New legislation which gives the Victorian Premier the Premier to rule by decree passed the Legislative Assembly last night, despite fierce objection from local MP Steph Ryan.
The deputy Nationals leader vehemently opposed the Andrews Government’s Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021 and has vowed to repeal it if elected to government.
Ms Ryan is urging people to contact crossbench MPs who have supported the legislation ahead of a vote in the Parliament’s upper house.
“This is not about whether you like or dislike Daniel Andrews; it’s not about whether you think he’s done a good or a bad job managing COVID – it’s about the power handed not just to this government, but all future governments,” Ms Ryan said.
“The bill allows the Premier to declare a pandemic in Victoria and empowers the Health Minister to make orders to lock down the state and suspend people’s rights even when there is no presence of disease in the state.
“The chief health officer must publish his or her advice within 14 days but even if that advice does not support the government’s decision, it does not invalidate the orders.
“There is no mechanism for oversight by the Parliament. All the Premier must do is set up a consultative committee, which he appoints and which has no power of veto.”
Ms Ryan said she was also gravely concerned by the power the bill conferred to make orders on attributes, including race, gender and sexuality.
“This legislation offers no rights of appeal to courts for people. Individuals face fines of more than $90,000, which would send most ordinary Victorians to jail,” Ms Ryan said.
The president of the Victorian Bar Council Christopher Blanden said the legislation, which was drafted by Attorney General Jaclyn Symes, ‘effectively gives the health minister, in a practical sense, unlimited power to rule the state by decree for an indefinite period and without any effective judicial or parliamentary oversight’.
“When one of the state’s top lawyers says the Stasi would be happy with the powers this bill confers, all Victorians should be worried,” Ms Ryan said.
“I never believed that we would come to a place as a state where we would see that, but here we are. These things do not happen overnight; they happen by degrees.
“We know that the government needs a certain degree of flexibility to control dangerous outbreaks of disease. No one is arguing about that. We are arguing for proper accountability and oversight and this bill does not deliver those measures.”
The community can record their concerns at www.noplandan.com.au/lockdown-legislation