Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is looking to extend the state of emergency until December 15. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is looking to extend the state of emergency until December 15. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie

Dan Andrews launches new power grab

The Victorian government has launched an attempt to extend the state of emergency until the end of the year.

Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed on Tuesday the government would introduce a bill into parliament to extend Victoria's state of emergency past its maximum legislated period of 12 months.

The Premier declared a state of emergency in Victoria on March 16, 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

It has been extended in four-week periods since that date, but the government will need to pass new laws in order to extend it for longer than 12 months.

The bill will attempt to extend the state of emergency until December 15 this year.

The state of emergency allows the chief health officer to legally introduce directions to help stop the spread of coronavirus, such as mask wearing and stay-at-home restrictions.

Mr Andrews stressed that the bill would not mean new rules would suddenly be introduced.

He said the extension was needed for "legal certainty" for coronavirus measures, such as having returning Australian come home through mandatory quarantine.

"These rules are all about staying safe and staying open," the Premier said.

"We can't go to a situation where there are no rules.

 

COVID-19 drive-through testing at the Melbourne Showgrounds. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie
COVID-19 drive-through testing at the Melbourne Showgrounds. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie

 

"I'm very confident we will have that good faith, constructive discussion with any and all members of parliament who want to be engaged and that will get this passed.

"We can't have mandatory quarantine unless we have a rule book, and you can't have rules unless they've got legal authority, and that's what the state of emergency gives us.

"This is not about new rules. This is just about keeping the current rules in place and potentially loosening them off as conditions continue to get better."

The bill would be expected to easily pass the lower house where the government has a clear majority, but the Premier may need to negotiate with the crossbench to get the bill through the upper house.

Mr Andrews said extending the state of emergency was not a "particularly complex thing" but rather common sense.

The Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 initially only allowed for a state of emergency to be extended to a maximum of six months.

 

Premier, Daniel Andrews announces a bill to extend the state of emergency until December 15. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ David Crosling
Premier, Daniel Andrews announces a bill to extend the state of emergency until December 15. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ David Crosling

 

But the Andrews government negotiated a new coronavirus clause in September last year that saw the maximum period extended to 12 months in respect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

They are now attempting to get the maximum period extended by a further nine months to a total of 21 months.

The first direction imposed by chief health officer Brett Sutton on March 16, 2020 when the state of emergency was declared was to limit was to ban non-essential mass gatherings of more than 500 people, such as cultural events, sporting events or conferences.

That direction has since been superseded by the COVIDSafe summer public events framework which allows Victorians to gather in larger numbers at approved organised events, such as the Boxing Day Test and the Australian Open.

Under a state of emergency, authorised officers, at the direction of the chief health officer, can act to eliminate or reduce a serious risk to public health by detaining people, restricting movement, preventing entry to premises, or providing any other direction an authorised officer considers reasonable to protect public health.

jack.paynter@news.com.au

Originally published as Dan Andrews launches new power grab


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