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In Parliament


Criminal Justice System - Members Statement

   Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Mr T. SMITH (Kew) — It is my pleasure to rise to speak on the matter of public importance, as moved by the member for Hawthorn. Frankly, what planet is the Minister for Police living on? Fair dinkum! Fifty‑two per cent of Victorians feel less safe than they did two years ago. Where do you have to live in this state to realise that we are being inundated with violent crime committed by violent youth gangs that are marauding around our state and marauding around our city terrorising people? People are being carjacked at Chadstone shopping centre in the middle of the afternoon, and you say, ‘Everything’s fine!’. Everything is fine, according to the police minister.

Really and truly, I cannot begin to express the disappointment that Victorians are feeling in their own government at the moment because they are simply not doing the fundamental job of keeping them safe. The fundamental role of the state is to protect the community, and the government is not doing that at the moment. They seem to be living in this dream world where it is not a problem. It may not be a problem in the urbane and, dare I say it, inner urban, elitist, somewhat peculiar environments that they may be having their dinner parties in, whether that be in Fitzroy North, Carlton North or some such place — —

Mr Riordan — Williamstown.

Mr T. SMITH — Williamstown. Certainly not Werribee, because no‑one in here lives in Wyndham. Anyway, that is another matter.

We have a serious issue in this state that is being belittled and ignored by a group of people who seem to think that there is not a problem, a group of people who do not believe that an individual ought to be held responsible for his or her actions before the law, a group of people who have been in government for the vast majority of my lifetime in this state.

If you want to look at systemic issues in the justice system, the cultural malaise that is affecting our state or the fundamental weakness in those with authority who have abrogated their duties and who have said to generations younger than mine, ‘You can do whatever you like and get away with it’ — and that is what we are seeing now — it comes from one person to begin with, and that is Robert Hulls. The appointments that were made to the bench between 1999 and 2010 — some of them very good, others often very bad — have been letting goodness knows who out for too long.

This goes to another issue, which is the political culture that says I cannot criticise members of the bench for their decisions. Well, that has got to change. They have to be held to account just like the rest of us. The public are crying out for it. They are sick of people being let out and given a rap over the knuckles. They want reform. They want reform of the bench, they want reform of the criminal law and they want reform of the justice system. Quite frankly some of the debates that we are having in here do not bear any resemblance to the discussions that people are having out there in the real world, because these are the people who are on the front line of this plague, this inundation, this complete undermining of our civilised society of decency and hope, which is now being overcome by fear, anger and hatred.

What we want to see from a government is a strong and resolute response to show these people that they have no place in our society. The perpetual second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth chances have to stop now. Too many good people are literally being killed because a lot of very average people are not doing that much at all. That is a take on Edmund Burke. Evil flourishes when good people do nothing. The government is not doing anything. That is the whole point. They are doing nothing.

Bail needs to be reformed in this state. We had a tragedy in January, and yet we are now towards the end of February and still nothing has been done. The public are crying out. If you needed any more evidence, the last Ipsos poll reported in the Herald Sun the week before last shows that the public want reform on these matters. I have seen this myself. I repeat: when the member for Caulfield, the member for South‑West Coast and I were at the Vinnies CEO Sleepout midway through last year, we were set upon — —

Ms Thomas interjected.

Mr T. SMITH — You are here again, the apologist for the worst behaved. You are the apologist for the worst‑behaved people in our society.


Mr T. SMITH — You are an absolute disgrace, member for Macedon, an absolute disgrace — through you, Deputy Speaker.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! I will pick up the honourable gentleman. When you refer to ‘you’, you are referring to the person in the chair.

Mr T. SMITH — Apologies, Deputy Speaker. I will continue to call the member for Macedon, through you, a disgrace.

We then had the changes to the move‑on laws, which meant that when these bedraggled, awful people turned up to hijack what was a charity event for homelessness, some of Her Majesty’s finest, of which only 16, I was told, were on patrol that night in the whole of the CBD, could not move these people on because of changes to the laws by the Labor Party. The government had changed the laws with regard to moving on these brigands because it had an issue with the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union. When the Governor of Victoria has to be evacuated from a charity event because the government of this state cannot protect her, then we have a serious problem — a serious, serious problem.

So we have got the Governor being evacuated midway through last year, and you said back then that there was no problem; we have got a growth in the crime rate of 13 per cent; and we found out last week from the Chief Commissioner of Police in Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearings that in 2015–16 there had been in excess of 18 000 bail violations — that is just extraordinary — yet between you getting elected and the end of the 2016 financial year you brought on only 100‑or‑something police when in reality to keep up with population growth you needed 380 new police.

With population growth of in excess of 100 000 a year there will be the odd bad egg in that group of people moving to our state; therefore the response from the state should be to have police numbers grow with that level of population growth. But the Labor Party, the government, did not do that. They sat on their hands and instead talked about white papers and green papers and discussion papers and this and that and new models and those models. No, we just want to see police on the street and we want to see police numbers keeping up with population growth. It is very simple. You would think perhaps — —

Ms Thomas interjected.

Mr T. SMITH — The member for Macedon might like to listen to this. You would think that perhaps there is a correlation between a massive rise in crime, a per capita reduction in police numbers and literally the centre of Melbourne looking like a Third World country, with homeless people everywhere, marauding gangs terrorising people in Federation Square — —

Mr Angus — You think they would join the dots.

Mr T. SMITH — You would think so. The member for Forest Hill makes a very reasonable point. You would think they would join the dots. But they do not join the dots, because they are clouded by this bleeding‑heart romanticism whereby no individual should bear responsibility for his or her own actions because it is society’s fault. The great collectivists over there in the Labor Party think it is not an individual’s fault that he or she behaves totally inappropriately. If they are not an Australian citizen, they should be deported, and if they are, they should be incarcerated for a lot longer than they currently have been.

We have this ideological obsession by the left that it is modern society’s fault; that it is the establishment and the social norms of our society’s fault. It is their fault that people — their words, not mine — on the fringes of our society are committing these crimes. I say that we on this side of the house, the Liberals and The Nationals, will keep Victoria safe. We will keep Victoria safe because, unlike you, we believe in individual responsibility and we believe in punishment for crime. We believe that people should be incarcerated, not given perpetual second and third and fourth and fifth chances. We believe in sending a strong message to those who do not share our values, who break our laws and who terrorise our citizens that enough is enough. We are sick of it. The people of Victoria are sick of it. They want a strong response from their government, and they are not currently getting it. I hope in two years time they will.