THE Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien, has strongly opposed the state government’s proposed pandemic laws, which he says are a “draconian over-reach of state power”.
According to the government, under the updated pandemic management framework, the role of the Chief Health Officer (CHO) is to remain central to all key decisions.
After considering the advice of the Minister for Health and the CHO that there is a serious risk to public health arising from a current pandemic or a disease of pandemic potential, the Premier will be able to declare a pandemic.
A declaration can be made for four weeks but be renewed for three-month periods.
The Minister will also be able to issue a pandemic order to a specific classification of person or group depending on their location, participation at an event or activity, or a particular characteristic such as age, vaccination status, residence, occupation or living arrangements.
Meanwhile, an aggravated offence will be created for people and businesses who intentionally or recklessly breach a pandemic order or directions.
The penalty for an individual will be 500 penalty units and for a body corporate 2500 penalty units – or more if the body corporate obtained a commercial benefit.
“The pandemic legislation currently before the Victorian Parliament is seeking to permanently enshrine government over-reach into the lives and livelihoods of Gippslanders,” Mr O’Brien said.
“Gippsland has done a fantastic job of getting vaccinated and the subsequent winding back of restrictions has seen hope return that our lives are finally getting back on track.
“But at a time when are looking for certainty, the Andrews Labor government is seeking the power to permanently hold our lives to ransom.”
Mr O’Brien said it was clear there needed to be powers to protect public health, but Labor had significantly over-reached.
Under the proposed laws, a ‘pandemic declaration’ can be made “whether or not… the pandemic disease is present in Victoria” and could last indefinitely in blocks of three months.
“We are also alarmed that the Bill allows the government to issue health orders based on an individual’s age, gender, sexual orientation and political belief or activity,” he said.
“These and other aspects of the Bill have prompted the Victorian Bar Association to compare it to powers given to the Stasi, the infamous East German secret police.
“On top of all this, the government has used its numbers to ram the Bill through the Lower House in just two days, denying Victorians the opportunity to properly consider the Bill.”
After voting against Labor’s Bill, The Nationals and Liberals have introduced a private member’s bill proposing “common sense” pandemic arrangements to hold the Government of the day accountable to Parliament.
“Under our proposal, extensions to emergency or pandemic declarations would require a three-fifths vote of the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council,” he said.
“Victorians cannot suffer a repeat of the last 18 months. We need new protections that ensure transparency and accountability are at the centre of current and future pandemic responses.”
Mr O’Brien encouraged those opposed to the government’s new laws to make their voice heard by signing a petition at noplandan.com.au/lockdown-legislation.