Mr GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (16:25): I rise to speak on the Crimes Legislation Amendment Bill 2022. This bill will introduce a new offence of engaging in conduct that is grossly offensive to community standards of behaviour. Those convicted under the offence will face a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment. My contribution will only be short and to convey Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party’s full support of this clearer, more serious offence.
The government often tell us that we should not be introducing new offences, penalties or responses in relation to one particular event, and this bill comes as a result of the campaigning of Stuart Shulze, Leading Senior Constable Lynette Taylor’s husband, so here we have an example of doing just that, but we think it is entirely warranted. This extremely important bill means a lot to our blue family.
I also note that the government have included a deferral of the decriminalisation of public drunkenness. In a media release it was referred to as an ‘unrelated item’. I just want to put this on record because we often have limited scope on when we can introduce amendments to legislation which we think is incredibly important but the government often rejects those amendments on the premise that they are not directly amending a particular bill.
On that note, I did have an amendment to this bill. You all know this. It had the numbers to pass, and I am very grateful for this. It was important. It related to the grabbing and dragging of people where they are apprehended and taken to a less public place like a laneway, for instance, or some bushes or similar. It usually happens to women, but it was certainly not gendered in text. It is something that has the support of Victoria Police formally, and I knew it would have the support of my ex-VicPol colleagues individually. They are all over seeing crimes like these against women with perpetrators getting away with it.
I have since withdrawn my amendment very reluctantly. I was told that this bill would be pulled in the Assembly if the amendment was to pass the house. The Attorney-General’s letter, sent via email yesterday, requesting that I withdraw the amendment inferred, amongst other things, that the amendment I had drafted was too narrow for my intent. For the record, I intended to make the offence narrow so that it would not capture offences unintentionally. If it had been drafted too broadly, I am sure the response would have been that it was too broad. It seems it is very difficult to win. Also, I was asked to consult with departments like the Office of Public Prosecutions and VicPol on amendments such as these. However, as a crossbench member I am told that I cannot have contact with these departments as an MP and I have to go through the relevant minister’s office to have any of those meetings in the first place, which makes it quite difficult. This was made quite clear to me when I was elected, but in my opinion it is not entirely correct. Instead I have to seek legal advice informally through colleagues and lawyers. It seems it does not matter that these amendments are drafted on the back of their advice to the commission.
Also, I am not too sure why I had to consult with VicPol, as their submission to the Victorian Law Reform Commission on grab and drag should have been enough. It recommended this amendment. I have been told that the department are looking at this offence but not that it will implement the offence, which is disappointing. The government have had over six months to consider the VLRC report on grab and drag. Any accusation that I am rushing this amendment is simply not true. We have been looking at introducing it only because the government has not made a clear commitment to legislate it in the future. In question time earlier this year, on grab and drag the Attorney said:
We are reviewing the VLRC’s findings in detail … but without commitment. I call on the government to make this commitment. There is clearly a deficiency in the law at present, and I hope this aggravating circumstance for grab and drag can be legislated next year—the sooner the better. The message needs to be sent that we do not tolerate any assaults, especially on women and children.
As you can tell, I am disappointed. Because I was put in a position where I had to make a choice between what I see as the safety of the community and filling a gap in the law and also the passage of this bill, which is also very important to the blue family—I should not have had to make this decision— I have made the decision very reluctantly to withdraw my amendment.
But back to the bill. What happened on 22 April 2020 was tragic. It was one of those moments where we all remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news. The lives of four of our finest were taken too soon, all because they went to work to do their job, to protect our community. I do not really have the words for the man they pulled over, Richard Pusey. The words ‘scum’, ‘poor excuse for a human’ and ‘oxygen thief’ come to mind and will suffice for now; the ones I really want to use would certainly be unparliamentary. However, we will never forget that this pathetic creature was not the one who caused the event. That was a truck driver, Mohinder Singh, who thought it was a good decision to go barrelling down the highway whilst being high on drugs and short on sleep, taking four lives with him—four outstanding humans just doing their jobs. As I understand it, he is currently appealing his 22-year prison sentence, saying it is too harsh. He should have got life for each life that he took; he should be serving 88 years minimum. He should never see the light of day beyond the prison walls. Even that is too good for him in my opinion.
Pusey was charged with grossly offensive conduct, but it was a common-law offence with an uncertain maximum penalty. Taking photos and videos of a dying person, let alone a police officer, and failing to render assistance is simply inhumane. It goes against every good fibre that we possess. And it would be an understatement to say that he has since continued to show his true colours in the community and in the courtroom. But rather than continue to talk about that sad excuse for a human being, I would like to speak about those whose lives were taken from us too soon.
Leading Senior Constable Lynette Taylor was remembered as a caring and dedicated police officer who took care of everyone. Senior Constable Kevin King was a devoted dad, a dedicated husband and a great cop. He loved music, cooking Italian food and held his family in such a high regard. Constable Glen Humphris was described by partner Todd Robinson as bubbly, outgoing and loving. Constable Josh Prestney played guitar, loved the Lakers, was an accomplished triathlete and a Collingwood supporter, and had only just recently graduated from the academy. These four officers, like we all do in the police force, saw the worst of people constantly. We put ourselves in harm’s way to keep everyone else safe. That is just the nature of the job—it is tough, but we do it. But some pay with their lives. The state memorial was incredibly moving, and it was so nice to see many people from all walks of life come together to pay their respects and offer condolences for such an unprovoked and senseless act of criminality.
My sincere condolences to the families of Leading Senior Constable Lynette Taylor, Senior Constable Kevin King and constables Glen Humphris and Josh Prestney. Time might pass but the pain will still be incredibly raw. We are all with you in your grief and will be forevermore. I commend this bill to the house.