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LIV acknowledges changes announced to the Pandemic Management Bill but urges for more work to be done

LIV acknowledges changes announced to the Pandemic Management Bill but urges for more work to be done

By LIV Media

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The Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) acknowledges the announced amendments to the Public Health and Wellbeing (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021 (‘the Bill’) but maintains they do not go far enough. Whilst these amendments go some way to address the LIV’s concerns, it urges all members of parliament to consider further amendments to the Bill to ensure it is fit for purpose.

The LIV released its position paper on the Bill on Thursday 11 November, which outlined 32 recommendations in full.

The proposed amendments to be made by parliament address some of these recommendations, namely:

  • adding “on the reasonable grounds” in the declaration clause so that the Premier must be satisfied on reasonable grounds that a pandemic should be declared
  • halving the financial penalties
  • clarifying that the application of pandemic orders based on characteristics, attributes or circumstances of persons must be relevant to the public health risk, removing references to the Equal Opportunity Act in this section, and inserting examples of how a pandemic order may differentiate between classes of persons, further ensuring the protections of Victorians, and
  • clarifying the application of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities to decisions made under the legislation.

LIV president Tania Wolff said the proposed amendments are moving in the right direction as compared with the original Bill.

“The LIV is pleased to see these amendments and we believe this is a step in the right direction,” Ms Wolff said.

“However, the LIV continues to have concerns over some aspects of the Bill and urges members of parliament to continue working through amendments to the legislation to ensure it is fit for the purpose of protecting our democracy and safeguarding members of the community. The most significant of our concerns are that:

  1. the use and exercise of the powers should require effective independent oversight and scrutiny, such as by the Ombudsman
  2. there should be accessible external merits review of all decisions relating to detention and that VCAT be given jurisdiction
  3. the Bill should not include terms of imprisonment, and
  4. there needs to be stricter controls on the use of information gathered for public health purposes to protect individual privacy,” she added.

“If these recommendations around independent oversight, external, review, detention and privacy are not adopted, then at a minimum, we call for a sunset clause so that the new Part would expire in 18 -24 months from its commencement. This allows the government to continue to meet the challenges of this current pandemic, but ensures an opportunity for further independent review so that the legislation is fit for purpose for any future pandemic,” Ms Wolff said.


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