Daniel Andrews says he is “very hopeful” that an agreement will be reached with crossbench MPs to enable legally binding health guidelines to be issued after September 13, as he seeks support from Upper House to pass changes to emergency law.
Under existing legislation, a state of emergency has to be renewed every month and will continue for up to six consecutive months.
In case some measures to control the spread of coronavirus need to stay in place beyond the current state of emergency deadline of September 13, the State Government wants to extend that cap to 18 months.
“This is very much like an insurance policy. We certainly hope that we don’t have to draw down on it,” Premier Daniel Andrews said on Tuesday.
But the Government will have to compromise without a majority in the Upper House.
Many crossbenchers have indicated that they will be supporting a shorter extension on the condition that Parliament sits more often.
“I really don’t think that we’ve passed this virus [crisis] in any sense when we’ve got daily figures still over 100, still got dozens of people dying every day,” Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party MP Stuart Grimley told the ABC.
“And for it to end in September I just think is just too soon. So, if we’re looking at a time period, anything between one to three months, I think is reasonable.”
It’s a view held by many other crossbench MPs who say they recognise the need for the powers, but without transparency are against the lengthy extension.
But Mr Andrews was positive at a Wednesday morning press conference where he said he had “had very, very productive discussions with the crossbench”
“I’m very hopeful that we will get … we will get an outcome that allows the Chief Health Officer to continue to do his important work, allows all of the team to continue to make decisions based on science and evidence that are proportionate to the challenges we face,” he said.
But he warned that if the government lost the legal authority to enforce basic health directions such as quarantine requirements for people who tested the virus positively, it would result in the “beginning of a third wave.”