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Victorian Premier Dan Andrews could be given the power to declare a pandemic under new laws allowing him to limit movement, implement health orders and close businesses in three-month blocks instead of chief health officer Brett Sutton.

It's an unprecedented push for power, but one that has become all too common throughout this pandemic. In May the federal government attempted the single most drastic application of public health powers in the whole COVID pandemic: it temporarily made it a criminal offence for a certain class of Australian citizen to come home. The infamous “India ban” imposed a two-week prohibition on our own citizens, who were stuck in India at the height of its Delta outbreak, re-entering Australia on pain of imprisonment.

The legal justification was the extraordinary power given to the health minister by the Biosecurity Act in the context of a declared human biosecurity emergency, which COVID had been made in early 2020 and remains to this day. The minister can do anything he considers necessary to restrict the spread of the disease.