The terrifying police state Daniel Andrews wants to create: How innocent Victorians can be arrested and detained indefinitely without evidence – on the word of power-hungry public servants
- Top lawyers have slammed plan to let public servants make arrests
- They would be able to arrest people if they think they might spread Covid-19
- Lawyers have warned that officials may get power hungry and abuse powers
- There are fears people could be indefinitely detained with no access to justice
Charlie Moore — Daily Mail Sept 23, 2020
Innocent Victorians could be arrested in the street or at work and detained indefinitely by power-crazed officials under a new law Daniel Andrews wants to pass, top lawyers have warned.
The proposed new law, which will be debated in the Victorian parliament next month, would allow the government to give anyone it chooses – such as public servants – the power to enforce coronavirus restrictions and make arrests.
The unprecedented plan would also allow officials to detain people they suspect may spread coronavirus even if they have done nothing wrong.
Officials would also be able to follow up on tip-offs that Covid rules have been breached at a home or a workplace without needing the police to accompany them.
Eighteen esteemed former judges and lawyers have written an open letter warning that the law is ‘unprecedented, excessive and open to abuse’.
One of those lawyers, Ross Gillies QC, told Daily Mail Australia he fears power-hungry officials who enjoy exerting authority may abuse the powers given to them.
‘I don’t trust someone who is nominated by a public servant with the power to make arrests. I have real abiding concern that power is a very dangerous thing,’ he said.
‘Some people are excited by power and the ability to exert authority over someone else. There is the potential for enormous injustice.’
‘Someone might grab someone and say “I have reason to believe you are a Covid carrier or know someone who has Covid and I apprehend you”.
‘There would be no remedy in that situation. That may be the worst-case scenario but we know that can happen.’
Mr Gillies described the law, which has passed the lower house, as ‘draconian’ and urged the upper house to vote it down or amend it next month.
James Peters QC, who also signed the letter, expressed similar concerns.
‘Power is very intoxicating and only some people can exercise it carefully such as very well trained groups,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
Asked if the new law could see innocent Victorians being arrested in the street, he said: ‘That’s right, that’s a very big risk.’
Mr Peters said normally when somebody is arrested they are brought before a bail justice but the proposed law does not say that would happen.
Asked if it allows officials to indefinitely detain people under state of emergency powers, he said: ‘It could be read that way, yes.’
He also said it was unclear what redress people who are wrongfully arrested would have.
‘We have a traditional understanding of police power and redress to the courts if you have concern about how powers are exercised,’ he said.
‘But how are you able to effectively test the belief upon which you were restrained?
‘You might not find out about it [why you were arrested] until you get to court.’
He flagged that there could be a legal challenge if the law passes, saying: ‘When excessive powers are legislated, there is often a legal challenge.’
Asked if all 18 signatories to the letter would launch legal action together, he said: ‘I can’t speak for everyone I can only speak for myself.’
The proposed law does not specify who will be authorised to make arrests.
‘We just don’t know, that’s one of the vices. They could be anybody,’ said Mr Peters.
‘It’s not enough to say the problem can be managed without specifying who could be given the powers.’
In a press briefing on Wednesday, Mr Andrews suggested the power to make arrests would be given to WorkSafe officials and health department workers.
At the moment police need to be present to make an arrest but Mr Andrews wants public servants to have that power on their own.
He said currently when a workplace is inspected to see if it is abiding by Covid-19 rules ‘there’s got to be someone from police, someone from WorkSafe, somebody from the Health Department, that doesn’t make any sense.
‘If we can essentially double or triple the resource available to you, it stands to reason that we’ll have more people doing the right thing. ‘
Mr Andrews said he wants to make sure supermarkets, abattoirs and other workplaces are adhering to strict rules including social distancing and limits on the number of workers on the premises at once.
Asked why he needs to give powers to detain people before they do anything wrong, he said: ‘They’re based on a reasonable belief principle and proportionality principle about the risk of spreading Covid.
‘There are some people who are not compliant, refuse to act in a responsible and safe way. Those powers would not be frequently used. They would be, I think, rare. But they are important.’
Those who could be arrested include positive patients or close contacts who officials suspect may refuse to self-isolate, such as protesters or people with mental health difficulties.
They could be taken to a hotel for mandatory quarantine for as long as the authorised officer believes is necessary.
Critics say Mr Andrews wants to create his own version of the Stasi, the East German secret police force which spied on citizens through a network of informants and arrested more than 250,000 people between 1950 and 1990.