The Victorian government may be considering a compromise proposal to reduce its state of emergency extension request from its originally proposed 12 months to just six months, reports the ABC.
There’s a lot to unpack here so we’ll start from the top: as the current state of emergency laws in Victoria expire on September 13, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews has been looking to seek a 12-month extension from Parliament.
Here’s the thing, though: an extended state of emergency doesn’t necessarily mean keeping up the harsher restrictions Victorians are currently facing. Rather, Dan Andrews wants to prolong the state of emergency status so he can make sure the virus is contained even after the second wave has passed. Having the status will make it easier to mandate COVID rules like social distancing, mask wearing and density quotas – essentially putting Victoria in line with other states.
Critics, however, argued that Dan is “demanding he be given virtually unlimited dictatorial powers for another 12 months.” If you're keen to read up more on what exactly a state of emergency means, this article in the AFR breaks it down quite well.
Got it? Cool. So that’s where we were at earlier this week. The latest development is this: Reason Party leader Fiona Patten, a “key crossbench MP” (crossbench being a bench occupied by members who are independent of any political party) leaked that the Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos and crossbenchers had told her a 12-month extension “just won’t pass the Parliament.”
“They’re looking for a modified version, and that would hopefully include a maximum of six months before it came back to the Parliament,” Ms Patten told the ABC.
So, why are Ms Patten and others so against the 12-month extension? Her concern, she says, is that it could set a dangerous precedent. She thinks allowing the extension to be passed now would make it easier for future governments “to instil a state of emergency into this state for 18 months, without going back to the Parliament.” Basically, she's worried that if the 12-month extension were to pass, future extensions wouldn’t be getting “adequate scrutiny.”
"As much as we might trust the Premier and the current Government, this is setting in stone something for not just this one, for future governments. I don't think it's too much to ask, to put in for three months or six months, and then come back to the Parliament," she said.
It's worth noting, though, that even if a 12-month extension on Victoria's State of Emergency was approved, Dan has stressed that extensions would be sought in four-week blocks. “There would need to be fresh advice and a fresh case mounted", he said.
So, it's all a bit confusing. But it will all become clearer next week, when State Parliament officially considers the extension request.
In the last 24 hours, Victoria has recorded 113 new coronavirus cases and 23 deaths, marking its third deadliest days since the pandemic began.
If your head is a little scrambled, make sure you pop over to WHO.int to get all of your official COVID-19 updates.
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