COVID-19

Protesters’ vile act outside parliament

The protesters jeered when a blow-up replica of the Victorian Premier was placed next to the makeshift gallows on the steps of parliament on Monday night. Protesters camped out at Parliament House overnight as politicians prepare to debate the Andrews government’s controversial pandemic management Bill. It comes as protesters plan protests in 12 other cities across Australia this weekend as part of a mass day of action against mandatory Covid-19 vaccines.The demonstrators have circulated flyers on social media and encrypted messaging app Telegram calling for Aussies to join in on the “Worldwide Rally For Freedom” on Saturday at noon.Protests are planned for 13 cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin and Hobart. Protesters have listed a series of demands, including ending vaccine mandates, lockdown measures, “medical discrimination” and “unlawful quarantine detention”.The Sydney protest promises a speech from controversial United Australia Party anti-vax MP Craig Kelly. Melbourne’s rally promises to be extra fiery, as Victorians also protest against the state government’s proposed pandemic Bill. The planned rallies come after thousands of angry protesters stormed the Melbourne CBD last Saturday.Demonstrators marched through the city shouting “kill the Bill” as they carried flags and provocative banners targeting Mr Andrews.Families and young children were among the crowd, which included activists carrying a fake gallows and wearing horror movie masks.The state government was forced to make significant changes to its controversial pandemic management Bill overnight following significant community backlash.Crossbench MPs on Monday night put pressure on the Andrews government to wind back some aspects of the proposed laws as politicians prepare to debate and vote on the Bill in parliament’s upper house this week.The new laws – which would give the Premier the power to declare a pandemic on the advice of the chief health officer and Health Minister – were pushed through the lower house two weeks ago. Mr Andrews on Tuesday said negotiations with crossbenchers and amendments to the legislation at such a late stage in the process was not unusual.Changes to the proposed laws will include halving financial penalties for breaching pandemic orders and releasing public health advice sooner than originally planned.The government will also reduce the reporting period for documents associated with pandemic orders from 14 days to seven days.There will also be an oversight committee to be able to consider pandemic orders once they are made, not only when they are tabled in parliament.A clause in the Bill that would have allowed pandemic orders to be made against classes of people based on attributes as defined in the Equal Opportunity Act will also be scrapped.Speaking about changes to the Bill, Mr Andrews said he was happy there would be greater oversight by the parliament.“The Bill is filled with safeguards, oversight mechanisms that exceed any other state, I think, perhaps any other country,” he said.“There’s always a process of back and forth. It’s about getting outcomes, not getting stuck in processes.“I’m hopeful that at the end of the week, the council will see fit to support the Bill.”Victoria’s ongoing state of emergency will expire on December 15.Government officials can only make certain decisions such as lockdown, limits on movement and mandatory mask-wearing rules under the state of emergency.It has introduced the Bill so it can continue to wield pandemic powers after the state of emergency expires.The Andrews government needs the support of the three crossbench MPs in order for the Bill to pass.It has previously said the proposed legislation will create “purpose-built” laws for a pandemic that were no broader than other states and territories.Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy described the proposed laws as “an incredible attack on democracy” and said “nothing had changed”.“The amendments last night seek to put a little bit more power in the hands of the scrutiny of acts and regulations committee which is government controlled,” Mr Guy told reporters.“Redraw it and do it properly.”Addressing reporters outside parliament on Tuesday, Mr Andrews criticised the opposition for playing political games.“There are some who called for these measures a few weeks ago and as soon as the government did that they changed their position,” Mr Andrews said.“That’s the definition of a political game. “You’ve got the opposition who are wanting to have it a bit both ways, you know, standing with people who are anti-vaxxers, sharing a podium with people who are anti-science, anti-vaccination, while at the same time talking about the place being closed.“The reason we‘re open and the reason we’re going to stay open is people have got vaccinated.”The Bill will be debated in parliament on Tuesday, with a final vote due later in the week.

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