‘KILL THE BILL’: Thousands of protesters take to the streets of Melbourne over COVID-19 pandemilove

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Melbourne to protest new lockdown laws just hours after the city began enjoying its extra liberties.

A large crowd of protesters met outside the parliament building with a series of messages to Daniel Andrews and state leaders.

But one got taller than most at the first legal protest in a long time.

“Kill the bill,” protesters shouted.

It is a reference to the controversial pandemic laws currently being considered by MPs.

Victoria’s proposed pandemic laws

The Victorian government has introduced new laws into parliament that will allow the health minister to issue public health orders for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Public Health and Wellness (Pandemic Control) Bill 2021 aims to give state prime ministers the power to declare a pandemic and extend it for three-month blocks for as long as deemed necessary.

Earlier this week, Andrews said the government had indicated that this would happen and that this framework goes further in terms of “control and transparency”.

“We said when the state of emergency and legislative arrangements expired, we would introduce pandemic-specific laws,” he said.

“We wanted a set of goals that were not written with a hypothetical in mind, but which were a product of learning and the experiences that we have all been through the last 20 months.

“That is exactly the framework we have put in place in Parliament.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews speaks to the media.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews speaks to the media. Credit: JAMES ROSS/AAPIMAGE

The declaration will give the Minister of Health “wide powers to issue pandemic orders” on the advice of the Chief of Health and will replace the current state of emergency, which expires on 15 December.

A similar process is in place in NSW and New Zealand, where the Minister of Health is directly accountable to Parliament.

But the proposed Victorian laws go further, with an independent oversight committee to review public orders and their impact on human rights, while public health advice needs to be made public.

The laws also introduce security measures around the protection of contact tracking and QR code information, while an aggravated offense will be created to “deter … the most violent pandemic-related behavior”.

Court-imposed sanctions will be imposed to stop companies receiving commercial advantage by breaking a pandemic order.

Victoria’s Liberal leader Matthew Guy described the law as an “extreme power” and asked why it would be necessary if lockdowns were a thing of the past.

“Given the extreme nature of the government’s proposed pandemic law, the Liberal and National Parties decided this morning to stand up for Victorians and oppose it,” he tweeted.

“The state government has said they ‘never lock us in again’ – so why such extreme legislation?”

The opposition says the government is “full of power”, describing the proposed laws as “the most extreme, dangerous and exaggerated laws ever presented to our state”.

“Daniel Andrews is trying to equate the Victorian health chief and give himself uncontrolled power to declare a state of emergency,” said opposition leader Matthew Guy.

If passed, pandemic-specific laws will replace the current state of emergency, which expires on December 15.

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