Crossbenchers' transparency triumph cuts Premier's pandemic powers


The parliamentary leaders of the Greens, the Reason Party and the Animal Justice Party have secured key improvements to the pandemic bill. 

Amendments negotiated by Samantha Ratnam, Fiona Patten and Andy Meddick respond to community concerns and strengthen the bill with further transparency and accountability measures.

While the official Opposition and some prominent shock jocks and tabloid commentators knowingly, dangerously incited and fanned unduly angry civil unrest with lies, the crossbenchers focused on improving the bill to better protect and support the Victorian community as we continue to face the pandemic.

Thanks to the advocacy of the three MPs, the Victorian Government has agreed to further reform that will result in: 

  • Significant reductions in the maximum fines for breaching public health orders 
  • A stronger threshold for declaring a pandemic 
  • Strengthened human rights protections including the application of the Charter of Human Rights to all orders and actions, and resolving concerns around references to "attributes and characteristics" 
  • The right to protest will be protected and enshrined in regulations 
  • Guaranteed resourcing for the independent oversight committee 
  • Faster publication and tabling in parliament of public health advice and public health orders 
  • Stronger powers for the parliamentary Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee to provide oversight and scrutiny of public health orders 

The changes mean that the community will now have access to real-time advice behind public-health decisions, and ultimate accountability will rest with the Premier and Health Minister.

Quotes attributable to Leader of the Victorian Greens, Samantha Ratnam MLC: 

“The reality is we’re still in the middle of a pandemic and we’re still going to need to keep Victorians safe with public health measures like contact tracing and home quarantine. 

“That’s why we’ve been negotiating with the government to secure further improvements to these laws, which are much fairer and more transparent, but also necessary while the virus is still in the community.” 

Quotes attributable to Animal Justice Party Member for Western Victoria, Andy Meddick MLC:   

“While I am hopeful we have seen the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is not over, and we need good laws in place to protect the community and public health. These changes will ensure Victoria has the most transparent and accountable pandemic management framework in the country.” 

“My crossbench colleagues and I listened to the advice and feedback of a range of legal experts, community advocacy groups and human rights organisations. This consultative process has made a good bill even better.” 

Quotes attributable to Leader of the Reason Party, Fiona Patten MLC:   

“This won’t be the last pandemic we see. The next could be a version of Ebola, Hendra or even a return of smallpox.  Pandemics need special laws.  They are not like floods or fires.

“We started the development of this legislation in March and these amendments find the delicate balance between protecting human rights and protecting the health of the community.”