Debate has been adjourned in Victorian Parliament’s Legislative Council on The Andrews’ Labor Government’s Public Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Management Amendment Bill. The Government thought they had numbers to pass the bill today after several last-minute minor amendments were made earlier this week which secured the support of their three most reliable crossbenchers: Samantha Ratnam of the Victorian Greens, Fiona Patten of the Reason Party, and Andy Meddick of the Animal Justice Party.
These three also passed the previous extensions to the existing State of Emergency Powers under the same act which enabled Dan Andrews through Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton to order lockdowns 3, 4, 5, and 6 in 2021.
However last night former Labor powerbroker now independent MLC Adem Somyurek announced via an op-ed in the Herald Sun he was returning to parliament to vote against the bill in its current form as it does not contain meaningful parliamentary oversight and independent review mechanisms. Before he was kicked out of the Labor Party over branch stacking revelations that have been the subject of recent IBAC hearings, he was the longtime factional leader of the Labor right in Melbourne’s South East, before he entered Parliament Dan Andrews was the Socialist left powerbroker in that area.
After Melbourne broke the world for the most locked-down city during the pandemic and had the harshest rules and most brutal enforcement of any lockdown in Australia the proposed permanent pandemic laws and the powers it gives to the Premier and Health Minister has alarmed Victorians all over again. The police state response to the covid pandemic did not keep Victorians safe as the state has had the worst health outcomes that all the other states and territories.
Dan Andrews has promised no more statewide lockdowns and we are learning to live with covid as an endemic virus. He has stated these powers are needed to continue to enforce the vaccinated economy, quarantine and isolation orders, and QR code check-ins including after the state reaches 90% double vaccinated over 12s. No doubt this new law will be used to mandate booster doses for all Victorian workers in 2022 and to keep their vaccine ticket green.
Kill the Bill protests have taken place every Saturday afternoon for the past three weeks growing in size every week. This week on the steps of Victoria’s Parliament House an Occupy Spring Street camp out has taken place filled with kill the bill activists. Dan Andrews, his Labor MPs, his three crossbench backers, and the mainstream media have made all types of slurs against these activists: extremists, anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists.
They have mentioned at every opportunity a protestor from the Saturday kill the bill rally who carried three nooses and a ute that pulled up outside Parliament House late Monday evening had gallows on its trailer which one protestor put a Dan Andrews punching bag on. A couple of the many speakers who have spoken on the steps have said ‘hang Dan Andrews’. Today it was revealed a man Imre Pelyva had been charged with incitement to manufacture explosives by the Victorian counter-terrorism command. It is alleged online he couraged anti-lockdown protestors to “bring out rifles and shotguns!”.
These isolated events have seen kill the bill activists labeled a threat to democracy capable of a January 6 style ‘insurrection’. The crossbenchers have also complained about the amount of hate mail their offices have received including death threats. They have attempted to wedge the Liberal Opposition into condemning all kill the bill activists: Liberal MPs Bernie Finn and David Davis have spoken at different kill the bill rallies.
Their objective in highlighting these examples of poor and sometimes illegal behavior by some opposed to the bill is to smear all activists against the bill as dangerous individuals. But opposition and alarm about the Pandemic Management Bill have come from diverse non-partisan groups across the Victorian community: the Victorian Bar Association, the Legal Institute of Victoria, 60 Victorian QCs, the Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass, the Victorian Human Rights Commissioner Ro Allen, and the Victorian Chamber of Commerce.
The flaws with the bill are too numerous to list in this article. They include the power to detain someone indefinitely without trial on public health grounds, that the Premier can declare a pandemic based on disease cases anywhere in the world and renew the declaration every three months indefinitely, plus the fact in practice none of the health orders made by the Health Minister can be disallowed by parliament since the government controls the numbers in at least one house of parliament.
The best way to distinguish fact from fantasy about the Occupy Spring Street activists is to go down to the steps of Parliament House and observe the sit out in person. That is what I did on Tuesday night at around 9 pm: I saw a peaceful group of people, there were families with children, there were people from various different ethnic communities in Victoria (hardly your standard gathering of far-right neo-nazi white supremacists), there was the young and old, the able-bodied and disabled. At both ends of the steps, there was food and water for those gathering, many had deckchairs and sleeping bags out. Rubbish was collected to put in dedicated tubs so the steps were kept clean.
Their grievances with bill and Dan Andrews’ pandemic management were numerous: against the vaccinate mandates, vaccine passports, the vaccine injuries by those who have been coerced into the vaccine, those who still dispute the true threat that covid poses (are people dying of covid or with covid?) and those who do not trust Dan Andrews’ with any more power given the way he’s exercised his existing power over the past 20 months.
Cars passing by Spring Street constantly honked to the activists to demonstrate their support for the kill the bill campaign which resulted in a huge cheer from the steps. Reignite Democracy Australia had hired a kill-the-bill truck to drive around the parliament. Much of cheering, jeering, honking, and dance breakouts reminded me of soccer games I had attended, it was that type of lively atmosphere where the crowd never seemed to run out of energy or stamina.
You can view the livestream we aired on the Unshackled YouTube channel below to see for yourself the people and atmosphere on the steps. Various independent media outlets are providing round-the-clock live coverage from the steps of Parliament House.
Victoria Police had about a dozen officers at the top of the steps of Parliament when I was there simply guarding the entry letting the activists be. But on Wednesday some workers hosed down the steps getting rid of the various chalk written slogans that some activists had written and barricades were erected at front of the steps to block public access to the steps.
This Saturday another kill the bill rally is taking place in Melbourne as part of another Worldwide Freedom Day event with rallies taking place in cities all around the world. With mainland European nations reintroducing restrictions and increasing discrimination against the unvaccinated as covid cases tick up in the lead up to winter vigilance against the push for the return of lockdowns is needed.
The Socialist Alternative front group the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism is holding their own pro-vax, pro-union and ‘anti-fascist’ rally out the front of the Eight Hour Movement in Melbourne. The Victorian Greens believe anyone who wants to kill the bill is misinformed and want a parliamentary inquiry into the ‘far-right’ whom they blame for the anti lockdown anti-vaccine mandate movement in the state. A more accurate explanation about why protests are larger in Victoria was given by former Commonwealth Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth that the heavy-handed pandemic response by the Andrews Government has resulted in greater community division than elsewhere in Australia.