Upper house

Vic’s pandemic bill faces further delay | County Chief of St George and Sutherland

Victoria’s pandemic legislation could be amended to provide increased oversight, in an effort to gain support from another interbank MP.

But the Public Health and Welfare Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill is unlikely to be debated on Friday, with the government planning to call an additional sitting day next week to ensure its passage before the expiration of the current state of emergency.

The bill gives the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health the power to declare a pandemic and the ability to apply restrictions such as containment, wearing masks and vaccination warrants.

It was due to be passed by parliament with the backing of three interbank MPs this week, but former labor minister Adem Somyurek said he would return from a voluntary absence to vote against the bill in its current form.

His vote would result in a tie, meaning the bill would have to be reintroduced to the lower house of parliament.

Without the legislation, the government will not be able to impose many of its COVID-19 restrictions after the state of emergency expires on December 15.

Sustainable Australia MP Clifford Hayes negotiated with the government and said he had been “receptive” to his calls for tighter supervisory powers.

“I have clearly indicated the issues I want to see addressed in the bill,” he told reporters in Parliament on Friday.

“I’m going to be pretty firm on this because there are important civil rights involved and we need to make sure we protect these essential elements of democracy.”

Mr Hayes called for a non-government-led parliamentary committee to oversee the exercise of pandemic ordinances and for both houses of parliament to have the power to overrule them.

“I think it’s definitely on the table,” he said.

Attorney General Jaclyn Symes said negotiations with the Cross Banks had been “productive”.

She said Mr. Hayes particularly understands the need for pandemic laws by December 15.

“He suggested some amendments, I think there is room to move forward on what he suggested,” said Ms Symes.

“What is fair to say is that everyone knows that from December 15 we find ourselves without a framework. It is an unacceptable situation.”

Independent MP Catherine Cumming said she would vote in favor of the bill if the government scrapped the vaccine mandates.

When asked if this was something the government would consider, Ms Symes said a definite “no”.

Transport Matters MP Rod Barton told ABC Radio Melbourne he was part of a group of crossbenchers working to “get a united position and we are very, very close”.

Reason Party MP Fiona Patten said legislation must be passed or Victoria could become the “only jurisdiction in the world without regulations to help us control this pandemic”.

“At this point, I’m actually very positive about this process,” she told reporters on Friday.

“We have worked very hard to bring this legislation to where it is. There are many amendments that we have negotiated.

“Now if some of the other sane MPs negotiate even more amendments to improve the law, then I think that will be a great result.”

Several other crossover MPs – including the Liberal Democrats, Justice Party MPs and Jeff Bourman of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers – are strongly opposed to the bill.

“They have to more or less rewrite the bill,” Mr. Bourman said.

Mr Somyurek has only been in Parliament twice since he was forced to leave Labor in June 2020 for leading a branch-stacking operation.

Australian Associated Press

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