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TravelGuides – Marathon debate on Victoria’s pandemic bill ends but final vote may still be days away | Victoria

TravelGuides – Marathon debate on Victoria’s pandemic bill ends but final vote may still be days away | Victoria

A final vote on the Victorian government’s Covid pandemic legislation could still be days away, after upper house MPs sat through the night debating it.

Debate on the Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill began in the Legislative Council about 3pm Tuesday and ended more than 21 hours later about 12.15pm on Wednesday.

MPs worked their way through each of its 58 clauses and 83 amendments and it will now return to the lower house – where the Andrews government holds a commanding majority – to be debated once more.

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It will then return to the upper house for a final vote, expected on Thursday.

But upper house MPs have been told to prepare to sit on Friday and Saturday if required.

The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, would not be drawn on how long the process was likely to take.

“We’ll just have to see how it unfolds,” he told reporters outside parliament on Wednesday.

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“But obviously we need to get these arrangements settled so let’s hope they can achieve that outcome.”

The bill, which gives the premier and health minister the power to declare a pandemic and enforce restrictions, is set to replace the state of emergency that expires on 15 December.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews speaks to reporters on Wednesday. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

Several amendments were made to the bill to secure the support of Transport Matters MP Rod Barton, including the creation of a joint parliamentary committee that can review public health orders and recommend they be overruled by a majority of both houses of parliament.

Labor has chosen Ivanhoe MP Anthony Carbines and Eltham MP Vicki Ward to sit on the committee, while Lowan MP Emma Kealy and Rowville MP Kim Wells will represent the Coalition.

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Two crossbench MPs will be on the committee, with one expected to chair it.

A proposed aggravated offence, under which egregious restriction breaches could have been punishable by up to two years’ jail, was also removed from the bill.

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

Barton has been on the receiving end of online abuse, including death threats, since he announced his support on Tuesday.

Plain-clothed Victoria police officers were seen entering parliament on Wednesday but the premier said he would not comment on active security issues.

Barton on Tuesday said with the state of emergency’s expiration fast approaching a decision had to be made and some sort of laws were needed.

The government initially thought the bill would pass last sitting week with the support of Fiona Patten of the Reason Party, Animal Justice MP Andy Meddick and Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam, but it needed an additional vote after former Labor minister Adem Somyurek declared he would return from a self-imposed absence to vote against it.

Several groups who initially held concerns about the bill, including the Centre for Public Integrity, the Human Rights Law Centre, the Law Institute of Victoria and Liberty Victoria, have welcomed the amendments.

TravelGuides – Marathon debate on Victoria’s pandemic bill ends but final vote may still be days away | Victoria

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