Imagine a place where all power lies with one man. He gets to dictate the rules by decree. He can separate society into different classes based on their characteristics or beliefs and apply the rules differently to each of them, and it’s completely lawful. Rights and freedoms can be withheld from those who are of certain classes. Dissent is not allowed. Protest against the regime is illegal. Only protest for certain causes approved by the government is allowed. Police can enter a premises without a warrant. Dissidents can be arrested and detained. The government can choose to take their money or lock them up. Democracy is encroached. Elections can be suspended. This can continue for as long as the leader deems necessary, at his sole discretion. There are virtually no checks and balances. The Opposition are powerless to stop it.
You would think the above describes a place like Soviet Russia or modern-day Venezuela — or even a fictional dystopian dictatorship. But no. This is much closer to home.
Welcome to the Socialist Republic of Victoria.
We’ve often jibed about Victoria being beholden to the rule of socialists. Even more so under the current regime. But Daniel Andrews has decided to take it up a notch. No, scratch that, he’s broken the dial. He has had a taste from the chalice of ultimate power, and he is not satisfied with just a few sips; he wants the whole bottle.
After seeing what he can do with emergency powers, which will soon expire, Andrews has found a convenient opportunity to instill those powers into law on a more permanent basis. His new Bill, the Public Health and Wellbeing (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021 does exactly that. Its powers are terrifying.
Under this new legislation, the Victorian Premier would truly become the Victorian Dictator, or, as we have all come to know him, Dictator Dan. Every means of control laid out in the Bill would be enforced at his discretion. The Bill substitutes the word “emergency” with “pandemic, or potential pandemic”. This means that if the benevolent ruler felt that a disease might have the potential to become a pandemic, even if it is not so and never comes to be, he can continue to declare a state of pandemic in Victoria. Dan Andrews could simply say “I think the flu is going to be bad this year” and use that to justify the most extreme powers.
Throughout the period whereby Victoria is in a “pandemic”, Andrews can lawfully segregate society. He can discriminate against people based on class, which would most likely begin with the vaccinated getting special privileges that the unvaccinated are denied. That’s right – in the Socialist Republic of Victoria, rights and freedoms are now privileges. He may also have people detained for refusing to comply with his orders, or merely protesting them. In fact, under this Bill, he doesn’t even need to provide a reason as to why someone is being detained, and even if, under review, it is found that detention for an individual was unnecessary, the government remains in the right.
Authorised officers would be granted the special powers of the Chief Health Officer, being permitted to detain those they deemed to be non-compliant. Those found guilty of an “aggravated offence”, which again could simply equate to a risk of transmission, would be subject to either two years imprisonment or a $90,000 fine. Businesses can also be punished for experiencing commercial gain when failing to obey a health order. Essentially, if a business refuses to discriminate against people who the government are telling them to discriminate against, and they serve those customers, any profit they make from serving them will constitute an offence. In the current circumstances, this means businesses that serve unvaccinated customers would attract fines from the overlords.
Privacy is almost non-existent. Under part of the Bill that covers the sharing of information:
If the Information Commissioner makes a pandemic information determination, the persons or organisations to which the determination applies are not required to comply with the Information Privacy Principles to the extent specified in the determination.
This means that information that cannot usually be transferred under the existing privacy laws would now be able to be obtained, used, and shared by the Chief Health Officer. Contact Tracing information can also be disclosed to others for a “permitted purpose”, including imminent threats to health, safety and welfare, and the undertaking of enforcement actions including the issuing of infringement notices and investigating or prosecuting offences.
And in case you didn’t think it could get any worse, this Bill would give Daniel Andrews one of the most terrifying powers in this country: the suspension of elections. All of this would be justified under the guise of a “pandemic”.
While the Bill does establish an Independent Pandemic Management Advisory Committee to review pandemic responses and provide advice, their recommendations are non-binding, meaning the government does not have to take them on board. That being said, this Committee could easily be stacked by the government of the day to make it appear as if they are doing the “right thing” by the Committee.
This Bill creates a state of tyranny based on opinion. The powers remain in play so long as there is a “pandemic” or “potential pandemic”, a period that can continue for as long as Daniel Andrews deems necessary. This has already essentially been given approval by the Human Rights Law Centre, whose legal director Daniel Webb stated: “It sounds like it’s going to include some really key human rights and democracy safeguards.”
If anything, it is the opposite: a blatant abuse of human rights and a danger to democracy itself.
There is one man who can stop this, one man who can put an untimely end to the reign of Dictator Dan. His name is Scott Morrison. He is the Prime Minister of this country. You would be forgiven for forgetting that, considering he has barely done more than abdicate power to the State Premiers to give them practically unfettered control over their respective states. His so-called leadership has been at best weak and ineffectual. He has capitulated at every turn, trying to please everyone, his actions transforming Australia from the envy of the world into its greatest fear. Rather than progressing, Australia has regressed into its previous form as a prison island.
Scott Morrison could put an end to it. He has the power to stop any and all policy relative to pandemics. He could declare an end to the pandemic in Victoria right now and drop all restrictions. But while Daniel Andrews is passing what is practically a declaration of a dictatorship, ScoMo is in Glasgow discussing climate change and hunting down trolls on social media. His priorities are clearly all wrong. And it seems likely that, upon his return, Victoria will be a state beholden to itself and to the will of one man with a lust for power. This is Morrison’s chance to step up and show he is not a coward, that he will not bend the knee to Daniel Andrews and allow a dictatorship to operate in his own nation.
Otherwise Victorians will spend their miserable lives living in a tyrant’s paradise.
Joel Agius is an independent writer. If you would like to read more of his work, you can do so at JJ’s Outlook.
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