Justice Legislation Amendment (Protective Services Officers and Other Matters) Bill 2017
Written on the 22 September 2017
19 September 2017
GEORGIE CROZIER (LIB - Southern Metropolitan)
I rise this afternoon to speak on the Justice Legislation Amendment (Protective Services Officers and Other Matters) Bill 2017. I have been sitting in the chamber listening to the debate, and I want to commend my colleague Mr O'Donohue for his contribution in relation to raising some very relevant points around what the bill provides, and others who have spoken about the positive aspects of protective services officers (PSOs). Can I also say how impressed I have been in relation to the work that protective services officers do around this place. Of course they have duties around other state government buildings such as the courts, Government House, the Shrine of Remembrance and other areas. They do very commendable work.
I listened to Ms Patten's contribution. I was aghast at what she was saying that they are de facto police and do not have the necessary training to do what they need to do. I think they conduct themselves extraordinarily well in many instances, and this bill provides further responsibilities to their initial abilities.I want to take up the points that Mr O'Donohue made in relation to the comments made by Mr Merlino in the other place when he was in opposition and the Napthine government introduced PSOs. They have been found to be a huge success. When I was looking back at what the coalition did, we deployed 950 PSOs across the state. Prior to the 2014 election a 50-strong PSO strike force was proposed to be undertaken if the coalition were re-elected, which would have seen PSOs deployed in various areas, allowing police to be freed up for special events. We are coming into the football finals season, with the grand final, the Melbourne Cup and other very large sporting events. Of course we have very real concerns around community safety, and the police obviously have those concerns. Anyone would know that when going into the MCG, as I did on Friday night, in terms of being searched and in terms of the diligence that is being undertaken to keep the community safe.
Nevertheless the announcement back in 2014 was taken up by this government. I go back to what Mr Merlino said in opposition, calling PSOs 'plastic police'. It was a slur on their abilities, and to my knowledge he has never apologised for that slur, which I think is extraordinary in itself, especially as he is out now lauding them everywhere and being part of a government that is lauding the success of PSO deployments.Getting back to the purposes of the bill, as others have said it will facilitate the deployment of additional protective services officers to form mobile patrols on the public transport network. It gives those transit PSOs additional police powers to support their role in keeping people safe and tackling crime and antisocial behaviour on the public transport network. That is exactly the point that I would like to raise in relation to Ms Patten. Sometimes you see kids out there doing graffiti and being antisocial on and around the train network, and PSOs can effectively handle that. I do not understand why she would think that it is such a problem, as she said, with children who might be under child protection. It does not matter who they are. If they are doing graffiti or committing a crime, then they should be appropriately dealt with, and PSOs can do that.
While I am on that, we have been holding a number of safety and crime forums across the state. I was down at one in Geelong last Wednesday night with Mr Katos in the other place. It was a very well attended forum where community members were raising their concerns. They do not feel safe; they have never felt less safe, especially in the last two or so years. We all know that there is a crime wave occurring across Victoria and people no longer feel safe in their own homes or in their communities. The Premier, Daniel Andrews, has allowed this crime tsunami to be exacerbated, and it is no wonder that there are so many people living in fear.I was involved in a crime forum last year. One of the attendees, who I know well and who I have spoken about in the past, has travelled on the train network for the last 30 years, from the city to her home at Bentleigh. She spoke out at that forum and said that she has never felt less safe. I am going to quote from a news article, leading on from the comments of Mr Daniel Bowen from the Public Transport Users Association:
He spoke out after a female commuter told a community crime forum increased crime in Melbourne's south-east had made night-time train users feel more unsafe than ever before.Sue Coburn, who has travelled on the Frankston and Sandringham lines for more than 30 years, said she had never been more terrified on public transport.
She spoke about the safety that PSOs provided on platforms. She was actually saying that they did give that sense of security and safety and she was very grateful for the PSOs, so they have been a huge success. I am very pleased that this bill further enhances the areas around PSOs and transit police.
It also bans the use of cash to pay for scrap metal to deter vehicle theft. We know that vehicle theft is an increasing problem, and as others have suggested there are more issues involving police car ramming and the like.The bill also enables specialist psychologists to conduct Victoria Police psychological fitness for duty assessments, expands the police custody officers (PCO) program by establishing a new PCO supervision position and makes minor and technical amendments to reflect the longstanding practice of youth justice offenders and those on remand being transitioned for short periods of time in police jails while en route to and from court hearings. These duties are already being undertaken, but the bill is just giving more powers to transit PSOs to back up police and provide that additional support. This aspect of the bill has been widely supported by Victoria Police, and indeed it is my understanding that it responds to a request from the Chief Commissioner of Police to enable the PSOs to have that flexibility in their duties.
I would like to commend the PSOs for the work they do. Again, I think the comments by Mr Merlino when in opposition and in his current position says more about Mr Merlino than it does about the PSOs. I would like to again congratulate members of the former coalition government who actually put the PSOs in place and did an extraordinary job in implementing that policy. PSOs have kept many Victorians safe and assisted Victoria Police in undertaking their duties.
Can I finally say that I was very pleased when I was coming up the steps of the Parliament last week to see two PSOs surrounded by a group of young schoolchildren and having their photo taken. There were probably about a dozen or so young boys who were standing with the PSOs having their photos taken. It was a very happy sight. The PSOs were more than willing to oblige these young guys who wanted their photos taken with them. It gave me the reassurance that these young men did have respect for authority. I thought that was a very good indication of that respect when so many others across our community do not have that same respect for authority. The PSOs were conducting themselves beautifully in the circumstances. I think that when schoolchildren come into the Parliament to see what PSOs do here, that sends a terrific message to those young people.