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State of disaster vs state of emergency: what do they mean?

State of disaster vs state of emergency: what do they mean?

What does Victoria's state of disaster mean and is it different to a state of emergency?

State of disaster vs state of emergency: what do they mean?

A state of disaster has been declared in Victoria, following a record spike in coronavirus cases.

The state of disaster came into effect at 6 pm on Sunday, 2 August, as metropolitan Melbourne moved into stage 4 lockdown restrictions.

Before the pandemic, a state of disaster was enacted during the devasting Australian bushfires of summer 2019-2020.

State of disaster vs state of emergency: how are they different?

State of emergency

A state of emergency was implemented in Victoria at the beginning of the pandemic on 16 March. It has a 6-month time limit before it needs to be revoked, so is due to expire in September.

Amendments can be made to the legislation if it needs to continue past the 6-month period.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said that while states of disaster and emergency can function independently, they work best together.

State of disaster

A state of disaster is enacted on the advice of the Emergency Management Commissioner. It is enacted on the grounds of an emergency which “constitutes or is likely to constitute a significant and widespread danger to life or property in Victoria.”

The act is intended to address issues around and beyond public health, such as natural disasters, explosions, terrorism, and “a plague or epidemic”.

It is enacted for a period of a maximum of a month, after which a further declaration can be made to extend it.

There are key powers the state of disaster act grants:

  • The Emergency Services Minister – Lisa Neville – can “control and restrict entry into, movement within and departure from the disaster area of any part of it”. As the state of disaster applies across Victoria, this applies to the entire state.
  • The minister can grant the police and emergency services the power to enforce restrictions.
  • Any government agency can be directed to “do or refrain from doing any act, or to exercise or perform or refrain from exercising or performing any function, power, duty or responsibility,” by the minister.
  • The Government has the power to suspend Acts of Parliament if they “would inhibit response to or recovery from the disaster”.
  • The minister or her delegates (such as police or emergency services) can take possession of any property if it’s necessary to respond to the disaster.
  • Police would be allowed to prevent all protests or move along crowds at places like supermarkets if physical-distancing rules were not being adhered to, Neville said.
  • It does not allow the minister to give the Australian Defence Force additional enforcement powers.

What are Victoria’s stage 4 lockdown rules?

A stage 4 lockdown has been declared in metropolitan Melbourne. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Stage 4 will be in place for six weeks until 13 September, unless extended.
  • You may only leave your house for four reasons:
    • Shopping for food or essential items.
    • Care and caregiving
    • Daily exercise
    • Work
  • There is a curfew between 8 pm and 5 am.
  • You may leave your house to access medical services which includes donating blood and if you or your family are at risk of family violence.
  • Exercise and shopping must be within 5 km of your home (unless the nearest supermarket is more than 5 km away).
  • It is mandatory for all residents in Victoria to wear face masks in public. This rule is exempt for people with a valid medical reason, children younger than 12 and those with a professional reason.
  • You cannot have visitors in your home unless it is for giving or receiving care. People who are in an “intimate personal relationship” may leave the house to visit one another.
  • Restaurants and cafes can still operate but only as takeaway and delivery.
  • Exercise is limited to one hour per day.
  • Police can issue fines of up to $1,652 for people who violate rules and up to  $9,913 for businesses.
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