Graffiti (29.11.2017)

Written on the 29 November 2017

29 November 2017



GEORGIE CROZIER (LIB - Southern Metropolitan)


I am absolutely delighted to follow Mr Morris's excellent motion to which he has just spoken. I was listening to some of that debate and I am pleased that the house saw it through. I would like the house to also support my motion. My motion is an important motion that deals with the rising scourge of graffiti that is occurring across Victorian communities. I move:

That this house condemns the Andrews government for the inaction on increasing graffiti across Victorian communities and in particular notes that

(1)   visible graffiti is on the increase in the electorate of Bentleigh, including in shopping precincts;

(2)   graffiti is becoming more prevalent on structures along the Frankston train line;

(3)   Australia Post boxes, street signs and phone booths have all been targeted for increasing tagging and graffiti;

and calls on the Andrews government to cease a soft approach on crimes such as graffiti and provide greater resources to address this increasing criminal behaviour.

And that is what it is; it is criminal behaviour. This sort of vandalism, this crime of defacing public or private property, unfortunately is on the increase across Victorian communities and in the electorate of Bentleigh, which is one of the areas that I represent in Southern Metropolitan Region. Alarmingly, in a number of areas across my electorate as in other electorates, this graffiti is becoming more and more evident. The increase in graffiti was very evident when I was driving to work this morning along Punt Road, whether it is on the sides of walls, on street signs or on fences. As I said, this level of graffiti that is occurring across our suburbs and communities is really very untidy and unbecoming, not only to local residents and businesses within these areas but also to commuters.

Only last week or the week before in the media it was noted that Melbourne is being compared with New York, but not in a good way. We love the city of New York. It is the city that never sleeps, and those of us who have spent time in New York well understand just what a magnificent city it is, but it also has its problems. This article says:

The city's graffiti and rubbish-riddled gateway railway corridor has been compared with the Bronx.

I have not been to the Bronx. I have only seen visions of it in various movies and newspaper articles and the like, but what you do see there is a very unruly and dysfunctional type of local community. I think it is shameful that this beautiful city that many of us are so fortunate to live in is compared with the Bronx. Those of us who come from the outer areas of the state or from interstate or even international visitors comment on how beautiful the city of Melbourne is, and of course we are the most livable city. I think it says an enormous amount about where we are heading.

The crime wave that has occurred across Victoria in the last few years is truly alarming. I know that members have spoken about this crime wave and the crime tsunami that has really gripped the state of Victoria, and it is partly because of the Andrews government's soft-on-crime approach in terms of dealing with the very real issues that we have.

They have really come to the fore very recently with so many aspects of the crime that is occurring. This graffiti that is happening around our city is something that can lead to larger crimes

Ms Shing That is how good your speech is!

Ms CROZIER I can hear the cheering from Queen's Hall. Heavens above, I did not realise I was getting such an audience!

An honourable member That new telecast is working a treat!

Ms CROZIER Indeed. I am not quite sure what is going on in Queen's Hall, but nevertheless, back to my very important motion about graffiti, because this is an important issue that is affecting communities, and certainly people have spoken to me in relation to what is really concerning to them in their communities.

For background information on this I had a bit of a look at what tagging and graffiti styles there are, because like many people, I do not understand what the tagging means. I do not understand this inane scribble and quite frankly this filth that is on our buildings, at Southern Cross station, on letterboxes or Australia Post boxes you name it and that is occurring along the rail corridors. But I did, as I said, go and have a look on the internet at what graffiti styles there are, and it came out that there are all sorts. A website lists multiple styles: wildstyle, cartoon, realistic, 3D, stencil, old school, abstract, sharp, brush, ignorant, billboard, hardcore, block, landscape, bubble, stickers, fat cap, wholecar and there are other types of graffiti that are mentioned on this website.

Of course many people will say, 'It's urban art', about much of this, but the definition of urban art is where there is some sort of meaning to it. I acknowledge that we do have the famous street the name escapes me; I think it is AC/DC Lane where there is artwork by Banksy and others. Some street art is in a confined space where the property owners and those around are quite happy for that work to be undertaken on those sites. The website also talked about the graffiti supports, or where it occurs walls, street equipment, trucks, shops, trains, rooftops and tunnels. That is what I am talking about; it is this unsightly scourge of graffiti that is occurring in our suburbs and across our streets and along our transport corridors.

I am really finding it difficult to concentrate with all of that cheering in Queen's Hall going on, to be honest. They are really having a very happy time out there.

As I said, the graffiti and tagging that is occurring is fairly plentiful in many parts of our communities. For whatever reason, so many people are going out and committing these crimes on public and private property where they do not have the authority to do so, such as occurs in these other areas, like the one I mentioned where it is allowed.

When this blight of graffiti because it really is a blight on our neighbourhoods and communities is on the rise, it demonstrates that no-one is watching, that it is not being monitored, that it has not been taken seriously and that these offenders that are doing this work or committing these crimes on this public or private property are getting away with it, and they know that, and it is continuing. That is what we are seeing. We are seeing an increase in that, and it shows those vandals that are committing these crimes that no-one is watching and no-one cares.

I think that is the essence of what we are talking about here, because once these petty crimes are on the rise it might be seen as a petty crime and nothing serious; it is not like the serious crimes that we talk about, and of course we have seen in the last few days some very serious potential crimes being thwarted by our agencies and others this starts a mentality, and it starts an absolute following by many who undertake to do it.

I am talking about the issue across our communities, but I am also talking about the issue in Bentleigh. When I was out there with our excellent Liberal candidate Asher Judah, we talked about the very obvious graffiti down the Frankston line, including around Bentleigh station and it is really obvious. There is a lot along that rail corridor. It is incredibly unsightly, and it is growing in its presence. If you just look to Moorabbin, a little bit further down, there are hundreds of examples of this tagging and graffiti all over the place. This is the problem. Once you start to get this tagging and graffiti in the amount we are talking about, it really becomes incredibly unsightly.

What message does that send to the community? It sends a message that the community is unsafe, and people start to be concerned about their safety and welfare. We have clearly seen that with a whole range of other crimes that have been committed, whether it be home invasions or carjackings the terrible incidence of shocking crimes that our community have not been used to that have just come to the fore in the last few years under the Andrews government and have really taken off in abundance in a terrifying manner.

I wanted to have a little more of an understanding about what the impacts of graffiti are, and I noticed a paper that was undertaken quite some years ago by the Australian Institute of Criminology, but I think the points remain. They said in this article:

Graffiti is one of the most visible forms of crime and disorder that occurs in a community and as such can become a visible sign of unruliness, social decline and antisocial behaviour among young people.

Now, I am not blaming all young people for this, because I think there are people of various ages that undertake this vandalistic, criminal behaviour. But in saying that, that lends itself to how communities at the moment are feeling very unsettled. They are feeling very unsafe in respect to many issues that are arising in our communities because of the increase in crime that is occurring across our state. As the Australian Institute of Criminology said in this paper:

Graffiti has a significant impact on whole communities, not just on the owner of the property targeted.

That is also a point. The property owner who is just going about their business has to wake up to some of this messaging that is really unruly, is unnecessary and can contain various messages. Unfortunately we saw some terrible graffiti in the suburb of Caulfield a few years ago, which was politically motivated and very unsettling for those people. Those businesspeople, households and residents who are affected have to then go and deal with this issue: clean it up, paint their fence. I mean, why should they have to be put out and undertake that because somebody has got away with it?

They know they are getting away with it under this government because the government has taken a soft approach. We have seen that with the weakening of the bail laws for young offenders. As we know, we have got a revolving door of young offenders who are going into the youth justice system, and of course as we know, the youth justice system under this government is a complete and utter mess. It has been an extraordinary failure of the Andrews government and the minister and it requires a significant investment to address the shocking state that it has been left in.

Again in terms of what the impacts have been, graffiti has a huge financial impost. Estimating the cost of the graffiti clean-ups is very, very difficult to do. Not only is there the cost to local governments and to the state government but for those private residences and businesses that I have spoken about where the graffiti occurs the cost can be very considerable. That also can have an impact in terms of how businesses are perceived in the community and whether people are really going to feel safe to shop there. It looks unruly, it looks untidy, it is uninviting. People are veering away, and that is a loss to those businesses. So it has various impacts for so many reasons, as I said.

I spoke about the Moorabbin area, where there are a hundred or so examples of really ugly tagging around that shopping precinct. Really there is nothing spared whether it is the Australia Post boxes or whether it is the streets, the footpaths, the phone booths or the street signs. It is very prevalent, it is very ugly and it is having a detrimental effect on that community. Around the area where the McKinnon shops are and the Bentleigh shopping centre they are also having similar problems with this ugly tagging. Again it is just sending a message to those people: if it is continually happening in this area and they are getting away with it, they are going to continue to vandalise these properties and undertake these crimes.

As I said, they are not the only spaces affected; graffiti is not just in those shopping strips and around those areas that I have spoken about. It is around the train lines and along those train corridors. As Mr Davis has spoken about previously, there is a huge potential for this level of vandalism and crime to occur along the new sky rail corridors in Carnegie and Oakleigh. With those huge pylons there are open spaces for people to go and undertake tagging or graffiti or whatever it is they do. Very soon, as we have seen along other train corridors and rail corridors, it becomes really unsightly. One just has to look over the Flinders Street rail precinct to see all of those pedestrian and rail tunnels that are covered in graffiti.

As I said, it does cost businesses and private residences. They have a cost in relation to getting rid of this unsightly mess, as do local governments and the state government. It is astounding and astonishing to know that Metro Trains Melbourne says they spend $10 million a year cleaning up graffiti along the train network. Now I am very pleased that they are, but that is a huge amount spent on a crime that quite clearly is occurring on a regular basis. These individuals that are partaking in graffiti are getting away with it. There is not any consequence for them, and clearly that is why millions and millions of dollars are being spent on one piece of infrastructure that is, just on the rail network. That is not talking about graffiti on VicRoads signage across the state or those shopping centres that I spoke about or the local government areas where they have got to clean up public amenity areas and footpaths. So the cost is huge. I think the figure of $10 million to clean up the network is astounding. I am very pleased that they do, because it is offensive to commuters. They do not feel safe on the network when there is so much graffiti; it is just sending out a message that crimes are occurring.

I note an article in the Herald Sun from just a few weeks ago, around the same time that the figure of $10 million was spoken about, where it says:

Public Transport Victoria has said the rail operator must remove offensive graffiti 'anywhere on Metro's land or infrastructure' within a week.

I think that is a good thing because it is trying to clean up this unsightly scourge and trying to deter these people from doing this crime, but really it will need to be seen who is monitoring that and how that will be monitored. I think it is absolutely important that the government insist that Melbourne Metro rail needs to keep on top of it, because as we have seen before and as we see now, if they do not there will be wall after wall of graffiti across these rail corridors. There are so many pictures that depict this and that show it is there on our trains and elsewhere. I think it is a very good thing that Melbourne Metro rail do clean it, and I am hoping that they will be held to account in relation to that. It is not just their responsibility; it is the government's responsibility to ensure that this graffiti issue is stopped.

At the moment it is something that, along with other crimes, has taken off across the state. There are extraordinary amounts of graffiti happening where the level crossing removals have happened. There is more wall space for more graffiti to be done. There are protective services officers patrolling various stations, but they cannot keep on top of everything when these vandals are allowed to get away with it. I am very pleased that Asher Judah, the Liberal candidate for Bentleigh, has taken this up. He has been out there, together with Matthew Guy, speaking about how we need to clean up this mess. I was out with them too when we were checking this very unsightly corridor where there is significant graffiti, and we were talking about what we needed to do.

It does require us to look at policing these areas so that we can take account of the vandals that are committing these crimes, and if need be putting in CCTV cameras. I know Ms Fitzherbert, who is in the house, is a great advocate for more CCTV in the areas that she represents. She has spoken to and heard from many of her constituents, like I have, about their not feeling safe and that they feel that CCTV cameras would give them the security of knowing that if a crime is committed, then it will be recorded, tracked and dealt with by the authorities, as it should be. CCTV records the people who are committing these crimes, and those people should be able to be dealt with and made to clean up the mess that they have participated in making.

The clean streets campaign that the candidate for the Assembly seat of Bentleigh is undertaking is an excellent one. He is having a terrific response from members of the community who, like a lot of people, are very concerned about this visible graffiti that is on the rise. It is fair to say that, like that community, Victorians are sick and tired of looking at and cleaning up graffiti vandalism across all the areas that I have spoken about. The people that undertake this activity need to face the consequences of their actions. This is like anything: there are too many people that are victims of this needless, senseless crime. It might be a crime that is not particularly violent towards anyone, but it is disrespectful to the rights of a person's property and the communities where they reside or have their businesses. It shows a complete lack of respect. We have a complete lack of respect and breakdown of authority on so many issues, including with this crime of graffiti.

We need to put the rights of the victims ahead of the offenders, whether it is a petty crime such as graffiti or whether it is a more serious offence, such as those we have often spoken about in this place. I am very pleased that Matthew Guy has made it clear that we will crackdown on graffiti. It is one of those crimes that does not need to occur, and it needs to be dealt with in a proper fashion.

I just wanted to quickly mention a number of initiatives. I am very pleased to see Mr O'Donohue in the chamber, because when he was the Minister for Crime Prevention and he was an excellent minister he took crime prevention very seriously, and he still does as the shadow minister. The government has had a very limited focus on crime prevention issues, which demonstrates the Andrews government's interest in those who are affected by crime. Mr O'Donohue often spoke about graffiti prevention grants and promoted them across Victoria, and I know that because he would come out to a number of areas that I represented in Southern Metropolitan Region. It was about cleaning up graffiti for local government and providing assistance for businesses that had been affected by graffiti. I am glad that the current government is continuing on with those graffiti prevention grants for local communities to prevent graffiti vandalism in those communities. I think that is a good thing. As I said, Mr O'Donohue had a very strong focus on crime prevention and still does.

I am not going to go on for too much longer because I think I have made the points I needed to make in relation to my motion. But it is true to say that the rates of property damage in the Bentleigh area have increased in the past year according to the latest crime statistics, and a lot of that property damage is due to the graffiti issue that I have been speaking about. Graffiti is the crime of defacing public and private property. It needs to be recognised in that light, that it is a crime and that it needs to be treated as a crime and not treated lightly. It is vandalism that impacts on the community and costs the person a significant amount of time, money and angst.

I am very pleased that Matthew Guy and the Liberal-Nationals coalition are taking a strong stance on this issue, because if we do not, we are going to as the article that I quoted earlier in my speech said end up like the Bronx. That is something that none of us in this chamber want. We are very proud of our city, it is a magnificent city, and having the inane, unsightly and ugly scribble of tagging and graffiti across our city in so many forms and on so many pieces of infrastructure is unnecessary. It needs to cease.



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