March 18, 2016  |  Second reading speech

Victoria Police Amendment (Merit-based Transfer) Bill 2016

Mr CARROLL (Niddrie) — It is my pleasure to rise and speak on the Victoria Poice Amendment (Merit-based Transfer) Bill 2016, a bill which will give effect to the enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) struck between Victoria Police and the government. I will begin by taking up a couple of the issues outlined by the member for Box Hill. I welcome the government’s full support of this bill – it is important legislation because we have in the state of Victoria and outstanding police force led by Graham Ashton, a fantastic appointment.

But let me begin by correcting some of the errors made by the member for Box Hill. We have made a record investment in Victoria Police: $2.5 billion in the Andrews government’s first budget. This did not happen under a Liberal government; it happened under a Labor government – $2.5 billion in the first budget. Incredibly we have also funded $150 million for our police custody officers. For my first event of 2016 I had the honour of attending the academy at Mount Waverley to see the rollout of our very first police custody officers. People do not have to take my word for it; they can take the Police Association’s word. The association’s press release of 5 May 2015 states:

Sen-Sgt Iddles 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.

‘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.

 

They are not my words; they are the words of the police association.

The member for Box Hill also highlighted – and I agree with him – some of the increased demands on police. This merit-based transfer legislation will assist the leadership command of Victoria Police in ensuring that across the state, particularly in our regional areas, we have the best police force servicing our country needs. I am lucky to have a recent edition of Police Life magazine. In his introductory remarks the Chief Commissioner of Police highlighted – and the member for Box Hill touched on this – some of the growing demands and the stresses on our frontline police. He said:

I’m pleased to have appointed a deputy commissioner overseeing a focus on capability, to ensure all staff are equipped to manage the challenges of modern policing. We have started constructing a capability plan, which will provide a road map towards a better-equipped, more diverse, well-trained and healthier workforce.

In this magazine we also hear firsthand from some of the police about what they are doing now on a day-to-day basis, whether it be family violence, whether it be the drug ice, or whether it be working under our ice action task force and the work that the government’s doing to combat this deadly drug. This issue giving legislative effect to the EBA that was struck is very important. It will ensure that our police have the best support needed. We have on various occasions from the opposition support for some of the reforms that we have implemented to ensure our police force is at its strongest.

Victoria Police is very strong in being incredibly proactive. We have got the police custody officers, the rollout of our family violence package and Marcia Neave overseeing her work at the royal commission, which will be soon released. We have had outstanding work done on International Women’s Day. The Minister for Police and the Premier are at the forefront of ensuring our police are tackling family violence. One of the articles that grabbed me in this police magazine – ‘Survivor’ was the title of it – was the story of a young girl, Courtney Wirth, who endured more than 3 hours locked in a car with her former partner as he beat her. She was lucky to survive, but what she outlines in this article was the role of Victoria Police in assisting her and giving her confidence to make her former partner accountable for his actions and ensuring that when she went through the court process Victoria Police officers were there every step of the way. They are to be commended for their work on a daily basis.

In relation to the enterprise bargaining agreement, the member for Box Hill raised a couple of issues with that. I was pleased – and the shadow Minister for Police was also there last year – to see the annual general meeting of the Police Association of Victoria coming up later this week. It is good to see this issue raised in the association’s forum, and that there is bipartisan support in terms of working with the association. I’m sure some of the member for Box Hill’s questions could be answered this week directly by the police association.

Essentially the legislation that we are debating today, supported by the opposition, gives effect to the EBA to ensure that our police force, particularly in country areas, is adequately resourced and has merit-based transfers. It is ensuring that Victoria Police officers from constable level up are the best equipped and the best trained, and that they are there to do the job in protecting and working for the community.

This bill continues the rollout of reforms for our police and protective services officers. I am very pleased to say that this Friday I will be at my second police custody officer graduation meeting the newest recruits, helping them get out there to not babysit but to make sure that we have got more police out on the beat doing the work that is needed. You only had to look at the Age newspaper recently to see that Police Minister Noonan said what the role of police custody officers will be. He said:

Custody officers will play a critical role in community safety by allowing more police to do what they do best – fight and prevent crime.

This has been a welcome policy by the Andrews Labor government. Almost $150 million is being invested to do this. We are seeing more police back on the beat. We are seeing a whole new wave of recruits helping to free police from a lot of the custodial duties that they do to ensure that they are well and truly out on the beat protecting the community.

The legislation before us will ensure that we are supporting Victoria Police, often the first responders in protecting the community, keeping the community safe, investigating and upholding the law. As part of the 2015 police enterprise bargaining agreement the chief
commissioner and the police association agreed that general duties constable and senior constable positions at country locations should be filled via a merit-based selection process. This reform embedded within the EBA essentially required us to put this sort of technical legislation into the Victoria Police Act 2013. This important service delivery reform will reward performance and, with other agreed reforms, will help facilitate a better spread of police expertise across the state.

It is great to have the Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence in the chamber for this debate. We saw a lot of work being done by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission. It delivered a groundbreaking report, and I was very fortunate with the police minister to get a briefing on the report about some of the culture and some of the issues that are confronting Victoria Police at all different levels. It was great to see Kate Jenkins — a fabulous person — at the minister’s event yesterday for the Victorian Honour Roll of Women. I got to personally congratulate her on her recent appointment as Australia’s new Sex Discrimination Commissioner, where she is going to do an outstanding job.

I think it is very important to highlight what the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission did find in its report. It found that some of the predatory behaviour, often found in a rural police station, has contributed to a poor workplace culture. The police association, working with police command and the chief commissioner’s office, is really about addressing that. Chief Commissioner Ashton has been outstanding in his response to that report. With the changes we are making now to the legislation, let us hope we can ensure we attract the most outstanding police officers to work outside the metropolitan area in regional areas, keeping us safe and doing the very best job.

I commend this bill. It is an important piece of legislation, which is very much technical legislation following the police EBA. I want to congratulate the minister on the EBA too.