Civil liberties groups and legal professionals are sounding the alarm in the Australian state of Victoria over the proposed Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Bill, which would afford government officials the powers to arrest citizens.
The bill has been proposed by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and would also allow government officials to arrest people they suspect may spread the coronavirus through planned future action, such as anti-lockdown protesters.
Public servants, union officials, or any other government staff such as protective services officers and WorkSafe inspectors could be drafted in to enforce public health directions pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic, should the bill pass the upper house of Parliament in the state.
These health directives include limits on the size of gatherings, as well as Melbourne’s 9pm curfew, and would target those suspected of spreading the coronavirus, even if they’ve not committed a crime, Covid-19-positive patients or their close contacts who refuse to comply with instructions to self-isolate, those who choose to protest publicly, or even those with mental health issues.
An open letter signed by 14 retired judges and barristers has lambasted the plan as “unprecedented, excessive, and open to abuse,” citing the fact that there is “no requirement that persons authorised be police officers, or even public servants.”