In addition to a state of disaster under the Emergency Management Act 1986 (which can be declared for an emergency as defined within the Act), there are other specific states of emergency provided for in Victorian legislation.
Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008
The Minister for Health may, on the advice of the Chief Health Officer and after consultation with the
Minister for Emergency Management and the Emergency Management Co-ordinator in Chief and the State Co-ordinator, declare a state of emergency arising out of any circumstances causing a serious risk to public health. Declaration allows the Chief Health Officer to exercise powers to eliminate or reduce a serious risk to public health.
The Act also creates a regulatory framework for preventing, managing, and responding to the serious risk to life, public health and wellbeing presented by the outbreak or spread of a pandemic, by empowering the Premier to issue a pandemic declaration after consulting and considering the advice of the Minister for Health and the Chief Health Officer. The declaration allows the Minister for Health to issue pandemic orders to limit the spread and mitigate the impact of the pandemic. The Minister may only make pandemic orders after requesting and considering the advice of the Chief Health Officer.
Public Safety Preservation Act 1958
Under this Act, there is provision for declaration of a state of emergency to be made in relation to the whole or part of Victoria by the Governor in Council. This is for use if ‘action has been taken or is immediately threatened by any person or body of persons whereby the public safety or order is or is likely to be imperilled …’ It gives the Governor in Council wide powers for securing public safety or order including securing and regulating the supply and distribution of food, water, fuel, light and other necessities for no more than one month.
Fuel Emergency Act 1977
The Governor in Council may, under this Act, declare a state of emergency with respect to any kind of fuel, which is, or is likely to become, unavailable to meet the community’s reasonable requirements. The Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change then has wide powers in respect to the supply of fuel, including enforcement of non-compliance.
Essential Services Act 1958
Under this Act, assigned to the Premier, there is provision for a state of emergency to be declared by the Governor in Council in relation to a designated essential service, where essential service is likely to be interrupted. The definition of essential service includes transport, fuel, light, power, water and sewerage.
The Premier is then given wide powers in relation to the provision of that essential service.
- Under the Emergency Management Act 1986, disruptions to these defined essential services are clearly identified as emergencies.
- Section 23(1A) of the Emergency Management Act 1986 provides that ‘the Premier must not make a declaration [of a state of disaster] under this section for the purpose of taking action against any person or body of persons in the circumstances to which section 4(1) of the Essential Services Act 1958 applies.’
Gas Industry Act 2001 and Electricity Industry Act 2000
In situations of insufficient supply, the Governor in Council may proclaim emergency provisions that grant the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change extensive powers to ensure and regulate the supply of gas or electricity, including enforcement in the event of non-compliance.
Public Administration Act 2004
The Premier may declare that an emergency situation exists when satisfied that there is a serious risk to public health, or if an emergency exists which warrants the making or a declaration of a state of emergency, is expected to be the subject of a declaration or is necessary to assist all or part of the Victorian community to recover from an emergency. Before making a declaration on the grounds of health the Premier must consult with the Minister administering the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic) and the Chief Health Officer. Before making any declaration under the Public Administration Act 2004 (Vic) the Premier must consult the Minister administering the Emergency Management Act 1986 and 2013 (Vic) and the Emergency Management Commissioner.
The declaration empowers the head of a public body to assign any duties to an employee, require an employee to perform duties with another public sector body, require an employee to perform duties at a place other than his or her usual place of work or direct an employee not to attend for duty.
Relevant declarations under other Acts include:
- a declaration of a vital state project as referred to in the Vital State Projects Act 1976;
- a declaration of a vital industry under the Vital State Industries (Works and Services) Act 1992;
Declaration of an Emergency of State Significance
Separate to a State of Emergency, the Emergency Management Commissioner may declare in writing an Emergency of State Significance to exist in Victoria.
The purpose of declaring an Emergency of State Significance is to acknowledge a major emergency is occurring and to emphasise the gravity of the situation. The declaration is intended to raise community awareness of the ongoing emergency and reinforce the need for whole of government and community planning. There are no additional powers associated with this declaration.
The Emergency Management Commissioner is responsible for informing the Minister for Police and Emergency Services and the Premier of such a declaration. The declaration remains in force for a defined period as nominated on the declaration document.
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