CRIMINAL PROCEDURE AND SENTENCING ACTS AMENDMENT (VICTIMS OF CRIME) BILL 2012

 It is a pleasure to be back in the house, and it is a particular pleasure to be making my contribution on behalf of the people of the Brunswick electorate to the debate on the Criminal Procedure and Sentencing Acts Amendment (Victims of Crime) Bill 2012.

It is also always a pleasure to follow the member for Mount Waverley, and the other members who came before him, and to discuss being students of history. We should all be students of history.

We should be astute, studied and serious students of history. Perhaps if the member who spoke before me was a serious student of history, he may have tempered some of the outrageous claims he made and damped some of his rhetoric right down. This bill deals with victims of crime, and I will speak shortly of the fine contributions that have been made in this house about how all of us across this chamber realise the importance of victims of crime being heard and respected and the changes that have been made. A student of history would have worked out that this is the first bill brought in by this government that specifically deals with victims of crime rather than with some of the extraneous material referred to by those opposite.

Members can look at the first bills dealing with victims of crime that were introduced by the previous Labor government, which has been so chastised by the member for Mount Waverley and those opposite. When we came in — a glorious day that was of course — the area of victims of crime had been decimated by those who came before us, those on the opposite side of the political divide. Students of history — —

Mr Gidley — On a point of order, Acting Speaker, of relevance. This is not a time to talk about coalition governments of the 1990s. If the member is really interested in victims of crime, she will look at her record on suspended sentences and why the Victorian branch did not abolish suspended sentences.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Morris) — Order! I have heard enough on the point of order. There is no point of order.

Ms GARRETT — I think we all agree that you had a very wide-ranging brief in your contribution. You spoke about the legacy of the ALP, and you spoke about the victims of crime.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Morris) — Order! The member for Brunswick will address the Chair.

Ms GARRETT — I apologise. Through you, Chair, the member for Mount Waverley had a very wide-ranging discussion and was very keen to talk about the history of the ALP.

I return to my point, taking up his point about history, that the first acts of the previous Labor government in regard to victims of crime addressed in a substantial and serious way the heinous smashing by the previous Liberal government in this state of the rights of, and compensation that was provided to, victims of crime. Let us make no mistake that the Kennett government, a Liberal government, abolished compensation for pain and suffering for victims of crime.

Mr Gidley — On a point of order, Acting Speaker, my point of order is on relevance. I appreciate that it has been a wide-ranging debate but the member is going on a diatribe about the early 1990s. I ask you to draw the speaker back to the bill. If the speaker wants to refer to the failure of the Labor Party to abolish suspended sentences, so be it, but let us be relevant to the bill.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Morris) — Order! In my view the speaker is being relevant to the bill. The purpose of the second-reading debate is to cover broad principles, not the detail of the bill. I do not uphold the point of order.

Ms GARRETT — Students of history will remember the abolition of compensation for the pain and suffering for victims of crime.

Those of us who have worked closely with those groups and who, as we all do, care very deeply about the impacts on victims of crime know that for women, for example, who have suffered sexual assault and many women who have suffered domestic violence, be it physical or emotional, the core of compensation that they rely upon is for pain and suffering. It is not necessarily for an ongoing physical injury or physical damage. The Kennett government cuts to that most important recognition and compensation for victims of crime was the first of the issues to be remedied by the previous Labor government in its approach to victims of crime.

If we look at the legacy of ALP governments to victims of crime, we see that hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation was provided to victims of crime during Labor’s tenure, a substantial bulk of which was for pain and suffering.

To stand up and suggest that this bill, while noble and while strengthening or reflecting what courts may already do, is somehow a peg in the sand to say that the current government is so much greater and braver and more caring for victims of crime than previous governments is absolutely erroneous. It is a slap in the face to victims of crime, given what the previous Labor government did and given its core commitment to looking after victims in a real and substantial way.

I think the comments of the member for Mount Waverley and others really show an absolute disrespect for that journey, a refusal to accept their own legacy and a refusal to accept their fundamental mistakes of the past. To paint this bill as some sort of glorious victory for victims of crime and in doing so to try to highlight the supposed failings of the previous government in this area is quite frankly an embarrassment and a disgrace.

But we are here to speak on this bill, which does reflect — —

Mr Burgess — Motherhood has mellowed you.

Ms GARRETT — Yes, clearly.

Mr Hodgett — Through the Chair.

Ms GARRETT — Through the Chair, the bill does reflect what the courts are often already able to do and what all of us in this house agree with — that clear impact statements should be delivered and that there should be processes through which victims of crime can feel confidence in the court system and confidence that their situation and the impact it has had on their lives and on the lives of their family members are properly and seriously assessed by the court process, both in terms of sentencing and ultimately in terms of the compensation that they may receive. And we clearly support the requirement that the court, which can already order compensation, inform the victim of that.

I stand here with the proud record of the Labor Party on victims’ rights in the charter for victims’ rights that was introduced by the former Attorney-General and in the absolutely deliberate and passionate approach that the former government took to victims of crime, to compensation for victims of crime and to repairing so much of the damage that was done by the previous Liberal government. The current Liberal-Nationals government should reflect on that history profoundly. It should reflect on the bold statements that have been made about a bill that really is extremely thin in terms of the actual impact it will make in this area when you compare it to the many bills that came before it and the increases in compensation that were made repeatedly throughout the terms of the Bracks and Brumby governments.

As we stand here we say as one that it is clear that victims of crime deserve the absolute support of the community, they deserve the absolute support of the justice system, they deserve to be heard, they deserve to be respected and they deserve to have their views taken into account through every stage of the justice system. We support this bill, but we do call on the government as it goes through this area to actually deliver some real and serious commitment and passion, as previous governments did.

Hansard, 2012