Independent MPs have flipped to vote with Labor to pass the Andrews Government’s pandemic legislation power grab after a marathon 24-hour sitting of the State Parliament.
The controversial pandemic legislation was fiercely opposed by Liberal and National MPs after legal experts and human rights advocates raised serious concerns that the Bill handed the government and the Premier too much power to lockdown Victorians – without parliamentary oversight.
Deputy Leader of The Nationals Steph Ryan slammed the eleventh-hour backflip by Independent MPs which gave the Labor Government the numbers to pass the Bill.
“The outpouring of anger and concern from people across regional communities is something I have never witnessed in my years as an MP – my office processed thousands of emails and countless phone calls, and a petition opposing the Bill, launched by Nationals MP Melina Bath, was signed by more than 12,500 people,” Ms Ryan said.
“Lockdowns have had a devastating impact on people’s mental health and financial security. They have hurt jobs and spiralled Victoria into debt, with the Victorian economy now the worst in Australia and falling further behind.
“In its desperate grab for power, the Andrews Labor Government has ignored the impact its lockdowns have had on the mental and social wellbeing of Victorians, on the education of our kids, on elective surgery waitlists or on people’s businesses.
“And now, with the support of Independent MPs, Daniel Andrews is securing unprecedented power over Victorian’s lives and livelihoods.”
With the State Parliament not scheduled to sit again until February 2022, an oversight Committee that must be established is still months away.
Daniel Andrews’ pandemic Bill also allows Victorians to be detained and held for 10 days without any charges being laid.
“Any detainment of citizens without judicial oversight is not democracy; it’s a heavy-handed dictatorship,” Ms Ryan said.
“Labor’s pandemic legislation is a bad law, there is no way to sugar coat that. The Premier now has unprecedented control over Victorians with no oversight.
“Unfortunately, once Independent MPs backflipped on their previously stated opposition to the Bill, there was no chance of stopping it.”
The Nationals in government have pledged to repeal Labor’s pandemic laws.
The Nationals have also announced $400 million to build a new infectious disease response centre to manage future pandemics, with 100 new specialised hospital beds. Of these, 50 will be located at the centre in Melbourne, with a further 50 to be located across the state – including regional Victoria.