Firearm Prohibition Order

GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (12:25:12): My question is to the minister representing the Attorney-General. Ensuring the protection of Victorians and maintaining security in our communities is a priority of Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party. This includes continuing efforts to lower the risk that these people pose to the community. A current procedure for lowering the risk that known offenders pose to the community is the handing down of firearm prohibition orders or FPOs. An FPO is an order that prohibits the subject from owning, using and attaining firearms. Recently, former president of the Rebels motorcycle gang Colin Websdale was served an FPO due to his having been affiliated with a violent entity and having a list of previous convictions including drugs charges, assault and possession of illegal weapons. Websdale appealed the order and successfully had it overturned and revoked through the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. There are concerns that this decision will pave the way for more offenders to have their FPOs revoked, allowing more known violent offenders to access firearms in Victoria. My question is: what steps is the Andrews government taking to ensure that firearm protection orders are served and enforced effectively in the interest of protecting our communities?

GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (12:26:41): My supplementary question is: could the minister provide any insight as to whether the administration and appeals process regarding FPOs will be reviewed in light of this recent decision?

Headspace Members Statement

Committee – Programs for Offenders in State Budget 2019/20

GRIMLEY: In relation to the funding that has been announced for behavioural change programs and the intensive management of perpetrators with complex needs, is the minister able to provide any breakdown of the regions and programs being funded?

GRIMLEY: Thank you, Minister. I appreciate that. Is the minister able to provide any specific information about the $1.2 million being devoted to the Regional Presence Project and clarify whether the youth workers delivering that program are government employees or from the private sector?

GRIMLEY: Thank you, Minister. I have just one more question. In relation to the engaging at-risk youth program mentioned on page 24 of budget paper 3, is there anywhere where a member of the public can see the content of this program and in which specific locations in Victoria the program will be funded through this budget?

Nurse to Patient Ratios Question Without Notice

GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (12:06:17): My question is to the Minister for Health, representing the Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers. Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party has long supported the implementation of nurse-to-patient ratios in all aged-care homes. The Aged Care Royal Commission has received numerous submissions from members of the public, patients and nurses also calling for nurse-to-patient ratios in order to ensure that a high level of care is maintained. The nurses union is also lobbying for mandated aged-care staffing ratios, which it estimates would cost an additional $5.3 billion over six years nationally. My question is: is the minister able to provide any insight into whether the Andrews government is considering mandating nurse-to-patient ratios in aged care?

Internet in Regional Schools Adjournment Speech

GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (16:25:57): My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Higher Education representing the Minister for Education in this place. In searching for an answer for the poor internet in regional schools, especially in my electorate of Western Victoria Region, I have become aware of a contract between the Department of Premier and Cabinet and telecommunication service providers. This contract stipulates arrangements for, among other things, internet within government departments such as for government secondary schools, of which there are 56 in my electorate alone. As I understand it, the contract ceases in 2020, with conversations for it to extend to 2021. I have to take issue with this extension, as what is currently being offered to our schools is not working in regional Victoria, and I ask the government to consider other options.

Why are we not looking to the future for our schools if we indeed want to be seen as the Education State? In an earlier response from the government on this issue I was told that improvements to internet speed were made to a particular school in my electorate. Unfortunately with a growing cohort, a 50 megabit upgrade from 100 megabits for 1000 students is slower than in some Third World countries. But I have a solution. AARNet are a third-party internet provider to educational institutions, including research facilities, who are funded by all Australian universities and the CSIRO. AARNet funnel profits back into creating further internet infrastructure and are currently servicing many Catholic and independent schools, most of which are metropolitan, but also regionally in western Victoria, all with tremendous results. I am aware of a government school in western Victoria that is using AARNet to access the internet, but neither this school nor the Department of Education and Training are providing answers to my queries of the details of this arrangement. Rather than dealing in secrecy I feel we should be willingly sharing information to get the best deal for our kids to learn. What is stopping us from signing up to this innovative infrastructure?

If the future is online, then why are we seemingly living in the past on this issue? While I appreciate the government’s investment to improve current internet speeds, it needs an overhaul for any significant improvements to actually happen. I do not claim to know everything about the internet; however, I ask the government to take action on considering other internet options, including AARNet, which has proven results, rather than renegotiating a contract to supply a service which is currently not delivering for schools in regional Victoria.

Fiona Patten’s Cannabis Inquiry Motion Statement

GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (15:11:51): I rise to speak on the motion moved by Ms Patten today and to note the impact of the illegal trade involving cannabis. She also talks about the call for a committee inquiry into the prevention of youth using cannabis, the implementation of education programs on the dangers of drug use and the prevention of criminal activity relating to the illegal cannabis trade. Speaking as an ex-Victoria Police member as of November last year, I think I have got pretty recent and significant advice and a valuable contribution to make to this motion, in particular with regard to the use of cannabis, the trafficking of cannabis and the associated offenders, offending and court processes. In a nutshell I can tell you that as a police member it is an extremely time-consuming process when we are investigating hydroponic set-ups and the trafficking of cannabis, as you would likely know, Acting President Bourman. From the time that we get intelligence to the arrest, if there is an arrest, it can often be up to six months and can sometimes consume many, many police officers for the end result of dismantling a hydro set-up in a house, which is a good thing.

That can often lead to other houses and so forth and so on. The investigation continues. It is very time-consuming. Yes, we are taking cannabis off the streets and the cash out of the hands of the traffickers and the organised crime groups, but as Mr Limbrick said before, quite often the middle person is the one that we find that we arrest or the one who has their fingerprints on it, and they are the one who cops the brunt of it all whilst the organised crime groups get away with it. There have been many advancements in police and the so-called legislative processes as we continue with what people like to refer to as the war on drugs. This includes the cannabis cautioning system, which I think has been a good system. I am not too sure of the results as yet regarding harm reduction from cannabis use with that cautioning process, but it does give police an alternative avenue in prosecuting mainly the youth who have been caught with cannabis. It is not unusual for persons who are found in possession of small amounts of cannabis to be diverted through to these programs, and even sometimes the discretion used by police has resulted in no charges or no offending being reported. The traffickers, on the other hand, are often more hard to locate, arrest and prosecute.

These are the ones who, as I said, are getting away with it. Hydroponic set-ups have not only a safety issue but also private rental issues going on. A lot of the time the organised crime groups set up private rentals with people, unbeknownst to them, with false identification. They set up and then completely destroy their homes, putting in electrical bypasses, stealing electricity and causing an incredibly dangerous fire hazard. I think you mentioned, Mr Limbrick, the Smeaton hydroponic set-up. I believe that was one of the last ones that I went to and helped dismantle and investigate. From what I understand I do not think there has been any arrest out of that one either. This is the issue that we face: the time consumption and the fact that there are just no results at the end of it. Investigations can often run into many, many months from the day of the warrant execution and, like I said, can consume many police officers over many hours. Derryn Hinch has often said that he thinks it is ridiculous watching big, burly cops with guns on their hips arresting plants. Sometimes I tend to agree with his comments. Aside from the time consumption, we should also consider the potential economic benefits of taking away the cannabis industry from the criminals. That goes without saying. Just imagine the taxation revenue that could be taken and used in prevention and educational programs on the effects of drug use. To sum up, keeping it brief, we support this motion and look forward to seeing further investigation into the opportunities for another avenue in the so-called war against drugs.

Cystic Fibrosis Dinner Members Statement

GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (13:22:25): Last Saturday night I attended Cystic Fibrosis Geelong’s annual gala dinner, held at The Pier, with my wife and staff. Cystic fibrosis is the most common life-limiting genetic disease. A baby is born every four days with CF, and 50 per cent of these will die before their 35th birthday. They can expect to take 40 tablets a day to digest food and fight infections and have up two hours of physiotherapy every single day to clear the mucus from their lungs. They will have a high risk of developing early onset osteoporosis, CF-related diabetes, liver problems and infertility, amongst other issues. Congratulations to Leann and the committee for your endless persistence in creating a wonderful event.

I would like to also thank the broader Geelong Community, who over the years have donated over $200 000 towards research for a cure for CF, $100 000 of which was donated last Saturday night. In 2016, its inaugural year, the gala had an unexpected attendance of over 500 people, and is growing each year. This is a testament to the committee’s enduring hard work and great entertainment. Yesterday I was also pleased to receive, along with others here, a lapel pin and umbrella from Cystic Fibrosis Community Care. I wear this lapel pin to raise awareness of CF and to show Victorians who are living with CF that they are being supported. I hope to support their initiative in the future and do my bit to ensure that one day CF stands not for ‘cystic fibrosis’ but for ‘cure found’.

Open Courts Second Reading Speech

GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (15:26:38): I also rise today to speak on the Open Courts and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2019. With my background as a police officer I have spent many, many years in the courts. Sometimes we had good results and sometimes we had bad results, having dealt with many, many victims over this time. I can say that many of those victims unfortunately reported their assaults to police in the first instance and in the second instance felt assaulted by the courts, having gone through the sentencing and court process. So I welcome this sense of transparency and openness for the courts. Anything that will help and support victims along the way we are 100 per cent behind. Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party has long supported greater transparency within the legal system. Opening the courts up to greater public and media scrutiny can only have a positive impact on outcomes for victims. What I will say is that the courts are always open to the public. There are some occasions where they may be closed for specific reasons, but as a general principle if you want to go to the courts at any particular time, you can. You can just sit in and look at a case that may or may not interest you. The courts are open to the public most of the time.

The decisions made by the courts are made public. The classic example of this recently was with George Pell, as was mentioned previously. I was one of many, many thousands of people that watched with interest the proceedings unfold before our eyes. When I was sitting with somebody who did not really understand the court process it was fascinating to hear their feedback on the judge’s comments and remarks. They were not aware that this was how courts and judges make their decisions. Having been a police officer I was fully aware of the decisions, the principles and the sentencing practices, but it was interesting to hear another person’s perspective, someone who had no idea about the court system. In that regard, having that openness and transparency for the courts can only be a good thing. It can only educate the general public as to how these decisions are made, albeit sometimes insufficiently. I was in the Ballarat Magistrates Court recently, before I changed careers and came into this role. I sat through a magistrate’s hearing, and during his decision I found it fascinating that he made mention of the fact that community correction orders were a complete and utter failure of the system. For a magistrate to say that in a public forum I thought was quite remarkable, and it just indicates that more work needs to be done for our justice system to improve. As someone who has worked closely with victims and their families throughout the sentencing process, I can appreciate the empowering effect that more transparency within the courts can have. Like I said before, the decisions made by the courts are always public and the information should also be available to the public. The Open Courts and Other Acts Amendment Bill 2019 is the first step in implementing the legislative recommendations of the 2017 Open Courts Act review. This bill keeps in place laws that currently work, such as those which relate to the Children’s Court, while addressing deficiencies within other parts of the legal system. I also welcome the changes to broadcasting laws in the courts that this bill addresses.

As a result of these changes, high-profile cases will not be the only ones which are publicised, like I mentioned before. I welcome the basic changes to suppression orders that this bill achieves. For too long suppression orders have favoured the rights of perpetrators over victims. As Mr O’Donohue said before in relation to suppression orders, Victoria has over the past eight years been the state within Australia with the highest percentage of suppression orders granted, at around 50 per cent of all suppression orders. Perhaps we should look at changing our number plates from ‘The Education State’ to ‘The Suppression Order State’. The changes to suppression orders within this bill will ensure that victims of all crimes are legally able to share their story without being prosecuted alongside their perpetrator. Now that is empowering. However, there is still a lot of work to do for Victoria to move away from being the suppression order state. It is interesting to note for you those of you that follow the courts on social media that they have become far more transparent and open in publicising information based on their sentencing practices and principles.

I follow the Magistrates Court, the County Court and the Supreme Court on Twitter, and they have a number of tutorials, fact sheets and information available to the public which enlightens people like me about their practices. It goes back to the old adage that knowledge is power. The more knowledge you have of the practices and processes of the courts, the more you can understand the decisions that they come to. However, having said that, as we have heard more recently, it is hard to understand some of the decisions and sentences that have been handed down in more recent times. So, like I said, there is more work to be done. Whilst I support the majority of this bill, because I believe it is a step in the right direction, I note that it does not legislate all the recommendations of the review. Having said that, we will be supporting this bill.

Regional Rail Funding Adjournment Speech

GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (18:12:45): My adjournment matter is for the attention of the Minister for Transport Infrastructure, the Honourable Jacinta Allan, and it relates to funding for rural and regional rail services in western Victoria. The state government’s commitments to increasing overall funding in western Victoria are welcomed by the community. Large-scale projects such as the Western Highway extension, in addition to local road projects, have ensured that many of my constituents get home quicker and safer. Over the past few weeks I have travelled around my electorate and met with numerous local councils. There is a common need for greater passenger and freight rail services in each of these councils.

The mayors of both Horsham and Portland have expressed the need for the state to further fund business cases for freight rail to service their towns, whilst the Geelong and Corangamite councils are pursuing funding for greater passenger rail services. The Public Transport Development Authority has publicly declared support for the Waurn Ponds rail duplication project, with the state government committing $140 million to the initial cost of the project. The federal government has committed $750 million to the project; however, only $50 million is to be delivered between now and the next state election. In addition to the Waurn Ponds rail duplication project, the federal and state governments have indicated their support for fast rail services from the CBD to Geelong. A total of $2 billion has been committed by the federal government, whilst initial project funding is still required from the state in order for a detailed business case to be fully developed and construction to begin. I note an unprecedented level of investment in infrastructure spending across the state which is being undertaken by the Andrews government. The action that I seek is for the minister to provide a public time line for both freight and passenger rail service extensions in western Victoria and to highlight whether these projects going ahead are dependent on both federal and state funding commitments being met.