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Disturbing scenes emerged in Melbourne on Monday night after protesters erected makeshift gallows outside Parliament House, calling for Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews to ditch his proposed controversial pandemic management bill.
Demonstrators camped outside on the steps of state parliament overnight yelling "kill the bill" and "freedom," with videos and photos shared online showing an inflatable Daniel Andrews doll being strung up on the gallows as people cheered.
The Andrews government agreed to several changes to the potential laws on Monday night after negotiating with key crossbenchers.
The premier will need 'reasonable grounds' to declare a pandemic
The Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill will give the premier the power to "declare" a pandemic on the advice of the Chief Health Officer (CHO) and Health Minister.
Once declared, the health minister can make "pandemic orders" after consulting with the CHO and would be given "broad powers" to introduce public health measures such as lockdowns, mask mandates and quarantine requirements.
Amendments to the legislation will clarify that the premier needs "reasonable grounds" to declare a pandemic, and the application of orders based on characteristics "must be relevant to the public health risk".
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About keeping people safe, Andrews says
Concerns were expressed over a clause that gave the health minister the ability to make orders based on a person's "characteristics, attributes or circumstances", such as age, location, vaccination status and occupation.
However, Mr Andrews said the clause "always related to the pandemic" and accused the opposition of playing "political games".
"It's very much about keeping people safe," Mr Andrews said.
Changes made to address legal and human rights concerns
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said he's confident the changes will keep "Victorians safe in any future pandemic."
He added the amendments were the result of consultation with public health, human rights and law experts.
"There will be no other parliament that has the transparency, accountability and the reporting to parliament that this bill provides," he said.
The Lower House passed the Public Health and Wellbeing (Pandemic Management) Bill back in October.
The government requires the backing of three of the 11 upper house key crossbenchers to pass; Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick, Reason Party MP Fiona Patten and Greens leader Samantha Ratnam.
The opposition plans to move 18 amendments, including limiting extensions to pandemic declarations to one month, subject to a three-fifths majority vote of both houses of parliament, and the scrapping of the characteristics clause.
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