NO TO AMENDED PANDEMIC BILL

In good faith, and responding to the concerns of the people of Victoria, I have partaken in a series of discussions with the State Government, proposing an overhaul of the Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment Bill 2021.

From the outset, I believed that the Bill was fundamentally flawed and a massive overreach of power. But I always understood the need for a pandemic framework.

I made a firm commitment that I would respond to the concerns of the Law Institute of Victoria, Victorian Bar, the Centre of Public Integrity and the Ombudsman. I have always stood by this commitment.

That is why I will not be supporting the amended Bill.

Over the past week, the Government has negotiated in good faith and made a number of commendable amendments to the Bill.

I would argue that myself and my colleague, Rod Barton, fought hard and long for these changes; but the final position of the Government was not enough to garner my support.

While the Government’s proposed changes are a welcome improvement over the original Bill, in my opinion; they do not go far enough to protect the important principle of Parliamentary oversight responsibility, human rights, civil liberties and fairness.

A particular component that I was consistently opposed to was the weak disallowance provision that would see a disallowance vote put to a vote in a Joint Sitting; this is an impossibility due to the Government’s strong majority in both Houses.

I also have serious concerns about the lack of safeguards surrounding the privacy of contact tracing data, the lack of a clear definition of ‘pandemic’ in the legislation and the absence of a clear plan to relieve mandates in a highly vaccinated population.

This has been a difficult decision and discussions went on into late last night.

I didn’t just listen to the expert bodies, but also the hurt, fear and massive concerns in the community. I presented the Government with, frankly, quite a thorough list of changes—recommended by bodies such as LIV, the BAR, and COPI, and also opened the discourse around a reprieve to mandates. Some of these issues were addressed, but several key issues were not.