Where Were You When Democracy Ended?

Written by:
6 October 2020
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When future generations ask when did Australians gave up on democracy and freedom, the answer will be 18 September 2020; the date when the Andrews government in Victoria passed laws which contain the most significant violation of human rights in Australia’s history. 

Or perhaps the answer will be in the weeks that followed, when barely a whimper was heard from federal Coalition government, the press gallery, the state broadcaster, civil liberty groups, university intellectuals, and the rest of the credentialled class who would rather stand with Dan than with freedom. 

The only chance for redemption is for the Victorian Upper House to reject the Bill when it is due to next sit on 13 October. 

The COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2020 empowers the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, who is an unelected bureaucrat, to appoint any Victorian to detain for an indefinite period of time any other Victorian, not on public health grounds, but on the vibe of it. 

As eighteen bold, courageous, and eminent legal figures noted in their open letter published last Tuesday, “Authorising citizens to detain their fellow citizens on the basis of a belief that the detained person is unlikely to comply with emergency directions by the ‘authorised’ citizens is unprecedented, excessive and open to abuse.”  

The Bill says that a person can be detained where an “authorised officer” “reasonably believes” that a person is a high-risk person and is “likely” to refuse or fail to comply with the detention direction. 

“Reasonably believes” and “likely” are entirely subjective assessments. 

Under the suggestion of Daniel Andrews, for example, the Secretary of DHHS could classify a union official as an authorised officer who could use their powers to detain a small business owner who objects to the lockdown measures. 

Labor Party apparatchiks could be empowered to prevent political opponents, such as the Liberal Party members, from gathering. 

And powers could be given to certain “community leaders” based not on their health expertise, but on the colour of their skin. Jill Hennessy, the Attorney-General of Victoria, admitted as much when she said that “leaders” of multicultural community organisations are intended to be the kinds of people that would be suitable for appointment as an authorised officer. 

Never before in Australia’s history has a separate class of citizens been created on the basis of their ethnic origin. This is like the Indigenous Voice to Parliament on steroids.  

Worse, there is no provision in either the COVID Omnibus Bill or the Public Health and Wellbeing Act requiring a person who is detained to be brought before a magistrate. This effectively abolishes the ancient right of habeas corpus, thereby removing a fundamental common law right dating back as early as the 12th century and codified in English legislation in 1640 AD. 

This is just the latest in a long-line of unlawful behaviour by Andrews and his government, which the Institute of Public Affairs first identified in July when it obtained legal advice which found failure of the Victoria Police to enforce social distancing rules on Black Lives Matter protestors was potentially unlawful. 

Also likely unlawful are the “stay at home” orders made under the Stage 4 restrictions because the Emergency Powers provisions under the PHW Act probably does not authorise directions of that kind.  

And pregnant mother of two Zoe Buhler was put in handcuffs in front of her children and had her private possession confiscated for engaging in the lawful act of posting an opinion on social media.  

Regardless, the I Stand With Dan crowd will go down with Daniel Andrews to the bitter end. They have to. Having rationalised every power grab, every lost job, every lost business, and every missed funeral, wedding, and birth as necessary to save lives, stepping back now would be an admission that perhaps six months of lockdowns was an over-reaction. 

But ever since the Stage 4 restrictions came into effect in August, it became apparent that lockdowns had little to do with public health and everything to do with politics. 

A total 696,000 Victorians, around 20% of Victoria’s entire workforce, are likely to be put out of work by the lockdowns. 

But these 696,000 jobs are being offered up to the gods of COVID elimination to save just one job, that of Daniel Andrews. 

The Stage 4 restrictions were only ever based on salvaging the Labor government, attempting to clear the decks for 2021, and to have a clean run into the election not due until 2022. 

Zero cases is the benchmark that has been set for success – something no country has ever achieved, and few have contemplated. 

No intervention is too draconian, no police enforcement too brutal, no dodged question too cynical, so as not to justify a third term of government.

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