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Vic omnibus bill passes upper house

The Victorian government's controversial COVID-19 omnibus bill is set to become law following a marathon debate overnight. The bill, which gives police new po...
The Victorian government's controversial COVID-19 omnibus bill is set to become law following a marathon debate overnight. The bill, which gives police new powers to contain the spread of coronavirus and allows the government to extend its state of emergency until April, passed the Legislative Council 21 votes to 16 just before 2am on Wednesday. The government was forced to abandon controversial parts of the bill to gain the support of crossbench MPs including the Reason Party's Fiona Patten, Animal Justice Party's Andy Meddick, the Greens' Samantha Ratnam and Jeff Bourman from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers. Parts of the bill that would have given authorised officers the power to detain any person who they "reasonably believe" posed a risk of spreading COVID-19 were scrapped, while sections that would have allowed the government to appoint anyone as an authorised officer were tightened. Ms Patten said the amendments to the bill addressed her concerns about overreach. "As everyone knows, it was the overreaching detention powers, the ability to basically deputy sheriff anyone in the community as an authorised officer, which were the concerns in this bill," she said. "Those concerns have been largely allayed and fixed." The opposition's last-ditch bid to add an amendment to scraped Melbourne's 5km radius limit was knocked back. The Legislative Assembly passed the amended bill just before 1pm on Wednesday. It will now go to the Governor for royal assent. "It's fair to say, it's been a pretty long and tortured debate and discussion," Attorney-General Jill Hennessy told reporters on Wednesday. "I'm grateful that we've got progress and that we've now got clarity about the sorts of powers that are going to be able to be used." Leader of the opposition in the upper house David Davis remains concerned, even with the amendments, authorised officer powers are too great. "What is it about the government that they want more and more powers," he said. "Why does Daniel Andrews need these greater powers? Every bill he brings to parliament, he's grabbing for more powers." The bill also extends changes introduced at the start of a pandemic, including a ban on evictions and laws allowing for council and committee meetings to be held online. Meanwhile, a no-confidence motion against the premier failed in the lower house after the government dismissed it as "cheap politics". It was easily defeated 44-23 after about seven hours of debate on Tuesday. Deputy Premier James Merlino labelled the motion a waste of time and a "cheap political stunt". Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien said it was important to hold the government to account. Shadow treasurer Louise Staley said many Victorians supported the motion. "They wanted to see the government held to account," she said. "They want to see them say sorry for the second wave, take responsibility for causing that second wave, but they also want hope and what we're not seeing from this government is the path out." Australian Associated Press

The Victorian government's controversial COVID-19 omnibus bill is set to become law following a marathon debate overnight.

The bill, which gives police new powers to contain the spread of coronavirus and allows the government to extend its state of emergency until April, passed the Legislative Council 21 votes to 16 just before 2am on Wednesday.

The government was forced to abandon controversial parts of the bill to gain the support of crossbench MPs including the Reason Party's Fiona Patten, Animal Justice Party's Andy Meddick, the Greens' Samantha Ratnam and Jeff Bourman from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers.

Parts of the bill that would have given authorised officers the power to detain any person who they "reasonably believe" posed a risk of spreading COVID-19 were scrapped, while sections that would have allowed the government to appoint anyone as an authorised officer were tightened.

Ms Patten said the amendments to the bill addressed her concerns about overreach.

"As everyone knows, it was the overreaching detention powers, the ability to basically deputy sheriff anyone in the community as an authorised officer, which were the concerns in this bill," she said.

"Those concerns have been largely allayed and fixed."

The opposition's last-ditch bid to add an amendment to scraped Melbourne's 5km radius limit was knocked back.

The Legislative Assembly passed the amended bill just before 1pm on Wednesday. It will now go to the Governor for royal assent.

"It's fair to say, it's been a pretty long and tortured debate and discussion," Attorney-General Jill Hennessy told reporters on Wednesday.

"I'm grateful that we've got progress and that we've now got clarity about the sorts of powers that are going to be able to be used."

Leader of the opposition in the upper house David Davis remains concerned, even with the amendments, authorised officer powers are too great.

"What is it about the government that they want more and more powers," he said.

"Why does Daniel Andrews need these greater powers? Every bill he brings to parliament, he's grabbing for more powers."

The bill also extends changes introduced at the start of a pandemic, including a ban on evictions and laws allowing for council and committee meetings to be held online.

Meanwhile, a no-confidence motion against the premier failed in the lower house after the government dismissed it as "cheap politics".

It was easily defeated 44-23 after about seven hours of debate on Tuesday.

Deputy Premier James Merlino labelled the motion a waste of time and a "cheap political stunt".

Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien said it was important to hold the government to account.

Shadow treasurer Louise Staley said many Victorians supported the motion.

"They wanted to see the government held to account," she said.

"They want to see them say sorry for the second wave, take responsibility for causing that second wave, but they also want hope and what we're not seeing from this government is the path out."

Australian Associated Press

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