‘No ifs, no buts, no more lockdowns’: Matthew Guy launches campaign
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Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has ruled out locking down Victorians at any point if elected next year, launching his campaign one year out from the 2022 state poll.
Mr Guy made the promise as health authorities around the country debated how to respond to the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 and a daily “freedom” protest at the Victorian Parliament swelled to thousands.
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy.Credit:Eddie Jim
Officially launching his campaign for “positivity” in Dandenong South on Saturday, he guaranteed: “No ifs, no buts, no more lockdowns.”
“The Coalition gives a guarantee, lockdowns are a thing of the past,” Mr Guy said at the launch with a “rebuild Victoria rally”.
Under questioning, Mr Guy was later forced to concede there could be “very, very limited circumstances” that lockdowns were required. “I don’t think we’ll get to that circumstance, to be frank.”
Almost all COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted in Victoria — with the state this week reaching its target of fully vaccinating 90 per cent of people over 12 — and Premier Daniel Andrews has himself declared there would be no need for state or citywide lockdowns after Melbourne was shuttered six times to deal with COVID-19.
Consumer Affairs Minister Melissa Horne, the only Victorian government minister to address the media on Saturday, would not be drawn on the Coalition’s promise which came as the new coronavirus strain forced the shutdown of arrivals from nine countries.
She said the government would monitor the situation overseas and any emerging strains.
“We obviously take our advice from the chief health officer. What I can say is that Victorians have responded so well to getting vaccinated which we know is our key of getting out of this pandemic,” Ms Horne said.
“We’re coming out of lockdown. We’re coming out of dealing with a global pandemic.”
Mr Guy argued the state needed to live with COVID-19 and the health system should be bolstered to keep Victoria from falling back on what he described as the policy failure of lockdowns.
“We’re going to have an Andean variant, a Uruguayan variant, we’re going to get all variants for the next couple of years. We can’t have the government threatening to lock us down every single time,” he said.
“We want a government that gives us confidence … a government that doesn’t focus its energy on lockdowns and state of emergency but focuses on rebuilding our state. And that’s what we will do.”
Saturday’s campaign launch came against a backdrop of protest in the CBD and upper house negotiations over the stalled pandemic bill, which Mr Guy accused the government of wanting only to introduce more lockdowns.
Labor has been courting crossbench MPs to support the bill before the existing emergency powers expire on December 15. Without either framework, the government would have no mechanism to enforce health orders such as quarantine, mask and vaccination mandates.
Shadow treasurer David Davis, the leader of the opposition in the Legislative Council, will next week push to install a parliamentary committee to consider the best way forward and report back in February next year.
The government has just days to lock in an agreement and end the impasse, with Parliament resuming on Tuesday for the final three days of the year.
Independent Catherine Cumming, who was open to discussions with the government only if Labor lifted vaccination requirements for all settings, attended Saturday’s CBD rally while Mr Guy said he believed no members of the Coalition had snubbed his campaign launch in favour of the protest.
Under the existing laws, the chief health officer can issue binding orders when a state of emergency is declared.
Under the proposed Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Bill 2021, the premier and health minister would instead be empowered to respond to a pandemic.
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