The Victorian Government will tomorrow introduce a Bill to replace the state of emergency with new pandemic-specific laws so that Victorians can stay safe as we continue to live with COVID-19.
The Victorians Greens have been central to the development of this new legislation and as part of their constructive negotiations with the government have secured a raft of reforms in the Bill.
The new measures negotiated by the Greens will both better protect disadvantaged Victorians and ensure greater transparency and scrutiny of government decision-making.
As part of their negotiations with the government the Greens have secured:
- An independent oversight committee. This committee will review public health orders and their community impacts, and include public health and human rights experts;
- Greater transparency around decision-making. Public health advice will be made public and tabled in Parliament so the community can better understand the reasons behind decisions made by the government;
- A fairer COVID fines system. This will help avoid children and people facing disadvantage being left with massive fines they can’t pay. It will include introducing concessional fines based on having a Health Care Card, so fines are more proportionate to a person’s ability to pay, as well as broadening the special circumstances test so more people in difficulties aren’t caught by unfair fines;
- Protecting QR code data. QR code data and all contact tracing information will be accessible for public health reasons only. Police will only be able to access this data if there is an imminent threat to someone’s life and they have a Supreme Court order;
- Significantly enhanced democratic accountability. Pandemic-related orders will be made by the Health Minister on the advice of the Chief Health Officer. This is already being done in NZ as the Minister is directly accountable to the Parliament.
The Greens entered these negotiations months ago because they knew the state-of-emergency legislation had run its course and was no longer fit-for-purpose, but that new legislation would be necessary while COVID was still in the community to enable public health measures like home quarantine and contact tracing.
Leader of the Victorian Greens, Samantha Ratnam, said the Greens will always support public health measures to keep Victorians safe, but wanted to make sure the new pandemic legislation would be fairer for the community.
She said it was also important that greater accountability and transparency was placed over any government decisions going forward.
Quotes attributable to Leader of the Victorian Greens, Samantha Ratnam MLC:
“The Greens have always supported the Victorian Government in keeping Victorians safe from COVID, but the state of emergency laws were a blunt instrument that needed changing.
“We’ve negotiated with the Government to create new laws which are a big improvement and much fairer for the whole Victorian community.
“I’m pleased that the Greens have been able to make sure these new laws have more transparency and are fairer for all Victorians, especially those facing disadvantage.
“The new laws will mean QR code data can only be used for health purposes, not accessed by the police for other reasons. The new laws also mean the Minister’s decisions will be reviewed by an independent panel that includes experts in human rights and health.
“These new, fairer laws show the importance of having people like the Greens in Parliament, negotiating with the Government to get better outcomes for our community.”