Speeches Police | June 21, 2017

Matters Of Public Importance Law And Order

Victorian Parliament - 21 June 2017 - Ms KEALY - It is a privilege to rise today to speak in support of the matter of public importance raised by the member for Ripon condemning the Premier for failing to act to end the law and order crisis engulfing Victoria since he came to power. We had a fantastic contribution by the member for Ripon, who of course has a very, very good understanding of the challenges in her electorate, particularly around the rising crime rate in Ararat. I share the Ararat Rural City Council local government area with the member for Ripon, and I think she covered off the issues in that region very, very well.

I did pay close attention to the contribution by the Minister for Police, and after hearing a lot of mistruths and misinformation I think the one comment we can all take home and which really resonated with me was, ‘Do not rely on me’. That is something that we all know very, very well, and it is a message that we hear loud and clear from our constituents. We are reminded of it every single day when we read the paper and see another carjacking, see another car ramming a police vehicle, see another jewellery store knocked over, see another riot, see a home invasion where someone has been hurt or see the sexual assault of a vulnerable woman who was just trying to walk home or mind her own business. That is the disgrace that is at the end of this. We go beyond the statistics, and we look at the lives and the people who are impacted by that. We look at the lives that are impacted by that — —

Mr Dimopoulos — Have a look at the statistics, why don’t you? They do not work in your favour, do they?

Ms KEALY — I will take up the comment from the member for Oakleigh. Perhaps we will look at the crime statistics of the state.

Mr Dimopoulos — Look at them!

Ms KEALY — I would love to.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The member for Lowan, through the Chair.

Ms KEALY — I would love to share the information that crime has risen by 4 per cent, and this even backs up the Minister for Police’s own comments that there are more arrests than ever before — because there is more crime than ever before. There is more crime than ever before, which is why there are more arrests than ever before. There are significant upward trends in assault‑related offences — and I do not how anybody can defend this as being a good measure. That is up 7.9 per cent, robbery is up 19.6 per cent, and dangerous and negligent acts endangering people are up 20.2 per cent.

In our local region we have an astonishing increase in rates. In Hindmarsh local government area (LGA) it has risen an astounding 79.11 per cent — that is nearly an 80 per cent increase in crime — since the Andrews government came into being. It is absolutely appalling and putting our country communities at risk.

Ms Neville interjected.

Ms KEALY — A figure of 79.11 is greater than 20 per cent. I point that out for the Minister for Police in case she has not got her maths quite right. Perhaps that would help. Maybe we need to get some education for the Minister for Police if she cannot read the statistics.

I would like to move this debate through to paragraph (c) of the matter of public importance (MPI) put forward by the member for Ripon. That is:

(c)   Drug rehabilitation beds across Victoria have decreased by 15.6 per cent since the 2014 election.

The reason this is so important is that it is to do with drug‑related crime. When we look at the drug offences by LGA across the state, we see dramatic increases in drug crime across the state. We know that drug crime is something that is very, very serious, and we do not capture all of it. The statistics do not take into account the aggressive burglaries, the assaults and all the side effects that we see in people who are drug affected in the community and the impact that has on their own families. They are individuals, but of course there are the people like the healthcare workers and the police who do a fantastic job, as do other members of the community.

I would particularly like to point out — and it is a shame that the member for Macedon is not in the house — that Macedon has one of the worst increases in the drug crime rate of anywhere across the state. There has been a 118 per cent increase in drug crime in that region, and yet time and time again the member fails to stand up to say, ‘That’s not good enough, and we need to do more’. In Warrnambool it is up 177.59 per cent — absolutely appalling. Just looking at some baseline figures that have been referred to by the Minister for Mental Health, this is actually for total offences from February 2014 through to the most recent data which we had available, which is for offences in 2016. I am more than happy to make this data available for the Minister for Mental Health if he would like to look at it further, because we certainly need to look at some of the gaps.

One of the challenges around making sure we address drug crime is ensuring that people who want to get off drugs can get the support that they need at the time that they reach rock bottom and decide, ‘I cannot live like this anymore’. This is where we see horrific data, which is published in the government’s own budget papers. It is astonishing to see that we have got a decrease in drug residential rehabilitation bed days. Under the previous Liberal‑National coalition government’s watch there were 127 686 bed days, which has been reduced by an astonishing 15.6 per cent — down to just 107 310 bed days. Think about the number of people who could be on the journey and pathway to help them get off drugs if there had not been those closures and the downturn of beds.

We look at the number of people who can access courses of treatment for drug rehabilitation and community drug treatment. This is all down on what we were delivering when we were in government. In residential rehab 6803 people commenced courses of treatment. However, we see the target figure this year down to 6313 — again a reduction of about 500 courses of treatment that people will not be able to access under this government. For community drug treatment again there are very, very disturbing figures. There is a decrease of 62.5 per cent: from 20 429 under our watch to just 7669. I ask anybody who is reading Hansard to look beyond these figures and think about the number of people who are unable to access rehabilitation support and get off drugs when they need to.

The biggest concern around that of course is that if we go back to the Ice Action Plan, which was launched back in March 2015, in the Premier’s opening comments he actually makes the statement:

We have to give users the treatment they need and give families the support they deserve.

I would say to the Premier that by cutting residential rehab bed days and by cutting access to community drug treatment programs he is actually making it much more difficult for people to access the treatment that they need. This is breaking families. Not only are people losing their lives through the journey of their drug addiction but families are being destroyed. Families are resorting to having to go into the private rehab sector, which costs a fortune. There are no regulations around that sector. I think the reason there has not been any action taken by this government is that we are just simply overloaded in the public rehab sector.

We actually put money into three new rehabilitation centres in regional Victoria prior to the last election. This government stripped that funding out. We would have three new centres built today had that money not been taken out. I do not know where it went, but it is appalling to think that money would be taken away from drug rehabilitation. We would have less drug crime if that had been there and if that had gone ahead. All we see is a paper replacement. In the latest budget we have had the announcement of three new facilities being planned. I know that it is just to purchase land. There is not one additional new public residential rehab bed being put in place for the Gippsland, Barwon or Hume regions. I am sorry, but a piece of land is not going to help anybody get off drugs. If you look at the forward estimates, there is no output funding in the budget up to 2021, which is the period the budget looks at. There is no money in this budget to build those facilities.

Any increase we have had of beds in the state has been in forensic beds. They are only for people who have entered the justice system, those who have committed a crime and who are provided with drug rehab options at that time. That is not helping everyday families in the community who want help before they fall into the justice system. That is where we need to target the help, and that is what we plan on doing. We plan on making a much stronger statement and getting Victoria back on track when it comes to supporting people who want to get off drugs.

We also want to put back into place the stronger community education and targeted programs to support people in the community at risk of drug addiction, and we want stronger enforcement. We need to make sure we shut down heinous drug dealers who make a living out of other people’s misery and the destruction of their lives. Until we have better prevention, better rehabilitation options and better and stronger enforcement, we will never, ever see a downturn in drug crime in this state.

I pull it back to the reason for the whole MPI, which is around condemning the Premier for failing to act on crime. The Ice Action Plan is a $184 million farce. It is a dud. We are seeing drug use escalate under it, we are seeing drug crime escalate under it, and it is to the absolute detriment of Victorians.


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