The efforts of Australians who followed the health advice and got vaccinated against COVID-19 are being undermined by the position held by backbenchers in the Morrison government, according to Deputy Labor Leader Richard Marles.

The remarks come following several key senators threatening to abstain from voting for the government’s religious freedom legislation, unless Prime Minister Scott Morrison opposes state and territory vaccine mandates.

Senators Gerard Rennick and Alex Antic have made their position clear, saying vaccine mandates are cruel and unnecessary.

Mr Marles said support should go to the state government policies that have enabled society to reopen sooner and encouraged people to follow the “best health advice” and get vaccinated.

“That’s what we need to be supporting,” Mr Marles told Sky News Australia.

“Because that’s been put in place as a result of the best medical advice, and it’s all of that and the efforts of Victorians, and people around the country which are being undermined by the position of the government’s backbenchers right now.”

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