Sky News, by Brianna McKee: Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has promised his party will ditch Victoria’s new pandemic powers being pushed through parliament by the Andrews government if he is voted in at the next election.
Speaking in parliament on Thursday Mr. Guy gave an “absolute guarantee” he will repeal the new laws and touted an alternate proposal on state of emergency powers.
“I give an absolute guarantee: when we come back to government in this state, we will repeal this law because it is fundamentally right to do so,” he said.
“This is a democracy. People fought and died for this democracy. The separation of the judiciary and this parliament is so important.
The legislation passed the Victorian Legislative Assembly 51 votes to 26 on Thursday evening after being introduced to parliament earlier this week.
If approved, the laws will give Mr. Andrews the power to declare a pandemic for three months at a time and allow Health Minister Martin Foley to approve public health orders.
Currently, Chief Medical Officer Professor Brett Sutton must sign off on public health orders before they are imposed on the state.
People found guilty of “intentionally and recklessly” breaching public health orders would also face two years in jail or a $90,500 fine and businesses could be fined up to $452,500.
An independent advisory committee for pandemic management would also be set up under the bill.
Mr. Foley claims the legislation will ensure the state has “the most accountable, transparent and public health-focused system” in Australia.
But Victoria’s Liberals have voiced strong opposition, with Leader Matthew Guy labelling the proposed laws an “incredible attack on democracy”.
“This bill transcends all of those and trashes all those provisions that we fought for in this country. We fought and died, people in this country, not to have it trashed by the megalomaniacs who sit opposite.
“By the people opposite who treat all our parliament — our institutions, the separation between the judiciary and the state — as something to be played with because the bloke in charge thinks he is above it all.
The Opposition has touted an alternate proposal which would stop governments from declaring a pandemic for over 30 days without backing from both houses in parliament.
Legal experts have also joined Mr. Guy in condemning the new powers and have pushed for stronger oversight.
The President of the Victorian Bar Christopher Blanden said the way in which the bill was being “rushed” through parliament did not “add up to good democracy” in his books.
“The bill confers on the health minister in a practical sense and effectively unlimited power to rule the state by decree, for effectively an indefinite period, and without effective judicial or parliamentary oversight,” he said.
Melbourne University Associate Professor William Partlett also pointed out the bill rejects a “key parliamentary safeguard” used in NSW and New Zealand.
“Instead of creating a dedicated cross-party parliamentary committee to oversee the exercise of these broad public health powers, it creates an executive-appointed oversight committee for this purpose,” he said.
“The use of an appointed committee to oversee these powers is a problematic departure from the usual role of parliamentary committees in the scrutiny of executive governance.
“To ensure a fuller set of safeguards, dedicated parliamentary oversight should be created alongside that of an appointed committee.”
Mr. Andrews has dismissed public outcry insisting the laws are the “most transparent, the clearest set of rules to keep Victorians safe.”
The new pandemic laws will be debated in the upper house when the parliament next sits.
Is this new law in Victoria Australia a precursor to how the Sunday law will be handled?
“Thus the world will become mine. I will be the ruler of the earth, the prince of the world. I will so control the minds under my power that God’s Sabbath shall be a special object of contempt. A sign? I will make the observance of the seventh day a sign of disloyalty to the authorities of earth. Human laws will be made so stringent that men and women will not dare to observe the seventh-day Sabbath. For fear of wanting food and clothing, they will join with the world in transgressing God’s law. The earth will be wholly under my dominion.” Prophets and Kings, page 184.2.