Daniel Andrews has accused his critics of playing ‘political games’ after copping an extraordinary spray over new pandemic powers.
Daniel Andrews has accused the Victorian opposition of political point scoring after introducing new pandemic laws labelled an “extreme abuse of power”.
The legislation, introduced to state parliament on Tuesday, has angered some MPs, who claim the Premier is being given unprecedented powers to control the state.
If passed, the laws would allow the Premier to declare a pandemic in the state for three months at a time.
They would also give the minister power to sign off on public health orders without the approval of the chief health officer.
Victorian opposition leader Matthew Guy claimed the laws were being rammed through parliament without consultation.
“This is the most extreme law of its kind anywhere in Australia. Placing so much power in the hands of one person, not the Cabinet, not the parliament, but in the hands of the Premier alone would be unprecedented,” Mr Guy said.
“Declaring and classifying individuals, citizens in our state, denying them their freedoms at will if empowered by this legislation if unprecedented – that is not democracy.”
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Premier Daniel Andrews rejected the assertion he was being given too much power.
“Some people have been playing politics with this everyday the last 21 months,” he said.
“But that does not work against the virus nor does it repair the damage done to us. I won’t be engaging in those political games now.”
The laws replace state of emergency power due to expire on December 15 and will be debated in both houses this week.
Health Minister Martin Foley said the new laws were exactly what the opposition had been calling for in terms of openness and transparency.
“We have learned over the course of the past 21 months that these powers impact on all sorts of aspects of our community and our wellbeing and our economy and our mental health and business and community,” he said.
“It will be the intention of this bill to make sure that all of those devices are heard and are transparent.”
The new laws would exclude chief health officer Brett Sutton from signing off on any pandemic orders, which he has had the power to do since the beginning of the pandemic.
Professor Sutton on Tuesday rejected assertions he was given more power than a government bureacrat should have and said he was “happy” to work under any framework he was given.
“It’s been a burden, a heavy burden, but somebody needs to make that decision,” he said.
“I will continue to provide my public health advice essential to the responses.”
If passed, the Victorian government will use the laws to enforce quarantine regulations, manage booster doses and enforce restrictions.
An independent committee made up of public health, human rights and other experts would also scrutinise key government decisions along with public health advice being made public.