May 15, 2015  |  Second reading speech

Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2015

Mr CARROLL (Niddrie) — It is my pleasure to rise to make a contribution on the Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2015. This is an omnibus bill which will affect approximately 10 pieces of legislation, so it is an important piece of legislation in many respects. While the amendments it contains do not make significant legislative changes, in many cases they are incredibly important for the ongoing operation of the existing legislative schemes. In that respect I welcome the opposition’s support for the bill and note that the shadow Attorney‑General, the member for Hawthorn, put its support on the record earlier today. It is important that these changes are made in a timely manner. In particular, some
of the proposed changes will fix errors identified in legislation that was passed in the last Parliament but had not yet commenced, so it is important to make these changes before the legislation commences. In my contribution I will cover quite a wide range of legislation. I will speak on an overall theme of what this legislation is about. Essentially it is about supporting Victoria’s justice system. The measures we are passing today, and which will subsequently pass in the Legislative Council, will ensure that our justice system continues to operate efficiently, sustainably and fairly.

I begin my contribution on this bill with the amendments to the Control of Weapons Act 1990 and in particular how the amendments will affect children and make life easier for families. Essentially the legislation will remove the ban on the sale to children of disposable knives which are designed to be used as cutlery. The sale of knives of any kind to children has been banned since amendments were made to the Control of Weapons Act in 2010. The ban prevented retailers from selling to children disposable knives, such as the plastic knives that might be used at a barbecue or to consume takeaway food. In drafting the legislation the government consulted with Victoria Police as well as other stakeholders and came to the conclusion that the ban is a significant inconvenience to both consumers and retailers. Victoria Police through the Department of Justice and Regulation advised the government that there is no evidence that such plastic knives are being used to commit criminal acts or as threats of violence. This amendment was drafted specifically to ensure that plastic knives designed for eating, along with environmentally friendly utensils such as bamboo knives, can now be sold to children.

This is common‑sense legislation to make life easier for families — for example, at a family barbecue on a Sunday, mum or dad might send a child to Kmart or to Coles to get some plastic knives and utensils for the barbecue. It is probably five years late, but we are now fixing it up and making sure that the Control of Weapons Act is designed to do what it is intended to do — that is, provide Victoria Police with the mechanism and the means to ensure that weapons, particularly dangerous weapons, are not sold to children. We have basically fixed that up through this legislation.

Importantly, we are now living in the age of the internet. Once upon a time when the Chief Commissioner of Police wanted to exercise the power to designate an area to be subject to
random weapons searches, they were required under the act to publish notice of the designation in both the Government Gazette and in a daily newspaper, including a map. Through consultation with Victoria Police the Department of Justice and Regulation has found that the requirement to include a map in a published notice places a significant
impost on Victoria Police.

This is the information age, and many of us use the internet, many of us have iPhones and iPads and many of us use Google Maps. The old story of putting an advertisement in a newspaper is simply not what it used to be. Accordingly this legislation will vary relevant
provisions so that Victoria Police will no longer be required to include a map in a published notice. Instead it will only be required to publish the map online and include the online address in the newspaper notice. However, there will still be a requirement that the notice include a written description of the area sufficient to alert people to its designation.

The bill also makes important amendments to the Sex Offenders Registration Act 2004. As I said earlier, while this bill affects a number of acts, some 10 pieces of legislation, it is
intended to make existing legislative schemes efficient and sustainable.

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with Seymour and Wangaratta police on behalf of the Minister for Police. I was able to see firsthand the intelligence‑led policing those
officers are doing in the area of family violence, which unfortunately is 40 per cent of their work. I note that the Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence is currently in the chamber. The Royal Commission into Family Violence, which was established under the minister and is headed by Marcia Neave, will soon commence. The feedback I have received from Victoria Police is that there is wholehearted support from its members for this royal commission.

I was able to see firsthand in country areas the important work being done by the police officers themselves.

Mr T. Bull — Acting Speaker, I bring your attention to the state of the house. Quorum formed.

Mr CARROLL — It is my pleasure to return to dealing with this important legislation. As I was saying, the members of the Wangaratta and Seymour police I met last week were very positive about where the Andrews government is going in relation to the prevention of family violence, this scourge on society.

In the remaining minutes I have I want to highlight the work of the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) and the information paper it published titled Sex Offenders Registration. Page 18 of that information paper outlines the role of CrimTrac. It states:

In July 2000, the commonwealth Minister for Justice and Customs and the state and territory police ministers signed an intergovernmental agreement to establish CrimTrac as a central agency for national law enforcement information systems.

The Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 will give effect to a 2011 recommendation from the VLRC that suggests moving the existing Victorian sex offender database to the
national child offender system, which would allow police to manage and register personal information more securely, more effectively and more efficiently. Moving the database to CrimTrac will provide greater data security, stability and functionality and reduce the need for costly maintenance to the current database. I thank the VLRC for its essential work.

Finally I want to congratulate the Minister for Police on the budget, which was announced
yesterday. It provides some $9.5 million to Thomas Embling Hospital. The legislation we are passing today makes important reforms in the area of mental health, and the minister should be congratulated. Thomas Embling Hospital is an important institution, and it is great to see that the government is providing it with funding for more beds. I wish this legislation a speedy passage.