Friday, January 28, 2022

Why the New Pandemic Law Is Sparking Protests in Victoria, Australia

The recently passed Public Health and Wellbeing (Pandemic Management) Law sparked a large protest on Saturday, December 5 in Melbourne, Australia, against both the new pandemic law and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. The new pandemic law would permanently replace the controversial state of emergency powers and significantly change the way the state manages COVID-19.

According to the draft made public, the new pandemic law gives the executive wide powers in the time of a pandemic, including detention powers and the possibility of two years in prison for failing to comply with a pandemic order.

The Andrews government’s controversial new legislation, which passed parliament on December 2, makes the premier and health minister responsible for declaring pandemics and making health orders.

The legislation will replace the state of emergency on December 16 and will make Victoria the first state in Australia with pandemic-specific laws.

Australian Premier Daniel Andrews. (Image: via Public Domain)

How much power is too much?

The new pandemic law breaks significantly with Australian democratic tradition in one key way. It gives the health minister the power to reinstate a pandemic order that has been disallowed by a key parliamentary committee. Moreover, it gives oversight of these pandemic powers to an appointed non-parliamentary committee.

Opposition Leader Mathew Guy says it would be “unprecedented” to put so much power in the hands of a single person. “We see these laws as an incredible attack on democracy, usurping the parliament, usurping the cabinet process, which is what exists in New South Wales, and then allowing the premier to effectively rule by decree, for months on end,” he says.

Further adding: “In short, this bill is the most extreme of its kinds that we’ve seen in Australia. While a pandemic requires different approaches, it doesn’t require a law as extreme as this.”

December 4 protests over new pandemic law

Thousands of people protested outside state parliament in Melbourne on December 4 in the first mass demonstration since the state government passed the new pandemic law. The protests are smaller than some demonstrations seen in November when the bill was yet to pass.

The protest, which called for the pandemic bill to be replaced and vaccine mandates dropped, was largely peaceful.

Demonstrators met near Parliament House in Melbourne about noon on Saturday before marching to the nearby Treasury Gardens.

Police estimate approximately 8,000 to 10,000 protestors were at the demonstration during its peak, while no arrests were made.

Thousands of people protested outside state parliament in Melbourne on December 4, in the first mass demonstration since the state government passed the new pandemic law.
Thousands of people protested outside state parliament in Melbourne on December 4, in the first mass demonstration since the state government passed the new pandemic law. (Image: Screenshot via YouTube)

Government requires workers to be vacinated

Prior to the new pandemic law, the Australian government mandated that government workers receive COVID-19 vaccinations if they want to do their jobs onsite. This is also causing an outcry from some in the public.

While some Australians believe that mandating vaccinations is essential to protect public health, others believe that mandating vaccines violates individual liberty and rights.

The government has responded by saying that vaccines protect the community at large because unvaccinated workers could potentially pose risks to those around them.

While breakthrough COVID-19 is possible with vaccinated people, transmission rates are lower as compared to the unvaccinated. Also, the symptoms of breakthrough COVID-19 are similar to COVID-19 symptoms in unvaccinated people, but are generally milder and even asymptomatic.

Still, experts say that it is possible that the virus could become resistant to vaccines over time.

Only time will show how the pandemic pans out and whether the cure is the vaccine or, eventually, natural immunity.

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Adam Fletcher
I grew up on an organic dairy and beef farm at the start of the Murray River in Victoria. Our property is right on the border of NSW, having the border run through our property. Upon completing school, I refused university and instead, metaphorically speaking walked around barefoot for a few years travelling and experiencing all different kinds of things. 4 years ago I broke up with my girlfriend and moved back to the country, where my interest in soils and self cultivation grew.
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