Month: June, 2019
GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (22:34:20): I would like to speak briefly to the state government’s West Gate Tunnel (Truck Bans and Traffic Management ) Bill 2019, and it will be brief. If the bill passes, it will give the final green light to the $6.7 billion project. Understandably, there are a handful of concerns that Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party have about the project. There is no doubt about the need for additional infrastructure in Melbourne’s western suburbs, but all projects should be carefully assessed. Congestion in Melbourne’s west is costly to drivers. Mums and dads should be able to get into the CBD safely and quickly so they can spend more time with their families, and having driven that road many, many times I can totally understand that. A $6.7 billion project deserves the greatest degree of scrutiny. I am still unsure as to whether taxpayers are getting the best possible deal.
In addition to the huge cost of the project, I share the views of many crossbenchers and coalition members about the confidential parts of the contract between the state government and Transurban, including the scheduling of payments and the potential need to compensate Transurban if the contract is broken. Unfortunately the public is unaware of much of the contract. It is my understanding that VicRoads may provide the government with modelling on how a cashback scheme would work. If the state government adopted the same model which currently operates in New South Wales, drivers who use toll roads daily to get in and out of work would be compensated. I strongly support the implementation of a similar scheme in Victoria. Whist our party is still considering our voting position on this bill, it is the needs of everyday drivers that will determine how we vote. Toll hikes of 4.25 per cent each year over 10 years would leave families up to $30 a week worse off over the next 10 years, and it just does not stack up. We share the community’s desire for greater transparency and would rather see the revenue collected from tolls put back into our roads and infrastructure, supporting Victorians rather than supporting multinational companies.
GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (15:16:11): I would like to echo the sentiments of Mr Gepp in some of the comments that he has just raised, in particular more recently in relation to the increase in police numbers that the government is slowly putting forward, although I am not too sure in my time recently that I have ever seen too many police at a station. There can never be too many police. As an example, I was out at Melton recently, and they have only received five out of the 13 that they were promised, so there is always more opportunity for more police to be at stations. That is just something for the government to consider, but I digress a bit. I also commend the government for their commitment to the safety of the people of Victoria. That is one of the intentions behind the amendment that I intend to raise later on. On their commitment to protecting the protectors also—the police and the PSOs that are out there putting their life on the line day in and day out—I must commend both sides of the Parliament for their commitment to ensuring their safety. Having probably been within the justice system most recently of anybody in this Parliament, I think I have got a bit of credibility when I say that assaults do happen too often and they are getting too violent. The more that we can do to protect our protectors, the better for all of us. On the increased penalties for drug trafficking, I have arrested many, many drug traffickers, put them before courts and been frustrated with the sentencing practices, so it is pleasing to see that these penalties are being increased. I will watch this space in terms of whether or not they are carried out by the judiciary. The Justice Legislation Amendment (Police and other Matters) Bill 2019 alters a range of existing law and order acts, and many of these changes will surely be welcomed by the community and will mirror the collective views of my constituents. This bill achieves many things, including creating new offences for recklessly discharging a firearm and for the intimidation of law enforcement officers that we spoke about before, as well as for their family members. Like I said, as a former police member I strongly support this. In addition to this, the bill also reclassifies lever action shotguns from category A to a combination of categories B and D. This makes it harder for people to legally possess or use those guns and therefore has the full support of Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party. Whilst I understand that there are a handful of concerns which relate to how DNA samples are collected, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party believes that there is practically no crime too small to warrant a DNA collection. I believe this too mirrors widespread community views and expectations. Of course if you are innocent, then ultimately you should not be worried about police taking a sample to reinforce your innocence.
I would like to reiterate my support for the majority of this bill; however I do intend to move an amendment to the component of the bill which deals with the Sex Offenders Registration Act 2004, which I seek to disseminate to the chamber at this point in time. Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party amendment circulated by Mr GRIMLEY pursuant to standing orders. Mr GRIMLEY: The objective of our amendments is simple: to give Victoria Police the same powers which are currently given to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Our amendment would enable police officers to inform members of the public who face a real threat from a convicted sex offender—a convicted sex offender that they would not have been aware of otherwise. Currently police have access to this information but face up to two years imprisonment for sharing it even if it is in the public’s best interest. For example, if a police member—or members—attends a household where a child or spouse is being abused, the officer is not able to inform the victim that their perpetrator is not only already known to police but is also a convicted sex offender. Under the current Children, Youth and Families Act 2005, section 42D, authorised persons—as in the police—may disclose the information when the authorised person believes this information sharing is in the best interests and wellbeing of the child. The current process for such a disclosure is for the police to liaise with DHHS to explain the situation in order for DHHS to inform the person caring for the child at risk.
This amendment does not seek to remove the current powers of DHHS in disclosing this information. This amendment seeks to allow Victoria Police members who are first on the scene at such incidents the ability to directly inform a person at risk of being in contact with a registered sex offender. Our amendment further seeks to include adults as well as children who have direct contact with a registered sex offender, with or without prior knowledge, in the act. The advice we have received from the Police Association Victoria on the proposed amendment is that it does not stand to adversely impact police or the administration of their work in any way. Prior to the 2018 state election and again in February this year the opposition signalled their support for both a public register and greater public awareness of sex offenders living close by, stating that ‘Victorians deserve to know if they have a high-risk serial offender living in their street’. I echo Mr O’Donohue’s comments from before and thank him for his endorsement of this amendment. Spouses, domestic partners, parents, children and siblings will all be given access to this information if they reside in the same house as a convicted sex offender. I often ask the question: if there was a person living in your house and you did not know their full history, would you like to know? As we are all aware, the majority of sexual assaults are carried out by people who are known to the victims and within the family household. This amendment serves as a precursor to the public register of convicted sex offenders bill that we hope to introduce later in this term of Parliament, but today we feel this amendment is just common sense. We therefore welcome the support of all sides of the chamber.
GRIMLEY: I move: Clause 49, after line 25 insert— “( ) After section 64(2) of the Sex Offenders Registration Act 2004 insert— “(2A) Despite subsection (1), the Chief Commissioner of Police or a person authorised to have access to the Register or any part of the Register may disclose personal information in the Register relating to a registrable offender to any of the following persons— (a) a person who is the spouse or domestic partner of the registrable offender; (b) a person who is a parent, child or sibling of the registrable offender; (c) a person who resides in the same premises as the registrable offender.”.”. In relation to the Sex Offenders Registration Act 2004 I desire that we allow persons authorised to have access to the register to disclose personal information in the register relating to registrable offenders to any person that is in direct contact with a registered sex offender. This amendment was circulated in the second-reading debate. Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party believes that allowing Victoria Police to inform spouses, domestic partners, parents, children and siblings of convicted sex offenders that they are at risk is simply common sense. The Department of Health and Human Services has had this right for many years, and it has achieved greater public awareness and safety.
As we are all aware, the majority of sexual assaults are carried out by people known to the victims. As I said in the second-reading debate, the government has announced a commitment to the safety of all Victorians. This amendment seeks to strengthen that safety. I thank the members who spoke on this matter previously. In response to those speakers, I wish to add that this amendment provides another mechanism to improve the safety of potential victims of domestic violence and victims of crime. I have spoken before about wearing ribbons and the symbolic nature of those things. This is an opportunity for us to actually turn those symbolic gestures into real actions and real changes that affect real people. I will give you an example. As you all know, I was until recently a police officer. I attended many domestic violence incidents during my tenure as a police officer. When there was a domestic violence incident between two adults one of whom was a registered sex offender, as a police officer I was unable to disclose to the other party this information. Registered sex offenders are not in the habit of disclosing their past to many people.
This amendment allows for preventative measures for potentially vulnerable persons. This amendment may prevent further crimes and may even prevent further deaths as a result of domestic incidents. Mr Bourman asked at what point does someone’s right to privacy outweigh someone else’s right to be safe. On the other hand, Ms Patten spoke of empirical data showing that public registers of sex offenders do not reduce reoffending, may promote vigilante behaviour and are not supported by the police. Just on this, what the empirical data does not show us is who does not get sexually assaulted. It does not show those people who choose not to go to a registered sex offender’s residence. Who is to know who they are. It is very similar to pill testing. It is difficult to know how many people are saved from something they do not do. This amendment, further, is not about a public register of sex offenders. It is not about reducing reoffending. It is about giving information to people who may be at risk of being sexually assaulted or worse. In relation to vigilante behaviour, there is no room for such behaviour in a civilised society.
A current version of a register in Western Australia has shown no reports of vigilante behaviour. In relation to the police not supporting the amendment, personally many police that I know, especially those that are much higher ranked than I ever was, do support this, but they are obviously tied to the voice of the government. Further to this, the Police Association Victoria has no concerns with this amendment. It was pleasing also to hear Dr Ratnam speak previously on the Greens’ priority to ensure the safety of all Victorians. This amendment seeks to ensure that safety continues. To sum up, this amendment is all about safety and giving knowledge to those whose lives depend on it. I commend this amendment to the house.
GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (12:00:57): My question is for the minister representing the Minister for Housing, Ms Symes. Recently my office had the pleasure of meeting Jenny Smith and Kate Colvin of the Council to Homeless Persons. Both Jenny and Kate explained the growing homelessness crisis facing Victoria, in particular in my region of western Victoria. In my constituency alone there are around 2055 homeless people. One suggested way to address this growing issue of homelessness is to legislate a requirement for a percentage of all new housing developments to be either public or affordable housing. Is the minister able to provide any insight into whether or not the Andrews government supports the achievable figure of 10 per cent that is supported by the Council to Homeless Persons?
GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (12:45:49): My question is to the Minister for Higher Education representing the Minister for Education. Last week I met with Scott Diamond, the principal of Surf Coast Secondary College. Whilst the school is achieving better outcomes for students year on year, learning is often slow due to poor internet speeds and limits. Due to poor resourcing the school is only able to provide each student with 150 megabytes a month. This is an unfortunate issue affecting most regional secondary schools. My question is: as most student learning now takes place online, can the minister provide any insight as to whether or not the Andrews government intends on providing schools in Western Victoria Region with additional funding to purchase new internet programs that offer greater internet speeds and limits?
GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (15:18:32): I rise today to encourage and spread the message of an outstanding community member and member of the Victoria Police family, Donna Bowman. Donna’s husband, Anthony Bowman, was an ex-Victoria Police officer. On 18 March last year Donna found Anthony after he had committed suicide on their property. Prior to his death Anthony had not displayed any symptoms of depression or PTSD to any family, friends or colleagues. Tony left behind his wife, four children, three grandchildren, a sister, a brother and many other family members and colleagues. Under the banner of the organisation she founded, Those Left Behind, Donna aims to walk 3000 kilometres around Victoria to draw attention to those people left behind after such tragic circumstances.
Along the way she will be talking to many people and police officers to try to bring awareness about the lifelong damage suicide causes those left behind. The funds gathered during Donna’s remarkable journey will be given to the Victoria Police mental health unit. Donna tells me this unit has been instrumental in keeping her alive over the past 11 months. Donna plans to leave on the first anniversary of Tony’s death, 18 March, with the walk anticipated to take nine weeks to complete. Donna wrote to me recently and said that the walk will help her overcome the trauma by making something good come out of something so tragic and that, if she can save one life, it will give meaning to Tony’s death. I extend my admiration to Donna and wish her all the best on her journey and for her continuing support of the Victoria Police mental health unit.
GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (18:26:52): My adjournment matter is for the attention of the Attorney-General, the Honourable Jill Hennessy, and it relates to the inadequate and insulting sentence of James Gargasoulas to not only the people he killed and injured but also their family, friends, loved ones and the community as a whole. As we all know, Gargasoulas was recently sentenced for the murder of six people, including three-month-old Zachary Bryant and 10-year-old Thalia Hakin. Not only did he kill six innocent people, but he cowardly fled the scene, leaving countless other victims with physical, mental and emotional injuries for life—that is right, for life. Gargasoulas was sentenced to a non-parole period of 46 years—46 years for six life sentences. This equates to roughly seven and a half years for each person murdered. Is taking a person’s life in this state worth just seven and a half years? He could be out when he is 75 years of age, still leaving time for him to live a free life and enjoy the spoils of our great land, something which none of the victims of his heinous crimes will ever be able to do.
Even Justice Weinberg said in his deliberation that Gargasoulas, and I quote, ‘should never be allowed to roam freely’. Families of five victims stated that the sentence is not harsh enough. I put it to every judge, every member of Parliament and all those within the legal system that if your family member was a victim of Gargasoulas’s rampage, would you be content with only seven and a half years prison in exchange for your loved one’s life? I have read the judge’s sentencing remarks, and I urge anyone to read the remarks to get a sense of the sentencing issues within our legal system. I am not laying blame upon the judge or any of the legal personnel involved in this case. I lay the blame squarely and firmly on a legal process that results in judges having to consider sentencing practices including the Verdins principles of 2007, which detail how mental functioning and moral culpability can affect a sentence handed down. Also the common-law principle of totality formulated in 1970 has meant that our legal system practises concurrent sentencing over cumulative sentencing. This antiquated principle of law may work for low to medium-level offences. However, for the offences of murder involving more than one victim, the principle of totality serves no just purpose. I call for reforms to our legal system whereby judges sentence someone for the crime of murder involving more than one victim on a cumulative basis.
If this were the case, Gargasoulas would have received at least 150 years imprisonment and the families of each victim would have received a just sentence for their loved ones. The action that I seek is for the Attorney-General to review concurrent sentencing practices and expedite legislation that amends the Sentencing Act 1991 to include the practice of cumulative sentencing for crimes of murder involving more than one victim. This would mean that each life that is taken is given the same value as any other, and it would also ensure that monsters like Gargasoulas would never walk freely amongst us ever again. The PRESIDENT: I will call Mr Melhem, but I might have to come back to Mr Grimley’s adjournment matter.
GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (18:04:41): My adjournment matter is for the attention of the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, and it relates to ongoing crime and antisocial behaviour within the Geelong CBD, in particular within the Geelong mall area. This is an area that is close to my heart. I spent many hours walking the beat within the mall and made many arrests during that time. Sadly, it continues to happen to this day. The Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Lisa Neville, was recently quoted in the Geelong Advertiser stating that police would increase patrols and monitor CCTV in the area.
There are two things in this. As a former police officer, while working in the watch house in Geelong I first had experience with the CCTV system. It has been operating for many, many years. It is staffed constantly in the watch house, and it is also staffed by members of the public on Fridays and Saturdays. This is already happening. I therefore suggest that the minister has offered no new solution at all. I have spoken to landlords who have been assaulted at work and badgered for money and who have had their goods stolen, and this leaves them feeling unsafe—a feeling that no person should ever experience within their community. One business even had someone defecate on their premises, and another one had a staff member spat upon. Unfortunately this is not uncommon. ust last week, on Monday at around 1.00 p.m., a female shopper waiting for the bus was hit in the face with a bottle after stepping in to protect a man who was being assaulted near the infamous bus stop within the Geelong CBD. It was broad daylight, during the week, in a populated area—astounding and disgusting. In 2014 an initiative was born to attract more people to the Geelong CBD, known as Food Truck Fridays. Back then it attracted more than 2000 patrons; however, and with sadness, this figure has dropped by nearly 70 per cent to around 700 last year.
I have spoken with many people excited about such initiatives who saw them as vital to the growth of the CBD, and seeing its demise is heartbreaking. Furthermore, the initiative to stream classical music within the mall precinct, which is apparently designed to calm people and an attempt to prevent violence and antisocial behaviour, has clearly not worked. This is a serious issue, we need serious answers, and it will simply not go away. We need action now. The action that I seek is for the minister to visit the Geelong mall during its peak period to experience the issues firsthand and provide an update on what resources are being deployed and planned to reduce the crime rate, the alcohol abuse, the drug abuse and the homelessness in order to return the good people of Geelong back to the CBD.
GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (12:45:14): My constituency question is for the Minister for Higher Education, representing the Minister for Education. Last week I had the pleasure of meeting principal Gavin Walsh of Chilwell Primary School and school council president Phil Joyce. Gavin and Phil expressed their gratitude to the state government, who have granted the school additional funding for much-needed capital works. Whilst the funding is welcome, the process of planning a purposeful building within the school has stalled, with the Victorian School Building Authority (VSBA) no longer communicating with the school community.
School staff and parents believe that in order to maximise student outcomes it would be more suitable to use the funds to build up, and not out, in order to save space around the playground. This revised plan would also allow for a more engaging educational setting for students. I am seeking information from the minister as to why the VSBA has stalled communications with Chilwell Primary School, and I ask if the minister is able to communicate the school’s concerns to the VSBA so they can be given the opportunity to re-tender the planned upgrades in order to ensure that staff and students are getting the most suitable building for their school.
GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (14:12:44): My question is to the minister representing the Minister for Police and Emergency Services. Over the past five years Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party has collected nearly 200 000 signatures calling for a national public register of convicted sex offenders. It inspired the establishment of the party. Both Tania and I shared Derryn’s excitement when the Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Peter Dutton, declared that the federal government would be seeking the support of all states and territories in order to establish a public register.
Just this afternoon it was reported that a serial sex offender, whose crimes include the rape of a 12-year-old girl, was living metres away from a childcare centre and a school. Given the benefits of having a public child sex offenders register include greater public awareness of offenders living close by and therefore greater child safety, is the minister able to provide any insight or information as to what the Andrews government is doing to ensure greater public awareness of convicted sex offenders living within our communities?