Great Ocean Road and Environs Protection Amendment Bill 2021

Inquiry into Management of Child Sex Offender Information Report

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.

Constituency Question: Public Dental Care

GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (15:56:18): My constituency question is for the health minister, the Honourable Jenny Mikakos. Recently my office met with the Victorian Oral Health Alliance. Access to affordable dental care determines the overall health of communities; however, the Western Victoria Region currently hosts some of the longest waiting times for public dental care. There are currently over 36 000 adults and children awaiting urgent and preventative dental care in western Victoria. My question is: is the health minister able to highlight the steps that the Andrews government is taking in order to reduce waiting times for public dental care in western Victoria? Ms Lovell: On a point of order, President, I just wanted to raise a point of order around a constituency question that I raised with the Minister for Public Transport on 6 March.

It was to do with a specific railway crossing in my electorate that is dangerous. The response that I received from the minister was just referring me to a website about a statewide program that that particular crossing is not part of. Constituency questions have to be about an issue that is specific to an electorate, and they cannot be about a statewide program. Presiding Officers have been explicit about this before. Therefore I consider that the answers ought to be the same—they should be specific to the matter raised and not about a statewide program. President, in conversations with you, you indicated that perhaps you do not have the power to encourage ministers to be responsive to questions. If you do not have that power to encourage ministers to be responsive, perhaps we could refer this to the Procedure Committee for a change to standing orders to require the answers to meet the same criteria as a constituency question. The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Ms Lovell. You are correct. There is nothing in the standing orders that says I can determine that an answer to a constituency question be redone by that particular minister. We do have a Procedure Committee meeting I think tomorrow or Thursday, and you being a member, we will have general business time, and I am happy for you to bring that up then.

Police with Tasers Adjournment Debate

GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (18:53:58): My adjournment matter is for the attention of the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, the Honourable Lisa Neville, and it relates to all frontline Victoria Police officers carrying conducted energy devices, otherwise known as tasers, as part of their tactical options. Having been trained in the use of tasers as an alternative non-lethal tactical option, I can personally attest to the effectiveness and increased ability of tasers in keeping our police members and public safe. The increased assaults upon our police members have become all-too-familiar occurrences. Our protectors are placing themselves at risk on a daily basis. It is irresponsible and reckless of us not to allow every police member on the front line access to tasers to protect them from such horrendous attacks. Currently police have access to tactical options and equipment that include the ASP baton, OC spray and firearms. These options are limited as to their use and effectiveness in certain situations.

For instance, OC spray is only effective where there is very little wind and can often affect bystanders nearby an incident. From my experience, the ASP baton is rarely used and can only be deployed upon certain areas of the body to limit serious injuries, and obviously the firearm is the lethal option and only deployed in life-threatening situations. The non-equipment-based options include the hands-on approach, which places officers in close physical contact with an offender, and the verbal option. With the verbal option it is not uncommon for offenders to be alcohol or drug affected, and the verbal option provides very little effect, if any at all, in these situations. Tasers, therefore, are a necessary component of the frontline police member’s options if we are to be serious about protecting their welfare and the safety of our community. Tasers are currently available to members of the critical incident response team and special operations group and in limited regional areas, including Mildura, Warrnambool, Wangaratta and Geelong. There were around 3000 assaults on police last year, and I have also been a member of that not too exclusive club. Tasers have been rolled out to police in New South Wales and Queensland. Why is Victoria seemingly always playing catch-up with other states?

Why are we not giving our protectors all the tools necessary to keep them and us safe? Minister Neville was quoted in the Herald Sun on 10 February saying that the government will: … continue to ensure that police are equipped with the necessary equipment they need to perform their duties safely and effectively. While this assurance continues the assaults upon our Victoria Police members will also continue, and I note that the rollout of tasers to all frontline police members has the full support of the Victoria Police Association. The action I seek is for the minister to roll out conducted energy devices to all general duties police officers across the state as a matter of urgency. This would provide all police officers with the necessary tools to keep themselves and the general public safe and further prevent the escalating violence against Victoria’s finest.

Members Statement: Donna Bowman

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.