Matters of Public Importance – Police Resources

Mr CARROLL (Niddrie) — It is my pleasure to rise and speak on this important matter of public importance today. I want to begin my remarks by addressing the member for South Barwon. In his opening remarks he said that the Premier does not deal with the Police Association Victoria. Well, I was with the Premier only last Thursday, and guess who we were with? The police association. For about the past six years the Premier has spoken at the September conference of the police association. He has not sat on his hands. He has been there regularly, taken questions, spoken to the chief commissioner, spoken to Ron Iddles, spoken to Bruce McKenzie, done all the work that is needed and taken questions from the floor.

Honourable members interjecting.

Mr CARROLL — They say, ‘And?’. Well, do not take my word for it; take the police association press release’s word for it. The release is headed ‘State budget delivers on pre‑election promises sought by the police association’ and states:

Police association secretary, Senior Sergeant Ron Iddles said the measures outlined in the budget delivers on a number of commitments it has long sought —

I stress ‘long sought’ —

from government on behalf of Victoria’s 14 500 police officers and PSOs.

These initiatives include the freeing up of 400 police officers to perform core operational police work instead of looking after prisoners in police cells …

Senior Sergeant Iddles says the police association is pleased that the government has seen fit to fix a number of problem areas which the association had previously identified.

In the release the association congratulates the then police minister and says it is pleased that the government is getting on with the job. The release continues:

For decades, we’ve been saying that police officers should be freed from ‘babysitting’ prisoners in police cells in order to do the police work their communities expect of them.

Through the state government we have the rollout of 400 police custody officers. We are making sure police are doing what they are trained to do: to be out on the beat. I had the pleasure of working with Minister Noonan when he was the Minister for Police, and I now have the pleasure of being out there with Minister Neville doing work right across the state. We are working hand in hand with the police union and police members, who are all hardworking, decent individuals doing an outstanding job right across the state. Under the first two budgets of the Andrews Labor government we have seen unprecedented investment in police resources and community safety. We are literally getting on with the job after four years of a do‑nothing government.

In opposition one of the big things we identified was the ice problem. As the Minister for Roads and Road Safety said today, ‘You don’t fatten up the pig on market day’. We did a lot of policy work in the area of the drug ice, but while in government the other side sat on their hands, which they are used to doing. We had the results of a full parliamentary inquiry — here it is: 78 submissions, 113 public hearings, 220 witnesses, two volumes, 32 chapters and 54 recommendations — hand‑delivered to the previous government. What did they do with it? Nothing. Oh, they did do something. They announced 11 new sniffer dogs after all of that. You just have to go to the recommendations of that inquiry to see how we have taken on the New Zealand approach. We have the Premier’s ice action task force and more beds for rehabilitation. We are getting on with the job of making sure that we deliver. They could not even deliver the Red Bull air race let alone anything else — just do not go there. The member for South Barwon should have at least gone to the Red Bull race; that might be one he could back a winner on.

I am very proud to speak on this matter of public importance, just as the Minister for Police did eloquently in her own statement. The Chief Commissioner of Police has been very strong. He said he would rather see police out on the street fighting crime, not occupying counters and filling out paperwork. Operational decisions are very clear with the chief commissioner. I quote Deputy Chief Commissioner Andrew Crisp from the Herald Sun of 2 September:

Decisions to change counter service hours are not made on a whim; they are approved only when backed up by evidence, and communities must be consulted.

At the same time there was the following comment:

… under the Victoria Police Act 2013 the chief commissioner has absolute discretion about the allocation of police resources …

Who said that? None other than Edward O’Donohue from the Legislative Council in Hansard of 18 August 2016. This does reveal the hypocrisy of those opposite. They know full well what an outstanding appointment Graham Ashton is, but they are there taking pot shots and criticising the government, saying we are closing stations. We are working hand in hand with Graham Ashton, his executive and the whole police force right across the state of Victoria. The claim that stations are closing is simply another misrepresentation by those opposite.

Every time they get up they should thank not only the current Treasurer but they should go back and thank former Treasurer John Brumby for the work they have done in making sure that we have police on the front line. If you go right back to 1999, after the years of the Kennett government cuts, we saw the investment in police, and I know the member for Essendon is very proud of the policy work he did back then. It is very important that we get on and deliver what we have been mandated to do.

I want to also highlight some of the great work of the Attorney‑General because I think some of the criticism that he has come under has been very unfair. I never saw the member for Box Hill on the front page of the Law Institute Journal, although he may have been. But I have got to say this Attorney‑General has done an outstanding job in fixing up the mess to make sure our law and order agenda is fit for purpose in the 21st century. We have seen Baseline Bob from Box Hill’s baseline sentencing and the Victorian Court of Appeal literally saying the legislation was ‘unworkable’. We have had to give that work to Arie Freiberg at Monash University. He is going to come back with a whole series of recommendations, looking at world’s best practice and interstate best practice to fix up that mess. We will fix up that mess because we need to make sure that our law and order agenda is up to speed, up to date and does the work that is needed.

You only have to look at the statistics, and the Law Institute Journal quotes the Attorney‑General as saying:

When you consider that keeping someone in jail costs about $127 000 a year, as a government you have an obligation to examine the opportunity cost of that.

We have the opportunity of investing in TAFE and investing in infrastructure to ensure that we give people the right path.

As the Parliamentary Secretary for Justice, I was very pleased when Minister Noonan asked me to do a review into crime prevention. We have doubled the funding for crime prevention. We literally have $20 million in the last budget to invest in communities and make sure that we take the work of the Ombudsman and Jesuit Social Services in their groundbreaking report Dropping off the Edge 2015 to focus on communities in need. You do not have to be a rocket scientist. Just look at the 2 per cent of postcodes that are responsible for 25 per cent of our incarceration rate. We know what we need to do. We need to invest in those communities and treat those communities with respect to make sure every opportunity is there for young children and teenagers coming through. I think we have made a lot of progress.

I was with the Deputy Premier only recently and we met with the Sikh Interfaith Council of Victoria out at Broadmeadows to see the work that they are doing out at the City of Hume. The members for Broadmeadows, Sunbury and Yuroke know full well the innovative work that is going on out of the City of Hume to make sure we tackle disadvantage and keep young people in education. We want to make sure they know the way to live a life of purpose and make a contribution to the community.

Only this week I got to sit down with the Chief Commissioner of Police and the Minister for Police and talk to the Reach Foundation and to see some of the excellent work they are doing out in the community with young people. We want to make sure young people really do feel under this government that they have a voice at the cabinet table, that through the Minister for Families and Children, the Minister for Police and the Attorney‑General they have a voice there. We are going to do everything we can during those critical years to make sure they do not fall into the wrong traps. It is the old adage: you become who you hang around with. We want to make sure that young people hang around with successful young people, live a life of purpose, get a good education and start becoming well connected in their local communities, but, importantly too, that they make a contribution to Victoria as a state. They have to become serving taxpayers for the state, not the other way around.

This government under this Premier has a lot to be proud of. We have done an enormous amount in such a short time, including the ice action task force, the investments in police, the investments in corrections, fixing up the mess in the law and order agenda that we inherited, and making sure that Victoria is the most progressive state in the nation in terms of dealing with law and order.

It would be remiss of me not to note that the last budget mentions the new Melbourne Drug Court that is going to be built. There were four years when we could have had some work done in that area, which again have gone to waste. The previous Labor government set up the Drug Court in Dandenong, which has been an outstanding success. Those opposite propose that they are good economic managers, but drug courts and investments like that pay for themselves in the longer term. Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre say that every dollar invested in the Drug Court returns about $5 to the community. The member for Malvern should remember that. I do not think he will get the opportunity to be the Treasurer again, but investing in courts and investing in social infrastructure pays for itself in the longer term. Only Labor governments do this. A Labor government set up the Drug Court and the court integrated services program; it is rebuilding law and order and making sure that this state is the most progressive and the most successful state and that we are getting on with it. We will not tell fibs on this side of the house. We will stand up for our communities.