Negotiations continue on Vic pandemic bill

Clifford Hayes is negotiating with the Victoria government about supporting the pandemic bill.
Clifford Hayes is negotiating with the Victoria government about supporting the pandemic bill.

Negotiations between the Victorian government and crossbench MPs on proposed pandemic legislation continue, with just one day to go before parliamentary debate is due to resume.

The Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill gives the premier and health minister the power to declare a pandemic and the ability to enforce restrictions such as lockdowns, mask-wearing, vaccination mandates, and quarantine for returned travellers and positive COVID-19 cases.

Under the existing state of emergency framework, which is due to expire on December 15, those powers lie with the chief health officer.

The bill was expected to pass parliament last week with the support of three crossbenchers in the upper house but former Labor minister Adem Somyurek announced he would return from a self-imposed absence to vote against it in its current form.

Mr Somyurek's return means the government needs the support of one additional crossbencher to pass the legislation before the state of emergency expires.

The attorney-general and health minister have been negotiating with crossbench MPs Rod Barton and Clifford Hayes in a bid to break the deadlock ahead of the debate on Tuesday.

Mr Hayes on Monday said the talks were continuing in good faith but there are still "issues to work through" before the government secures his support.

"I understand the need for some kind of pandemic framework but if we do not achieve a result that withstands expert and community scrutiny, I will not hesitate to vote against the bill," the Sustainable Australia MP said in a statement to AAP.

Australian Associated Press