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The marathon parliamentary debate on Victoria’s controversial pandemic bill has come to an end for today following a lengthy 21-hour session that continued well into the night.

The bill has been sent back to the lower house with its suggested six amendments before returning to the upper house tomorrow for a final vote.

The proposed legislation is expected to pass parliament after a crossbencher yesterday confirmed he would support an amended version of the bill.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has said the bill is necessary given the pandemic. (Getty)

Transport Matters MP Rod Barton agreed to vote in favour of the contentious bill if six key amendments to the legislation were made, including the establishment of a joint parliamentary committee to review public health orders and an independent panel to review appeals to detention under public health orders.

The Andrews government agreed to the six amendments to get the bill over the line in a race against time before the state of emergency powers end on December 15.

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass today said she was “pleased” the government had listened to her concerns about the need for independent review and oversight in the bill.

“The addition of the proposed Detention Appeals Panel is an important reform, with independent members now being the ultimate decision-makers for people detained seeking review,” she said.

“People will also be able to complain to the Ombudsman.

“The introduction of a proposed new cross-party parliamentary committee to review a pandemic order is also a welcome improvement.”

People protest against the pandemic bill in Melbourne. (The Age)
Speaking while walking into State Parliament yesterday, Premier Daniel Andrews said the pandemic bill encompassed the “rules we need”, with the new Omicron variant highlighting the COVID-19 pandemic was far from over.

“If we want to protect those who are not vaccinated, can’t get vaccinated, in aged care, have underlying health conditions – this is not over,” he said.

A statement from the Victorian Government said the emergency powers were needed to keep the state safe.

“Over the past fortnight, we offered negotiations to the entire crossbench, giving them the opportunity to work with us on changes to this bill that would ensure Victoria has such a framework in place,” the statement read.

“These were rigorous negotiations — and we thank Rod Barton, who came to the table in good faith.”

The pandemic bill has sparked a month of protests in Melbourne CBD and outside State Parliament, with a strong police presence manning the area this morning.

Crossbench MP Clifford Hayes said he would not support the bill after a “series of discussions” with the government.

“From the outset, I believed that the Bill was fundamentally flawed and a massive overreach of power,” he said.

“But I always understood the need for a pandemic framework.

“Over the past week, the government has negotiated in good faith and made a number of commendable amendments to the Bill.

“I would argue that myself and my colleague, Rod Barton, fought hard and long for these changes; but the final position of the government was not enough to garner my support.”

Source: 9News

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