Mr GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (17:42): I rise today to speak about the recent Victorian Law Reform Commission’s report, Improving the Justice System Response to Sexual Offences. Before
commenting on some specific elements of the report I would like to first commend the VLRC on their work on issues related to victims of crime. The VLRC has published a series of papers on these
matters. This report is another well-considered, well-researched and comprehensive document. Prior to the report being tabled the Attorney-General announced that the government was committed to legislation to require affirmative consent and to make the act of stealthing a criminal offence. We very much welcome this. If it were not for this announcement, we would have moved our own legislative amendment to the Sex Work Decriminalisation Bill 2021. No-one should have their consent for safe sex refused against their will.
The 91 recommendations arising from this report are testimony not only to the thoroughness but also to the scale of the work required to improve how we treat victims of sexual assault throughout the judicial process. Let us not lose sight of this too. Too many times the victims of these terrible crimes are further traumatised by the system that is meant to bring justice for them. We need to do better. It is disappointing that I have to note here that in 2016 the VLRC produced another fantastic report on the role of victims in the criminal trial process, from which a number of recommendations have not been implemented—minus two, I might add, that were voted in last night in this place from our amendments. The report presents a comprehensive reform program and a few issues previously raised by Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party. They include better education on sexual violence, giving teeth to the Victims’ Charter Act 2006 by delivering enforceable rights to victims, expanding multidisciplinary centres, improved governance and accountability between Victoria Police and child protection, stronger advocacy for children and reforms to the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996, just to name a few. The report also recommends the implementation of an online sexual assault reporting option for both sexual assault centres and the police. I have been a huge supporter of this in the past and have spoken to many stakeholders about how Victoria could implement such program. It calls for community organisations to receive funding to support sexual assault survivors. We have advocated for specific projects that come under this banner, such as the funding for improvements to crisis accommodation in Horsham, for which we successfully advocated in 2019. Of significance, a few of the reforms point to the establishment of a victims legal service. Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party achieved the first VLS in Victoria in the last budget, but it was grossly underfunded, with only $7.6 million set aside. Given several recommendations in the report indicate better resourcing for the VLS, as do our conversations with individual victims of crime, we will continue to lobby for this.
A number of recommendations in this report relate to improved data gathering. Recommendation 17 mirrors my motion in the Legislative Council on 11 November 2020, which sought for the government to report on attrition rates for sexual assault cases. The government voted against my motion, ensuring it failed with the help of some crossbenchers. I bet they probably regret that decision now, with not only this report telling us we need to collect more data but many other reports and experts echoing the same. I will be very interested to hear now what the response will be from the government on these recommendations. So while we are happy with the commitments on affirmative consent and stealthing, I remind the Attorney-General that these are just a few out of the 91 recommendations. We will hold the government to account to deliver a more comprehensive response as to how they will implement the remaining 89, and if they decide not to implement any of the recommendations, then why? I probably could have written half of those recommendations myself with the work that our party is doing with the victim-survivors of crime. I really hope that this shows that the government should be listening to the agenda that we are pushing, because it is an important one and one that needs to be heard, not put in the too-hard basket like the 2016 VLRC report. As members of Parliament and lawmakers in this state we need to do more to protect and support victims of sexual assault. Stop playing politics with victims of crime and start being part of the solution