Victoria’s controversial pandemic laws must be passed after MPs secure amendments Victoria

Victoria’s controversial pandemic laws are due to be passed in parliament after MP Rod Barton across the bench agreed to support the legislation and secured changes to give parliament the power to reject pandemic orders.

But Parliament will only be able to exercise that power if the rejection has been recommended by an interparliamentary committee and then supported by an absolute majority in both chambers of parliament, a scenario that is unlikely unless there is a change of government.

Barton said the changes made it “a much better and fairer bill” than the one originally introduced by the government earlier this month.

He told the Guardian Australia that the creation of an inter-parliamentary committee with real-time monitoring of how the powers of the pandemic were exercised was “a very powerful thing”.

“It puts the focus on the government, which prevents them from implementing this quietly next door,” he said.

With Barton’s support, the Public Health and Wellness Act (Pandemic Management) is expected to pass the upper house. The debate begins at 3 p.m., and is expected to run out late on Tuesday night.

The Andrews government says it needs the legislation in place before the state of emergency expires on Dec. 15 to ensure it can still issue and enforce public health orders.

Debate over the bill was suspended two weeks ago after former Labor MP Adem Somyurek returned to parliament after proving his vaccination status too late, indicating he would vote against the bill.

It left the Andrews government a vote less than what it needed to pass the law, as it had already secured the support of three other MPs across the board – Reason Party Fiona Patten, Green Party leader Samantha Ratnam and Animal Justice Party Andy Meddick. – who negotiated a number of reforms, including a significant reduction in fines for breaches of public health orders and a fully funded independent monitoring committee;.

The Prime Minister, Daniel Andrews, did not express relief over the agreement, saying “we will wait and see what happens in the Legislative Council”.

He said the emergence of the Omicron variant showed that the pandemic “is not over”.

“These are extraordinary events because a pandemic is an extraordinary thing,” Andrews said. “It’s not something we face so often, even though it’s dominated our lives, I know, the last couple of years.

“This is a one-in-100-year event, if you will. Who knows when the next one will be? Who knows when the current things will end?”

Andrews said vaccine mandates “will not be here forever” but indicated they may have to stay in place until booster shots were rolled out and children under 12 were vaccinated.

“It will keep changing and our response must be smooth,” he said. “And the inherent protection that comes from encouraging everyone to get vaccinated, yes, the hospitalization numbers tell you everything you need to know.”

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Barton said on Facebook that the version of the bill he supported was “fundamentally a different bill” than the one originally introduced by the government.

“We have absolutely limited the powers of the government,” he said.

Barton locked comments on that post and also locked his Twitter account.

It suggested Changes include replacing the current detention review panel with a new independent control panel, clarifying that detention complaints can be lodged with the Ombudsman, and removing the serious offense clause, which originally included $ 91,000 or two years in prison for individuals. These sanctions were reduced under previous amendments negotiated by other crossbenchers.

MP Clifford Hayes of the Sustainable Australia party was also in talks to support the bill, but said on Tuesday that although the government had negotiated in good faith and made “commendable” changes, “the government’s final position was not enough to gain my support.”

Tweets from anti-lockdown, anti-vaccine protesters branded Barton a “traitor” and asked supporters to “know their faces”. Others urged people to send an email to Barton asking him to reconsider, saying the legislation would be used to “target and oppress unvaccinated Victorians”.

A modest group of protesters had gathered outside parliament, but by the time the Legislative Council began to sit, they appeared to be outnumbered by police officers.

Barton said he and his staff had spent the morning “dodging threats” after their phone numbers were leaked. Some had been referred to the police.

“We have had threats to kill and threats against our families. It’s pretty brutal, ”he said. “It is not acceptable and we should not tolerate it and it is a matter for the police.”

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He said this decision would be more investigated than anyone he had made so far in his public life. “There are a lot of angry people out there, but in the end, what we’re trying to get through is a very different bill than what the government tried to get up to last week.”

State opposition leader Matthew Guy previously accused Barton of making a deal to support the legislation. Guy also criticized the government for not consulting with the Liberal Party, saying “our phone never rang”.

Barton rejected Guy’s comments, saying he did not enter into an agreement with the government.

“It’s typical of the opposition to come up with something like that when they have nothing else to say.”

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