The president of the Victorian Bar has slammed the state’s new pandemic legislation as “appalling” and claims the government “grossly misrepresented” its consultation with the barristers’ peak body.
Christopher Blanden, QC, said the new laws, designed to replace sweeping state of emergency powers, would give the Premier unprecedented power with little to no checks and balances.
The proposed legislation, tabled on Tuesday, will curtail the Chief Health Officer’s powers, giving the Premier authority to declare a pandemic and the Health Minister the role of making public-health orders.
Mr Blanden was scathing of the bill, saying it did not have appropriate checks and balances, gave the Premier too much power with little parliamentary scrutiny and allowed for indefinite detention of people who breach restrictions.
Law Institute of Victoria president Tania Wolff shared Mr Blanden’s concerns about the lack of parliamentary scrutiny, but said the bill was a major improvement on the existing framework.
“The good thing is we have moved away from all the power being vested in an unelected individual to a minister who is ultimately answerable to the electorate and has accountability to the Parliament – that’s the good fundamental improvement,” Ms Wolff said.
“The independent committee in itself is good as it has experts on it, and there are measures in the bill which creates greater transparency of compatibility with the human rights charter.”