Victoria’s Public Health and Wellbeing Act Amendment – Are we asking the right questions?

A lot of attention has been given recently to claims that the Victorian Government is attempting to extend the current state of emergency for another twelve months. But to my mind, it’s the amendments to the threshold sections that warrant the greater parliamentary and public scrutiny.

To be fair, the amendment to section 198 – the duration section – only provides that the total aggregate length of a state of emergency can be extended to 12 months. If you’re dealing with an event that will last longer than the current six-month limit, there would seem to be some sense in that.

However, the amendment to section 199 is more troubling. It proposes to reduce the threshold required for the Chief Health Officer to authorise emergency powers from a belief that it is “necessary” to a belief that it is merely”reasonably necessary” to do so.

Further amendents would allow a state of emergency to be declared even where the rate of community transmission of COVID-19 in Victoria is low, or there are no new cases of COVID-19 for a period of time. 

We’ll have to see what happens. In the meantime, you can read the explanatory memorandum here:

https://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/bills/public-health-and-wellbeing-amendment-state-emergency-extension-and-other-matters-bill-2020

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