Victoria’s State of Emergency is extended by six months as ‘Dictator Dan’s’ controversial bill passes by just ONE vote cast by a Greens MP who returned from maternity leave for marathon parliament session
- The bill passed just before 2am on Wednesday in the Victorian Upper House
- There were 20 votes in favour and 19 against for Mr Andrews’ contentious bill
- Reason Party MP Fiona Patten also voted in favour of the six-month extension
- Mr Andrews faced backlash over his initial proposal of a 12-month extension
Victoria’s State of Emergency has been extended by six months after Premier Daniel Andrews’ contentious bill passed parliament by just one vote.
Victorian Greens upper house MP Samantha Ratnam returned from maternity leave to vote for the government’s amended bill during a marathon parliament session early on Wednesday morning.
‘I felt it was just too important that I had to be here,’ she told reporters as she arrived at parliament with two-month-old Malala.
The passed just before 2am on Wednesday in the Victorian Upper House, with 20 votes in favour and 19 against.
Victorian Greens upper house MP Samantha Ratnam returned from maternity leave to vote for the government’s amended bill during a marathon parliament session early on Wednesday morning
Daniel Andrews faced intense backlash over his original proposal of a 12-month extension to the state of emergency powers
State of Emergency powers
The law hands Chief Health Officer Dr Brett Sutton two sets of sweeping powers to make legally enforceable public health directions.
The first set allows him to have any person in an emergency area detained for as long as necessary, restrict their movements in that area and prevent people from entering an emergency zone. It also empowers him to ‘give any other direction … reasonably necessary to protect public health’.
The second set of powers allows Dr Sutton and health officials to do the following in order to ‘investigate, eliminate or reduce a risk to public health’:
– Without a warrant, entering any premises and to search for or seize anything ‘that is necessary’
– Inspecting or closing any premises for a period of time to investigate a possible public health threat
– Requiring a person to provide their name and personal information to health officials under threat of legal penalty
– Requiring a premises be cleaned or disinfected or any thing be destroyed or disposed of to ‘eliminate or reduce the risk to public health’
– Directing a person or group of persons to enter, not to enter, to remain at, or to leave, any particular premises for the period of time
Reason Party MP Fiona Patten and Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick also voted in favour of the six-month extension, giving the government 20 votes in the 40-member upper house.
Mr Andrews initially proposed a 12-month extension of the government’s State of Emergency, but was met with furious backlash from the public, civil rights groups and his political friends and foes.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison directly asked Mr Andrews last week to reconsider his proposal and urged him to seek monthly or quarterly prolongments instead.
The State Opposition were unsuccessful in their push to have the State of Emergency powers extended on a month to month basis.
The State of Emergency powers allow Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton to impose restrictions including to wear masks or to stay at home.
The pandemic sparked a state of emergency on March 16, but that is due to expire on September 13 after a maximum six extensions along with Melbourne’s stage four lockdown and regional Victoria’s stage three rules.
The amended bill is specific to the COVID-19 pandemic and includes additional transparency measures, Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said.
Mr Andrews has previously stressed the extension does not mean stage four restrictions – due to end on September 13 – would be in place for another year.
It comes as Victoria recorded five coronavirus deaths and 70 new cases on Tuesday, its lowest single-day increase in cases since July 3.
The state government on Sunday will release its plans to move both Melbourne and regional Victoria out of restrictions, noting they will be different.
Active case numbers outside of the capital have plummeted to 139.
‘Given the low case numbers it will be possible for us to have different settings in regional Victoria, and a different timeline and road map compared to what will be essential in metropolitan Melbourne,’ the premier said.
The current state of emergency was due to expire on September 13, along with Melbourne’s stage four lockdown and regional Victoria’s stage three rules