February 25, 2015  |  Second reading speech

Summary Offences Amendment (Move-on Laws) Bill 2015

CARROLL(Niddrie) — It is my pleasure to rise and speak on the Summary Offences Amendment (Move-on Laws) Bill 2015, which is an important social reform as part of the Andrews Labor government’s election pledge to get in behind hardworking people, not to demonise them.

What those opposite do not understand is that they lost the election. All their contributions and their election campaign focused on the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), and where did it get them? Four years on the opposition benches, so keep talking about the CFMEU, because you are doing a good job. Do not concentrate on policy; just keep focusing on the CFMEU.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Thomson) — Order! Through the Chair!

Mr CARROLL — This is an important social justice reform. In a minute I will get to the other side’s record in government on crime rates, but this bill rights a wrong. Do not take my word for it; take the word of the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) and of the community legal centres. A recent issue of the Law Institute Journal, from the Law Institute of Victoria, includes the heading ‘Move-on laws unnecessary’. It quotes the Attorney-General, who at the time held the shadow portfolio, as saying the laws amounted to a criminalisation of all forms of protest in this state and that everyone has a right to assemble peacefully and have their say. The Andrews government is about letting people protest peacefully. It will not harm anyone. It may be a picket at their workplace, and there is nothing wrong with that. We are taking the laws back to what they should be and what they originally were.

What the coalition introduced back in 2014 was restrictive in nature for any protest in the state of Victoria. It was draconian, anti-democratic and simply unnecessary. You did not need to focus on it; you could have focused on a positive agenda, rather than having a negative agenda and ending up in opposition after just four years. In opposition, do your time, do your policy development and come up with a positive agenda. That may get you a bit further along in terms of public support.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Thomson) — Order! Through the Chair!

Mr CARROLL — Thank you, Acting Speaker. The coalition’s amendments to the move-on laws had the real potential to disproportionately harm some of the most vulnerable members of the community. Members only have to go back to comments made by Geoff Bowyer, the former president of the Law Institute of Victoria, who said at the time that the laws could:

… have a significant and devastating impact on the homeless who, by the nature of their situation, are forced to gather in public places, often returning to a familiar spot after being moved on.

The laws were also draconian in how they dealt with people going to their normal place of employment.

Mr Watt interjected.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Thomson) — Order! The member for Burwood!

Mr CARROLL — The coalition made clear at the time that police would be given the discretion to decide whether a picket at a place of employment was legal or illegal; no-one needed to go to court and no orders needed to be sought or made against the picket. It was a heavily criticised, heavy-handed and unwarranted interference with the rights of working people across the state.

This reform of the Andrews Labor government is backed up by a range of stakeholders, including the St Kilda Legal Service, the Federation of Community Legal Services, the Peninsula Community Legal Centre, Youthlaw, the Western Suburbs Community Legal Service, the Independent Riders Group and the Law Institute of Victoria. We are righting the coalition’s wrongs. In summary, this bill repeals the coalition’s amendments and creates a more appropriate balance between the use of move-on powers to maintain public order and the protection of the fundamental rights of all Victorians to move freely, express their views and associate with whomever they choose.

The four key amendments in this bill include that move-on powers will no longer be able to be used merely because a police officer suspects that a person is likely to cause an obstruction to another person. What we are putting forward is reasonable. Move-on powers should not apply when a person is picketing at a place of employment or demonstrating about a particular issue. There is nothing wrong with putting your views forward on industrial relations or anything like that.

The member for Hawthorn — and I mentioned this during a previous debate — has been proactive with his opinion pieces. The member for Kew is trying to catch up, and there is a bit of a shootout going on about who can get the most columns in the Herald Sun. I welcome that. As long as they keep writing about the CFMEU and highlighting the record of the previous government, we on this side of the chamber will be pleased.

Our reforms to repeal laws that restricted the rights to peaceful protest and subjected individuals to exclusion orders have been welcomed. The current LIV president, Katie Miller, has said the LIV strongly opposed the coalition’s amendments to the Summary Offences Act 1996 when they were introduced. The LIV was not consulted, as it should have been, and now the Andrews Labor government is righting a wrong. It has been endorsed by most people in the non-government legal sector. It is about making everything right. Victorian police still have the power to respond to illegal protests that include trespass or violent acts. This is very important reform.

The previous Labor administration had an agenda called A Fairer Victoria. If you were smarter in government, you might have picked up that baton and run with it, but you decided not to. You decided to attack and demonise hardworking people right through the election campaign, including ambos, teachers, the CFMEU — —

Mr Watt — On a point of order, Acting Speaker, the member should speak through the Chair. That is the only comment I am making.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Thomson) — Order! The member will take his seat. Sit down!

Mr CARROLL — I will continue to speak through the Chair. The member for Burwood is a class act. You are super! You are a no. 1 draftee, you are!

The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Thomson) — Order! Through the Chair!

Mr CARROLL — He is a class act who we on this side of the chamber welcome.

The member for Hawthorn could pick up a lot from my predecessor as the member for Niddrie, a former Attorney-General, and from the agenda he ran and his social reform. Let us look at where we are now, with crime rates having gone up every year of the Baillieu-Napthine term of government. We are picking up the mess. The member for Rowville, the former Minister for Police and Emergency Services, who is at the table, did his best, but there is overcrowding and the current Minister for Police is doing everything he can to turn that ship around.

We will make sure there is an appropriate balance between the rights of individuals to protest and the rights of individuals to go to work. Bjelke-Petersen-style laws are not welcome in Victoria. We have the Royal Commission into Family Violence, and we will look at strengthening the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC), which will be an important reform. Whether it occurs at people’s place of employment or whether it is about a planning matter like the Tecoma McDonald’s, there is nothing wrong with peaceful protest. Protective services officers and police have had important powers for many years, and it has all worked very well. Peaceful protest is encouraged in liberal democracies right around the world, and Victoria is a liberal democracy. We should encourage people to have their say and express their views. There is no need to go down a Queensland-style, Peter Reith-style term of reform that is draconian and does nothing to improve the lives of hardworking Victorians, who should not be demonised.

Members only need to look through the agenda of the Andrews Labor government to see investment in our correctional services, including giving real teeth to IBAC, which is something the member for Hawthorn might want to write an opinion piece about, rather than focusing on the coalition’s four wasted years. The member for Kew is catching up on the member for Hawthorn’s number of Herald Sun columns. The member for Kew is on the back bench, but he is making his way down. I will get in behind the member for Kew.

Mr Watt interjected.

Mr CARROLL — I would not want to get in behind the member for Burwood, because where would that get me?

I do not have much more to say except that I wish the bill a speedy passage. It is important reform, and I hope that members of the opposition, after their stellar four years in government, learn something from it, do their homework, consult with stakeholders and learn to put forward a positive agenda. They have to start recruiting some talent. It would have been good if they had run against me in the Niddrie by-election; that might be when it all started. Ted Baillieu said no, and then he was gone, the Treasurer was gone, the member for Malvern became the Treasurer and the side letter was signed. Good luck in opposition!