April 4, 2016  |  second reading speech

Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 2016

Mr CARROLL (Niddrie) — It is my pleasure to rise to speak on this very important legislation, the Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 2016. I might just quickly take up where the member for Hawthorn finished off. He was quoting the Chief Commissioner of Police and Police Association Victoria. What did the Chief Commissioner of Police have to say recently about crime statistics? He said that crystal methamphetamine, the drug ice, has been a big issue here. For four years — and I had the pleasure of sitting on the Law Reform Committee inquiry into crystal methamphetamine — under the previous government not one thing was done. I will never forget that when the committee handed down its two‑volume report — the most cutting‑edge report on crystal methamphetamine in Australia — the then Premier, Denis Napthine, rushed into the chamber, and what did he have to announce?

An honourable member — What did he announce?

Mr CARROLL — Twelve new sniffer dogs.

Honourable members interjecting.

Mr CARROLL — Compare that to the Premier who from opposition — and even James Campbell himself I think has said this — stole the march on the government at the time, had a proper policy dealing with the drug ice and committed to an ice action task force. He actually read the report and has done the work. He got the then health minister and the Attorney‑General around the table, and after that they found themselves where they belong: back in opposition.

The first event I had to attend this year was representing the Minister for Police at the police academy. I was very privileged to represent the minister for the very first rollout of our police custody officers. That is a great Labor policy that is going to make all the difference out in the community by putting more police back on the beat. It was fantastic to be out at the police academy. The police custody officers have come from a $2.5 billion investment in police resources in the first Andrews Labor government budget. We are now preparing our second budget, and I cannot wait to see what comes of that.

The member for Hawthorn is very fond of quoting Police Association Victoria. Well, I actually have a copy of its press release in front of me after the budget. Here it goes to the heart of it. I want to quote Senior Sergeant Iddles, the secretary, as reported in a media release. It says:

The police association is pleased that the government has seen fit to fix a number of problem areas which the association had previously identified.

It quotes Senior Sergeant Iddles as saying:

We congratulate police minister Noonan for his leadership in listening to our concerns and acting on them at the earliest possible opportunity — the government’s first budget.

For decades, we’ve been saying that police officers should be freed from ‘babysitting’ prisoners in police cells in order to do the police work their communities expect of them, like providing proactive street patrols. We’re delighted that this ‘chestnut’ issue will soon be fixed.

That is from the police association congratulating the minister and the government for doing something they had asked to be done for a long time — stopping them having to have police officers babysitting people in police cells.

The member for Hawthorn — and I was listening particularly to his comments — somehow tried to grey up and fudge the introduction of police custody officers. He said, ‘Oh, you know, it’s not one for one’, ‘It doesn’t really do the job’, and, ‘They need to be given direction’. Well, police custody officers are employed through the Chief Commissioner of Police, and like any police officer at a station, they work at the direction of the senior sergeant. That is just normal human resources and common practice. So I think the member for Hawthorn really needs to read the government policy in this area and get behind it and support it. I am very proud that we are investing $148 million to have these police custody officers. I have had the honour to represent the minister at the first graduation, and more recently, earlier this month, I had the pleasure to be back out at the police academy to congratulate the second wave of police custody officers that are coming through the system. It is a job that people are very fond of, and it is a job where more and more people are coming through the system and welcoming it.

Do not take my word for it. I want to quote the new Dandenong police station custody officer Ellen Rider, who I had the pleasure of meeting recently and hearing what she said about the work. She is a lady who has great experience. She comes from the Melbourne Remand Centre, where she worked for 17 years. She is based out at Dandenong, which from where she lives is a lot easier for her in terms of commuting. This is what she had to say, as quoted in the Dandenong Journal:

I think that will make a real difference …

It is quite busy …

You’ll get called —

different —

stuff …

They’re not my friends —

often, the people, but that —

… doesn’t bother me.

I’m loving it —

she said —

The other half’s never seen me so happy.

The staff really do a good job here and they’ve been very welcoming.

The article says:

She said the job was challenging but the police had been supportive and appreciative.

There we have this great new policy of the Andrews Labor government, police custody officers, enmeshing and working well with our police system. I think it is fantastic to have this and to see it operating in Dandenong. I know they are also being rolled out down in Geelong. It is a very popular policy. I have been out to the Ivanhoe police station and met them also. They are doing a fantastic job.

But this bill is about making sure that our new custody officers get the protection afforded to emergency services workers and that there are statutory minimums in place for any violent offences that may be committed against them. But I think it is also very important that we have safeguards in place so that if there were an offence committed by someone who may have a mental impairment, or if it was by a young person who had been very much providing assistance to police and assistance through a particular matter, those considerations are taken into account before the statutory minimum is adopted and implemented.

Also in this bill there are some changes in relation to the Criminal Procedure Act 2009, which is very important legislation, because for any person, and particularly a young woman, who may be going through a trial that may have gone from the Children’s Court to an appeal in the County Court, to have to then give evidence, to relive the trauma, is quite difficult. We have seen some instances where prosecutors have felt that they do not want to proceed because it would put the victim through trauma. So making changes to the Criminal Procedure Act to ensure that victims get the support they need through the use of electronic communications is also critical with this legislation.

The member for Hawthorn touched on a whole range of issues, and it was really a rant. It was typical showtime for the member for Hawthorn. He did not get to ask a question in question time, so he wanted to really make sure that he had the best opportunity. He used it, so good on him. It is very important that no‑one ever pre‑empts a report to come to the Attorney‑General from the Sentencing Advisory Council (SAC), which I think he tried to do. Arie Freiberg, who I believe is a man of eminent professionalism and is supported on both sides of the chamber, let us be very clear is doing a report on baseline sentencing, because the legislation is unworkable. Who introduced the legislation? The member for Box Hill did when he was the Attorney‑General.

The current Attorney‑General is fixing up the previous Attorney‑General’s mess. Now, we could do what those opposite did, just go and get the legislation, send it off to the chief parliamentary counsel, get it reworded and fixed, make sure the i’s have dots, that everything is there and that it is not impugnable — it cannot be challenged. But, no, we actually sent it off to get the proper advice from pre‑eminent people in this area. We did not seek the member for Hawthorn’s advice; we sent a reference to the Sentencing Advisory Council to get the report. The member should read a copy of the terms of reference, because he will see that the Attorney‑General will soon get the advice from the Sentencing Advisory Council. The SAC reference said that the advice will come in mid‑April to the Attorney‑General, so let us be very clear that we are following due process, and we are going to get the laws right. We are certainly not going to have a ham‑fisted approach like the previous government did when it comes to law and order.

When it comes to the drug ice, we are not just going to run off and say, ‘Oh, what do we think will be good? Yes, sniffer dogs. That’s the way to go’. The previous government sent the Parliament off to hear world’s best practice experience in New Zealand, where they have been able to halve the use of the drug ice, but they did not take that into account. They went for an immediate, knee‑jerk reaction to introduce sniffer dogs. They thought that would get them the nightly news headline, which they were so desperate to get.

Let us be very clear: this is important legislation. I know the previous government did do some work in this area, and it was work that was supported by the then Andrews Labor opposition. I wish the government had done a little bit more work on the issue of crystal methamphetamine. Four long, dark years were wasted, which could have been used to address some of the key drivers. Do not take my word for it; take the word of the chief commissioner. Some of the key drivers for our crime rates were not addressed.

We now have the ice action task force. We allocated $2.5 billion in the first budget, and the second budget is on its way. This is a Labor government doing everything it can to make sure our police are resourced and that we have more police custody officers monitoring our cells, more police on the beat, more protective services officers (PSOs) on the beat. The opposition likes to play with numbers, but since the last election we have had more than 150 new PSOs out on the beat. This is a government making inroads and fixing the previous Liberal government’s mess. We are getting on with it, and I cannot wait for the second budget to see what is in it for our police and their resources.