r GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (15:58): I rise to speak to the government’s Police and Emergency Legislation Amendment Bill 2020, and before I do I would like to pay thanks to the PSOs, who we see around here quite regularly keeping us safe. Thank you very much. They do a wonderful job. Even as a police officer not that long ago the PSOs were of tremendous help and assistance as support to the police service, me included, and what they do is fantastic. There should be more of it, and we are pleased to see this bill come before the house. The current COVID-19 pandemic has proven that PSOs our under-utilised, with many PSOs now patrolling retail and business areas throughout Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo. Additionally members of the community and many business owners have enjoyed a greater assurance of safety with the increased deployment of PSOs, believing that a visible police presence is a major deterrent of crime—and it is. The primary deterrent of crime is the presence of law enforcement. While PSOs have traditionally focused on general safety around major events and public transport stations, protective services officers are located at all 212 metropolitan train stations in Melbourne and four regional train stations across Victoria—Bendigo, Traralgon, Ballarat and Geelong. I would just like to speak briefly on the amendment circulated by the coalition which seeks to establish the current two-up deployment of PSOs as a legislative minimum.
In reviewing this amendment I have had discussions with the Police Association Victoria, who have raised some concerns which I will point out, namely: In seeking to have a minimum two PSOs at each of the railway stations means that in some of the stations there may well be two PSO is guarding empty platforms, as there has been historically minimal foot traffic in some of these areas. The amendment needs to be more nuanced to reflect this and resources deployed and allocated more efficiently to ensure complete coverage where it is required and not just the blanket approach which may see the resources underutilised or wasted. I understand from my conversations with Mr O’Donohue and the coalition that this amendment is a reflection of a policy that was implemented from 2000 up until around six months ago. However, the effective and efficient use of PSOs continues to be a topic of debate, with many stakeholders having different views. I and others would rather see PSOs deployed in more efficient ways, specifically into hospitals to guard mental health patients to free up police resources, something which we have asked for as well in the chamber many times. I can talk with experience on this. There have been many, many hours that I have spent in hospital guarding mental health patients and many, many hours on crime scenes just guarding police tape and evidence where the use of PSOs in those areas could be much more efficient and effective in freeing up police to go and do their jobs of investigating crime and arresting offenders. We believe that this amendment is too broad and does not truly reflect the best and most efficient use of the PSOs. These main proposals in the PSO section of the bill make sense and reflect community sentiment. Therefore Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party will be supporting this bill. In fact I placed a motion on the notice paper in June calling for PSO reforms prior to this bill even being introduced in the lower house, and it is pleasing to see the government introduce these reforms. While this legislation is permissible, there are some concerns that I have regarding the technical amendments made to the operation of Fire Rescue Victoria. At both a federal and state level Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party has proudly supported and will continue to support the CFA. The government argues that these amendments to the operation of FRV are necessary in order to ensure that all current CFA integrated and career-only stations will be within the Fire Rescue Victoria fire district and reflect current service delivery requirements. I still have many concerns about this and hope that the core of the CFA is not further dismantled by the government. CFA stations, particularly those run by volunteers, are the heart and soul of country towns. That is why we opposed the reforms to the CFA which were debated and unfortunately legislated last year. Additionally I also note that my colleague Ms Maxwell has some concerns around the amendments made to the use of sheriffs when administering certain family violence orders, and she will discuss that very shortly. Despite my concerns with elements of the legislation, I do want to reiterate our support for the bill. Importantly, the government has ensured that Victoria Police remains the peak authority on all public safety matters. The minister has made it very clear in her second-reading speech that the roles and responsibilities of Victoria Police do not dramatically change. The majority of the proposals within this bill make sense. They mirror community expectation, and therefore I commend this bill to the house.