Covid-19 Australia: Victoria’s controversial pandemic law adopts sweeping changes

What Dan Andrews’ divisive pandemic law means to you – as it GOes after marathon debate and massive protests over sweeping powers

  • Victorians risk jail time and thousands of dollars in fines for Covid-19 violations
  • Daniel Andrews passed controversial pandemic law in upper house on Thursday
  • Prime Minister was given sweeping new powers, but also had to make changes


Victorians could face two years in prison and a $45,250 fine for violating public health regulations under Prime Minister Daniel Andrew’s controversial pandemic law.

The bill on Public Health and Welfare (Pandemic Management) passed the upper house on Thursday by a thin margin of 20 votes to 18.

It comes after weeks of bitter debate and public outcry that sparked several mass protests in Melbourne.

The bill grants sweeping new powers to the Prime Minister and introduces harsh penalties and prison terms for Victorians and corporations.

Victorians could face two years in prison and a $45,250 fine for violating public health regulations after Prime Minister Daniel Andrew’s controversial pandemic law was passed

The bill was passed after weeks of bitter debate and public outcry that sparked several mass protests in Melbourne

The bill was passed after weeks of bitter debate and public outcry that sparked several mass protests in Melbourne

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass said on Friday the changes include greater transparency and accountability

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass said on Friday the changes include greater transparency and accountability

While it may be a win for Mr Andrews, the Prime Minister was forced to make several changes to the bill in order to gain the support of politicians.

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass said Friday the changes include greater transparency and accountability.

“What we’ve seen in this legislation now are some really important changes that, I think, will bring the necessary independence of the whole process,” she told the Today Show.

“There is now a lot more responsibility in some very important areas.

“I think the community can be a lot more confident that there are controls on power that may not have been there before.”

The Prime Minister and the Minister of Health – rather than the Chief Health Officer – will now have the power to declare a pandemic.

They will also impose restrictions during a health crisis when Victoria’s emergency laws expire in two weeks.

The prime minister can declare a health emergency for as long as he wants and lock up the state in blocks of three months.

The original legislation would also have given Prime Minister and Health Minister Martin Foley a range of even more unprecedented powers.

The bill grants sweeping new powers to the Prime Minister and introduces harsh penalties and prison terms for Victorians and corporations

The bill grants sweeping new powers to the Prime Minister and introduces harsh penalties and prison terms for Victorians and corporations

Hundreds of angry Victorians showed up to express their dismay at Andrews' government in Melbourne by singing 'Kill the Bill' (pictured)

Hundreds of angry Victorians showed up to express their dismay at Andrews’ government in Melbourne by singing ‘Kill the Bill’ (pictured)

But harsher financial penalties for violating public orders were cut in half, and the time frame for releasing public information about pandemic decisions at the behest of the government was also drastically shortened.

The changes require ‘reasonable grounds’ for the prime minister to declare a pandemic and subsequent lockdown.

Under the older version of the bill, there wasn’t even a single case of Covid-19 in Victoria to implement the powers.

The government will also be forced to publish their public health advisories before staying home in seven days – a drop of two weeks.

Although the maximum fine of $90,500 for violating health regulations has been halved, a hefty two-year prison sentence is still part of the law.

Amendments to the bill also prevent the government of the time from issuing public health regulations that discriminate between groups of people.

The new bill means the prime minister and health minister — rather than chief health officer — have the power to declare a pandemic

The new bill means the prime minister and health minister — rather than chief health officer — have the power to declare a pandemic

Prior to the changes, it may have been possible to discriminate against specific religious groups or races using public health laws.

Health Minister Martin Foley said the changes come after extensive consultations with public health and human rights leaders.

“The new pandemic laws will provide a clear framework for managing pandemics such as COVID-19 – while putting the safety of all Victorians first,” he said.

“We have worked extensively with some of the most trusted leaders in public health, human rights and law and policy making – and the amendments reflect that consultation.”

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