Justice Legislation Amendment (Protective Services Officers And Other Matters) Bill 2017
Victorian Parliament - 20 June 2017 - Ms KEALY - It is my pleasure today to rise and make a contribution to debate on the Justice Legislation Amendment (Protective Services Officers and Other Matters) Bill 2017. As the name suggests, the majority of this bill refers to amendments in relation to protective services officers (PSOs) and, as has been mentioned by previous speakers, this is something that was brought in in legislation during the four years of the Liberal‑National coalition government. It is something that we are exceptionally proud of. I commend the Premier at the time, the former member for South‑West Coast, Denis Napthine, who did a fantastic job in bringing in this change with the minister at the time, the member for Rowville. We looked at a way in which we could make communities safer, particularly focused around how we could improve safety on our public transport network.
I note that at the time the now Minister for Emergency Services condemned the idea of PSOs, calling them ‘plastic police’. If we look at the number of infringements issued, at the time of this release, which was back in 2014, more than 34 000 infringements were issued by PSOs since their coming into being in February 2012. That obviously takes an enormous amount of pressure off Victoria Police, and any improvement to the services around that will be supported on our side of the chamber.
I note that the amendments put forward in this legislation have been developed in conjunction with Victoria Police. Victoria Police do a fantastic job, and I think it is great that we are taking their recommendations on board to ensure we can improve the safety of our community.
The element of the bill that I would like to focus on is the banning of the use of cash to pay for scrap metal to deter vehicle theft. This is something that we announced would be policy should we be elected to government in November 2018 — that we would put the brakes on the stolen car trade. This exact policy has now been adopted by the Labor government. Unfortunately when it comes to law and order this government seems to be very sluggish and slow on its feet, with community members now terrified of home invasions and carjackings. Every single day we seem to see some sort of crime that is a threat to community safety in areas where we should feel safe and secure — in our own homes, driving along the streets or at our work or businesses. We are taking the lead on that to make sure we have a safe community again in Victoria.
I commend the Leader of the Opposition for putting forward this policy on 10 April 2016, and I also commend the former shadow Minister for Consumer Affairs, the member for Morwell, who did a lot of work to develop this policy in relation to clamping down on cash sales of stolen vehicles.
As has been noted by members on both sides of politics, vehicle theft is an issue at the moment, particularly the theft of vehicles used to launder money which has been received through the proceeds of crime or through supporting an unlawful industry. The amendments put forward will make some changes to this system and hopefully will help to crack down on crime. However, a number of concerns have been raised, particularly from the key industry group, the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC), which I will note in my contribution today. In particular I note that the VACC has concerns that the changes put forward are to the Second‑Hand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Act 1989 as opposed to the Motor Car Traders Act 1986. This makes it somewhat confusing for motor traders. Obviously it would be of greater assistance if these amendments were put into the one piece of legislation, which could then be prosecuted and well advertised by both the VACC and the government. We need to ensure that we have strong legislation, but most importantly we need to ensure that it is policed. An element of this is managed by Victoria Police, but we also need to ensure that Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) appropriately enforce the legislation. That is a key concern of the VACC and their membership group.
I would like to thank the VACC for their significant lobbying efforts to provide feedback on this legislation. I know that they have provided this feedback to the government as well as to me, and we would like to make some amendments to the bill on reference to the VACC, which I know the government is aware of. I thank the VACC again for putting forward that information, but also for the good work they are doing in working with their membership, which includes car recycling groups and licensed motor car traders. They are very, very supportive of this type of change. They want to make sure that the legal market is supported, and they want to see the illegal market stamped out. They do not want another layer of red tape on a legitimate industry, which is fair and appropriate, but they do want to identify and deal appropriately with all illegal operators. As I said, ideally they would like to see these amendments in a different act — that is, the Motor Car Traders Act — rather than lumping it in the Second‑Hand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Act.
The specific concern that the VACC have is in regard to new section 19A(2)(a), inserted by clause 22 into the Second‑Hand Dealers and Pawnbrokers Act. The drafting is ambiguous and open to interpretation in that cheques made out to cash are acceptable. We want to make sure that ambiguity is clarified. There is also confusion about how the new legislation will interact with section 21(1) of the act with regard to the obligation to keep goods in the form in which they were received for a period of seven days. Obviously this is not practical in the current industry environment, particularly with many industry participants turning over stock in huge quantities very quickly. A motor vehicle which is going to be traded for scrap metal is very different to a necklace which has been pawned for cash that has to be held over for a week. We need to treat motor vehicles differently. Obviously the scrap metal market is variable. You might purchase metal today to recycle based on the price you can get today, but in seven days time that can be a very, very different position.
I also note that the VACC is concerned that Consumer Affairs Victoria is the regulator responsible for compliance and enforcement of the various acts. However, CAV does not enjoy a favourable reputation with the industry and other law enforcement agencies as a result of a lack of resolve, capability and energy to address unlicensed operators. Therefore I call on the relevant minister to ensure that the CAV is adequately funded and resourced to ensure that all the amendments put forward in this legislation, should they be passed, are effectively monitored and that this does not become just a piece of legislation that collects dust on the shelf but is in force to ensure that we stamp out all illegal and unlawful metal recyclers who are using the scrap metal business in order to launder money or are looking to undertake other illegal and underhand activities.
In summary, we support all of the amendments in relation to PSOs. However, we urge the government to take into account information from the VACC before the legislation goes to the upper house.
Debate adjourned on motion of Ms HENNESSY (Minister for Health).
Debate adjourned until later this day.