Victorian Parliament Debates Temporary Emergency Bill

By Alex Joseph
Alex Joseph
Alex Joseph
April 23, 2020Updated: April 23, 2020

A scaled-down meeting of Victoria’s state Parliament has taken place to try and resolve the economic damage of the CCP virus. The urgent Parliament debate will focus on budget measures and the temporary COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Bill.

The emergency bill, which is hundreds of pages long, lays out reforms to the justice system, rental, and landlord agreements, employment, and public health.

The appropriation (interim) bill (pdf) and the Appropriation (Parliament) (Interim) Bill (pdf), will provide funding for the rest of the year. An estimated $35.9 billion (US$22.8 billion) and $116 million, will come out of the consolidated fund, to be used to counteract the public health and social stability challenges created by the CCP virus.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews proposed the temporary Emergency Bill on April 21, as a response to the economic downturn which was caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as coronavirus. The pandemic has seen hundreds of employees stood down and some businesses forced into temporary closure, or worse.

The bill, which has a six-month expiry clause, allows the Victorian government to exercise all its power to counteract the losses caused by the CCP virus pandemic.

“These are temporary changes—but they’re necessary changes. This is about responding to the challenges of physical distancing and ultimately, saving lives,” said Attorney-General Jill Hennessy.

Proposed in the bill is a relief package for tenants which will see a freeze in rental increases. Landlords will also see lowered land rates and other relief assistance as well.

“With this Bill, we’ll enact the tenancy reforms announced last week—and give landlords and tenants the support they deserve,” said Minister for Consumer Affairs Marlene Kairouz.

The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) has called for more scrutiny of the emergency measures bill, as it gives a lot more power to the Victorian government in a variety of sectors.

“We recognise that the government needs to take emergency action to manage the current health crisis and we support many of the measures proposed in the Bill,” said ALA Victorian State President Jeremy King.

Details of the bill (pdf) include assistance given to vulnerable workers and plans to financially compensate workers affected by the CCP virus. According to the ALA, there is an aspect of the bill that will need careful consideration of infringements to human rights.

“The isolation and solitary confinement of prisoners and young people in detention, particularly those who are vulnerable to serious illness, is inhumane and may be unlawful under international law,” said NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman.

Several other states in Australia have passed legislation to allow changes to funding and the rule of law amid the CCP virus pandemic. Queensland Parliament passed an appropriation bill to fund more than $4 billion in household, business, and health support measures. New South Wales introduced emergency laws on March 25, bringing changes to health, justice, and community services.

Update on Victoria CCP Virus Cases

New cases in Victoria have fallen over the last week or so, with none reported on April 22. More than 90,000 people have been tested in Victoria. As of April 23, confirmed cases increased by one up to 1,337. Reports indicate the number of recovered cases is 1,243.

“This is a very promising result, we have seen a stabilisation of the numbers in recent days and, in fact, there have been no further cases of community transmission,” Minister of Health, Jenny Mikakos said.

On April 22, a man in his 60s became the sixteenth death attributed to the CCP virus in Victoria. Mikakos confirmed on April 23 the man, who had underlying health conditions, succumbed to the virus in hospital overnight.

“I want to express my thoughts and my sympathy to his family,” she told reporters.

Since reaching the peak of new cases on March 27, Victoria has seen a decline, however, there have been fluctuations recently. Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the recent daily fluctuations in the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Victoria was due to an increase in the number of tests being completed and an increase in the number of travellers returning from overseas on repatriation flights.

“The increases we are seeing are small and this is encouraging. They prove that our physical distancing measures are working but this is not a time to relax our strong approach—this disease can get away from you very quickly as we have seen in cities overseas,” Sutton said.