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Media alert: Proposed amendments to Victoria's Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Bill regarding new powers to detain people who refuse to self isolate

Monash University experts are available to discuss proposed amendments to Victoria’s Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Bill, regarding powers to detain those who refuse to self-isolate and follow COVID-19 restrictions. These amendments are set for debate in Victorian Parliament this week.

Dr Maria O’Sullivan, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law 

Contact details: +61 415  585 708 or

Read more of Dr O’Sullivan’s commentary on legal issues related to COVID-19 at Monash Lens.

  • How is detention currently dealt with under the Public Health Act?

  • What concerns arise from an expansion in the power to detain under public health legislation?

  • Are there any ways in which compliance with self-isolation orders can be carried out without resort to arrest and detention of individuals?

  • What relevance does the Victorian Charter of Rights have to this issue?

The following quotes may be attributed to Dr O’Sullivan:

“COVID-19 is a serious health issue for Victorians and those persons who refuse to abide by self-isolation orders pose a risk to public health. However, detention is a serious matter as it involves a restriction on individual liberty.

“The right to liberty is protected under the Vic Charter of Human Rights as well as being a long-standing principle of judge-made law. Any proposed amendments which give greater power to the police or authorised health officers to detain persons for public health reasons would therefore need to be clearly justified.

“Normally detention is ordered by a court (eg if someone is charged with a crime such as an assault or theft offence). What is different here is that it is not a court which is ordering the detention but authorised officers who are not part of the judiciary. Therefore, I would want to see robust limitations and oversight mechanisms built into any detention provisions introduced into the Public Health Act.

“Of particular concern would be any lack of involvement by a court in this process, and any amendments which give authorities a broad administrative discretion’.

Furthermore, detention under the Public Health Act must always be an option of last resort. Detention must be the only means by which compliance with isolation orders can be ensured and there must be consideration of whether there are less restrictive means reasonably available to ensure that compliance”. 

Associate Professor Patrick Emerton, Faculty of Law 

Contact details: +61 3 9905 3314 or 

Read more of Associate Professor Emerton’s commentary at Monash Lens 

  • Proposed amendments to the Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Bill relating to detention of people who refuse to self isolate.

  • Is it lawful for authorities to detain people who refuse to follow COVID-19 public health measures? 

  • Balancing the exercise of political power with public health imperatives. 

The following quotes may be attributed to Dr Emerton:

"Within the Australian constitutional framework, quarantine is a permissible basis for detaining a person. Any law that authorises quarantine detention ought to be clear about the grounds and the duration of detention.

“Detention is never a step to be taken lightly. Anyone who believes that they have been unjustly detained must be able to apply to a court to have the legality of their detention reviewed."

For any other topics on which you may be seeking expert comment, please contact the Monash University Media team on +61 3 9903 4840 or