June 18, 2014  |  Second reading speech

Crime Statistics Bill 2014

Mr CARROLL (Niddrie) — It is my pleasure to rise and speak on the Crime Statistics Bill 2014. As mentioned at the outset, the opposition does not oppose the bill. However, we have some concerns in relation to the transparency of crime statistics, and we hope some
of our suggestions will be adopted in the future, after November.

The Ombudsman’s report Crime Statistics and Police Numbers recommends that the government consider establishing an independent unit to develop and maintain statistical databases on crime, to monitor and publish reports on crime trends and that has the capacity to audit crime statistics. The member for Caulfield and I both sit on the Parliament’s Law Reform, Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee, which is currently undertaking an inquiry into the drug ice. Throughout our inquiry, in our sessions all over the state, data has been revealed to be a key issue. This legislation will go some way to
addressing what needs to be addressed in relation to crime statistics and where police resources are most needed.

A key component of this bill is the employment of a chief statistician. The Chief Commissioner of Police will be able to provide law enforcement data to this chief statistician. The publication of crime statistics will be a very transparent process, which we
welcome, and there will be offences for unauthorised disclosure. The commissioner for law enforcement data security will monitor crime data held by the Crime Statistics Agency.

The Napthine government has recently passed reforms in the police area, and many members will be aware that a lot of these reforms were initiated by the inquiry into the command, management and functions of the senior structure of Victoria Police, which is
often referred to as the Rush inquiry. I was having a look at the report of the Rush inquiry a bit earlier today. The terms of reference of the inquiry were:

To inquire into the following matters relating to the structure, operations and administration of the senior command of Victoria Police:

1.     The effectiveness and functions of the senior structure of
Victoria Police command.

2.     The extent to which the senior command structure of Victoria
Police provide the future capabilities to deliver best practice policing.

And the key component concerning crime statistics was:

3.     The extent to which Victoria Police has the command management
structures to deliver major IT and administrative functions.

On page 77 of the Rush inquiry report, there is a section on information management and information security. The commissioner for law enforcement data security, as members would be aware, is a statutory office established by the Commissioner for Law Enforcement and Data Security Act 2005. The report of the inquiry states that the role of the commissioner is to:

… promote the use of appropriate and secure law enforcement data management practices by Victoria Police, thus enhancing community confidence in Victoria Police’s ability to securely manage confidential information.

The report shows what Mr David Watts, who was appointed as commissioner in November 2008 under the previous administration, had to say about the functions of his office. It
states:

Mr Watts quickly became concerned about the poor information governance within Victoria Police, the lack of any information management strategy and the fact that no‑one appeared to have responsibility for information management. At the request of the minister, he undertook a review of information governance within Victoria Police.

Members would be aware that KPMG was engaged to do an audit of the internal management of police statistics and police data. The community has a lot of interest in and concern about police data. It welcomes the reforms on statistics and the new transparency.
The Office of Police Integrity document entitled Report of Investigation into Victoria Police Crime Records and Statistical Reporting has also been released. It is alarming what
Mr Strong, the director of the OPI, had to say in that report:

Victoria Police is unable to produce accurate crime clearance statistics to the Victorian government, the Australian bureau of crime statistics and the Victorian community.

However, what was most concerning was that Mr Strong found during the investigation that, out of a total average of 380 000 crimes each year, up to 15 000 could have been wrongly classified as solved. When it comes to the statistics you can see that there has been a lot of concern and that a lot of oversight has been required. The Rush inquiry also considered what needs to happen in this area.

The opposition has put on the record that it welcomes Fiona Dowsley’s appointment as the chief statistician. It is great that she will be involved in setting up the Crime Statistics Agency. However, we must be mindful that the agency will not operate until after the election, and it will not come into force until 1 January 2015. Some of the commentary on Fiona’s appointment has revealed that she has a background in criminology, so she is obviously well briefed and has a good track record. This is a welcome appointment for both sides of the aisle. On the ABC recently she said her aim was to make information more accessible and to present it in a way that people really understand.

In my electorate of Niddrie we have two major police stations: one at Moonee Ponds, overseen by Inspector Kedge; and a smaller one in Avondale Heights.

In Moonee Valley we have challenges, without a doubt, and I think the police do a wonderful job. They also do a wonderful job with our local legal services, including the Moonee Valley Legal Service. Later tonight our law enforcement agencies will be coming
together for a forum on ice at the Wingate Avenue Community Centre in Ascot Vale. It will be a great forum, but what would have enhanced tonight’s forum is some accurate data and statistics on the drug ice and its impacts in our municipality.

We welcome what the government is doing, and it is supported. As I highlighted earlier, the previous government organised KPMG to do its own investigations into the IT management systems of Victoria Police. As someone who has worked at the Department of Justice and spent some time at the Victoria Police centre I know, as do most people, about the history of the law enforcement assistance program database. It has been plagued by problems. Governments have invested in it, but even today what is really needed is a third‑party, transparent, independent body in which the community can have confidence, in terms of the statistics that are being issued by the government.

As former Office of Police Integrity director Mr Strong and even former police chief commissioner Simon Overland have said, there are statistics but it is about what spin is put on them. Having statistics that are locally based and done by postcode is something that is very welcome and something that the community will appreciate and understand. What has been concerning, though, since we have had the change of government is that following 10 years of crime reduction under Labor statistics do show — and we have the statistics — that crime has been on the increase. That is something that needs to be addressed.

I welcome the government putting money aside in the recent budget to address the harms of the drug ice. When members were driving to Parliament House today they may have heard morning radio host Neil Mitchell — one of the highest rating radio commentators
today — saying he is about to embark on his own drugs forum on the issue of ice. I have come to see this problem as being probably the biggest scourge throughout the state right now, whether it be in the suburbs, in the inner city or even in country Victoria. Until we get the relevant data and know exactly what the position is, we cannot know where to most appropriately use the government’s money to address it. We must realise that just putting people into prison will not solve anything.

We welcome the statistics, we welcome the legislation and we wish it a speedy passage, but that will not be the end of it. We will be revisiting this measure, although we will not see any teething problems at the moment because it does not come into effect until next year — let us wait and see. I wish the bill a speedy passage.