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LIV urges amendments to be made to Pandemic Management Bill to protect Victorians’ rights

LIV urges amendments to be made to Pandemic Management Bill to protect Victorians’ rights

By LIV Media

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The Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) has published its response to the Public Health and Wellbeing (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021 (‘the Bill’) currently before the Victorian Parliament.

As the peak body representing nearly 20,000 legal professionals in Victoria and with one of its core purposes to protect and foster the rule of law, the LIV plays a key role in providing independent and considered analysis of the framework, provisions and potential impact of new legislation to inform Members of Parliament, policy makers and the public.

The LIV supports the objectives of the Bill, specifically in that it:

  • supports proactive and responsive decision-making for the purposes of preventing and managing the outbreak and spread of pandemics, and
  • promotes transparency and accountability in relation to decisions made and actions taken.

However, the LIV is of the firm view that the Bill in its current form falls short of achieving these objectives and expresses concern that it does not sufficiently protect the rights of Victorians.

These concerns include:

  • A pandemic declaration can be in place for an indefinite period of time and very wide powers are conferred on the Premier, the Minister for Health and Authorised Officers without effective checks and scrutiny 
  • Many powers appear to be an unnecessary infringement on democratic rights and freedoms, with little oversight offered by a truly independent body
  • There appears to be no quantifiable timeframe for the maximum period of detention and the Bill is unclear as to where people are to be detained
  • The process for review of detention does not provide for an independent external merits review
  • Further concerns include the use of punitive and coercive approaches such as terms of imprisonment for aggravated offences, the abrogation of the privilege against self-incrimination, and the extended powers given to ‘authorised officers’, and
  • The protections relating to information gathered for public health purposes do not go far enough and the provisions relating to the use or disclosure of contact tracing information for other ‘permitted purposes’ should be carefully reconsidered.

LIV president Tania Wolff urged members of Parliament to make appropriate amendments to the Bill before passing any legislation.

“The experience of Victorians over the last 20 months demonstrates how important it is to have effective, transparent and accountable measures in place to contain pandemic outbreaks. The LIV supports the objectives behind the Bill. However, in its current form, the Bill doesn’t meet those objectives. In its current state, it is not fit for the purpose of a legislative framework to contain a pandemic and protect the rights of Victorians,” Ms Wolff said.

“When considering such fundamental legislation, it’s important to consider how it might be used in future political circumstances and by governments of unknown political persuasions. The LIV strongly encourages all Members of Parliament to reconsider this Bill and make the changes necessary to ensure the rights of all Victorians are upheld.”

LIV president Tania Wolff thanked all of those who were involved in an extensive consultation process.

“I extend my gratitude to everyone involved in reviewing what is a tremendously important piece of legislation. It is crucial to all Victorians the Government is provided with a response to this Bill that is well-reasoned and considered,” Ms Wolff said.

Read the LIV’s full response at its website here.


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