The Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Pandemic Management) Act 2021, passed by the Victorian state parliament on 7 December 2021, represented a transferral of power to the executive government that is unprecedented in Australia’s peacetime history.

The legislation makes significant amendments to the state’s primary public health legislation, the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008, to add specific ‘pandemic management’ powers, to enable the premier to make pandemic declarations and enable the health minister and government officials to exercise extraordinary powers during pandemic declarations.

The purpose of this research report is to analyse one of the powers conferred onto the government: namely the power of authorised officers to exercise the 'general pandemic management power' to detain a person for a period the authorised officer believes is reasonably necessary to eliminate or reduce a serious public health risk (the 'detention powers').

The report investigates how the detention powers are not only arbitrary, but are inconsistent with Victorian human rights legislation and the ancient common law right of habeas corpus. It also analyses other general and specific powers of detention, which reveals Victorians have fewer rights than accused terrorists. Finally, it investigates the vulnerability of the legislation creating the detention powers to constitutional challenge, through an assessment that the structure of the Australian Constitution does not permit a state government to detain a healthy citizen indefinitely.

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