Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — It is my pleasure to rise and speak on the Victoria Police Amendment (Consequential and Other Matters) Bill 2014. Let me say at the outset that this government is very proud of its record in investment in the police force and policing in this state. We in the government have committed record funding when it comes to policing. Last year we committed a record $2.2 billion, and we have committed $2.4 billion in this year’s budget.
Mr Eren interjected.
Mr SOUTHWICK — We hear the previous speaker, the member for Lara, interject by saying that crime is up. Let me refer the member for Lara to a very important matter. Reported crime would be up, and it would be up in certain areas, because police are doing what they are doing — that is, policing. You would expect that when police are out keeping people safe they would actually find people who are doing the wrong thing and subsequently go about ensuring that people are kept safe. Despite the interjections and the ridiculous innuendo from the opposition to say that crime is up, we know that people are being kept safe and are feeling a lot safer under this government than they ever did under the opposition when it was in government.
We have invested in 1700 more police and have put 950 protective services officers on train stations, and they have already served some 20 000 infringement notices on those stations for a whole range of offences, including graffiti, carrying weapons and all sorts of other crimes that have been committed. That is why we are seeing these increases — because police are doing what they are paid to do, and that is keeping our community safe.
We also heard from opposition members that a rushed job has been done on these amendments. Let me say that the Victoria Police Bill introduced by this government in 2013 was the largest reform that any government has made to police legislation since 1958. I remind the opposition that more than 120 amendments to the Police Regulation Act have been brought through this chamber since 1958. If you were to look at the previous police act, you would need an index and another act to be able to read it because there had been so many different amendments. It was very confusing and very hard for anybody to comprehend. We introduced a massive amount of reform in the 2013 police bill. We have got on with what we said we would do and introduced massive reform. More importantly, we have Victorians feeling safe, knowing that we are doing what we said we were going to do and restoring law and order in this state.
Let me reflect on this year’s budget. Some $33 million has been allocated for 11 new police stations, including the new Echuca police station, the St Kilda Road station replacement and a new police station and emergency services precinct at Ballarat West. In addition we have committed $56 million to upgrade more than 100 police stations. We are spending money on ensuring not only that we have police out there but that we have police stations as well. This is all about proactive policing, modernising our police force and ensuring that we are active in this area. In the last contribution we heard that there have been cutbacks. That is absolutely ridiculous. There have not been cutbacks; there has been record investment. It is very clear when it comes to this portfolio that there has been a huge investment. That is something we said we would do in 2010 and we have got on with the job of doing that, and I commend the Minister for Police and Emergency Services on the work he has been doing in this area.
This bill makes changes to some terminology within the statute book. When you look at the Victoria Police Bill 2013 you see that a number of terms have been used to refer to the police, including ‘the police force’, ‘the force’ and ‘member of the police force’. A number of terms have been used, and we are ensuring that there is consistency in those references by replacing those terms with ‘police personnel’. We are also ensuring that ‘Victoria Police employee’ replaces ‘person in the office of the Chief Commissioner’ and that all of the corresponding references from the 1958 act and the current 2013 act are changed.
The bill consequently amends the following four acts to ensure that the deputy commissioner can continue to exercise the powers of the chief commissioner, as currently provided under these acts. I am referring to the Commissioner for Law Enforcement Data Security Act 2005, the Crimes (Assumed Identities) Act 2004, the Major Crime (Investigative Powers) Act 2004 and the Terrorism (Community Protection) Act 2003. The bill ensures that those powers are consistent.
The other amendment relates to the Police Registration and Services Board. The bill creates a requirement for the registration and services board to publish statements of reasons for certain decisions relating to reviews and registrations subject to appropriate safeguards. This will allow for transparency in decisions that are made by allowing for statements of reasons as to why these decisions were made to be published. Again we are leading the way, firstly, when it comes to having a Police Registration and Services Board, and secondly, when it comes to reforming that board.
In his contribution the member for Williamstown said, ‘Why don’t we head off and make sure that this is something we do nationally? Let’s get all the other states and territories and the feds to do it’. Let me remind the member for Williamstown that we are already leading the way because we are at the forefront in having a Police Registration and Services Board. We are the envy of others in terms of what we are currently doing, but we are not in the other states and we cannot speak for them. We can certainly share our knowledge, which we do and will obviously continue to do, but we certainly will not be telling other states how to run their police forces.
We need to ensure that we are getting on with the job of providing the best possible police force, the best possible reforms and, importantly, a transparent system. That is what this reform does — it offers that transparency. Not all the changes we make in this house are groundbreaking, but nevertheless this ensures that the police are able to do their job. It is a pity that the member for Williamstown would use this opportunity to take some cheap shots. I believe the member for Williamstown would be much better served by focusing on the job at hand, and that is to look at what we can do collectively to ensure that we are providing the best possible safeguards, the best possible legislation and the best investment we can to ensure that the police can do what they do, and that is continue to serve the people and keep them safe.
I will conclude my contribution by thanking Victoria Police and all our emergency services for the work they do. They do a terrific job and they work tirelessly. I can think of many other jobs that people would rather put up their hands for. Not many people would want to get out onto the streets and deal with what members of our police force have to deal with day in, day out. Our police officers do a terrific job in serving our community, a job which quite often goes unrewarded. They do it because they care about what they do. The police force is an important and integral part of our law and order system.
It is absolutely appalling that opposition members constantly talk about crime rates going up, saying that things are out of control and that government members are not doing what we said we would do. When we invest in a police force, when we put more resources in and put more police on the ground, guess what happens? We expect them to do their job, and they are doing their job. Opposition members spoke about prisons being full but, firstly, when in government, the Labor Party did not build any prisons and, secondly, not only did it not build any prisons but Labor members now say that the coalition government is not doing anything to reduce the number of prisoners in the system. The reason prisoners are in cells is that members of the coalition government are getting on with the job.