Member for Western Victoria
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party

Worker Screening Bill 2020

Mr GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (15:20): I rise today to speak on the Worker Screening Bill 2020 and commend the government for proactively joining Victoria up to this scheme which will streamline the process for NDIS workers and protect our vulnerable and disabled Victorians. Traditionally and practically members stand up and speak on what is in a bill, but I am going to do something different today and talk about what is not in the bill. What is missing from this bill is a commitment from the government to a no clearance, no start policy for working with children checks or at least some reform in this space so that we can potentially better prevent crimes from happening rather than being reactive. I am not sure if members remember a case from late last year where Hugh Lean, a convicted paedophile, was sentenced for disgraceful crimes against children. He had infiltrated a Melbourne junior football club and befriended a family there in 2008. He ended up sleeping in the bed of one of the brothers and molesting and committing lewd acts on the young boy. He was able to do this despite having convictions for a 2002 rape and an indecent act with the child under 16 and also a 2008 conviction for soliciting a 14-year-old for sex. Needless to say, if this young boy’s family had known about Lean’s convictions, they would never have allowed him into their home. It is also needless to say that working with children checks have changed since 2008, and especially since this crime took place, but there is still no requirement for working with children check applicants to have an approved clearance before they begin working or volunteering. It can take up to eight weeks to get your official check, but in that time legally all you need to do for your employer or organisation is show your receipt. To me that is akin to being able to drive a car without passing your test, and in my view it should not happen because in the short term at least it defeats the purpose of the check itself. I have heard the argument made in response to there not being a no clearance, no start policy for working with children checks, that there basically are not enough people doing the wrong thing to warrant organisations or employers waiting. I personally think that if we are taking a cautious approach with our disabled Victorians to ensure that they are not taken advantage of, then we should do the same with our kids in all environments as they are vulnerable too. On this note, it became apparent to me some time ago that supermarkets and other similar industries like retail and hospitality do not require completed working with children checks for the employees upon employment. Now in a workplace where adults work with children for extended hours, without supervision a lot of the time, why is this not a requirement? I understand that it is more of a regulatory decision, but it would be great for the state government to have these conversations, as I have done, to encourage the retail and hospitality industries to take this step. I am not in the business of wanting to create extra bureaucracy by any means, but it seems bizarre that netball and football clubs have unpaid volunteers who spend their time collecting working with children checks and information—or receipts as I have spoken about—from their coaches but profiting businesses do not need to commit this vigilant step. When Derryn Hinch was a senator he had success in getting the McDonald’s corporation to require approved working with children checks for all adult employees. This was an outstanding achievement, and I hope other businesses follow suit in taking the initiative on their own. In summary, we will be supporting this bill, but we absolutely also encourage the government to explore proactive, precautious reform in the working with children check space in the very near future.


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