/ 18 November 2021

A pandemic power play in Victoria

Image source: AAP
Image source: AAP

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ push for new laws that will change who has the power to declare a pandemic and make public health orders has become ugly. Long story short, the plan is to shift the responsibility from the chief health officer to the premier/health minister. Negotiations with crossbenchers this week have brought about a changes to fines for rule-breakers and reporting timelines, but that’s not been enough to win the broad support of the parliament and some significant stakeholders. As a result, it’s predicted that protests outside Melbourne’s Parliament House could get worse.

Victoria is heading towards 90% of the people aged over 12yo being fully vaxxed, and more restrictions are set to be eased. Note: the current State of Emergency expires on 15 December. And what’s being debated in the parliament sets up a new arrangement for lockdowns, mandatory mask-wearing, and vaccine mandates with elected officials making the call. It’s a super divisive move by Andrews… On one side is the #IStandWithDan crowd (including wife Catherine), who say it will improve accountability because any decision will need to be reported to the parliament. But others, including the state’s peak legal body, business sector, civil rights organisations, state Ombudsman and Coalition MPs, say the proposal lacks adequate checks and balances.

It’s not a certainty with under-a-cloud MP Adem Somyurek popping up last night to say that he will vote against the legislation. That makes it hard for Andrews to get the numbers, and the race is now on to hit that 15 December deadline. It also means protests are set to continue and potentially escalate. And it’s not just those who don’t like lockdowns or changes to executive powers who are demonstrating – reports this morning say neo-Nazi extremists are also involved. Andrews yesterday said that threats have been made against himself and his family – something that’s “not fine, it is awful.” Coalition leader Matthew Guy condemned the attacks on Andrews, but he maintains his staunch opposition to the legislation, saying they are “the most dangerous and controlling laws our state has ever seen.”

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