COVID-19 Public Health Orders must be scrutinised

The Opposition challenges the cross bench to support a motion to be debated today that would see all current and future Public Health Orders and Directions be tabled by the Clerk and transmitted to the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee (SARC) for inquiry and report.

The motionwouldrequire SARC to inquire into distance restrictions and directions made under the so-called ‘five kilometre rule,’ mandatory mask requirements and the circumstances in which these measures are proportionate and reasonably necessary to achieve public health objectives, while also minimising legitimate restrictions on the rights and freedoms of Victorians.

This report would be expected to be completed within three weeks.

In relation to future Public Health Order or Direction made under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 transmitted to the Committee by the Clerk, the motion would require SARC to —

  1. assess and report on the impact of these legislative instruments on the rights and liberties of Victorians and regarding any matters with respect to the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 and the Subordinate Legislation Act 1994;
  2. as a default, seek public submissions and undertake hearings; and
  3. other than in exceptional circumstances, report within two weeks of an order or direction being transmitted to the Committee by the Clerk, including recommendations as to whether or not the legislative instrument should be disallowed in whole or in part;

The motion would also require, within 48 hours of each public health order or direction being tabled in the House by the Clerk, the Leader of the Government to table in the Council the briefings supporting the order or direction made by the Chief Health Officer or their delegate.  As well as the briefing provided to the Minister for Health justifying the order or direction pursuant to the objectives of the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008.

Comments attributable to the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council, David Davis:

“These legislative instruments impact the freedoms, rights and liberties of Victorians.  They must be openly and transparently assessed to ensure proportionality and legitimate restrictions on the rights and freedoms of Victorians are minimised.

“Seeking public submissions and undertaking hearings as to whether these Public Health Orders and Directions impose legitimate restrictions on the rights and freedoms of Victorians, is long overdue.

“Daniel Andrews would be required to make public the briefs behind Public Heath Orders and Directions as they are made.  This would allow Victorians for the first time to judge for themselves whether they believe the restrictions are legitimate, proportional and minimised, as required by the Act.”

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