The Victorian Government has been forced to water down its controversial pandemic bill as a heated debate is set to unfold in Parliament this week as the legislation hits the Upper House and protests continue to swell on Melbourne streets.
Three crossbench MPs at the centre of the legislation insist they 'proud' of the work they’ve done calling out 'outrageous threats and behaviour' while Opposition leader Matthew Guy says the Andrews government’s pandemic legislation is “a huge hindrance to us moving on from Covid” and called for the Premier to withdraw the legislation insisting it doesn't go far enough.
The Bill hits the Upper House today where it is expected to pass this week with the help of three independents.
Lengthy consultations have taken place with crossbench MPs, — but still fails to address the concerns of legal experts and civil liberty groups with the laws looming as a key election issue.
“Tens of thousands are now marching from the State Library to Parliament, calling on anyone who will listen to ensure that this Bill – this controversial Bill – that gives absolute power to Daniel Andrews is killed this week,” said Rebel News reporter Avi Yemini, on the ground with protesters.
“If you do not hold onto democracy now – you lose democracy forever,” said one protester.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has come under fire from Victoria’s top legal minds, human rights bodies, Federal government politicians, and irate protesters – all of whom are demanding the Bill be struck down.
Included in the criticism are complaints that the legislation has been rushed through without proper consultation or examination of the legal consequences. Sixty QCs signed an open letter against the pandemic legislation.
Daniel Andrews’ emergency powers will expire on December 15 unless this Bill passes.
Eighteen amendments have been attached in recent days. These slight changes have very little impact on the powers of the legislation, which will still bestow dictatorial powers on the Victorian premier.
The three-month extension block has been lowered to one month.
The maximum fines for aggravated offences against health orders have been halved.
Parliament will have some input into validating and dissolving pandemic extensions.
The ‘discrimination based on personal attributes’ section has been modified to only include a health status – in other words, the premier will still be able to make laws that actively discriminate against the unvaccinated.
A right of appeal has been added so that citizens have some way of defending themselves against health orders.
Authorised officers can no longer enter residential premises without a warrant.
Leader of the opposition Matthew Guy has maintained that the first act of his government, should he be elected, would be to repeal the legislation in its entirety.
The media has run a smear campaign against protesters, with reports on social media dismissing them as far-right extremists, conspiracy theorists, Nazis, and Qanon.
In reality, the crowd contained a wide range of people from migrants, small business owners, and teenagers to medical professionals and politicians. Rebel News spoke to many in attendance who shared their concerns about the pandemic legislation.
“I am from East Timor. I came here when I was eleven,” said another protester. “But I never imagined in my life that I would come to Australia and I would experience this and my son [would] have to go through that. No way. I will stand here in the pouring rain – yes, I will […] people are the power. Government are here to serve and protect us, not to promote fear.”