Dictator Dan backs down! Premier Andrews drops controversial plan to let officials arrest innocent Victorians in the street or at work after lawyers said it would lead to abuse
Daniel Andrews has backed down on his bid to get sweeping new powers to let any government official arrest Victorians.
A proposed new law would have allowed the state government to give anyone it chooses – such as Worksafe officials – the power to enforce coronavirus restrictions and make arrests.
The unprecedented plan would also have allowed officials to detain people they suspect may spread coronavirus even if they have done nothing wrong.
Daniel Andrews has backed down on his bid to get sweeping new powers to let any government official arrest Victorians
The bill passed the lower house but will be amended after objections from upper house MPs, reported The Age.
It comes after eighteen esteemed former judges and lawyers wrote an open letter warning that the proposed law was ‘unprecedented, excessive and open to abuse’.
One of those lawyers, Ross Gillies QC, told Daily Mail Australia he fears power-hungry officials who enjoy exerting authority may abuse the powers given to them.
‘I don’t trust someone who is nominated by a public servant with the power to make arrests. I have real abiding concern that power is a very dangerous thing,’ he said.
‘Some people are excited by power and the ability to exert authority over someone else. There is the potential for enormous injustice.’
‘Someone might grab someone and say “I have reason to believe you are a Covid carrier or know someone who has Covid and I apprehend you”.
‘There would be no remedy in that situation. That may be the worst-case scenario but we know that can happen.’
‘Excessive and open to abuse’: The lawyers’ letter in full
Georgina Schoff QC (pictured) signed the letter with 17 other lawyers
‘We are deeply concerned by the passage of the COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2020 (Bill) through the Legislative Assembly.
Emergency powers already allow authorised officers under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic) to detain people and to restrict movement.
The Bill would expand the emergency powers to allow an authorised officer to detain:
• any person that the authorised officer reasonably believes is likely to fail to comply with an emergency direction and is a close contact of a person diagnosed with COVID-19 (or a person diagnosed with COVID-19) not given clearance from self-isolation;
• for so long as the authorised officer reasonably believes the person in detention is likely to fail to comply with an emergency direction.
The Bill would also allow any person the Secretary considered appropriate to be authorised to exercise emergency powers. There would be no requirement that persons authorised be police officers, or even public servants.
Authorising citizens to detain their fellow citizens on the basis of a belief that the detained person is unlikely to comply with emergency directions by the ‘authorised’ citizens is unprecedented, excessive and open to abuse.
We call on the Legislative Council to amend the Bill, or to vote against it.
MICHAEL MCHUGH AC QC
PETER HEEREY AM QC
NEIL YOUNG QC
ROSS GILLIES, QC
JENNIFER BATROUNEY, QC
JAMES PETERS AM QC
PETER COLLINSON QC
MARYANNE LOUGHNAN QC
RACHEL DOYLE, QC
MARY ANNE HARTLEY QC
PHILIP CRUTCHFIELD QC
GEORGINA SCHOFF QC
PHILIP SOLOMON QC
DAVID BATT QC
STUART WOOD AM QC
FELICITY GERRY QC
PAUL HAYES, QC
MICHAEL BORSKY QC