The bill to extend state of emergency powers in Victoria for six months passed the upper house following a marathon debate that trickled into the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Upper House Opposition leader David Davis has come out this morning slamming the decision, claiming the debate was “gagged” and the final outcome “a dagger in the heart of democracy”.
The bill to extend the emergency powers in Victoria for six months passed at 2am following a marathon debate.
The vote went down to the wire with 20 MPs voting in favour and 19 against.
The extension gives chief health officer Brett Sutton the power to extend and impose COVID-19 restrictions, such as a curfew and mandatory mask wearing in public, for another six months.
But Mr Davis demanded answers on why Labor MPs voted to stop questions being asked on the crucial legislation.
“The Andrews Government described the bill as the most important to be debated this parliamentary term, yet time and time again, Labor voted to prevent important questions from being asked,” he said.
“It was a shameful, arrogant and undemocratic display that Victorians have been accustomed to from Victorian Labor and Daniel Andrews.
“Victorians have concerns they wanted addressed in state parliament. Sole traders are suffering, self-harm in students has risen dramatically, families are being locked inside their homes, multicultural communities have been ignored and businesses may never open again. Yet, Daniel Andrews and Labor shamefully turned their back on all Victorians.”
The bill still needs to pass the lower house when it next sits on Thursday, but it is expected to sail through due to the Andrews government’s large majority.
The Victorian government faced fierce backlash over its initial plan of a 12-month extension to the state of emergency.
The Opposition were unsuccessful in their attempt amend the bill to have the state of emergency powers extended month to month.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos was heckled repeatedly throughout her speech and told parliament those who voted against the bill were essentially voting for a “third wave”.
Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam made an early return from maternity leave with her one-month-old daughter Malala to cast her vote in favour of the Andrews government’s bill and help get it over the line.
Ms Ratnam said she wasn’t going attend parliament on Tuesday but there were more than 2000 active coronavirus cases in Victoria and everyone needed to “work together right now to defeat the virus”.
“Thanks to the Victorian Government for listening to our concerns about the lockdown and putting in place additional transparency measures in the bill,” she tweeted.
Crossbench MLCs Fiona Patten and Andy Meddick also voted in favour of the extension.
Ms Mikakos praised the three crossbench MLCs for putting public health above politics in allowing a state of emergency declaration to continue for another six months, if necessary.
Stage four restrictions in Melbourne were due to expire on September 13.
The legislation, if passed by the lower house, allows the maximum a state of emergency declaration can be imposed on Victoria to be extended from six to 12 months.
The bill also requires enhanced reporting from the state government each time the declaration is extended, with a report including advice from the chief health officer on why the extension was needed, to be tabled in each house of parliament within three days.
The bill also outlines that the amendment will be repealed on the first anniversary of its commencement.
The Opposition has accused the government of gagging debate in the final hours of the marathon debate on Wednesday morning.
Leader of the Opposition in the upper house David Davis said Labor voted to gag Opposition questions on the impacts of further restrictions, on mental health advice the government received and the legality of the bill.
“The Andrews government described the bill as the most important to be debated this parliamentary term, yet time and time again, Labor voted to prevent important questions from being asked,” he said.
Opposition lower house MP Tim Smith also slammed the government on 2GB radio in Sydney on Wednesday morning and said it was a “very, very, sad day in Melbourne and Victoria”.
“A six-month extension to the state of emergency powers are totally disproportionate to the threat, the risk that will be posed to Victorians next year by the coronavirus,” he told host Ben Fordham.
“These laws are so extreme they’re seeing Victorians only allowed out of their homes to do an hour of exercise every day, this has never happened before in our history.”