Senior Victorian Labor Figure Slams Andrews’ New Pandemic Powers, Says MPs ‘Frightened’ To Speak Out Against It
By National Times Australia
A former federal Labor MP says Victorian ALP figures are “frightened” to speak up against Daniel Andrews’ new pandemic powers.
Former federal Labor MP Michael Danby says the intervention into the Victorian ALP has left some party members too “frightened” to speak out against Premier Daniel Andrews’ new pandemic powers.
The ALP’s federal executive took control of the Victorian Labor Party last year with the backing of federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and Premier Daniel Andrews after widespread branch stacking allegations.
Mr Danby said the decision to intervene in the Victorian branch had “chilled debate”, adding that there were “many good people” who opposed new pandemic powers before the parliament.
The Victorian government on Tuesday tabled new laws to Parliament which will seek to amend the existing public health act to allow the Premier to make a pandemic declaration, removing the power from the Chief Health Officer.
Under the framework, Premier Daniel Andrews would be able extend the declaration “three months at a time, with no outer limit on the total duration of declaration”.
The government would also be able to limit movement of the population, ban gatherings, shut down businesses and enforce quarantine if needed.
Mr Danby agreed that the power to declare a pandemic should be taken away from “overbearing medical officers” but said the Premier should not have the jurisdiction to extend it beyond three months.
“The Labor Party as I understand it is comprised of democrats, giving any person including the Premier the right to extend laws beyond three months to declare an emergency should be something that happens if you go back to parliament,” Mr Danby told Sky News Australia.
“This is a bridge too far, if he’s going to get extension to powers – as this bill appears to put forward -it should go back to parliament.
“There are some social democrats left in the Labor Party and we believe in democracy as much as social change.”
The intervention into the Victorian ALP saw the federal executive appoint Jenny Macklin and Steve Bracks administrators of the state-branch, while suspending state committees, voting rights and preselections until at least 2023.
Mr Danby said the extraordinary move has stifled internal debate over the issue.
“The federal pre-selections have been taken away by the federal executive from all Victorian members already,” he said.
“They have preselected all the candidates for federal parliament without members of the Labor Party, including the unions, having a word about it.
“People are afraid. They’re cowered, they’re chilled and its absolutely understandable, I think it’s wrong and I want it stopped.”
The bill, which is expected to pass in the lower house, will be decided in the upper house where it is understood the government has the support of the Greens, the Reason Party and the Animal Justice Party.
Labor holds 17 seats in the Victorian Legislative Council and needs four members of the crossbench to vote with it, with the Greens, Reason Party and Animal Justice Party all holding one seat each.