Victoria’s peak business groups have called on the Victorian Government to revise its Pandemic Bill to take account of issues raised by Victorians who are concerned at its potential misuse by future governments.

Whilst we are very supportive of the need to update legislation for Government management of future pandemics, we also recognise how business has been impacted over the past 20 months and our suggested changes will provide more certainty for business.

The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Australian Industry Group have come together to suggest significant changes raised by our members that need to be made to the Bill to safeguard the rights of all Victorians.  The changes required are not simply clarifications or adjustments but go to the basic principles of the proposals.

The Victorian Head of Ai Group, Tim Piper and the VCCI CEO Paul Guerra are jointly calling on the Government to recognise the apolitical nature of many of the comments and criticisms and consider how the Bill will be improved.

“We believe the Bill is important to the community and, in general, the improvement in transparency and the Health Minister becoming responsible is a positive development in pandemic management, but there are serious issues the Government needs to consider before seeking to push their current proposals through the Victorian Legislative Council.

“There are six matters of most concern to us, some more significant than others.  We don’t believe the Government should have the right to make a 3 month pandemic declaration – it should be for a shorter period; the definition of authorised officers needs further clarification and certainty; there needs to be clarity and certainty as to who defines a pandemic; there needs to be much better public transparency with the health advice being given to government; while the Government has acknowledged the need for business to be included on the advisory group it is not yet included in the legislation and given the power being granted to the Premier and the Health Minister, they must not be the same person.

“This legislation is designed for the long term, not just the current pandemic.  That is why all political parties should consider this proposal in a bi-partisan way and think about the consequences of the legislation in another era.  This is not about the current administration and current pandemic.  It needs to be foolproof and not be open to abuse by any future Premier, Minister or Government,” Mr Guerra and Mr Piper said.

Both Ai Group and VCCI believe the Government needs to make sensible changes to ensure Victorians can feel at ease should there ever be the need to use the legislation.  At the very least, the Legislative Council should refer the proposals to a committee to hear submissions from different sectors of the community on the legislation’s reach and implications.  On behalf of the Victorian business community, both organisations call for a rethink on the Government’s proposals.

Media enquiries

Tim Piper – 0411 430 301