Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

The Victorian government’s controversial pandemic laws have officially passed through the state parliament.

The laws, which replace the state of emergency, passed 20 votes to 18 with the support of four crossbenchers.

It comes after days of debate and a marathon meeting that lasted 21 hours to adopt several amendments.

The legislation will now be passed on to the governor so that royal consent becomes law.

Health Minister Martin Foley said the government did not expect to use the new powers until Dec. 15, when the state of emergency expires.

Victoria will be the first state in Australia to have pandemic-specific legislation that gives the then government the legal framework it needs to deal with health emergencies, including vaccine mandates and mask rules.

The legislation will give Victoria’s prime minister and health minister the power to declare a pandemic and enforce restrictions.

The proposal only came to light in late October, and in its original form, it sparked criticism from legal groups, the state ombudsman, the opposition and others concerned about potential human rights violations.

The state government used the bill as one that would increase transparency, but its opponents raised concerns about powers conferred on the prime minister and health minister, calling for greater oversight and control to be included.

Major protests held in opposition to the change on the steps of Parliament House attracted many thousands of people and some protesters used violent images.

Dozens of changes were made to the original proposal as a result of negotiations between the state government and lawmakers across the bench, such as Reason Party’s Fiona Patton, Animal Justice Party’s Andy Meddick and Greens leader Samantha Ratnam.

In recent days, Transport Matters MP Rod Barton agreed to support the bill after securing further amendments, and his support eventually led to it going through the upper house today.

Sir. Barton said the extensive changes to the legislation made the bill a “very different beast” than the one originally proposed by the Victorian government.

“We could not and we did not support it initially. But with a huge amount of work, we have turned this kind of dog breakfast bill into a framework to keep the people of Victoria safe,” Mr Barton said.

Sir. Barton said the legislation was important to allow the state government to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and bring its powers in line with other states.

He urged Victorians who were unsure of the new bill to trust the recent support of former opponents such as Ombudsman Deborah Glass, the Law Institute of Victoria and Liberty Victoria.

The state opposition was highly critical of the bill, and while the Victorian bar supported the security measures introduced to the bill through the negotiations, President Róisín Annesley said there were still concerns about some of the powers it outlined.

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