Victoria Police Amendment (Merit-based Transfer) Bill 2016

Written on the 3 May 2016

 

12 April 2016

COUNCIL 

Second reading 

GEORGIE CROZIER (LIB - Southern Metropolitan)

 

I am very pleased to make a contribution this evening to debate on the Victoria Police Amendment (Merit-based Transfer) Bill 2016.

In doing so I would like to put on the record the very significant work of all those men and women who are in our police force right across the state, who do extraordinary work in their line of duty each and every day to protect Victorians. One of the core responsibilities of government is to protect its citizens, and therefore those who are in the front line and delivering the necessary services need to be supported at all times.

The bill itself is fairly straightforward, as has been outlined by various members in the debate this evening. The bill amends the Victoria Police Act 2013 in relation to the transfer of certain police officers, which means that merit-based transfers to non-metropolitan constable general duties positions and non-metropolitan senior constable general duties positions will occur, and it enables appeals by other police officers that is, unsuccessful applicants to the Police Registration and Services Board regarding transfers to non-metropolitan constable general duties and senior constable general duties positions. That, in effect, accords with the enterprise bargaining agreement that has been entered into by the various elements of the police force and ensures that merit-based selection processes do occur.

As other members have stated, we on this side of the house are very supportive of the work of policemen and policewomen and what they are doing, and particularly I want to make some comments in relation to family violence. Of course last week the Royal Commission into Family Violence handed down its report, which was made public. In that report were 227 recommendations, and the Premier has committed to implementing each and every one of them. This is a very significant report, and I have said publicly that one thing we need is to have more police to assist in this very serious and significant area of family violence that is being tackled here in Victoria but also addressed right across the country. I am pleased that governments at all levels are looking at this significant issue and doing what they can.

In the report itself there are 19 recommendations that relate to police, frontline operations and workforce, and they vary in terms of how police should operate. It has have made various recommendations, but one of the tasks of the commission was to identify the most effective ways to:

 

  • prevent family violence;
  • improve early intervention so as to identify and protect those at risk;
  • support victims particularly women and children and address the impacts of violence on them;
  • make perpetrators accountable;
  • develop and refine systemic responses to family violence including in the legal system and by police, corrections, child protection, legal and family violence support services
  • and there are a number of other tasks, but these tasks specifically relate to the duties of police, and they need to be done.

 

I am not going to read out all of the 19 recommendations that the commission has made in the report; suffice it to say that these recommendations will all be implemented, as committed to by the Premier. We need to understand the detail of these recommendations. Some of them need specific work to be done on them in order that we understand the full context of what the recommendations entail and how they can be practically implemented. Certainly the Victorian community also needs to understand the costs that will apply in implementing the recommendations throughout the report. Again, the 19 recommendations which go to the heart of the frontline operations of the police workforce really look at areas that take up significant police resources for example, police officers attending and being in the front line in family violence situations. Of course we hear daily of very sad and tragic circumstances where far too many people are caught up in dreadful family violence scenarios, and it is often the police who are the first people on the scene.

So not only do we need those resources to support those ongoing requirements but the recommendations also talk about a lot of other government structures and procedures that require, if you like, a lot of administrative-type components to be undertaken within the police force itself. Some recommendations go to procedures in regard to the sharing of information, as well as governance and other issues, but I point out in particular that recommendation 50 of the report states:

Victoria Police's Family Violence Command develop a core set of functions to be delivered by all family violence teams in Victoria. This should form the operating model for resourcing decisions from 1 July 2017. Thereafter, Victoria Police should move towards a centralised model of resource allocation for family violence, placing family violence on a footing similar to that of road policing.

That is fairly significant in relation to what is expected by the commission, and we need to understand the detail of many of these recommendations and how they will be implemented, and police command itself will want to have those details as well.

Police Association Victoria has been very forthcoming in dealing with family violence. It has done an extraordinary job and indeed has commented not only in its submission but also following the release of the report. The secretary of the police association, Ron Iddles, is quoted in the Age of 30 March as saying:

police supported the recommendations, but if they had a hope of implementing the wideranging reforms, the government would have to pour significant resources into Victoria Police.

He called for an additional 1000 police officers over five years as a matter of urgency.

That is one area, but there are so many other comments made by police association secretary Ron Iddles. In another article he said:

With no frontline uniform police delivered since the last election to attend public calls for assistance, police numbers have reached critically low levels.

Last year crime increased right across the state by 8.1 per cent, and it was very serious crimes that were attributed to that figure they were not just petty crimes. They were drive-by shootings, there was an increase in very dangerous weapons and all sorts of things. We have seen young gangs stealing cars. Another article was headed '"Grand Theft Auto generation" to blame for spike in crime'. So these are not minor crimes; they are serious crimes where people are conducting themselves in a potentially dangerous manner and putting the community's safety at risk. So there is going to be a requirement for significant police numbers due to the increase in the general crime rate of 8.1 per cent that I mentioned, but there was also an increase of 9.2 per cent in the family violence crime rate in 2015. Over 70 000 reports of family violence in 2015 is a significant number, and they need to be dealt with very thoroughly and carefully by police and other frontline workers.

In many cases there can be very violent behaviour. We have heard other speakers talk about the ice issue where for ice users the effects of ice are terribly dangerous and cause a very severe reaction whereby they become extremely violent. One only has to recall that terrible, very effective ad on television where that young man who is ice affected comes into an emergency department and headbutts an innocent doctor. There are reports that these people have to be held down by four or five people. These safety concerns that have been raised in our hospitals are all because of this dreadful drug ice. These are the issues that police are dealing with constantly, and they are issues that are very, very concerning to the wider Victorian community.

Even though we have got a tremendous Victorian police force that I think we are very proud of, our police need additional backup and support. They need those resources required to conduct their work in the community not to have police stations closed, which is what has been done by this government. Police stations have been closed down and police are not available to attend necessary call-outs or necessary situations to protect the Victorian community. With those few words, I support my colleagues, especially Mr O'Donohue, who led the debate and put very relevant arguments to the house in relation to this particular bill.

As has been previously mentioned, the opposition will not be opposing the bill, but I do want to make the point that the family violence royal commission has concluded that there is a desperate and immediate need for police resources to be made available. I am looking forward to the Premier and the Treasurer, Tim Pallas, putting into the budget in just a few days time the necessary additional resources to back up our police men and women right across Victoria.

 

 


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