The Victorian government wants to extend its state of emergency by at least 12 months to combat the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
However, Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said the state coalition would vehemently oppose a long-term extension that would allow the government to unilaterally keep Victoria locked down.
While the state had 15 more deaths on Aug. 24, the number of new cases plummeted to 116—the lowest it has been since 74 on July 5.
That was also the last time the number was under 100.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the state of emergency would be reviewed every four weeks, but parliament must approve the change.
As the legislation stands, the state of emergency can only run for six months.
That runs out on September 13, when Melbourne’s stage-four lockdown is due to end and regional Victoria is also scheduled to come out of stage-three rules.
“I would love nothing more for there to be no need for any rules on September 14, but I don’t think that is the reality,” the premier said.
Andrews also acknowledged the government would “potentially” look at a further extension beyond the proposed 12 months if a vaccine still was not available by September next year.
O’Brien is willing to support intermittent extensions every four weeks as required, but only if they come before parliament, “to make sure the civil liberties of Victorians aren’t being unnecessarily abused.”
“We have to be sure that any extension of these extraordinary powers is justified and how can we be sure about that unless the parliament sits?” he said.
The original state of emergency was declared in March as Victoria’s first outbreak struck and has been extended six times.
The state of emergency—separate to the state of disaster declared on August 2— is expected to be necessary until a vaccine is available.
Melbourne’s stage-four restrictions include an 8 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew, which falls under the state of disaster.
The state death toll from the virus is now 430 and the national figure is up to 517.
The latest deaths are all linked to aged care—three women and five men in their 80s, four women and two men in their 90s, and one woman in her 100s.
But the premier said the lower daily case numbers and a general decline in coronavirus indicators were great news for the state.
“Every Victorian should be absolutely so proud and positive about the fact that we’re going to beat this thing,” he said.
“Then the really big job starts off repairing the damage that this has done to jobs, families, to our Victorian economy.”
Also on Aug. 24, the premier confirmed that a five-week-old baby can attend his father’s funeral this Aug. 28.
Only 10 mourners can attend a funeral under Victoria’s lockdown rules.
Electrician Jarrod Fox, also the father of a two-year-old son, died at work last week and despite pleas from his family, authorities were adamant that there could be no change to the 10-person limit.
But Andrews intervened so five-week-old Jasper could attend and, in future, children under the age of one are likely to be excluded from the 10-person count.
Meanwhile, the Nine Network has confirmed its quiz show Millionaire Hotseat is the second program to go into hiatus because of a coronavirus positive test.
The show, hosted by Eddie McGuire, shares Melbourne studio facilities with Network Ten’s The Masked Singer.
A dancer on the Ten program tested positive to the virus and the plug was pulled when more crew members also became infected.
The premier said the North Richmond injecting room would remain open, despite two virus cases there, because it was a health facility.
By Roger Vaughan and Callum Godde