Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — I rise to speak on the Crimes Amendment (Bullying) Bill 2011. The purpose of the bill is to amend the Crimes Act 1958 and to make consequential amendments to the Stalking Intervention Orders Act 2008. The bill is part of the government’s election commitment to be tough on crime. Members on this side of the house went to the election with a whole range of policies that we undertook to implement if we were elected to government, and we have been given a mandate to deliver on those promises. There is no question that this bullying bill goes well and truly to delivering on our election commitment.
Bullying comes in many different forms. Members of the house would be aware of a number of different cases of bullying. All of us would have experienced bullying at some stage of our lives. Looking back to my time at school, the bullying that took place in the schoolyard was a whack in the chest and away you would go. Times have changed. Now we have bullying that takes a whole lot of different forms.
We have social media, the internet and psychological bullying right across the spectrum. That is what this bill seeks to address.
Mr Herbert — Acting Speaker, I draw your attention to the state of the house. It is a very important bill.
Mr SOUTHWICK — As I said, bullying takes all sorts of forms. Members on this side of the house have experienced bullying many times, and I am sure that during the course of this Parliament we will be the subject of a lot of bullying from the other side of the house, but we will stand determined to ensure that we overcome that.
This is a very important bill. It well and truly goes to delivering on our election commitment to be tough on crime. More than just being tough on crime, the bill seeks to prevent bullying crimes from occurring in the first place — that is, it is about crime prevention. This is very important, because in 2006 Brodie Panlock’s life was unfortunately ended due to her enduring a persistent campaign of serious bullying. We did not have laws that were tough enough, and very little could be done to stop it. If at the time the law was what is being sought to be introduced through this bill, maybe Brodie’s life could have been spared. That is why we have this law, which many people have termed ‘Brodie’s law’. At least her memory will endure in this Parliament in what we are delivering through this bill.
The bill addresses a whole lot of different things, including offences known as stalking. It clarifies that abusive words and acts may form part of a course of bullying conduct. It broadens the catch-all definition of bullying to include situations where people are driven to physically harm themselves. The bill clarifies the offence to include the intention to cause a person to physically harm themselves.
As I said, in today’s society bullying takes many forms. That is why we need a law such as this — to send a very strong message to the public that bullying is not acceptable, will not be tolerated and will be punished. That is what this bill aims to deliver. The amendments made by the bill clearly aim to address instances of serious bullying for which people will be prosecuted. Bullies will receive a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment for committing such terrible acts, which we consider to be crimes. They are a real crime to the person.
Members may ask what people in the community feel about the bill. I am sure all members have heard, listened to and read what people in the community have been very vocal about. They have said just how appalled they are about the bullying that takes place, and they have called for leadership and good government that will deliver in relation to this issue.
The consultations that the government undertook involved Victoria Police, the Office of Public Prosecutions and WorkSafe Victoria. They were all consulted on the draft provisions and asked for their opinion. Both WorkSafe and Victoria Police have expressed the view that the publicity accompanying the bill may lead to increased reporting of bullying conduct. If all the bill does is create awareness and cause people to report bullying, then we will have done our job. We in this house will have done our job, because we will have made people aware and caused them to stand up and look out for their fellow human beings in Victoria. That is important and crucial.
‘Prevention’ is the word. Prevention is what we should be aiming for, and it is what this bill seeks to achieve. My colleagues and I are determined to ensure that this bill is passed. As I said, all members know of the full range of bullying behaviour that takes place every single day. Bullying comes in different guises. There are the types that are visible, that we can see, and there are the types that are not visible — the bullying that is hidden and in effect causes serious harm and psychological damage to individuals. These are the types of bullying that we need to be looking at and making sure are reported. We will ensure that there is provision for these crimes to be punished. That is what this bill seeks to provide.
In previous terms of government different ways of addressing bullying have been introduced, but they have not gone far enough. Bullying has not been able to be punished in the criminal sphere as it has not been identified as a crime. That is what this bill seeks to address.
It is tough, strong and clear, and it sends a message. That is what this government is all about: being tough, being strong and sending a message. The message is that bullying behaviour will not be accepted. We will deliver to ensure that Victorians are protected, that they are safe and that they do not have to put up with the sorts of behaviour that this bill seeks to prevent. I commend the bill to the house.