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Victoria’s pandemic bill passes parliament

Victoria pandemic bill
Crossbench MPs Rod Barton and Fiona Patten stand to vote for Victoria's pandemic bill. Photo: AAP
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Victoria has become Australia’s first state to introduce specific laws for managing a pandemic.

The Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill passed the upper house 20 votes to 18 on Thursday afternoon.

Transport Matters MP Rod Barton, Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick, Reason Party MP Fiona Patten and Greens leader Samantha Ratnam voted with the government.

The bill will go to the lower house, where the government has a commanding majority, for final approval and then to the governor of Victoria for royal assent.

It comes into effect from December 16, when the current state of emergency expires.

Under the legislation, the premier and health minister will have the power to declare a pandemic and enforce orders such as lockdowns, mask-wearing, vaccination mandates, and quarantine.

The pandemic orders can differentiate between cohorts of people based on characteristics such as age and vaccination status, relevant to the public health risk.

Under the current state of emergency, those powers lie with the chief health officer, who is an unelected official.

The upper house sat for 21 hours this week debating several amendments to the bill, which were made to secure the support of Mr Barton after former Labor minister Adem Somyurek announced he would return from a self-imposed absence to vote against it.

Mr Somyurek was in the chamber when the final vote occurred on Thursday.

The legislation became a lightning rod for anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination groups, who have occupied the steps of state parliament for weeks in protest.

– AAP