New pandemic laws are a step closer to becoming reality in Victoria after a vote in parliament and days of intense debate.
Victoria’s new pandemic powers has passed the lower house of parliament after a week of heated public debate over the proposed laws.
The legislation passed the Victorian Legislative Assembly on Thursday night, 51 votes to 26.
Introduced to parliament this week, the laws would give the premier power to declare a pandemic for three months at a time and allow Health Minister Martin Foley to sign off on public health orders without the approval of the chief health officer.
Premier Daniel Andrews and Labor MPs have been subject to intense criticism over the legislation, which critics claim would give their government unprecedented power to control Victorians.
The laws will be debated in the upper house when parliament resumes sitting on November 16.
Earlier on Thursday, Mr Andrews said accusations opposition MPs hadn’t been properly consulted were downright wrong.
“I’m not interested in having a debate with them, they can have their view, but they’re not entitled to their own facts, and it’s simply wrong to make the claims that they are making,” he told reporters.
“Keeping people safe is very important, having a legislative framework that’s robust and strong with more transparency, more oversight, more accountability than any framework in the country.
“They are the facts here and I won’t be getting into these political games because they don’t keep anyone safe.”
The Victorian government has claimed the new laws would provide a clear and streamlined framework for managing pandemics into the future to keep the community safe.
Mr Andrews has repeatedly said the laws would ensure the effective management of the Covid pandemic after the state of emergency expires on December 15, bringing in targeted legislation to implement crucial public health measures in the event of any future pandemics.
Shadow attorney-general Tim Smith claimed the laws would take freedoms away.
“You told us that if we all got vaccinated, which we all have, on November 24 the only restrictions we would need would be for quarantine and to lock out the unvaccinated,” Mr Smith said.
“These orders will constrain freedoms and rights that have been ripped from us over the last 18 months, but individual citizens can be banged up without charge at the minister’s pleasure.”
Mr Andrews said he would not talk about making amendments to the bill, which was modelled off legislation in both New Zealand and NSW.