Adem Somyurek has threatened to vote against proposed law

Ousted former Labor MP Adem Somyurek has threatened to block the Andrews Government’s controversial pandemic bill, which could derail the legislation from passing in Victoria’s Upper House.

Mr Somyurek has returned to State Parliament to sit on the crossbench as an independent after being dumped from the Labor Party last year due to branch-stacking allegations.

In an opinion article in the Herald Sun, Mr Somyurek said he believed the proposed pandemic legislation gave the government “too much power” and he would not support it.
Victorian MP Adem Somyurek
Former Labor MP Adem Somyurek said he will vote against the bill. (Jason South)

“Had I continued to be a member of the Andrews cabinet, I would have argued this bill is a bad idea because it gives too much power to the government,” he said.

“I will not support this bill in its current form, and I would encourage the government to go back to the drawing board and consult more broadly.”

Mr Somyurek’s decision to vote against the bill is set to send the government’s plan into disarray, as the bill will fail to pass if the eight other crossbenchers who already said they would oppose the bill also vote against it.

If the bill fails to pass through Parliament in the next two weeks before the State of Emergency provisions expire, the Victorian Government will not be able to enforce any pandemic orders.

Only three crossbenchers have flagged support for the bill, including Greens MP Samantha Ratnam, Animal Justice’s Andy Meddick, and Reason Party leader Fiona Patten.

“Because Labor has control of both houses and parliament can no longer perform its scrutiny functions, internal scrutiny and collective decision making through cabinet and caucus is even more critical,” Mr Somyurek said.

“But I have been in three Labor governments, and never has the caucus and cabinet been sidelined as much as during this term.

“The three crossbenchers are likely to be consulted before caucus members and cabinet ministers.

“This leaves Andrews as the sole decision-maker, which is not acceptable in complex modern government.”

Hundreds of protesters have taken up camp on the steps of Parliament House this week. (Photograph by Chris Hopkins)

The government on Monday announced seven key amendments to the bill after strong criticism from lawyers and human rights activists, but some critics say the changes did not go far enough.

The bill will be debated today and likely go into the night, possibly even spilling into tomorrow.

What happens if the bill does or does not pass?

The Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021 would replace Victoria’s State of Emergency power, empowering the premier and health minister of the day to declare pandemics and enforce health directions, instead of the Chief Health Officer.

If the bill does not pass, the Victorian Government will not have the legal framework to enforce COVID-19 directions beyond December 15 – when the State of Emergency expires.

The State of Emergency powers cannot be extended past this date due to its restrictions, meaning the government is in a race against time to push through the bill.

However, Mr Somyurek’s plan to block the bill means the legislation faces a deadlocked vote, derailing the government’s plan to have pandemic laws replace the State of Emergency powers next month.

Mr Somyurek’s intervention has sparked suggestions the government may delay the vote until the next sitting of parliament in two weeks, rather than risk facing a high-profile loss.

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