September 8, 2016  |  

Police and Justice Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2016

Mr CARROLL (Niddrie) — It is my pleasure to rise to speak on the Police and Justice Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2016 — —

An honourable member — On the bill, please.

Mr CARROLL — I will speak on the bill, but after hearing the member for Box Hill, I now know what James Campbell was getting at when he said the Leader of the Opposition’s attack dogs are more like lapdogs. In an article of 25 May 2016 James Campbell wrote:

Honestly, with this lot where do you start? I’ve been following state politics for 12 years, first as an opposition staffer and now as a journalist, the past 3½ years as state politics editor. I can say that when it comes to public performance, this is the weakest shadow cabinet I have seen. They might be the greatest stakeholder managers ever to draw breath, but when it comes to prosecuting their case in public, too many make no impact at all.

I have to say — —

Mr D. O’Brien — On a point of order, Acting Speaker, we were looking forward to the member speaking on the bill, as promised, but he certainly has not done that at the start of his contribution. I ask you to bring him back to the bill.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Kilkenny) — Order! The member has started his speech, and I ask the member to continue.

Mr CARROLL — I say to the member for Gippsland South that if he would let me finish I was actually going to give the Nats a bit of praise. The member for Lowan is on the frontbench. James Campbell had been talking about cattle and said:

… Emma Kealy but to promote her the Nats would have to shoot one of their own — —

Mr Watt — On a point of order, Acting Speaker, the member is clearly not speaking on the bill, and I would ask you to bring him back to the bill.

An honourable member interjected.

Mr Watt — No. He has been speaking for a minute and a half, and not once did he mention anything about the bill. He is mentioning an article which has nothing to do with — —

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Kilkenny) — Order! I do not uphold the point of order.

Mr CARROLL — It is my pleasure, though, to speak on this legislation. The member for Box Hill made a very broad‑ranging address, and he did get around to highlighting that this is legislation that the opposition committed to before the last election. It is important legislation that is going to deal with tortious acts of police and public servants. I want to put on the record that the member for Box Hill strayed quite regularly throughout his contribution.

Under the Andrews Labor government we are making record investments in police and resources of $3 billion over two budgets. Unlike those opposite, who do not care about police, did not listen to them and meddled in their affairs, we are getting on with doing what needs to be done. This legislation is another step in that direction.

We have made a record investment in police. The member for Box Hill talked about our prison cells and things like that. Only Labor is rolling out 400 police custody officers. I have had the honour of going out to the electorate of the member for Dandenong to see their work on the ground and the contribution they are making. You have got custody officers, you have got counter‑terrorism funding, you have got the Night Network, you have got family violence — —

Mr Watt interjected.

Mr CARROLL — Member for Burwood, you do not want to do any more interjections. We have got the Ice Action Plan, to which your response was just more sniffer dogs, whereas at least we have got money on the table led by the Premier and we are making sure we make the investments that are needed. The member for Burwood should concentrate on his preselection. He is behaving himself in question time, and that is a good start. We are getting on with it and making sure that this — —

Mr Watt interjected.

Mr CARROLL — Geez, he is a bit touchy, isn’t he? Crikey! We are making sure that we improve the overall governance of police and accountability of the Police Registration and Services Board (PRSB). It is very important, and I want to thank the parliamentary library for their work in this area and the research work that they did. There was one article I noticed when I was preparing for this contribution that I thought I would like. It was written by Andrew Rule and John Silvester, two formidable journalists in this area of public debate. The headline was ‘He fought the law, and the law won’. Many members will be very incensed at and will recall what happened more than five years ago to a Jewish man, Mr Vorchheimer. He was with his children, and then a bus approached and he had abuse yelled at him. He sat in front of the bus, and the driver of that bus happened to be an off‑duty police officer.

To cut a long story short, Mr Vorchheimer went through the applicable processes and, at the end of the day, not a lot happened. This gets to the nub of why this legislation is important. Mr Vorchheimer did everything he could to see that justice would be done. He had his hat snatched off him, and he got a black eye; a whole lot of things happened to him when his children were present which should not have happened to anyone, let alone when an off‑duty police officer was in attendance. This legislation is important to ensure that, whether it is police, police custody officers or protective services officers, their areas and their tribunal mechanisms are up to date.

That is very important, and I think the minister summed it up well in her second‑reading speech when she said:

… in relation to the PRSB, the bill will prohibit the publication in PRSB decisions of identifying information about informants, complainants, those who have raised a concern about, or those adversely affected by the actions of the applicant in a hearing, unless it is in the public interest to do so. These identifying details will also not be permitted to be reported, otherwise published or disclosed, unless it is in the public interest to do so. This change supports the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission’s report …

Many members will be aware of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) groundbreaking report that saw the need for 20 recommendations to be made which the Chief Commissioner of Police, Graham Ashton, has accepted. They will be implemented in Victoria Police to ensure that procedures are in place for women in the police force who have gone through any type of sexual harassment to feel safe. I met with the chief commissioner at the time. The chief commissioner and the then Victorian equal opportunity and human rights commissioner are to be commended for the way they basically grabbed that groundbreaking report and said, ‘This is a wake‑up call to us. We need to do everything we can to ensure this never happens again to anyone’.

The police and justice legislation amendment bill we are debating today implements the commitments made to the Police Association Victoria before the last election to clarify state liability for tortious conduct of police and to make a range of changes to improve the operation, governance, equity and accountability of the PRSB. The bill also changes references to CrimTrac in five Victorian acts to references to the Australian Crime Commission, now that CrimTrac is defunct. This is just about tightening up the legislation to ensure it is updated and correct.

I think it is essential, though, to highlight in my remaining couple of minutes that this legislation, supported by both sides of the Parliament, is important. If I go back to the VEOHRC report, the commission surveyed more than 5000 officers and staff and found 40 per cent of women said they had been sexually harassed, resulting in significant harm to the mental and physical health of many officers. The commission found there was a chronic under‑reporting of incidents, with staff too scared to talk about the personal and professional repercussions of making a complaint. Mr Ashton said there was a need for broad cultural change, and I quote:

There were some ugly stories in those reports. Some of our people told us some terrible experiences …

They had undergone discrimination. They’d undergone harassment, they’d undergone predatory behaviour and this includes general exclusionary behaviour, right through to criminal offending.

This is our people telling us things aren’t right.

The article concludes with:

Mr Ashton said all 20 recommendations would be implemented.

I should just acknowledge the work of Kate Jenkins, the then Victorian equal opportunity and human rights commissioner, who did an outstanding job with her team to shine a light on some elements of the force where a light needed to be shone to ensure that cultural change does occur.

I thank the member for Box Hill for his contribution, acknowledging that opposition members themselves were very much committed to this piece of legislation. I acknowledge it is a small piece of legislation in the sense that it is very much an administrative change to various acts of Parliament, but it is important that we do get it right. It is very important that the PRSB operates coherently. I had a good look at their website before I got up to speak today. They do have a strategic plan in place. They have their annual report. Andrea Lester, in leading the board, is going to make some changes. I commend the bill to the house.