Senator HENDERSON (Victoria) (13:39): I rise to raise serious ongoing concerns about Victorian Labor’s proposed pandemic management bill. Even after Labor backtracked on some of the worst parts of the bill, Labor’s proposed lockdown laws are antidemocratic and extremely dangerous. The bill, if passed, would allow unchecked power to be granted to the Premier and the health minister. A pandemic can be declared even when no pandemic exists—though it must be now declared on reasonable grounds. It allows the Premier to rule by decree, imposing almost any restriction without appropriate oversight by the parliament or the courts. Fines for a breach of a health order are outrageous—some $45,000.

One of the worst aspects of this bill is that Victorians can be detained indefinitely without charge, with no right of appeal to a court. The power to review the detention of a person will be moved from the Ombudsman to the government-controlled Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee. This is a farce. It defies the rule of law and represents a fundamental breach of human rights. So, in effect, the Premier throws someone into jail and decides through a committee he controls when they can be released.

As a senator for Victoria I say that this is abhorrent. Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass said:

There is a role for parliamentary committees, certainly a role for the scrutiny committee, but it’s not enough in my view and I think concerns have been rightly expressed right around the legal community in relation to the need for a greater level of independent oversight.

As Victorian Liberal opposition leader Matthew Guy has made clear, a coalition government will rip up Labor’s new lockdown laws and kill the bill.

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