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Second Reading: Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2015

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — I rise to speak on the Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2015. This is an omnibus bill that amends a number of pieces of legislation relevant to the Victorian justice system.

The Greens welcome many of these amendments, particularly those that will allow for the continuation of the assessment and referral court list in the Magistrates Court. While many of these amendments are of a minor or technical nature, we do have a number of concerns in relation to three issues, and I will go into those in detail. We will not be moving amendments in this house, but we reserve the right to move amendments in the other place if we see fit.

The first issue relates to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). The Greens seek regular reviews of the fee structure and waiver provisions of VCAT to ensure access to justice for everyone regardless of their economic or social status. In relation to clause 18 of the bill, we also seek an expansion of the amendment of section 132 of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 1998, which will allow the principal registrar to waive, postpone, remit or refund any fee payable not only under the act or regulations but also any other fee payable to the tribunal, such as a video link application on hardship grounds.

The second area of concern we have relates to sex offenders. We seek an urgent implementation of the many remaining recommendations of the Victorian Law Reform Commission to improve the sex offenders register scheme. We need to be more selective about who is placed on the register, and we need to replace automatic inclusion with a process that allows for individual assessment of the offender to enhance the effectiveness of the scheme. Registration should be more closely aligned with the risk of harm to children, and it should be more targeted. We should differentiate among the large number of offenders in terms of crimes they have committed, and their risk to the community means that it is difficult to work out who the government should be focused on in terms of protecting the community.

The third area we are concerned about is confiscations and the previous government's expansion of the unexplained wealth civil forfeiture scheme. Last year the Greens opposed amendments to the act. The former government's changes meant that the confiscation scheme applied to persons who were suspected of being involved in serious criminal activity but who had not been convicted of it. A reverse onus was also put in place for a person who had not been convicted of anything to establish a case to get their property back by proving it was lawfully acquired. While the Greens support the confiscation of assets in cases where it has been proved that they are related to criminal activity for which someone has been convicted, we should also uphold the principle of a person being innocent until proven guilty. We would like to see amendments that provide safeguards and a return to higher thresholds for the standards of proof and a removal of the reverse onus. These schemes can still be effective with those safeguards in place. As I said, we will be supporting this bill, but we reserve our right to move amendments in the other place.