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Victoria set to extend state of emergency for six months

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The Victorian government has secured the support of three crossbenchers to extend its current state of emergency by six months.

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Victorian Greens upper house MP Samantha Ratnam will return from maternity leave to vote in favour of an amended bill on Tuesday.

The Andrews government originally sought a 12-month extension to its state of emergency powers to allow for the enforcement of public health orders such as mandatory mask use, self-isolation for positive cases and business density limits.

At present, the declaration can only run for six months and is due to expire on September 13 along with Melbourne’s stage four lockdown and regional Victoria’s stage three rules.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos confirmed the amended bill sought a six-month extension, specific to the COVID-19 pandemic, and includes additional transparency measures.

“There has never been a more important bill before the Victorian Parliament than this,” Mikakos said.

Ratnam said she wasn’t intending to attend parliament but wanted to vote on the “really important piece of legislation”.

The government now has the support it needs to pass the bill in the upper house, though it is expected debate will run for hours.

Earlier on Tuesday, Reason Party MP Fiona Patten and Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick backed the extension despite receiving a torrent of abuse.

Patten said her office had been inundated with “vile, vicious and aggressive” phone calls, social media messages and emails opposing the proposal.

“Some of them, we’ve referred to the police,” the Reason Party MP said.

“This isn’t how we do politics in Australia I have never experienced this type of aggression against me in such a personal, sometimes sexual way.”

Patten said the majority of people who had contacted her misunderstood the bill.

“This is not about a lockdown. This is about ensuring that if someone has COVID, they stay isolated,” she said.

Patten blamed the abuse on various conspiracy groups, including those behind illegal rallies that have sprung up in Melbourne in the past few days.

Meddick said he and his family had also received “disgusting” abuse on social media.

He said it was vital to provide frontline workers and the community with certainty as the state moved out of lockdown.

“Now is not the time for party politics. Now is the time for co-operation,” Meddick said.

It comes as Victoria recorded 70 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and five more deaths, taking the state’s toll from the virus to 570 and the national figure to 677.

Tuesday’s daily case tally of 70 is the lowest since July 3.

Metropolitan Melbourne remains under strict stage four restrictions, including an 8pm to 5am curfew and a ban on travelling beyond a 5km radius of one’s home.

Regional Victoria is under slightly less strict stage three restrictions.

But lockdown-weary Victorians will soon be given a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel, as the state government prepares to release a “reopening road map” on Sunday.

-AAP

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