Daniel Andrews' state of emergency legislation passes parliament's lower house

Daniel Andrews' state of emergency legislation passes parliament's lower house
Daniel Andrews' state of emergency legislation passes parliament's lower house

Victoria's controversial state of emergency law has passed Victorian Parliament's lower house, a step closer to becoming a reality.

The proposed legislation that would give Premier Daniel Andrews unlimited power to impose lockdowns and restrictions passed 51 votes to 26 on Thursday evening.

Mr Andrews would be able to declare a pandemic for an unlimited time and could rule breakers could be jailed for two years and fined up to $454,350.

Concerns were raised by the opposition, cross benchers and legal groups over aspects of the bill including a lack of balance of government powers. 

Daniel Andrews' pandemic legislation passed State Parliament's lower house on Thursday evening with 51 votes to 26

Daniel Andrews' pandemic legislation passed State Parliament's lower house on Thursday evening with 51 votes to 26

There were days of heated debate where MP's hurled abuse across the chamber, but the result was ultimately a foregone conclusion.

Daniel Andrews was called a 'dictator' in a hysterical 'screaming match' in the Victorian Parliament over the new pandemic management laws.

The opposition raised fears Mr Andrews wanted the laws in place so he could lock down the population on a whim - without any democratic oversight - as the state recorded a grim record of 25 deaths with Covid in a single day on Thursday.

The laws also allow the government to apply lockdowns and vaccine mandates to a 'class of person' such as the unvaccinated or workers with a certain type of job.

In three weeks time Victoria's Upper House will debate the bill in parliament where it is likely to be pass with approval of Samantha Ratnam, Fiona Patten and Andy Meddick.

The MP's were involved in negotiations this week over what amendments, if any, they would introduce to the legislation. 

Controversial new laws to manage pandemics could see rule-breakers jailed for two years and fined up to $454,350

Controversial new laws to manage pandemics could see rule-breakers jailed for two years and fined up to $454,350

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy told parliament on Thursday he would repeal the proposed law if the coalition were to be elected next year, accusing the government of 'trashing democracy'. 

'This bill enables an Australian government in a state, one of our six states, to rule by decree with no oversight,' Mr Guy said. 

'Except one or two individuals appointed by themselves, it allows them to rule by decree. It would not be, I think, something that any Australian 50 years ago would ever have imagined.' 

In a heated debated in parliament on Wednesday, which involved shouting across the chamber, shadow attorney-general Tim Smith said: 'This is nonsensical, it's an abuse of power. 

'It's a disgraceful mistreatment of our democratic traditions giving the dictator dictatorial powers and you think that's great. 

'You think it's absolutely fantastic giving the dictator the ability to rule by decree,' he said in reference to Daniel Andrews.

The pandemic legislation is set to move to State Parliament's Upper House in three weeks time where it's expected to pass

The pandemic legislation is set to move to State Parliament's Upper House in three weeks time where it's expected to pass 

Speaker Colin Brooks interrupted and said: 'I'm not going to let this descend into a screaming match across the table'. 

Opposition MP Louise Staley said the 113-page bill was 'the largest I've ever seen' and said politicians have not been given enough time to scrutinise it. 

'To be brought into this place and then be told they will be debating it later this day is a complete and utter assault on democracy,' she said.

The debate came as a Resolve Political Monitor poll for The Age showed Labor's primary vote has dropped from 43 to 38 per cent since the last election in 2018.

What are the fines in Daniel Andrews' new law? 

 $21,909: This fine is for breaching a pandemic order such as not wearing a mask, breaking a movement limit, attending an illegal protest or a gathering, refusing to get tested or failing to show ID.

$90,870: This fine is for an aggravated offence for breaches that 'cause a serious risk to the health of another individual' such as going to work when  infectious.

$109,044: This fine is for businesses breaking rules which may include failing to make sure customers check-in or show proof of vaccine status.

$454,350: This fine is for an 'aggravated' offence by a business such as encouraging customers to flout lockdown rules .

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That result would see it lose seats but regain power at the next election in November 2022.

The Opposition's primary vote was only 34 per cent, one point less than in 2018. 

Meanwhile, an Essential poll released on Monday put Daniel Andrews' approval rating at 52 per cent, down from 65 per cent last November. 

The Victorian Labor Government - which introduced the Public Health and Wellbeing (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021 in the state Parliament on Tuesday in the hope of passing it into law next month - accused the Opposition of being 'hysterical' and peddling 'misinformation'.     

The new laws, which the Premier hopes to pass soon despite fierce opposition, state a person can be fined up to $21,909 for breaching a pandemic order.

This could include not wearing a mask, breaking a movement limit, attending an illegal protest or a gathering, refusing to get tested or failing to show ID. 

Businesses can be fined up to $109,044 for breaking rules which may include failing to make sure customers check-in or show proof of vaccine status.

In addition, there is a new aggravated offence for breaches that 'cause a serious risk to the health of another individual'.

These can be punished with a $90,870 fine and two years in jail. An example given in the bill is someone going to work when they are infectious and should be isolating.  

Businesses can also be guilty of an aggravated offence, with a maximum fine of $454,350 if, for example, they refuse to obey a lockdown and encourage customers to also flout the rules. 

In its explanation of an 'aggravated' offence, the bill says: 'This aggravated offence is intended to cover non-compliance in egregious circumstances where there is an aggravating factor of the person knows, or having ought to have known, that the non-compliance is likely to cause a serious risk to at least one other individual.

'Similarly, the conduct of a business failing to comply with safety protocols and other directions given in order to limit the spread of a pandemic disease and actively encouraging non-compliance by customers may amount to an aggravated offence. 

'The offence is not intended to apply to minor or routine breaches that do not create a serious risk to the health of an individual, such as minor breaches of face mask requirements, and is not intended to be used as a tool to manage peaceful protests.'

The Victorian Opposition has described the laws as an 'attack on democracy' and vowed to oppose them at every turn. 

'Under these laws Victorians face a $21,909 fine for failing to wear a face mask and business a $109,044 fine if a customer fails to check-in properly,' Opposition leader Matthew Guy said. 

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The bill has been drafted after consultation with three crossbench MPs to guarantee it will pass this week or next month despite the opposition from the Liberals and Nationals. 

The new laws will replace the state of emergency powers which expire on December 15 when they will have been in place for 21 months.  

The Opposition fears they could be used to re-impose lockdowns in the near future. 

'These new laws aren't about streamlining State of Emergency powers but about making it easier for

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