CRIME STATISTICS BILL 2014

Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — I rise to speak on the Crime Statistics Bill 2014. At the outset I say that Labor does not oppose the bill. As a member of Parliament and a citizen of the Victorian community, I think it is important that all citizens have confidence and trust in our police force and in police command. We should be able to trust what policemen and politicians alike say.

People also need to have a government that can be trusted and does not just chant and rant about being tough on crime but actually does something to make sure that communities are safer, not less safe; that less crime takes place in our local areas, not more crime takes place in our local communities and in our homes.

Mr Watt interjected.

Ms GRALEY — The member for Burwood is interjecting already. I know I should not respond to his interjections, but I have been listening to the debate so far, and I cannot help but comment on the things he said. The member for Burwood is delusional on a couple of matters. He thinks he knows best and that the community is safer since the Liberal Party came to power, but we know that is not true.

If we look at the statistics, which I believe are government statistics and are correct, we can see that the comments the member made are quite false.

What I find really curious about some of the commentary made of the member for Burwood is that he still talks about his predecessor. I know Bob Stensholt’s shoes are big shoes to fill; they are gigantic, because he was a man who worked his guts out for the local community. He was a terrific local member, so I can understand why the member for Burwood is still going around talking about him, but I will tell the member what: the
more he talks about his predecessor means the less he has to say about the government he is a member of and what he is doing as a government member.

We know that this government does not have the confidence to speak honestly about
what it is doing. As we have seen this week here in the house, the reason is that government members are not doing much. In fact what we see over and over,
week after week in this house is a dysfunctional government that cannot do much now.

In fact nearly everything it does is stuffed up, watered down, is late or is not what the government said it was going to do.

This bill has come about as a result of recommendation in an Ombudsman report. The Ombudsman recommended the establishment of the chief statistician, but my notes tell me that members of the government made an election promise to do this in 2010. They started thinking about it in 2011, and today we are in June 2014. It is nearly four years since government members said they would do something about crime. They said they were tough on crime and that crime statistics could not be trusted, yet four years later they are only now bringing a bill into the house. After all of yesterday’s shenanigans, where the government showed it cannot do anything right, we now have a bill which tells us the office of the chief statistician will not be established until 2015.

That is after the coming election. The agency was promised before an election, that election was held and there will be another election, and then we will get the agency.

As we know — but I will say it again for the member for Burwood — crime is up in Burwood, and it is up in Casey too. I dearly hope this agency is well resourced and well led, and I believe the person the government appointed as the chief statistician, Ms Fiona Dowsley, will do a good job. However, if crime continues to increase, as it has every
year under this government, as the member for Lyndhurst said, in stark contrast to what happened under the Bracks and Brumby governments, when we had 11 years of declining crime rates, and if criminals, after they have been shoved into all these new prison pens — and let us put on record again that this government is creating more prison beds than hospital beds — come out of prison and reoffend at greater and more frequent rates than ever before, then that will be a reflection on the government.

It will be a sad indictment of a government which said it was tough on crime. What it is doing is creating more and more crime — more and more criminals — and the community is not safer.

I know the community is not safer, because when I attend street stalls in my electorate one of the things people talk to me about is the fact that they have cars roaring around their neighbourhoods, people screaming at each other in their houses and people breaking into their homes, looking for money and flipping out because they are taking drugs, and when they ring the local police, who I know to be hardworking and dedicated people, the
police do not have the time, the cars or the resources to deal with it. Thankfully these people come to me, and often I contact the police on their behalf.

I write to them, and they often run a patrol or two around these busy, congested streets — and I put on record that they are congested because this government has spent no money on roads in my electorate since it came to power — and try to reassure the residents. I know that when I attend a street stall at Hampton Park on 21 June there will be more people there telling me exactly the same thing because they will have got the same answer from the police on duty.

I will finish my contribution by referring to an important program in my local area, Operation Newstart, which was designed to prevent crime. There is an idea for the government: trying to prevent crime. It is a fantastic youth program that the police were actively engaged in. If you watch TV or read the newspaper, you know that police not only were actively engaged in the program but enthusiastically supported it because they believed it worked.

The program put often disengaged young people, who may have been considered to be off to join the growing queue of criminals in Victoria, in contact with skilled educators and police officers who tried to divert their attention, empower them and give them new skills, guidance and counselling and a new way of approaching their education and getting a job. In other words, it tried to keep kids on the straight and narrow and out of jail.

The fact that the police were so enthusiastically engaged with this and did such a fantastic, professional job meant that at the end of the program the kids looked at the police in a different light. They looked at them as esteemed professionals who were there not to bludgeon them or put them in jail — and I am all for throwing the book at somebody if they do the wrong thing — but to look after the community and keep it safe and to guide these young people to a better future. That program is going under this government. It is a sad day when governments cannot help young people, with police support, to stay out of jail.

As I said, Labor members will not be opposing the bill, but we hope the agency is given the resources it needs to do its job properly and that the crime rates do not continue to rise.