Speaker Trevor Mallard has lashed the Labour Government for its urgent passing of Covid-19 “traffic light system” legislation, though he has allowed the law to be passed.
The Government on Wednesday passed legislation that would seriously curb the freedoms of unvaccinated people, in a 24-hour session of urgent lawmaking to ensure the Covid-19 Response (Vaccinations) Legislation Bill was in place for December 3, when the new “traffic light system” of Covid-19 restrictions will come into force.
Opposition MPs, legal experts and the Human Rights Commission have all condemned the move as poor lawmaking, and law professors have questioned the Government’s broad drafting of the law.
“There has not been a more important piece of legislation passed by Parliament this year, yet we’ve done it in 24 hours without consultation,” Victoria University law professor Dr Dean Knight said.
It’s the second or third worst use of urgency in the last 25 years.
On Wednesday afternoon, as the bill headed into a third and final debate in the House, Mallard said the Government, and wider House, had failed to better scrutinise the bill.
“Urgency of this type used to be common. It isn’t any more for good reason, it resulted in bad law,” he said.
Mallard suggested the Government could have taken a day for each of the bill’s three readings, and included a shortened select committee process to hear public submissions in between.
He said the Government, which announced its plans for a “traffic light system” in October, should have made public its policy decision, legal drafting instructions and early drafts of the bill.
Very rare for a Speaker to condemn the Government like this, but quite justified on this occassion.