New state of emergency bill seeks to amend Victorian Constitution

The legislation would set a new approval requirement in states of emergency or disaster

New state of emergency bill seeks to amend Victorian Constitution

A new bill has been set before the legislative council of the Victorian parliament that would amend the state’s Constitution in states of emergency or disaster.

The Constitution Amendment (State of Emergency and State of Disaster) Bill 2021 seeks to implement a requirement for “parliamentary approval by a special majority” during a state of emergency or a state of disaster. Under the proposed legislation, a special majority of both houses (three out of five votes) must be in favour of a state of emergency or state of disaster in order for the declaration to be renewed.

The approved extension would last for no more than 30 days. Introduced by Southern Metropolitan Opposition leader David Davis, the legislation aims to “restore trust and accountability” in the Victorian government’s response to pandemics.

“A three-fifths majority is far more representative of our citizens, who have entrusted their freedoms and democratic rights to us, their elected representatives,” he said.

The proposed bill would also require the state premier to provide every non-government party leader and independent MP with regular briefings to justify the use of emergency powers.

“States of emergency should only be used for [a] limited time and to achieve limited purposes. The parliament must have proper oversight of the extraordinary powers, and there should be regular reporting and enforceable accountability,” Davis said.

The constitutional amendments would “support streamlining [the] state-of-emergency process” of the state, he explained.

The Constitution Amendment (State of Emergency and State of Disaster) Bill 2021 is being introduced as the state government’s Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021 is being met with significant backlash from the public. In a speech given during his bill’s second reading last month, Davis described Victoria’s COVID-19 response as “disastrous,” adding that the limits imposed on “basic freedoms” were “previously unimaginable” and “unjustified.”

“We were locked up, shut out, closed down. And we had no say in it. The government declared a state of emergency and then rolled it over month after month after month – extension after extension,” he said. “Our amendment is sensible, reasonable and proportionate. It is what should be in place, rather than a rolling monthly extension.”

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