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