Covid-19 Australia: Melbourne protests erupt against vaccine mandate and new laws

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Thousands of protesters have staged demonstrations in the streets to rally against vaccine mandates and sweeping new laws set to be introduced in Victoria.

Angry demonstrators waved placards calling for the resignation of premier Daniel Andrews as they marched towards Parliament House in East Melbourne on Saturday.

‘Sack Dan,’ one placard read. ‘Make Victoria great again’.

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One protester was filmed being tackled to the ground by officers after jumping on a police vehicle. 

Protesters are outraged over plans for the state government to introduce new state of emergency laws that would give Mr Andrews sweeping powers to impose lockdowns and restrictions.

Thousands of protesters have staged demonstrations in the streets to rally against vaccine mandates and sweeping new laws set to be introduced in Victoria

Thousands of protesters have staged demonstrations in the streets to rally against vaccine mandates and sweeping new laws set to be introduced in Victoria

Angry demonstrators waved placards calling for the resignation of premier Daniel Andrews as they marched towards Parliament House in East Melbourne on Saturday

Angry demonstrators waved placards calling for the resignation of premier Daniel Andrews as they marched towards Parliament House in East Melbourne on Saturday 

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On Thursday, the Public Health and Wellbeing (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021 passed Victorian Parliament’s lower house, making it a step closer to reality.

‘This is not about a virus,’ one placard read at the protest. ‘It’s about government total control of the people.’

Vaccinations have also been mandated for all retail workers with Mr Andrews telling staff they will need to have received at least one dose by Friday. 

Thousands of workers from all types of retailers have been affected, including staff at florists, fashion outlets, furniture retailers, stationery stores, technology vendors. 

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‘Mandating jabs = violation of Nuremberg code,’ another placard read. 

Another banner read: ‘Coercion is not consent’. 

Former Victoria police officer and staunch lockdown critic Craig Backman addressed the crowd of angry protesters on the steps of parliament house.

He turned his attention to the police officers standing guard behind him and urged them to get behind the cause. 

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‘This is not just about a jab or no jab,’ he said. ‘It’s about the freedom. It’s about democracy. 

‘So far, even though I know most you don’t agree with it, but instead of showing loyalty to the people, you’ve shown loyalty to a pay cheque.’

The police officers remained unmoved as the crowd chanted: ‘Stand with us. Stand with us.’ 

Their chanting later turned to outraged calls for Mr Andrews to resign.

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‘Sack Dan Andrews. Sack Dan Andrews,’ they shouted.

Under the new law, the health minister, rather than the chief health officer, will be given ‘broad powers’ to introduce public health measures such as lockdowns, mask mandates and quarantine requirements.

A similar process is in place in NSW and New Zealand, where the health minister is directly accountable to parliament.

Protesters are outraged over plans for the state government to introduce new state of emergency laws that would give Mr Andrews unlimited power to impose lockdowns and restrictions

Protesters are outraged over plans for the state government to introduce new state of emergency laws that would give Mr Andrews unlimited power to impose lockdowns and restrictions

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On Thursday, the Public Health and Wellbeing (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021 passed Victorian Parliament's lower house, making it a step closer to reality

On Thursday, the Public Health and Wellbeing (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021 passed Victorian Parliament’s lower house, making it a step closer to reality

The opposition, however, says the government is ‘drunk on power’, describing the proposed laws as ‘the most extreme, dangerous and excessive laws ever brought before our state’.

‘Daniel Andrews is attempting to sideline the Victorian chief health officer and grant himself unchecked power to declare a state of emergency,’ Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said.

Mr Andrews said Mr Guy has repeatedly called for the public health orders to be made by elected officials rather than bureaucrats. As recently as October 5, Mr Guy said the orders should be ‘ticked off by a minister or the premier’.

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‘This is exactly what the opposition leader asked for. Now apparently it’s not the right thing,’ Mr Andrews told reporters on Tuesday.

‘There’s some political game being played here and I just won’t get involved in that.’

Health Minister Martin Foley said the laws would allow him to issue health orders based on characteristics such as age, location, vaccination status and occupation.

But he said it was ‘conspiratorial nonsense’ for the opposition to suggest rules could be enforced based on gender, sexual orientation or political belief.

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Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton also maintained he was not being ‘sidelined’ by the laws.

The opposition, however, says the government is 'drunk on power', describing the proposed laws as 'the most extreme, dangerous and excessive laws ever brought before our state'

The opposition, however, says the government is ‘drunk on power’, describing the proposed laws as ‘the most extreme, dangerous and excessive laws ever brought before our state’

‘There are expectations that the elected representatives in parliament, the minister in particular and the premier, should have accountability for the final form that public health directions take,’ he said.

Professor Sutton will continue to provide health advice to the minister, which under the new laws must be tabled in parliament then made public.

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An independent oversight committee will be established to review the public orders and their impact on human rights.

The laws also introduce safeguards around protecting contact tracing and QR code information, while an aggravated offence will be created for people or businesses who ‘intentionally or recklessly breach’ the rules.

The bill is expected to pass the lower house but in the upper house it will require the backing of three of the 11 crossbenchers.

Animal Justice MP Andy Meddick and Greens leader Samantha Ratnam have indicated they will support the bill, while Reason Party MP Fiona Patten wants to see the ‘devil in the detail’ before giving it a final ‘thumbs up’.

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If passed, pandemic-specific laws will replace the current state of emergency, which expires on December 15. 

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