Police and Justice Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2016

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — I rise to speak on the Police and Justice Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2016. This bill makes a number of technical amendments, but its primary purpose, its main purpose, is to make changes to the Police Registration and Services Board by implementing the recommendations within the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission report, which addressed the very high prevalence of sexual harassment in Victoria Police as well as sexual discrimination and gender inequality. We are very pleased to see reforms to the Police Registration and Services Board in this bill that aim to protect complainants and informants.

I will read from that report just to illustrate why these changes are important. Some of the findings of that report are:

Homophobia and sexually-based hostility is widespread.

There was a double standard for women employees. They were regarded as less competent, felt the need to 'prove themselves'.

Victim-blaming attitudes were widely held about women who experienced or reported sexual harassment.

There was 'substantial evidence of a sexist organisational climate' and the review found that there were a number of impacts of sex discrimination and sexual harassment on individuals and workplaces. Targets and witnesses experienced significant detriments and harm, including psychological harm, social isolation, exclusion and withdrawal, economic loss, health-related issues and extreme physical harm, miscarriage and thoughts of suicide.

That is just a sample of some of the findings in this report. They relate to the importance of this legislation. The other reforms we find under the other parts of this bill are sensible and practical reforms which will enhance the operation of the board.

I do want to raise a number of other matters regarding Victoria Police and other areas of reform. We want to recognise the benefits of the Equality is Not the Same action plan that is in its final year. It has been responsible for new anti-racial profiling policies, training for recruits regarding bias and the stop-and-search receipting trials. The consequence of this plan has been a greater trust between the police and local communities.

But there is further change that needs to occur. We need a further cultural change within Victoria Police to finally stamp out bias and racial profiling. To do this we need a well-developed law enforcement assistance program data monitoring system to collect data about the ethnicity of those stopped by the police. We need to roll out this stop-and-search receipting trial statewide so we can increase the transparency of policing, which will essentially ensure that people who are stopped or searched by the police are given a receipt setting out the legal reasons they were stopped or searched.

We note that as part of the StopWatchVic monitoring project that ran through to 2015 it was viewed that receipting was received very favourably by young people in those areas where it was trialled in Moonee Valley and Dandenong. It made them feel safer and they knew that they had somewhere to go if they did have a problem with a police encounter. In addition to this we should also be looking at anti-bias trialling to be rolled out to all currently serving members, including senior members.

We do believe that there are a number of further legislative changes that are required to be made. These include inserting racial profiling as a breach of discipline into section 125 of the Victoria Police Act 2013, with a reverse onus of proof; requiring reasonable suspicion of an offence before authorising police to conduct all street and vehicle stops other than preliminary breath-testing station stops; and introducing into legislation the practice of receipting and statewide data collection when people are stopped on the street or in their cars.

We would also like to see, as suggested by the Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre, the government fund an advertising campaign to inform the public about the new stop-and-search data collection and receipting requirements and also support the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to assist in the independent monitoring of racial stop data that is collected by Victoria Police and make recommendations to the Victorian government, Victoria Police and IBAC.

I also want to address some of the issues that have been raised by the opposition members in their contributions regarding law and order in this state. We note that they put up a couple of bills in relation to this and we are suggesting that they were leading the way. This bill and their statements really are a continuation of these failed so-called tough on crime policies that they implemented in their last term in office and were a proven failure. Crime rates went up, recidivism went up, prison rates went up, and we were not any safer.

There is a well-canvassed alternative approach that looks at preventing crime, investing in programs, making sure you have got the sentencing, the bail and the parole settings right to ensure that you are redirecting, you are preventing crime and you are rehabilitating criminals. That makes our society all that much safer. This government has a choice about whether to continue on those failed policies of the previous government or to take that alternative approach.

I was just reading, and of course we have seen, the Victorian Ombudsman report into the prison system last year, and she has made some statements recently. I just refer to some her statements in regard to her report into the prison population. Ms Glass said:

What we're seeing here is a spiral of rising crime rates, increasing prison numbers, we're seeing more reoffending, more victims and rising costs simply to hold the line —

and that really sums it up. These policies that have been put forward by the opposition in some ways have been continued on by this government, and I think they need to make a clear decision about which approach they take on making our community less safe.

If the opposition want to make law and order the big issue in this term of Parliament, I welcome that, because their policies are a proven failure. The policies that we put forward have been proven in other jurisdictions to be a success, and I think the Victorian population are a lot smarter than the headline-grabbing pitch that members opposite put forward.

I am more than happy to prosecute the case for law reform within the justice area because Victorians know that that will make Victorians a lot safer.

The Greens will be supporting this bill. We are particularly very supportive of the implementation of the recommendations from the report by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and addressing those recommendations.