The Nationals legislation coronavirus COVID19 Public Health and Wellbeing Act state of emergency powers state of disaster

O’Brien to oppose Labor’s COVID power grab

The Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien, will oppose a move by the Andrews Labor Government to extend its power to enforce strict lockdowns on Gippsland families and businesses for a further 12 months.

The state of emergency powers allow the Government to impose and enforce restrictions, with no oversight or accountability to the Parliament.

Mr O’Brien said The Nationals will propose amendments to the legislation next week to make sure the right checks and balances are in place to protect Victorians’ lives and livelihoods.

“Of course we must prioritise the health of Victorians, but we need appropriate oversight - Parliament has sat just seven days since March. We need the Premier to give us a pathway back to some semblance of normal life but he’s only talking about extended lockdowns,” Mr O’Brien said.

“We will propose sensible amendments that allow Victorians to get on top of the second wave, but ensure transparency and accountability as we work towards re-opening our society.

“The Premier really needs to start being honest with Victorians and tell us what his plan is to get us to ‘COVID normal’ – as we’ve seen in other Australian states.

Amendments to be proposed by The Nationals and Liberals include requiring extensions to the state of emergency to be approved by both houses of Parliament for a maximum of four weeks at a time and to remove proposals that lower the threshold for the Chief Health Officer to impose restrictions and for the powers to apply even when there are no active COVID-19 cases.

Mr O’Brien believes that as the second wave gets controlled, we must have a mature conversation as to how we can live with coronavirus, protect the elderly and vulnerable and ensure our health system can cope.

“We can’t afford a third wave and more lockdowns and we need to work together to devise a plan to get life back to normal.”

Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh said any change to extend the state of emergency powers must be common sense.

“No government should be able to write itself a blank cheque for extreme power over Victorians’ lives and livelihoods,” Mr Walsh said.

“Regional Victoria is only in the second wave of COVID-19 due to the inexcusable failures of the Andrews Labor Government including the botched hotel quarantine program and shortfalls in contact tracing.

“The Nationals will always stand for country Victorians’ rights and freedoms in the face of government overreach.”

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