COMMUNITY BASED SENTENCES (TRANSFER) BILL 2012

It is a pleasure to rise to speak in the debate on the Community Based Sentences (Transfer) Bill 2012. As others have noted, the bill allows adult offenders serving community correction orders to transfer interstate and includes a corresponding capacity for interstate offenders to transfer to Victoria to complete such orders. The formalising of these processes has the aim of achieving a range of things, in particular reduced rates of recidivism, making the processes easier and more transparent and having a better approach than previously existed nationally, as the de facto approaches were not as effective.

The benefits, as discussed by the excellent lead speaker for the opposition, include that the bill will allow more community-based sentences to be successfully completed. That is a key aspect of the bill, which, as members know, has been talked about at a national level for several years.

It required a number of jurisdictions to sign up to ensure that there were corresponding provisions across Australia.

Mr Walsh interjected.

Ms GARRETT — The member for Benalla likes it on this side of the house. There is a higher intellect over this side. The minister may find he is settling in; he is very cosy.

I will return to the bill. As I said, the ability for offenders to transfer between jurisdictions can be used to fight recidivism. As the previous speaker noted, the noble aim of fighting recidivism is at the heart of these provisions. The bill will allow offenders to transfer interstate with full access to rehabilitation, services, family, the ability to make a fresh start in their lives and so on.

The most complex element of this bill, as the house would be aware, is in relation to compatibility. For a sentence to be registered in Victoria there has to be a corresponding community-based sentence; for these laws to apply there have to be similar conditions in other jurisdictions. These issues are being worked through. The Victorian Department of Justice will address these issues on a case-by-case basis.

As previous speakers have pointed out, based on available statistics we do not believe there will be a net increase in offenders coming to Victoria. While the opposition does not oppose the bill, it makes the point that it is perhaps not the first priority at which the government should be looking, particularly when the corrections system is in absolute crisis. We have seen rioting and the possession of drugs, guns and contraband in our prisons. We have had massive cuts to the justice department, which is affecting the corrections system and police and emergency services.

I note that there has been wide-ranging discussion on this issue.

The previous speaker touched on the government’s law and order agenda and said that this bill was a key part of it. I am simply pointing out in my contribution to the wide-ranging debate on this bill, a key component of the government’s law and order strategy, that the entire law and order strategy is in serious disarray, both in the corrections systems and the police. We are looking at escalating crime rates. We are looking at a debacle in the rollout of protective services officers. We are looking at police cuts in critical areas. This is an important reform; we are not suggesting otherwise. But to say that this is a key priority of a government which has made law and order one of its central themes is a misnomer.

In conclusion, we do not oppose the bill. It plays the important role of allowing the transfer of those offenders on community correction orders across jurisdictions to ensure that they continue to have access to programs, families and fresh starts and that we continue to reduce the rate of recidivism. These are important and noble objectives. However, we once again urge the government to focus on the real issues at hand without holding out hope that it will do so anytime soon.

Hansard, 2012