Leading article Australia

By the book

6 November 2021

9:00 AM

6 November 2021

9:00 AM

As Scott Morrison gallivanted on the Glasgow stage this week, rubbing elbows (literally) with the likes of Joe Biden, Boris Johnson, Prince Charles and a peeved Emmanuel Macron, the real ‘one minute to midnight’ story was taking place in faraway Melbourne. The Andrews government, in one of the most brazen and disgraceful acts in Australian political history, has managed to pass a so-called ‘Pandemic Bill’ that gives it powers far beyond those any democratically elected government should ever be allowed. Perhaps the Victorian public is simply too bored, too traumatised, too brow-beaten or too scared to take to the streets to protest against this grotesque action in the manner they should, but the doomsday for democracy Victorian clock now sits at 11.59. And practically nobody of any consequence is doing or saying anything about it, so throughly absorbed has the nation’s mainstream media been in the circus surrounding the fraudulent pursuit of net zero in Glasgow and the flap over wounded Gallic pride.

Well, not quite everyone. An open letter from a group of QCs has slammed the legislation saying it breaches ‘basic democratic principles’ and that the eminent barristers are ‘deeply concerned’. So they should be. Joining them, and writing exclusively for The Spectator Australia on Flat White this week, federal Assistant Attorney-General Amanda Stoker did what her colleagues should have done and what our Prime Minister needs to do urgently: loudly condemn this abhorrent Bill.

She wrote: In reality,  the Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021 grants the Premier extraordinary new powers that far exceed those used over the past two years. These include the power to make pandemic declarations and extend them every three months, without ever having to seek approval from the Victorian Parliament. There doesn’t even need to be a pandemic causing disease in the state. 

The Health Minister will have the power to make ‘any order’ the minister ‘believes is reasonably necessary to protect public health’. This is a virtually unlimited power that will allow the minister to rule by decree for as long as a pandemic is deemed to exist. The minister will be able to impose restrictions on movement, limits on public and private gatherings, mandate that businesses close, impose curfews, or enact measures that weren’t even contemplated over the past two years.

People who fail to comply with the pandemic orders, despite knowing they risked public safety, could face fines of up to $90,500 or two years imprisonment. Businesses could be fined up to $452,500. 

Surprisingly, the Bill even includes provisions that allow health orders to be targeted at ‘specific classes’ of people. This means the Andrews government wants to exempt itself from its own anti-discrimination laws, so it can discriminate against people based on their race, sex, religion, political beliefs, or any of the 14 other attributes currently protected under Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act. This is not a power any government should have. It should scare the socks off every Australian.

Senator Stoker is correct, as she usually is. It is not just Victorians who are threatened by this anti-democratic, totalitarian new Bill – passed thanks to a grubby group of ‘independents’ – but anyone who has family, friends or business interests in Victoria or simply hopes to visit one day. Already, Victoria has seen an exodus of people thanks to the draconian lockdown laws. This new Bill should see plenty more packing their bags for sunnier (from a freedom-loving point of view) climes.

As this week’s cover cheekily suggests, no doubt authoritarian leaders around the world are looking on at Dan Andrews and his totalitarian decrees with disbelief and astonishment.

Meanwhile, without wishing to put ideas into the Premier’s head, surely it won’t be long before ‘climate change’ or ‘carbon emissions’ are slipped into the definition of ‘public health hazards’. Already, perhaps in anticipation of this very Bill, a left-leaning Victorian judge (tautology, we know) has decreed climate change a threat to every child’s future.

Is it too fanciful to envisage those same gleeful Victorian police officers – who handcuffed a pregnant pyjama-clad Mum; knocked to the ground a Victorian granny and then pepper-sprayed her in the face; smashed a tradie’s face into the concrete; fired rubber bullets at crowds of demonstrators; strangled a woman; arrested political dissenters; and so much more – turning their attention and their batons onto those ‘deniers’ who threaten the ‘health’ of Victorians in a ‘climate pandemic’?

All by the book, of course.

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