A move by the Andrews Labor Government to extend its power to enforce strict lockdowns on Victorian families and businesses for a further 12 months will not be supported by The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath.
Ms Bath will be debating against Daniel Andrews controversial legislation change in the Legislative Council today as Labor attempts to ram changes through State Parliament by doing deals with the cross bench.
The State of Emergency powers allow the Government to impose and enforce restrictions, with no oversight or accountability.
Ms Bath said The Nationals will be proposing significant amendments to the legislation fighting to make sure the right checks and balances are in place to protect Victorians’ lives and livelihoods.
“Daniel Andrews should be focusing on detailing a comprehensively plan pathway back to a COVID safe life, instead he’s delayed again and is focusing on developing a pathway to more lockdowns,” Ms Bath said.
“Under the State of Emergency powers, the Andrews Labor Government has devastated lives and the economy.
“The Premier really needs to start being honest with Victorians and tell us what’s the plan and criteria needed to achieve a ‘COVID normal’ life – as we’ve seen in every other Australian states before this legislation is voted on in State Parliament.
“Labor has us all staring down the barrel of months more of lockdowns at a time, instead of giving Victorians hope with a defined plan out of this.
“We need positive and proactive leadership, instead Daniel Andrews delivers us a totalitarian approach lacking in accountability.
“Regional Victoria continues to suffer at the hands of a city centric Premier and I am calling for Gippsland to be moved back to Stage 2 Restrictions to allow the economy to reboot for second time.
“Community transmission is not occurring in Gippsland, it makes no sense to force regional Victorians to suffer because of a Melbourne based issue.”
Ms Bath said the Premiers lockdown legislation is hugely unpopular.
My electorate office has been inundated with thousands of calls and emails from Gippslanders fiercely rejecting Daniel Andrews’ push for more power,” said Ms Bath.
“On the other hand, I have received less than ten people supporting Labor’s legislation changes.
“The strength of response against the Premier’s state of emergency power push has been extraordinary and completely unprecedented.”
Amendments The Nationals will be seeking include; requiring extensions to be approved by both Chambers of Parliament for a maximum of four weeks and to remove the proposal for the powers to apply, even when there no active COVID-19 cases.
Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh said any change to extend the State of Emergency powers must be common sense.
“No government should be able to write itself a blank cheque for extreme power over Victorians’ lives and livelihoods,” Mr Walsh said.
“Regional Victoria is only in the second wave of COVID-19 due to the inexcusable failures of the Andrews Labor Government including the botched hotel quarantine program and shortfalls in contact tracing.
“The Nationals will always stand for country Victorians’ rights and freedoms in the face of government overreach.”
The Nationals’ amendments are essential to ensure that the Andrews Labor Government does not continue to bypass Parliament and misuse these extraordinary State of Emergency powers in ways that damage Victorian lives and livelihoods.
The Nationals’ five key principles include:
- State of Emergency may only renewed on a month-by-month basis subject to Parliamentary approval in both chambers
- Removal of Clause 6 of the Bill which lowers the threshold for the Chief Health Officer to exercise State of Emergency powers
- Confirming that the right of Parliament to meet cannot be undermined by State of Emergency directions
- Remove the proposal for current State of Emergency powers to apply even when there are no COVID-19 cases in Victoria
- Any amendments to renew State of Emergency powers are only applicable to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other oversight and transparency measures will also be proposed.