The Victorian government negotiated a deal to get an additional vote on its pandemic bill in the last sitting week of the year.
Upper House MP Rod Barton – of the Transport Matters Party – has been pushing the Andrews government to make significant concessions, with new amendments that will provide more oversight and appeal provisions.
The Public Health and Welfare (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021 will be presented to the upper house in Victoria today, now that a majority appears to be in place.
As part of the deal with Mr Barton, a new independent panel would be established to review detention orders during a pandemic.
The Victoria Ombudsman would also be able to receive complaints and there will be no more aggravated offenses under the bill.
The amendments also include the creation of a joint parliamentary committee and the directions on health could be reversed by a majority of both the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council (lower and upper houses of Parliament in Victoria).
Labor has negotiated with interbank MPs previously excluded from consultations to ensure his bill can be passed before the current state of emergency expires on December 15, with just a week of parliament this week for the to do.
Under existing laws, the Chief Health Officer issues binding health orders in the event of a state of emergency, but this power would be transferred to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health in the event of a pandemic under the project. law (as is currently the case in other jurisdictions, such as New South Wales).
Without either framework, the government would have no mechanism to enforce health orders such as quarantine, mask and vaccination warrants.
Labor believed they had a working-class majority in the upper house, with backing from Reason Party’s Fiona Patten, Animal Justice MP Andy Meddick and Greens Leader Samantha Ratnam, but this was scuttled by the Labor MP’s re-emergence ousted Adem Somyurek who pledged to tip the vote against his old party.
His return forced the government to enter last-minute negotiations with the rest of the MPs, including Sustainable Australia MP Clifford Hayes and independent Catherine Cumming.
Some fear that the new laws give too much power to politicians. Others say it’s better for elected officials to take health orders (rather than unelected bureaucrats) because politicians can be held accountable at the ballot box.