April 1921, and was unloaded by stevedores working from 7 to 9 April, inclusive.

A case of smallpox was discovered on 12 April among the passengers who had disembarked at Melbourne, and on 13 April fifty-four of the stevedores, who had worked the vessel in Melbourne, were vaccinated at the offices of the Department of Health. The first inspection of these men after vaccination was carried out on 25 April, some of the men being seen at the offices of the Department and the remainder on the various vessels on which they were employed. After that date the men were inspected until 27 April, the date of expiry of the period of surveillance, at their own club or on the vessels on which they were working.

Except in a few cases there was practically no loss of time by the men due to the effects of vaccination.

A claim has, however, been received for fl each for vaccination from the fifty-four men who were vaccinated.

Twenty-five of the men have also claimed for time lost, the amount of the claim varying from £1.2.0 for one day to f 19.16.0 for eighteen days.

The total amount claimed is as follows: [details omitted].

A copy of the claim made by the Secretary of the Port Melbourne Stevedores' Association and a copy of a memorandum by the Chief Quarantine Officer on the matter are enclosed.

I should therefore be glad to be advised as to-

  1. whether there is any obligation on the part of the Commonwealth to pay the claims made by these men; or
  2. whether the men have any claim in law against their employers (the stevedoring company) for the amounts referred to.

It is assumed that the stevedores became subject to quarantine as persons who had been in contact with or exposed to infection from persons or goods subject to quarantine.

The Commonwealth is not liable to compensate any person subject to quarantine who has been vaccinated.

The question whether the men have a claim in law against their employers appears to be a matter between the employers and employees, and not one with which the Commonwealth has any concern.

[Vol. 17, p. 418]