The Premier confirmed last week that Labor will put legislation to state parliament to extend the government’s State of Emergency powers until September 2021.
I attended a briefing on Daniel Andrews’ plan to do this. While an alarming part of the legislation is extending the timeframe for a State of Emergency from six months to 18 months, there were other significant changes that cannot be brushed over.
Some of my concerns on the legislation changes include:
It allows for a State of Emergency to be applied even if there are ‘no active’ cases of COVID-19 in Victoria.
It allows the Chief Health Officer to take action if he believes it to be ‘reasonably necessary’ to do so, which lowers the threshold for introducing restrictions and rules.
We were informed during the briefing NO other options were considered.
This legislation continues to allow state parliament to be effectively shut down.
No government should be able to write legislation which delivers itself extraordinary power over Victorians’ lives and livelihoods without accountability.
Sadly, but realistically, we will have to live with coronavirus into the foreseeable future.
It is imperative we have protections to suppress the virus, however, our communities are being crushed under the current burden. Issuing a 12-month extension to the State of Emergency and ‘just in case’ powers, or as Daniel Andrews calls it, ‘an insurance policy’ – is not the answer.
There must be scrutiny and rigorous checks and balances.
The proposed legislation would hand extraordinary powers to the Premier to make rules and restrictions with no recourse.
In my opinion we could look to other models, for example, South Australia’s State of Emergency model includes a month-by-month proposition with parliamentary oversight and scrutiny.
Regional Victorians have been magnificent in their response. Instead of living with the threat of harsh lockdowns until September 2021, we need a plan to safely reopen our state. This legislation should not be the basis of that plan.
Consequently, I will be opposing the Premier’s State of Emergency legislation.
Melina Bath, Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria.