Crimes Amendment (Carjacking and Home Invasion) Bill 2016

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — I rise to speak on behalf of the Greens on the Crimes Amendment (Carjacking and Home Invasion) Bill 2016. This bill amends the Crimes Act 1958 to create new offences of carjacking and home invasion; it amends the Sentencing Act 1991 to provide that statutory minimums, which are mandatory sentences, apply to the offences of aggravated carjacking and aggravated home invasion; and it amends the Bail Act 1977 to include new offences of aggravated carjacking, home invasion and aggravated home invasion as show-cause offences under the act.

We understand the absolute seriousness of these offences: the crime of breaking into someone's home and the absolute terror of that for the occupants of the home; the seriousness of assaults and other crimes against people within their own home or within their car and the devastating impact that this would have on someone's sense of security and safety; and that feeling of personal invasion when you come back to your home and find that it has been broken into and things have been stolen. There is an absolute right for people to feel safe within their own homes. There have been numerous recent reports of carjackings, where people have been rammed from behind and then when they get out of their car being attacked or assaulted and having their car stolen. These carjackings are incredibly serious.

The question before us is whether this bill will help in terms of these offences, and the Greens do have concerns in regard to this bill. Our first concern is that there are already laws to deal with instances of carjacking and home invasion. Are people not being prosecuted for committing these crimes? Are people committing these crimes without the knowledge that they are illegal and they will be prosecuted or charged because of them? Let us have a look at the offence of home invasion. We have got offences involving home invasion that would be prosecuted: we have got robbery, armed robbery, break and enter with intent, burglary, aggravated burglary and assault. For offences of carjacking, we have got car theft, abduction, causing serious injury intentionally in circumstances of gross violence, causing serious injury recklessly and robbery. Whilst, yes, there is increased reporting of these offences, they are not new offences; they have happened in the past. These offences can be dealt with by pairing one offence with the other.

I will move on to sentencing. The other concern that we do have with the bill is that it does provide for statutory minimums or minimum mandatory sentencing, which the Greens oppose. In this particular bill we have sentences of 25 years maximum for home invasion and aggravated home invasion, and the same applies for aggravated burglary. You also have a sentence of 25 years maximum for carjacking, which I believe is the same for robbery offences. Both have statutory minimum non-parole periods of three years.

The Greens have always opposed mandatory sentencing. We have always been of the view that the courts are in the best position to provide the most appropriate sentence based on the evidence before them, referring to guidelines, of course, within the Sentencing Act. We believe that often mandatory sentencing can lead to sentencing outcomes that are not in the best interests of the community or community safety, and there is no evidence to suggest that it leads to a reduction in crime. We are supported in this view by Liberty Victoria, which has put in a submission on this particular bill. A number of other bodies and agencies also oppose these sorts of sentences — the Victorian Bar, the Law Institute of Victoria; they do support the principles of smart justice.

The government's reasoning for this particular bill is that, one, it sends a message. I do question whether those who are committing these offences — and I will discuss later where we are seeing these offences committed — are actually listening to us or listening to the government in terms of what message we are sending. I note the comments of the previous speaker on the government side, who said that this bill will equip the police and the courts with the tools that they need to do their job to prosecute these offences, but I would note that by introducing mandatory sentencing you are actually taking away from the courts their ability to provide a sentence that they feel fits the crime and that is in the best interests of the community and community safety.

Now, of course this bill is being introduced in an environment where there is an increase in the overall crime rate, which has been rising for six years. However, in regard to youth offences, one statistic that I am provided with is that about 40 per cent of youth offences are committed by about 5 per cent of young repeat offenders, so there is an increase in serious offending, but it is by a very small number of young offenders. It is important that we focus our efforts on them and prevent recidivism, that we really focus our efforts on that small number of young offenders. We cannot simply just use incarceration as a way out of the problem of crime. What we need to do is focus on these young repeat offenders and reduce the rate of reoffending.

I believe that the rise in crime rate is down to the failed policies of the previous government. Their decisions to increase incarceration, reduce sentencing options and build more prisons has made us less safe, and their response to the continued increase in crime has been essentially to double down on the failed policies of the past. Clearly they see this as their path back into government. It does remind me of the last years of the former Labor government when of course alcohol-fuelled violence was very much the big issue and the big concern. We saw a lot of reporting and a lot of discussion around that particular issue.

I feel that some of the rhetoric that we are hearing from the opposition regarding these matters is very similar to the rhetoric we are hearing from Donald Trump over in America. We have got the Leader of the Opposition comparing Melbourne to Johannesburg. He suggests he is feeling more unsafe now than he has felt in his whole life, just in Melbourne. We have got opposition members comparing Melbourne to Rio and New York. It seems very much to be the sort of language that we are hearing from Donald Trump, painting a dystopian picture of the communities that we live in. If I could steal from another presidential candidate, it feels like the Liberals have gone from 'Victoria — on the move' to 'Victoria — at home and too afraid to do anything'. It is a 'Midnight in Victoria' rhetoric that I feel does not reflect the wonderful communities that we live in. It does not provide any solutions but instead provides the failed policies of the past, when the crime rate went up, recidivism went up and spending on prisons went up.

We should be approaching this problem with the confidence that we can put in place the policies that work. We need to put in the drug and alcohol programs, the education and employment programs, the housing initiatives, the mental health programs and the diversion programs. We need to strengthen our non-custodial sentencing options and bring the police and the service providers, the victims of crime and the communities together to see what can work best and to look at those systemic issues. We know about the link between incarceration rates and the lack of secondary school completion. These policies are not new, and we need to put them in place and get them to work.

This government has a choice. They can take that new approach that we know works or they can take the other approach, which has been advocated by the opposition. I do not think this bill fits in with the right approach, and some of the rhetoric that we are hearing — —

Mr Pearson interjected.

Mr HIBBINS — Rhetoric, for the member for Essendon. Sometimes I do wonder as he works on his laptop in the chamber whether he is listening, but he is listening. He does not miss a beat.

Some of the rhetoric coming from the Premier includes him saying:

No sob story is good enough to explain away this sort of violent offending … No Victorian is prepared to excuse that sort of behaviour because you've had a hard deal in life or because your circumstances aren't as you would like them to be. If you commit these sorts of crimes you will be caught — and you will be put inside.

It is very similar to what we have heard from the Leader of the Opposition, who said:

We can't be obsessed with worrying about why offenders fell off their bicycle at age 5 and now they want to start home invading at age 16.

Ninety-nine-point-nine per cent of officers didn't become police officers to become, with respect, a social worker.

This is dismissive. It misrepresents what the different approach to crime is all about. We need an all-of-government approach. This government needs to take a clear direction in terms of a focus on crime prevention. It may not be a headline grabber, but it works.

This bill creates new offences for crimes that are already against the law. It undermines the courts, which are best placed to determine sentencing. To suggest that the police or the courts do not already take carjacking and home invasion seriously is wrong. It does undermine the approach we need to take to prevent crime. Of course we are deeply concerned with these crimes and the increasing crime rate, but that is why we need to put in place the policies that work.