Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — I rise to speak in favour of the Police Regulation Amendment (Protective Services Officers) Bill 2010. I am proud to lend my support to this commitment of the new coalition government. This is one of the fundamental policies we took to the election of November 2010, and it is a commitment that got us into government. There is no question that Victorians have felt scared. They have felt very hesitant about using our train stations and being out on the streets, because they have not had protective services officers (PSOs) to look after them.
In the last 24 hours alarming figures have been released that indicate a 33 per cent increase in crime at our rail stations. What did the opposition do about this issue when it was in government? Absolutely nothing. The opposition had 11 years to do something about it, and it did absolutely nothing.
It is quite interesting that after all the time the opposition had in government, during which it was absolutely ineffective with respect to protecting our train stations, members opposite are now telling us they are going to do something about the issue.
It is only now that they are in opposition that members opposite have solutions. Their solutions are very interesting. Firstly, they claim that they are going to put people in ticket boxes behind glass windows to look after us. Secondly, they have said they will install closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at train stations. People behind glass windows and CCTV cameras are not going to protect our train stations. We need protective services officers at the stations. That is why I commend the bill to the house.
We have heard PSOs referred to as plastic police.
I find that description very offensive, particularly because we have protective services officers protecting us right here at Parliament. They work every single day to protect us. It is very disrespectful for the opposition to call them plastic police.
Last year during the election campaign I held a forum attended by the member for Kew, who is now the Minister for Crime Prevention, and is present in the house tonight. At this forum over 80 of my constituents expressed their concerns about safety. They wanted something done about this issue. We have four train stations in my electorate of Caulfield, and we have severe problems at those stations that need to be rectified. I believe PSOs will go a long way towards doing that.
I refer the house to an incident that occurred last year when one of my constituents from Caulfield North was bashed by a gang of youths at Malvern train station. This incident occurred at 9.15 at night — not very late.
You would think that coming home at that time would be safe. When my constituent was asked what he did to provoke the bashing, he said that he asked the youths not to smoke. As a result he was severely bashed. This incident is typical of the violence we have seen at our train stations; all the people who have been affected would have been safe if we had had PSOs working at our train stations. Having protective services officers at our stations will ensure that these types of things do not happen.
I remind members that PSOs can act as important deterrents. This is something that the opposition has simply forgotten. We in government are not about trying to cause crime; we are about trying to prevent it. PSOs will go a long way towards preventing crimes from happening. If you do not believe that PSOs would be a deterrent, look to other areas of our community. We have security guards standing outside our banks. They serve as a deterrent, ensuring that we do not have robberies.
We have alarm systems in our homes and nice stickers out the front saying ‘This house is alarmed’. These are all deterrents to stop crime from happening. We have all of these things; the list goes on. If we do not have a deterrent and a visible presence, it is very difficult to ensure that these crimes are stopped.
I refer members of the house to something that probably happens in every single one of our electorates — that is, graffiti. If you look at the problem of graffiti, you will see that it starts at railway stations. Members only have to go to a railway station and follow the path from the station along the streets and into the parks to see that it all starts at stations. If we had the deterrent of PSOs being present, these sorts of things would not happen.
I refer to an important economic argument for this bill — that is, if we have PSOs at stations, we will have more patronage on trains. There is no question that people do not feel safe.
If you are planning to go into the city in the afternoon and you know you are going to be coming home late at night, what do you do? You either take a car or you find alternative transport. You do not use the trains because you are scared to do so. The two things that will increase the use of public transport are: firstly, if there is safety; and secondly, if there is reliability. Safety and reliability are the two things the opposition failed to provide in its 11 years of government. This government is going to deliver on these two things which put the opposition members where they are today — sitting on the other side of the house.
Finally, and members of the opposition have mentioned this, it is a fact that there are some deterrent buttons that have been installed on trains under the previous government’s watch. It is fantastic to have a deterrent button if something goes wrong. I will relate a personal incident that happened to me. One day my son and I went to the football on the train, and by accident my son leant against a red deterrent button. We were quite distressed about the button being pushed and waited for someone to answer. Guess what, Speaker? The line rang out. Nobody was there to respond. It was fine; it was an accident. But if the button had been pushed because of an incident, who would have been on the other end of the line to try to help us? Absolutely nobody. That is indicative of what we have had for 11 years — absolutely zero.
I am proud to commend this bill to the house to ensure that finally under a new coalition government we are going to have some action and not just hear spin and absolute rubbish from the opposition