It’s one thing for Victorian premier Daniel Andrews to be dubbed “Dictator Dan” by his detractors — quite another when he comes straight out and proves them right.

Victoria’s premier would be armed with unprecedented powers to declare a pandemic under Andrews government legislation.

It’s a common mistake to assume that dictators only ever seize power through coups or revolutions. Many dictators have been elected: from al-Assad to Mugabe — even, by a circuitous route, Hitler. What follows is rarely an immediate seizure of unchallenged power. At each step of the way, the nascent dictator tweaks the existing institutions in his favour.

In Victoria, in his mean, petty way, “Dictator Dan” has gradually subsumed the apparatus of state and functional democracy. First, grubby deals with powerful unions and illegal use of taxpayer money to run election campaigns: then the supercharged seizure of power during the pandemic.

When Andrews first announced a state of emergency over the pandemic, he said it would last four weeks. 18 months later, Victorians are the most locked-down population in the world. The state of emergency has been renewed, each time for longer and longer. Police have been given extraordinary powers to “detain any person or group for as long as reasonably necessary”, restrict the movement of any person in the state, close any premises, “require the destruction or disposal of anything”, and even allow police to enter homes and seize property without a warrant.

The only problem for our tinpot Stalin-on-the-Yarra has been the requirement to work through his chief health officer. Where’s the fun in being able to do almost anything, so long as it’s cloaked as a “health order”, if you have to get your top bureaucrat to rubber-stamp it first?

Well, Dan’s solving that little problem for himself.

The legislation, which sidelines the chief health officer, would enable Premier Daniel Andrews to declare a pandemic in three-month blocks, even without a case of a specific disease in the state.

While the premier would be required to consult the chief health officer, the new law would see chief health officer Brett Sutton lose his ability to make health orders, instead transferring that power to the health minister.

In a very minor sense, there’s one teensy, glimmering silver lining in this legislation: finally, untrammeled power is being taken away from unelected bureaucrats. The only problem is that, instead of returning decision-making powers to parliament, where they belong, all the power is being invested in one person: “Dictator Dan”.

“One man to usurp everyone, the parliament, the cabinet, everyone,” in the words of Opposition Leader Matthew Guy.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy branded the laws “the most dangerous legislation to come before an Australian parliament” […]

The opposition has instead proposed amending the constitution to limit the ability of the government to declare an emergency for no more than 30 days unless it secures a special majority vote in both houses of parliament.

The Australian

Of course, Andrews needs the support of the troika of minor party cross-benchers to get the legislation rammed through. But, given their spineless toadying so far, there’s little hope that even the supposedly “libertarian” Fiona Patten will do anything other than roll over and sit up on Herr Dan’s command.

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Dan Goes Full Dictator
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Lushington D. Brady

Punk rock philosopher. Liberalist contrarian. Grumpy old bastard. I grew up in a generational-Labor-voting family. I kept the faith long after the political left had abandoned it. In the last decade...