Three of the four Victorian MPs denied access to parliament last week for refusing to show proof of vaccination have set up a ‘rebel parliament’ in a Melbourne nightclub.
“Watch what’s going on in Australia… What’s happening with kicking members of parliament out for not handing over their papers – setting up a segregated society,” said Liberal Democrats MP David Limbrick. “If it hasn’t happened to your society, watch what’s happening here and see us as a warning.”
Independent MP Catherine Cumming, Liberal Democrats MPs David Limbrick and Tim Quilty invited Rebel News into the ‘rebel parliament’ where the three suspended members of the Upper House conduct their work.
The Chaise Lounge nightclub is playing host to the MPs.
“A few weeks ago, the government forced through a motion in parliament to get all members of parliament to hand over their papers or be suspended,” said Mr Limbrick. “They followed through with that. They suspended four members of parliament from the Upper House and one from the Lower House, and so we’re in a situation where we need somewhere to work. We can take part in parliament remotely, and that’s what we’ve set up here.”
The last time something like this occurred in Westminster parliament was in 1648, according to Mr Quilty.
Oliver Cromwell – the chief figure in the English Civil War who led the armies of the Parliament of England against King Charles I – installed himself in the dictatorial position of Lord Protector, where he was both the head of state and head of the government.
“Cromwell, the dictator, purged the parliament of anyone who wouldn’t support the execution of the king,” said Mr Quilty, pointing out that their current situation was not without precedence. “What we have in Victoria now is a ‘Rump’ parliament.”
Ms Cumming’s mother came to Australia after World War II. Ms Cumming’s grandfather was taken away by the Nazi regime for protecting the Jewish community.
“During this pandemic, a lot of people have actually been making references to Nazi Germany and those kinds of things – which has really broken my heart,” said Ms Cumming. “Watching what has been happening for even the Jewish community [in Melbourne] trying to actually be able to gather has really broken my heart. We don’t need it here. We don’t need to mandate.”
The rebellious MPs described the government’s actions as ‘unreasonable’, including the rejection of a Covid rapid antigen test as an alternative to vaccine passports.
While the members remain in exile, the government has tabled one of the most contentious Bills in Victoria’s history.
“The one thing that we can’t do is vote,” said Mr Limbrick in an interview with independent journalist Rukshan.
The legislation will first enter the Lower House, where it is expected to pass, before proceeding to the Upper House.
The Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021 is the latest series of amendments designed to vastly increase the Premier’s powers to declare, sustain, and issue health orders during a pandemic.
Emergency powers contained within the Public Health and Wellbeing Act have always been controversial. Still, the amendments in this Bill effectively give the Premier absolute and unchallenged control over the lives of Victorian citizens.
It marks a significant shift from short-term emergency response powers to a sustained state of emergency that could see the suspension of customary rights, laws, and liberties drag on for years. The government has gone beyond attaining special permission for Covid and instead opted to create a permanent system for all future pandemics.
“It’s pretty scary stuff – what they’re coming up with – especially when we’ve seen how the powers have been used in the past,” said Mr Limbrick. “The idea of these powers being used responsibly… We just don’t buy it.”
If these amendments pass, the Premier will be able to create a limitless pandemic even if there are no cases in Victoria. The option to extend the pandemic will be issued in three-month blocks according to whether the Premier deems it necessary. The Premier can declare a pandemic if he thinks that a virus ‘might’ become a potential pandemic, even if health authorities have not officially declared it.
Pandemic Orders represent a significant burden on citizens, who the state can detain in the interest of public health, become subject to a ‘papers please’ demand for personal information, have their businesses suspended without notice, or be required to undergo a medical examination.
The amendment creates a ‘classes of persons’ condition, allowing the government to generate health orders that only apply to specific groups of people – for example, the unvaccinated.
‘A pandemic order may apply to, differentiate between or vary in its application to persons or classes of persons identified by their location in a pandemic, participation at an event, or characteristics, attributes, or circumstances.’ -Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021
Police could access Contact Tracing information under certain circumstances and enter any premises without a warrant. In addition, a new set of severe penalties where aggravated violation of a health order could land a Victorian a two-year jail sentence or $90,000 fine.
These penalties have been viewed by many as entirely out of proportion to risk.
“We can live with Covid, and we don’t need to be frightened of each other anymore,” said Ms Cumming. “This Bill will continue on the mandates and controls, and we don’t need that.”