The passing of the Andrews government’s controversial pandemic management bill is at the mercy of a former Labor MP, with the politician revealing he will block it.
Adem Somyurek, who quit Labor last year before he could be expelled following a Nine Network investigation that caught him handing over cash and using parliamentary staff to allegedly create fake branch members, said he would return to parliament to oppose the Bill.
He told the Herald Sun on Wednesday night that the proposed laws gave “too much power to the government” and could lead to a “tyranny of rule by decree”.
The vote was scheduled for Thursday, with the government confident it would win the upper house vote after securing the support of three crossbench MPs on Monday.
But Mr Somyurek’s decision would mean the government would fall short of a majority, provided the eight other crossbenchers – who had already committed to opposing the Bill – voted against it.
In that scenario, the Bill will fail.
The new laws – which would give the Premier the power to declare a pandemic on the advice of the chief health officer and Health Minister – were pushed through the lower house last month.
Government officials can only make certain decisions such as lockdown, limits on movement and mandatory mask-wearing rules under the state of emergency.
It introduced the Bill, which began being debated on Tuesday, so it can continue to wield pandemic powers after the state of emergency expires on December 15.
The Bill had been expected to narrowly pass with support from three crossbenchers — Reason Party MP Fiona Patten, Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick and the Greens’ Samantha Ratnam.
Outside Parliament, Ms Patten said the government was in a precarious situation with the state of emergency ending and no other pandemic protections in place.
“Without this legislation, we will require a state of emergency legislation, which is far more draconian than the legislation we were trying to put through,” Ms Patten said.
Ms Patten used the opportunity to question Ms Somyurek’s motives.
“He has always been a backroom party man. He barely remembers the names of the people in the chamber. The fact that he’s now showing some interest in democracy and in policy I find somewhat disingenuous,” she said.
“Who knew that parliament could be used for such exacting revenge on former colleagues?”
Debate on the bill is due to resume on Thursday in the upper house but will be adjourned while the government considers a new approach.
Opposition leader Matthew Guy said he was open to working with the government to produce a “sensible piece of legislation”.
“I am perplexed the government negotiated with just three of 23 (upper house) MPs for the best part of nine months – it was always going to end in tears,” Mr Guy said.
“The bill is dangerous and it does give too much power to the government and it is clear now that the government does need to go back to the drawing board.
“Now is the time to sit down and work out a reasonable solution that Victoria needs to be to get us through the remainder of the pandemic.”