In a political move ahead of Australia's upcoming elections, United Australia Party chairman Clive Palmer has divested from the Qantas Group in protest at the airline’s stance on mandatory vaccinations for all staff. He followed this up by announcing that pro-choice vaccination advocacy group, Reignite Democracy Australia (RDA), had joined his party to campaign for the next federal election.

On August 18, Qantas in a statement announced its frontline employees – including cabin crew, pilots, and airport workers – would need to be fully vaccinated by November 15, 2021, and the remainder of employees by March 31, 2022. "There will be exemptions for those who are unable for documented medical reasons to be vaccinated, which is expected to be very rare," it announced.

In response, mining magnate Palmer - rated one of Australia's wealthiest people - confirmed his Palmer Group of companies had sold its entire stake of Qantas shares. "I believe that [Qantas chief executive] Alan Joyce and his board have taken risks which could result in possible future legal ramifications,’’ Palmer said. “I believe the financial risks Qantas is taking over mandatory vaccinations of its staff leaves it exposed to future financial damages by staff who suffer side effects or worse,’’ he said. “This is clearly an unacceptable future financial risk Qantas and its Board are taking. “No one knows ultimately what the cost of damages may be over a longer period. “I would encourage directors of other public companies to realise future financial exposure if staff are mandated to take vaccines which cause damages,’’ he said.

Palmer alleged that statistics in the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) reports released by the Australian federal government revealed “ hundreds of deaths and tens of thousands of adverse reactions from the vaccines”.

However, in its latest COVID-19 vaccine safety report on October 14, 2021, the TGA states: "The protective benefits of vaccination against COVID-19 far outweigh the potential risks of vaccination. Vaccination against COVID-19 is the most effective way to reduce deaths and severe illness from infection. Millions of people have now received COVID-19 vaccines under the most intense safety monitoring ever conducted in Australia. Like all medicines, COVID-19 vaccines may have some side effects (also known as adverse events). The overwhelming majority of these are mild and resolve within a few days. More serious side effects can occur after vaccination but are very rare."

Qantas said its vaccination policy had been arrived at in consultation with its staff and those at subsidiary Jetstar Airways. “We have had overwhelming support from our employees and customers for our vaccination requirements and all domestic airlines in Australia and many overseas have since introduced similar requirements for their workforce. Having a fully vaccinated workforce will safeguard our people against the impacts of COVID-19, as well as protect our customers and the communities we fly to,” a Qantas spokeswoman informed ch-aviation.