A group of researchers is campaigning to end Melbourne’s draconian lockdown because it is pushing up to 400,000 people out of work and taking away the basic right to liberty of millions of Australians.
Free market think-tank The Institute of Public Affairs has called the city’s stage-four restrictions, which include an unprecedented 8pm curfew, ‘the greatest incursion into our basic liberties ever on Australian soil’.
Victoria’s State of Disaster, in place from 2 August, gives the police extraordinary powers including the ability to seize private property, enter people’s homes and stop them in the street.
Residents walk in the empty central business district of Melbourne on Monday
In a video posted online, Gideon Rozner, Director of Policy at the IPA, said Melbourne’s restrictions were too severe.
‘Almost five million people are under curfew. Private property can be seized by the Police Minister for any reason,’ he said.
‘Police and even the army can enter your home without a warrant, and stop you in the street to check that you’re carrying the permit that allows you to leave your own home.’
Under stage-four restrictions, non-essential businesses have been forced to close and essential businesses such as meat packing have been ordered to reduce the number of staff working at one time.
The federal treasury estimates that up to 400,000 Victorians will be put out of work due to the draconian rules amid fears that soaring unemployment will lead to increases in suicide, poverty and substance abuse.
Federal housing minister Michael Sukkar last week warned the state is facing ‘permanent damage’ as some businesses will close for good.
‘I’m frustrated, my heart breaks for the people that I have calling my office on a daily basis explaining to me that businesses they’ve spent decades building up are now probably gone,’ he told Sky News.
‘I fear about the long lasting impacts of these things,’ he said.
A person wearing a face mask walks in front of a closed business in the central business district of Melbourne on Monday
A couple walk on St Kilda Pier in face masks on Sunday. The city is enduring stage-four restrictions
In early July, after stage three restrictions were announced, Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp revealed that 15 per cent of businesses surveyed said they may never open again after such a long period without income.
The IPA’s Dr Rozner said: ‘Businesses have been closed, jobs have been destroyed, and Victorians everywhere are losing hope.
‘Many shops that have shut their doors will never reopen. Many people who’ve lost their jobs may never work again.’
John Roskam, Executive Director at the IPA, said the measures were not justified.
‘The Andrews Government hasn’t provided the evidence that shutting down thousands of Victorians businesses and destroying hundreds of thousands of lives is justifiable,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Many of the Victorian government’s rules they have made up are arbitrary, are illogical and are counter-productive. It is not clear that many of these measures are proportionate to the health risk.’
Several Liberal politicians have also joined calls to wind back stage-four. James Newbury, state MP for Brighton, has accused Premier Andrews of running a ‘police state’.
He argued that requiring employees to get a permit to travel to work and forcing parents to get one to use child care was too strict and that most people were doing the right thing.
Mr Andrews today said stage-four lockdown was the only way to beat the virus.
He said: ‘This strategy is difficult, it’s heartbreaking, it’s very challenging but it’s the only one that will drive down movement across Victoria and, therefore, drive down case numbers.’
What can the government do in a state of disaster?
Under the Emergency Management Act 1986, Victoria’s Premier can declare a state of disaster if there is a ‘significant and widespread danger to life or property in Victoria’.
In a state of disaster, the police minister can:
- Tell any government agency to do or not do anything
- Suspend any laws passed in parliament
- Take possession of property if needed to respond to the disaster
- Tell the police to stop any protest
- Appoint police as authorised officers so they do not need to be accompanied by health officials to enter homes
- Prevent entry into and out of the disaster area
Victoria on Monday suffered its deadliest day in the coronavirus pandemic with 19 deaths and 322 new infections including 105 ‘mystery’ cases with no known source.
The figure takes the state’s death toll to 229 and the national total to 314.
Fourteen of the 19 deaths were residents in aged care. The people who died were one man in his 50s, one woman in her 60s, two men in their 70s, one man and six women in their 80s, and one male and seven women in their 90s.
Victoria currently has 7,869 active coronavirus cases, including 1,065 among healthcare workers.
The Australian Medical Association has said it is ‘extremely concerned’ after 590 healthcare workers contracted the virus over the past 14 days.
Nurses from Western Australia are due to touch down in Melbourne this week to provide reinforcements.
After peaking at 725 on 5 August, Premier Daniel Andrews said the daily case totals appeared to be decreasing as a result of stage-three lockdown and compulsory mask wearing.
Premier Daniel Andrews on Monday announced that Victoria has suffered 19 coronavirus deaths
‘We’re certainly seeing perhaps some greater stability that is a result of the cumulative impact of stage three,’ he said.
But he warned Victorians ‘not to get ahead of ourselves’ and to keep following lockdown rules.
In his daily press conference Mr Andrews showed two videos of COVID-19 survivors who had lasting health impacts, including a middle-aged woman who needed a breathing tube for a month.
‘Think about the person who is most important to you. And then think about them with a tube to help them breathe in intensive care for 32 days. That’s how serious this is,’ he said.
A woman walks down the street during an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne on Sunday
Victoria is rolling out a free call-to-test program which will allow a vulnerable person to summon a tester to their home within 48 hours by calling a hotline if they want a COVID-19 test.
‘We will go to people’s homes and we will ensure that they will be able to be tested within a 48-hour period,’ Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said.
‘This is designed to ensure that approximately 200 vulnerable Victorians every day will have access to this new testing capacity.’
In the past 24 hours, Victoria Police handed out 276 fines for beaching health rules, including to a man who broke Melbourne’s 8pm curfew to get cigarettes.
Victoria police hand out 276 fines for breaching lockdown rules
Police issued a total of 276 fines to individuals for breaching the Chief Health Officer directions, including:
• 37 for failing to wear a face covering when leaving home for one of the four approved reasons
• 25 at vehicle checkpoints
• 74 for curfew breaches
• 27 fines issued for those who were travelling to, or attended a protest in the CBD on Sunday.
• A man was observed running across Edgedale Road in Kew overnight. He was stopped by police and stated he was just getting cigarettes, despite being aware of the curfew in place.
• A vehicle was located in a carpark in Campbellfield, with four people inside all from different addresses claiming to be just ‘hanging out’. All four males were issued with fines.
• After receiving a noise complaint, police attended an address in Wyndham and located 5 people in a garage drinking and smoking, listening to loud music playing. All five people were issued with an infringement.
• A man was located in Yarra, more thank 5 kilometres from his address. He claimed he was catching up with friends for a drink.
• A man and a woman had travelled beyond 5 kilometres to go to a playground in Wyndham to play with their children as they claimed they were ‘sick of walking around their local area.’