Victoria’s ‘COVID-19 Omnibus’ legislation an astonishing attack on democracy

Victoria’s ‘COVID-19 Omnibus’ legislation an astonishing attack on democracy, by Robert Gottliebsen.

It should be underlined that whereas the first wave of COVID-19 infections were nationwide and part of a global infection spread, the major Australian second wave was confined to Victoria and was caused by Victorian government ministers and public servants bungling hotel quarantine.

To remedy the situation what was required was a set of actions that clearly set out the responsibilities of the myriad of public servants that became embroiled in the scandal.

Instead what is proposed is a new attack on the victims of that ministerial and public service catastrophe.

But I want to make it clear that in my view, given the past dangerous infection situation, with a daily infection rate above 700, Victoria was in a desperate situation. So the government was right and extreme lockdown measures were required to curtail infection, albeit at a huge cost. And thankfully so far the lockdown appears to have worked.

While there is intense debate, most Victorians accepted that they faced a crisis that required extreme action. The emergency powers were extended for at least six months. Victorians would defer any punishment for those who caused the crisis and deaths.

Extreme powers:

But the government has different ideas and proposes incredible legislation via a bill called “COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2020”

In most democracies the power to arrest is confined to police and those with specialist police training. The Daniel Andrews government plans to give powers that go beyond the powers of many police to a class of person to be known as “designated authorised officers” There will no limit to their numbers.

The first power of these “designated authorised officers“ is be able to detain (that can mean jail) a “high risk person”. A high-risk person is one that has been notified and diagnosed with COVID-19 and has not been given clearance from self-isolation. A “high risk person” can also be a “close contact“ of a person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

But then the proposed legislation goes one dramatic step further and gives “designated authorised officers” power to detain a person who is “likely“ to refuse or fail to refuse a direction. … As the bill is written they can arrest anyone on that pretext. …

Extreme powers for whom?

They must be selected by a public servant who carries the title of secretary of the relevant department. That public servant can choose anyone they consider “appropriate for appointment based on the persons skills, attribute experience or otherwise”. Now on my rough interpretation that would include all my Victorian readers.

All sorts of agendas are possible. For example theoretically union officials could be handed the incredibly powerful industrial relations weapon of being able to detain any employer whom they classed as “likely” to offend.

Bringing communist political culture to Victoria?

In for a penny, in for a pound:

But the bill does not stop there. The courts are to be given power to not only remove children from their parents and put them into “out of home care” but to also place those children “in out of home care” for a longer cumulative period than would otherwise be permitted under current legislation. The total detention of the children can be as long as 30 months.

Thankfully the power to detain children for up to 30 months is not in the hands of the “designated authorised officers“ but that’s where the process of detaining the children of those “likely” to offend starts. While our court system works, it is not cheap, so those “likely to offend” potentially may not see their children for 30 months.

You’re potentially in deep doo doo if the progressive Victorian Government or bureaucracy takes a dislike to you. Perhaps because you disagree with them — which they might see as making you “likely” to disobey them about covid.