Victoria’s state of emergency is set to be extended for another nine months after the government secured the support of three crossbench MPs.
Greens leader Samantha Ratnam, Reason Party MP Fiona Patten and Andy Meddick from the Animal Justice Party indicated on Tuesday they will support the extension of the emergency declaration until December.
The trio, who also backed a six-month extension in September, had been negotiating with Health Minister Martin Foley until late on Monday night.
Ms Ratnam said the Greens had secured a reduction in COVID-19 fines for young people, a commitment to review fines in disadvantaged communities and a confirmation of the right to protest.
The government has also agreed to give people the right to appeal detention orders, as recommended by Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass in her review of the public housing tower lockdown.
“We haven’t taken this decision lightly, which is why we put the interests of all Victorians on the table in these negotiations and agreed to support these legislations on the proviso that these reforms that will impact and hopefully support disadvantaged communities,” Ms Ratnam told reporters.
She said the government had begun working on legislation specific to the pandemic to replace the current state of emergency powers.
“My understanding is that should the legislation be ready earlier, they would seek to implement it earlier,” Ms Ratnam said.
Ms Patten said the government had also committed to introducing regulations within two weeks to ensure parts of the state can remain open in a future lockdown.
“This is not over. This will not be over in December. This will not be over in January 2022,” Ms Patten said.
Victoria is the only state that caps the maximum length of time a state of emergency can remain in force, with the current powers due to expire on March 15.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the extension was the “legal framework” for public health measures such as hotel quarantine, isolation, mask-wearing and the state’s travel permit system.
“We all have to acknowledge that we still need rules to keep us open to keep us safe,” he said.
Opposition leader in the upper house David Davis has described the amendments as a “sell out by the minor parties”.
“It leaves intact the extraordinary power of Daniel Andrews until Christmas,” he told AAP.
Mr Davis said the opposition would support month-to-month extensions, accompanied by relevant public health advice.
It comes as Victoria recorded a fourth consecutive day without a new coronavirus case, following 13,525 tests in the 24 hours to Tuesday morning.
Some 1156 shots were administered to frontline health workers and hotel quarantine staff in Victoria on Monday.
The premier defended the state’s rollout of the vaccine, after less than a third of the supplied doses were administered in the first week, compared to 74 per in NSW and 100 per cent in Tasmania.
Queensland similarly had used only 22 per cent of its vaccines.
“I’m really pleased with the way things are going, it started in a slow and careful way,” Mr Andrews said.
“Those numbers will grow and we’ll deliver on all the commitments we made to the Commonwealth government and no doubt they’ll be striving to keep their end of the bargain too.”
Australian Associated Press