Justice Legislation Amendment (Parole Reform and Other Matters) Bill 2016
Written on the 3 February 2017
8 December 2016
GEORGIE CROZIER (LIB - Southern Metropolitan)
I am pleased to be able to rise this afternoon and speak to the Justice Legislation Amendment (Parole Reform and Other Matters) Bill 2016. As other speakers have highlighted to the chamber, this is a bill that has been hastily put together and rushed in by the government reacting to a lot of initiatives that the opposition has brought forward. On the last day of sitting before Christmas we are debating this, when it should have been
Mr Davis In a panic by the government.
Ms CROZIER Yes, Mr Davis, it has panicked. It should have been undertaken months ago, knowing that Craig Minogue, who is specifically of concern and is the focus of why we are discussing this bill, is having his sentencing and parole components being debated and discussed and knowing what his release might provide to the community. Indeed it is about community safety, and I think it is fairly evident that Victorians have real fears for their safety in relation to law and order because the government has been very slow, I have to say, to react to so many concerns that have been coming forth, whether it is the crime wave that is occurring across Victoria, in all parts of our city and state, or these issues that we are discussing.
As this bill highlights, the main purpose of the bill is to amend the Corrections Act 1986 to provide for a presumption against parole for prisoners serving terms of imprisonment for certain fatal offences where the body or remains of the victim have not been located no body, no parole and to amend the Sentencing Act 1991 to permit a court to take such factors into account at sentencing. The bill also seeks to amend the Corrections Act 1986 to tighten the conditions to be met before a prisoner serving a term of imprisonment with a non-parole period for the murder of a police officer can be considered for parole.
As I said, that is the debate we are having now regarding Craig Minogue and the dreadful crime that he was involved in. As others have highlighted, the consequences of the murder of Constable Angela Taylor and, as others have also said, the impact on her family of that heinous crime have been lifelong and will be lifelong, and those are things that you cannot take back. It was under the initiative of Mr O'Donohue that this was actually brought to the fore, and now the government is acting. It was also Mr O'Donohue who actually brought a number of initiatives in relation to law and order where the government has failed. In fact there have been five policies, and as I have already mentioned, they include the no body, no parole provision which this bill seeks to address.
The bill that was introduced by Mr O'Donohue was introduced in, I think, February this year, so almost 12 months ago, and the government is acting now. Shamefully the government, the Greens and the member for Shepparton in the Assembly voted down that bill. That was just an extraordinary account of what the government is doing for such a sensible and reasonable measure that the community actually expects. If someone will not disclose where the body of their victim is, someone that they have killed, murdered or goodness knows what else, how on earth can the families ever reconcile that? I think that is such a reasonable step to take in relation to those people who commit these heinous crimes. If you do not disclose where the body is, then you do not deserve parole; it is that simple. For the life of me I do not understand why the government voted that down. I think it was shameful; I think it just demonstrates their lack of regard.
It really goes to the heart of what this government is about. It is playing catch-up on crime, on law and order issues, the whole time. They are trying to talk tough. They know that the community is concerned everybody knows that the community is concerned because of the carjackings, the home invasions and the vision that we have of almost nightly occurrences, whether it is reckless driving or people rampaging through Officeworks or other businesses with machetes, guns and goodness knows what. The community rightly have concerns, and they are living in fear.
Now the government is reacting, and we have seen that this week, but the sensible bill that Mr O'Donohue introduced almost 12 months ago was voted down by the government, which actually demonstrates that they are not genuine about this. They talk tough, but their actions do not match their rhetoric. We see it so many times, in so many instances in relation to other areas that this government has been responsible for, not only law and order. But there were other initiatives that Mr O'Donohue had brought into the house, such as banning cash for scrap; as I said, keeping Craig Minogue behind bars; giving power to the police to require DNA from suspects; and a specific offence for drive-by shootings.
These have all been reported. Those initiatives are what the coalition and Mr O'Donohue have undertaken, and now we see the government playing catch-up and in a panicked way. It has introduced this bill, and we are debating it at 3 o'clock on the last day of sitting before we rise for some weeks and before, potentially, Mr Minogue might be released. We are very concerned about the government addressing this issue, and any initiatives to improve the safety of the community are welcome. That is why I am hoping that the government, if it is genuine, will actually support the bill that I introduced and second read yesterday in relation to youth parole.
Not only have we got an issue in corrections and law and order generally, we have got a real crisis in youth crime and youth justice. It goes to the heart of community safety and the fact that the community must have confidence in the system. At the moment they do not have that confidence. They can see what is happening because it is broadcast on our news outlets every single night and published in newspapers every single day, and it is getting worse.
Any consideration for the granting of parole should have that community safety element as paramount, so that it is not just a tick and flick and a matter of saying, 'Yes, you've done all these things'. The question of whether the community will be safe if this person is out in the community must be considered. I am hoping, as I say, that the government is not just playing catch-up and that it actually supports and votes for my bill and that it is put into operation. It is another simple measure. It could be done. It is mirroring what is already happening in the adult correction system, and there is no reason why that cannot occur.
As others have said, Mr O'Donohue has provided significant and excellent leadership in this area. The government has been dragging its feet, and now it is reacting. Certainly it is putting considerable resources into policing, but we are now two years into its term of government. Population in the state has been increasing for the last two years, so naturally you would expect increasing tensions, but the government has not understood the situation. It is reacting now that it sees the community expressing its fear through various ways.
Mr Morris Too little, too late.
Ms CROZIER It is too little, too late, because it will take some time before those police are on the beat. What about all those police stations that have been closed? When are they going to open, when are they going to be resourced and when will they have proper operating hours so that the community can have the confidence to present its concerns to the police?
I know the government talks about issues like family violence and other crimes that are also on the increase, but it is not only about them. It is about giving the police the support that they need, and in the last two years they have not received that support from this government.
Mr Herbert interjected.
Ms CROZIER Mr Herbert might be chuckling into his water over there, but let me tell him that the community is not chuckling. They are actually fearing for their safety because of his government's lack of regard. I cannot count the number of people that speak to me, come to my office or just ring me up and ask, 'What are you doing about addressing this crime wave?'. I tell them, 'Well, I'm in opposition, but what I can tell you is what the opposition has done', and they are all in support of it. They were horrified when the no body, no parole legislation was voted down, with the assistance of the Greens and the member for Shepparton in the other place. That was a shameful act.
As others have said, this is about protecting the community, and the coalition will support anything that can protect the community. But I have to place on the record that in regard to anybody who takes a life kills them, murders them the legislation needs to ensure that community safety is paramount when the release or parole, whatever the case may be, of these individuals is considered. This particular piece of legislation goes further in that in the case of a murderer of a police officer, parole will not be granted.
As my other colleagues have stated, the opposition will be supporting the government's move in this regard, but I do want to make it clear that it is particularly dangerous to be highlighting any one particular group in this area. I say again that in the case of the murder of anyone, whether it is a child, another emergency worker, an innocent Victorian or anyone else, the full force of the law should be considered when sentencing of the offender is undertaken.