The Victorian Government’s controversial pandemic laws have officially passed the upper house of state parliament.
PANDEMIC BILL COMETH
The Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill passed the upper house 20 votes to 18 this afternoon, just 30 minutes ago.
The laws, which replace the state of emergency powers, were allowed to pass with support of four crossbenchers.
Transport Matters MP Rod Barton, Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick, Reason Party MP Fiona Patten and Greens leader Samantha Ratnam voted with the government.
It comes after days of debate and a sitting that lasted 21 hours.
Debate on began in the Legislative Council about 3pm Tuesday and ended shortly after midday on Wednesday. MPs worked their way through each of the bill’s 58 clauses and 83 amendments before it returned to the lower house, where the changes were approved just after 7pm last night.
The bill will now go to the lower house for final approval, where the government has a majority. This all but ensures the legislation will become law by the end of the week.
The state’s current state of emergency powers were set to expire on December 15.
This bill comes into effect from December 16, when the current state of emergency expires.
Under the legislation, the premier and health minister will have the power to declare a pandemic and enforce orders such as lockdowns, mask-wearing, vaccination mandates, and quarantine.
The pandemic orders can differentiate between cohorts of people based on characteristics such as age and vaccination status, relevant to the public health risk.
Several amendments were made to the bill to secure the support of Rod Barton, including the creation of a joint parliamentary committee that can review public health orders and recommend they be overruled by a majority of both houses of parliament.
Labor has chosen Ivanhoe MP Anthony Carbines and Eltham MP Vicki Ward to sit on that committee, while Lowan MP Emma Kealy and Rowville MP Kim Wells will represent the Coalition.
The legislation has become a key focus for pro-choice groups, who have occupied the steps of state parliament for weeks in protest.
The government initially thought the bill would pass last sitting week, but it needed an additional vote after former Labor minister Adem Somyurek declared he would return from a self-imposed absence to vote against it.
However, Rod Barton was all that was needed to tip the vote back in the government’s favour.
Ms Patten said this passing will set a “benchmark” for jurisdictions across Australia.
A benchmark for indefinite, perpetual virus warfare, we assume she means.
With the ‘arrival’ of Omicron on Australian shores, the Victorian government now have the power to play with the lives of citizens in the state at their sole discretion.
Interesting times to come in the future for Victoria.
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