Last week, four members of the Victorian Legislative Council were denied access to parliament because they refused to show a vaccine passport.
Three of them, Liberal Democrats MPs Tim Quilty and David Limbrick, and independent MP Catherine Cumming, have taken to working in a nightclub in Melbourne.
“A few weeks ago, the government forced through a motion in parliament to get all members of parliament to hand over their papers or be suspended,” said Limbrick. “They followed through with that. They suspended four members of parliament from th Upper House and one from the Lower House, and so we’re in a situation where we need somewhere to work. We can take part in parliament remotely, and that’s what we’ve set up here.”
The MPs, speaking to Rebel News Australia, compared the measures taken by the Victorian government as unreasonable.
Although the MPs can attend hearings remotely, they’re not allowed to vote.
While the MPs are in exile, the government has proposed yet another controversial piece of legislation focused on the pandemic. The Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment Bill 2021 seeks to increase the Premier’s powers so that he can continue to declare, sustain and issue public health orders.
Currently the Public Health and Wellbeing Act allows the Premier to issue public health orders in the short-term. The proposed amendment gives the premier the power to declare lockdowns or other measures limitless times in three-months blocks for as many times as he deems fit.
The premier could issue public health orders even when public health officials have not declared there is a pandemic.The proposal could also create a permanent system for future pandemics.
“It’s pretty scary stuff – what they’re coming up with – especially when we’ve seen how the powers have been used in the past,” said Limbrick. “The idea of these powers being used responsibly… We just don’t buy it.”
The proposed amendment also includes a “classes of persons” provision that would allow the government to issue health orders that only apply to a specific group of people.
“A pandemic order may apply to, differentiate between or vary in its application to persons or classes of persons identified by their location in a pandemic, participation at an event, or characteristics, attributes, or circumstances,” the amendment reads.
Cumming, whose mother came to Australia after World War II, compared the pandemic restricitions to Nazi Germany.
“During this pandemic, a lot of people have actually been making references to Nazi Germany and those kinds of things – which has really broken my heart,” said Cumming. “Watching what has been happening for even the Jewish community [in Melbourne] trying to actually be able to gather has really broken my heart. We don’t need it here. We don’t need to mandate.”