17 April 2020

Tim Quilty says sole Parliament sitting day is not enough to provide accountability

Liberal Democrats Member for Northern Victoria Tim Quilty has welcomed the announcement of a Parliamentary session amid the coronavirus lockdown but has major concerns about the ongoing abuse of democracy by the Andrews Government.

Both Chambers of Victorian Parliament – the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly – will sit on Thursday April 23 for one day only.

But this is not the resumption of the democratic process, it is a special session purely to rush through laws which enable the government to continue to run during the lockdown.

“The Andrews Government intends to push through an Omnibus Bill which contains legislative changes required by the emergency, but unfortunately the Premier is not sharing details of this important Bill,” Mr Quilty said.

“There are also three Budget Bills which will, among other things, provide authority to fund the ongoing operation of the Government.

“Mr Andrews has had weeks to plan this Bill but we will not be allowed to see so much as a draft before his Cabinet signs it off at the beginning of the week.

“Not only is the Omnibus Bill being veiled in secrecy, but the Government is also trying to keep most MPs away from Parliament under the pretext of social isolation.”

Mr Quilty pointed out that with many businesses under pressure because of lockdown, Daniel Andrews was making sure that he and his colleagues would continue to get paid.

“One of the purposes of the Bills is to makes sure MPs continue to get paid even if Parliament doesn’t sit again for six months, which stands in stark contrast to all the Victorian businesses which have had to lay off staff because cashflows have completely dried up,” Mr Quilty said.

“It would be fascinating to see the government MPs lining up to claim unemployment benefits alongside all the laid-off workers who have no jobs thanks to the suffocating lockdown laws.”

Accountability is a vital part of any democracy, but the Andrews Government is eliminating proper scrutiny from Members of Parliament and instead putting in a committee with a Government majority to perform this important task.

“This Public Accounts and Estimates Committee will scrutinise all Government actions until this crisis is over, but the committee is composed of a majority of Government MPs and only one crossbencher from the Legislative Assembly, with possibly one from the Legislative Council,” Mr Quilty said.

“This is in effect a bunch of nodding donkeys who won’t question anything the Premier wishes to do, while any dissenting voices will be drowned out.

“I intend to go to Parliament on Thursday so that I can at least attempt to do my job – to hold the Government to account for the appalling overreach we have seen over and over through this coronavirus pandemic. The Liberal Democrats will not support an indefinitely suspended parliament and indefinite declaration of emergency.”

Mr Quilty has been vocal in his criticism of the measure taken by the Andrews Government during the crisis, including the aggressive behaviour of police in handing out fines to people innocently following self-isolation rules, the outlawing of fishing and hunting, and the ban on the sale of firearms and ammunition.

“Mr Andrews and his so called super-cabinet have been enjoying enormous power under this pandemic and they have created what is in effect a police state,” Mr Quilty said.

“The police can stop you and fine you for doing nothing wrong, there is no accountability and no recourse for innocent members of the public unless they wish to approach the media.

“As an elected representative, I want Parliament to resume its standard role so that we can provide oversight and hold Mr Andrews and his gang to account.”

For more information, contact Graham Springett | 0408 208819