CRIME STATISTICS BILL 2014

  Ms Garrett (Brunswick) — The subject matter of this bill is crime statistics, and an analysis  of the bill provides  a very clear illustration of  one of this government’s most significant and serious failings. The Baillieu government came to office with a purported ‘tough on crime’ agenda and with law and order as the central plank of its election campaign in many ways.

Since  day  one   this  portfolio  has   been  absolutely  plagued  by  scandal, mismanagement and an extraordinary lack of  performance. I do not need to remind members  of the history, but I think it is apt to do so as we lead into how long it has taken to set up this body and the date it will start.

This term of government, the Baillieu term, began with the Deputy Premier as the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, and of course we had that extraordinarily long, protracted, disastrous relationship with the then Chief Commissioner of Police, Simon Overland; with the adviser, Tristan Weston; with leaked tapes — with all of those issues.

  Mr Tilley interjected.

  Ms GARRETT — I  understand the  member for  Benambra is  upset, and  I accept that, but this was the  central  plank  of  the  government’s election agenda on which  it  came to office. We  then  had a change of  minister.  We had Minister Wells, who seemed to enjoy the  sights of Ayers Rock rather than addressing some of the issues that were really plaguing — —

  Mr Northe — On a  point of order, Acting Speaker, in terms of relevance, I am not sure  the member for Brunswick is addressing any of the matters that pertain to the Crime  Statistics  Bill 2014, and I ask that  you  direct her back to the bill.

  The  ACTING SPEAKER  (Dr Sykes)  — Order! I ask the  member for  Brunswick to stick to the bill.

  Ms GARRETT  — Absolutely.  I think  it was  appropriate in that I was talking about the current Minister for Police and Emergency  Services in relation to the crime statistics, but I shall move on to the crime statistics themselves because this  is,  of  itself,  another  massive area of failing  by  the  now  Napthine government. In most measures, crime — —

  Honourable members interjecting.

  Ms  GARRETT  —  I understand why  those  opposite  feel  very  upset  by  the statistics.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Dr  Sykes) — Order! The member for Brunswick, without the assistance of the  member for Burwood. I am actually enjoying  this presentation by the member for Brunswick, and I would like to be able to hear it.

  Ms GARRETT — I say  to  those  opposite, whose cheeks are flushing nicely and who are getting very excited and agitated and animated: I understand. Opposition members understand that level of emotion and agitation, because every time those crime statistics have come out under this government, where have they gone? They have  gone up and up and  up. We are now hearing  of more crime more often,  and there is a sense of absolute denial, measured only — —

  Mr Watt interjected.

  Ms GARRETT — To the member for Burwood, again I say that I know crimes in his area are  going up  like they  are across  Victoria,  so well  might he  express concern.

  Mr Watt — Nobody believes you.

  Ms GARRETT — These are published statistics from  Victoria Police. So we move now — —

  Honourable members interjecting.

  Ms GARRETT — Again they  are screaming at me, but disorderly behaviour by the rabble on the other side does not make the crime statistics better than they are for the government.

They  can shout as much as  they like, but it would be much more helpful if they directed some of that energy into actually governing this state and working hard to do what they promised, which was to bring crime down. We make that very clear distinction with the  previous Bracks and Brumby governments where year  on year there  was  a significant  reduction  in crime.  That  was  because those  Labor governments   understood  the  complexity  around  the  causes  of  crime,  they understood  that we need to invest heavily in education and in  social  services for those who are vulnerable and at risk and in diversion through youth justice, where  we  are trying to take  people away from a lifelong  pursuit of crime and direct them into more productive modes of working within the community.

Therefore there was a comprehensive and  well-resourced strategy by the previous governments to not only respond when crimes were committed with a well-resourced police force and a functioning prison system but also to invest in those key services needed to ensure that people are not attracted to crime. By contrast, the prison system now is in absolute chaos. Prisoners are crowding the police cells, which  has  caused  a  huge  amount  of consternation  within Victoria  Police. Crime is up, and then on top of that the government is hacking into  TAFE and into the  Victorian certificate of  applied learning and into all of those programs that give a pathway to kids who may come from  the wrong side of the  tracks or who have had a difficult or disadvantaged upbringing.

Then they got their federal mates on board — and  haven’t they finished the job and swung that axe, with $80 billion taken out of health  and education?  People who are unemployed now have  to wait six months to get any  form of benefit, and all  around  Australia they are saying, ‘That will contribute to the crime rate, won’t it?’.

It is almost as if the government wants that crime rate to go up and up, because when it slashes  services  and  when  it  does  not  provide  properly  for such important things as ensuring that every kid gets a  decent education and a place to go in this community that is respected, it  does end up with increasing crime rates.

The government  has  not  provided any resources or policy programs to deal with those  issues.  A scathing Auditor-General’s  report was tabled  this week about prison  overcrowding and  how  this wastes  police  resources, which  also  then contributes to  making our community  more  unsafe. Prisoners are  being held in suburban police lockups  for longer than the 14-day maximum because  prisons are too crowded, and the government has stripped 400 jobs out  of  Victoria  Police, which  then  puts  even more pressure on front-line police and their capacity to keep this community safe.

Victorians are  angry about this government’s  very significant failings  in the one area that it thought was its strong  suit. It  has all  been window-dressing and easy  stuff; it  has  been  a  matter of  saying, ‘Let’s  have another  bill introduced by the  Attorney-General’. That is all well and good, but that is the front end. These people  who do not have access  to proper services and who then enter into the  law and order system are  getting stuck in this pipe  which does not  come  out anywhere, because  the government has not  properly resourced the system.

I cannot conclude  without  commenting on  the  Victoria Legal Aid  crisis.  The courts  are  now absolutely stretched. It is a disaster, and  the  crime  rates, would  you believe,  are going  up  and  up.  While  we  have  this  bill  which establishes the Crime Statistics Agency, the  operative date for it  to commence is  1  January 2015. Is  that  six  weeks after the  election?  It  is quite  an extraordinary start date.

This body will not even start in this term of government, because the government does not want independent crime statistics  coming out before 29  November. That is because the track record is so woeful. It is a disgrace.

Hansard, 12 June 2014