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.
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.
GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (15:20:27): My question is to the minister representing the Minister for Youth Justice, the Honourable Jaclyn Symes. Currently in Victoria we face a very real and significant problem of instances in which some youths are choosing to engage in antisocial and criminal behaviour rather than attending our schools. From my experience in working with the Victorian police I can personally attest to the seriousness of this growing problem in our communities. Statistics show that teenagers who end up in jail are far more likely to commit serious offences and to be incarcerated as adults. Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party is committed to ensuring that justice is a priority in our communities and to making Australia a safer place. It is an aim of the party to make sure that young people are attending school and are not partaking in antisocial and illegal behaviour that will lead to continued offending throughout adulthood, as is currently happening in Victorian communities. The party is committed to keeping Australian teens in school and out of prison. My question to the minister is: what steps is the Andrews government taking to ensure that instances of youth crime in Victoria are decreasing in frequency rather than increasing?
I appreciate your answer, and I think you touched on a bit of the supplementary question, which is: is the minister able to provide any insight into how the government is making sure that Victorian kids are attending our schools and not engaging in antisocial behaviour in our communities?
GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (16:21:22): I rise today to congratulate and encourage a local Geelong charity, the Mark West Foundation. Over 100 kids annually are given an opportunity to play sport in circumstances where they otherwise may not have been able to. They may be struggling financially, they may have had parents or family members pass away or they may have been through horrible incidents which have left them unmotivated and disinterested. I had the pleasure of meeting Mark’s brother Paul and Mark’s childhood best friend and now foundation board member Tom Harriott.
Their enthusiasm for creating equality in Geelong is incredible. The motivation behind the five-year-old charity is not just to give a pair of brand-new footy boots to and pay registration for each child, but to encourage kids to be part of the community, surrounded by support, and to play sport, which we all know has endless positive effects on us, especially young people. Paul is carrying on his brother’s legacy after a freak on-field footy accident on Anzac Day 1998, which killed him instantly in a tackle whilst playing for the Newtown and Chilwell Football Club. Over 25 per cent of the sponsorship recipients are now female—a testament to the great work being done by community sports leaders to encourage young ladies to give footy a go. Last year three of the best and fairest winners in junior sides in the Geelong region were sponsorship recipients. Congratulations to Paul, Tom and Mark’s family and friends. I look forward to being updated on your next milestones and to doing whatever I can to ensure the continuation of the thriving Mark West Foundation.
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.
GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (17:40:17): My question is to the Minister for Health representing the Minister for Prevention of Family Violence. The protection of vulnerable persons continues to be a core value of Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party, and this is reflected in our policy for domestic violence reform. On average eight women present to hospital every day because of domestic violence. Last week the federal government announced the next round of funding for its domestic violence action plan, providing $328 million until 2022. My question to the minister is: with this funding, what will be the steps taken by the Andrews government to ensure greater safety for women and families?
GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (17:43:28): Is the minister able to provide any insight into whether Victorians can expect the federal government’s additional funding for the prevention of domestic violence to be matched by the state government in next month’s budget?
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.