| October 29, 2019

Justice Legislation Amendment ( Serious Offenders and Other Matters) Bill

Victorian Parliament- October 29, 2019

Ms KEALY (Lowan) (14:53:08): I rise today to speak on the Justice Legislation Amendment (Serious Offenders and Other Matters) Bill 2019. Specifically I would like to spend the bulk of my contribution in support of the member for Caulfield’s amendments that he has circulated in the house today. The reason that I strongly support these amendments is that we should always have a framework where we put the victims first. In many instances the victims have been forced to endure very traumatic experiences where they have lost control of an element of their lives. There are amendments that have been put forward by the member for Caulfield which will greatly assist to provide that control or give back the control to victims to ensure that they can manage their lives going forward, that they can work through that trauma and make sure that they do not have to live that same instance every day or be in fear of further contact around perpetrators of violence toward them; but they will also make sure that victims have a strong voice when the Adult Parole Board of Victoria is considering decisions, so that the victims are always maintained front and centre, that they do have their say, but also that there is a victim on that board to make sure that we always see strong representation of victims in those considerations. This is a wideranging bill. It does cover many amendments, and I will not go into many of those today simply because it is so extensive, but I will try and break it down into two main areas which are relatable to the amendments put by the member for Caulfield. The first area that I would like to talk about is the proposal in the government’s bill around broadening the category of senior, skilled and experienced persons who can be appointed as chairperson and deputy chairperson of the adult parole board to include Australian lawyers of at least 10 years experience and that a chairperson can be appointed on a full‑time or part‑time basis. There is another element of the government’s bill which states that it has the intention of removing the requirement of the Secretary of the Department of Justice and Community Safety to be a member of the adult parole board. The key thing that seems to be missing in these adjustments to membership and representation on the adult parole board is around the victims. Over time we have seen victims appointed to the adult parole board on an ad hoc basis, but certainly the Liberal‑Nationals are strongly of the belief that there should be a position which is specifically allocated to a victim as an appointment to the adult parole board. This should not be applied on an ad hoc basis, but it should be applied on an enduring basis. We do recognise that currently victims can provide submissions to the adult parole board. Victims are notified when perpetrators of violence or crimes against individuals are due for review and they are given the opportunity to provide that feedback and give their views about the release of a prisoner on parole. This is fantastic, but it still does not give the final say where a victim can be involved in the decision-making process and perhaps give a perspective about the impact of crimes on individuals and therefore help to ensure that other members of the adult parole board are making an informed decision and that victims are strongly represented when those key decisions around prisoners going on parole are made. This is something that I think would strengthen the other changes and amendments that are being proposed within the government’s bill. Having heard the member for Broadmeadows speak so strongly in support of victims, I expect that this would be an amendment that he and his Labor Party colleagues would also strongly support. In fact I do not think anyone can really argue against victims being represented in the decision-making around prisoners going on parole. I do think this is a fantastic suggestion, and there should certainly be bipartisan support for it. This is something that is not an on-the-run idea from the Liberal‑Nationals. It is actually something that we have been working on for some time with victim advocacy groups to try to achieve. It was a policy that we took to the election in 2018. We announced that policy in April 2018. Certainly it is a position that we certainly stand by. We know there are a number of victims of crime who strongly support this policy intention to ensure that victims of crime are always represented on the adult parole board and involved in the key decision-making around that. The second key element of the amendments put forward by the member for Caulfield is around offences regarding correspondence and parcels to victims. I refer again back to the government’s bill. There are three elements which refer to amendments which assist to protect prisoners but do not assist to protect victims. I think this is a missed opportunity around strengthening laws to protect victims, because this is certainly something that should be front and centre. Again, it is around putting victims first and giving victims some control back in their life. I refer to changes in the government’s bill to clarify existing powers and provide new powers to enable parcels received by prisoners to be managed as prisoners’ property, including allowing the storage of items until a prisoner’s release. Secondly, it amends section 47D of the act to allow a prison governor to stop all or part of a letter or parcel being sent or received by a prisoner if the governor reasonably believes that the sender does not know the prisoner and the sender may be placed at risk of exploitation or manipulation. Thirdly, it amends section 47DA to make a new offence punishable by up to six months imprisonment for a prisoner to send a parcel to a victim if the prisoner ought to have reasonably known that the parcel contains anything that may be regarded as distressing or traumatic by the victim or any other victim who might reasonably receive it. So while there are elements in the proposed legislation put forward by the government today, it does not really address the protections that we need to have in place for victims. I do support the proposals that have been put forward by the government, but while we are looking at these elements of correspondence and engaging prisoners, let us look at the contact that they are initiating as well, particularly around unwanted contact made towards victims of crime. I refer to an example of somebody who has contacted the Liberal-Nationals to give feedback around that. They have gone through an extraordinarily harmful and hurtful experience. It was a very traumatic experience. Her feedback is certainly related to these instances. Her mother was killed, but one of the killers is actually on Facebook and is directly trying to make contact with her. It makes me sick and feel a bit disgusted around the whole intention of why you would want to do that. We have had people who have been calling and singing sexually motivated songs to the victim, describing the event that led to the molestation of her mother and also the death, the murder, of her mother. These are extraordinarily harmful and hurtful activities. There should be protections around them for the victim. I think that we can go further within this legislation. Certainly I am surprised that this can occur anyway within our legislative framework. The victims should never have to have that ongoing trauma of not knowing when that next contact may come to them. We also know that sometimes in the community—and it should happen—prisoners do reform and they want to contact their victims to apologise for the events that have occurred and to try and perhaps explain their actions or, as part of their own therapy, contact the victims to apologise, or whatever that contact may look like. But the victim does not always want to see that, and I think it is very, very important that victims have a choice and have control over that contact that can be made. So, again, I strongly support the amendment put forward by the member for Caulfield that is outlined: A prisoner must not send or cause to be sent, or attempt to send or cause to be sent, a letter or parcel to a victim who is not listed in section 47(1)(m) if the prisoner knows, or ought reasonably to know, that the victim, or any other victim who might reasonably receive the letter or parcel, has not explicitly consented to receiving it. And there is a penalty of six months imprisonment. To me this sounds entirely fair. Again, it is consistent with the key element of the amendment put forward by the member for Caulfield. It puts victims first. It gives control back to the victim when they have been involved in an extraordinarily traumatic experience. I cannot understand it. I really do invite the government and crossbench members to support these amendments, because they will certainly assist in making a real difference not just to victims of today but for future victims within the community, ensuring that they are protected from unwanted contact from prisoners who have perpetrated crimes against them. It also ensures victims have their say on the adult parole board. The SPEAKER: Just before calling the member for Bendigo West, I think we have an obligation to acknowledge Tom Roper, who was a minister and a member of this place for many years and who is in the gallery here today.


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