Media Releases

06
May
2015

Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2015

SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — I rise to speak on the Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2015. The bill contains a number of amendments to a number of acts. Some of them are certainly technical in their nature and are not contentious, as we have heard said by many speakers prior to me. Today I want to touch particularly on some of the amendments to the Family Violence Protection Amendment Act 2014, the amendments to the Working with Children Act 2005 and the amendments to the Confiscation Act 1997 dealing with confiscation of assets of a person via unexplained wealth laws, with which I will begin.

The bill amends the Confiscation Act to allow the courts to order a prescribed person in the Department of Justice and Regulation to take control of a property that is subject to an unexplained wealth restraining order, and it also amends the act to allow the Director of Public Prosecutions more easily to register interstate forfeiture restraining orders to ensure that people cannot frustrate confiscation actions by holding an asset in a jurisdiction outside the jurisdiction that took confiscation action against them.

Some 12 months ago I was a member of a joint parliamentary committee, the Law Reform, Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee, while it investigated the supply and use of the methamphetamine ice. The other members were Simon Ramsay, a member for Western Victoria Region in the Council, who was the chair; the member for Niddrie; Johann Scheffer, a former member for Eastern Victoria Region in the Council; and the member for Ovens Valley. I would consider that that was the first inquiry of its kind, and since then we have seen lots of work done both nationally and also here in Victoria. We uncovered something that has been an absolute problem within our community.

One of the things that that committee recommended was that if you go to the heart of where the money is and take that away from those who are dealing the drugs, you go a fair way to fixing the problem. In a lot of the evidence presented to us we saw that criminals had deliberately set themselves up with cross-border activity. They had their business based in one state and were trading in another; they were effectively shuffling money around.

When it comes to unexplained wealth it is imperative that we have the best of laws that go right across all jurisdictions and that we have the cooperation of the federal government as well to ensure that we capture the money and the illegal activity and cut it off at the knees so we do not have the terrible problems with drugs and other criminal activity that are occurring within our community. This is an important area, and I have spoken a number of times about unexplained wealth. I am very happy that the committee that looked at the horrific problem of ice in our community made a number of recommendations around unexplained wealth, and I am sure there will be a lot more when it comes to actually capturing the dollars that go with the criminal activity.

Another element I wanted to mention relates to the amendments to the Sex Offenders Registration Act 2004. These deal with the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s 2011 recommendations and relate to moving the sex offender database to the national child offender system to allow police to manage registrants’ personal information more securely, more effectively and more efficiently. This bill effectively flows out of the recommendations of the Victorian Law Reform Commission.

CrimTrac, which has done a whole lot of work across all jurisdictions over a number of years, is certainly the best place to be able to manage this sort of information. Under the previous government, when I was Parliamentary Secretary for Police and Emergency Services, I was very impressed when I received briefings from CrimTrac and saw the sort of work it does, including the sorts of evidence it is able to capture, and most importantly saw that that information can be shared amongst many jurisdictions.

I remember an instance where fingerprints and DNA were obtained from New Zealand through the CrimTrac database many years after an offence was committed, and that evidence was ultimately able to convict a criminal living here. That is the sort of thing that can be achieved with technology. We have heard previous speakers talk about the emergence of technology; in fact it is mentioned here in this bill. We need to be at the forefront of it. Unfortunately in many situations those who seek to break the law tend to be ahead of us when it comes to utilising technology. Technology such as databases that have harmonisation across the states and territories and with the federal government is very important.

Finally, I want to touch on the amendments to the Family Violence Protection Amendment Act 2014. This flows on from a lot of work that has been done over a number of years. As we have heard from speakers on both sides of the house, this is a very important issue. It is an issue we need to address as members of Parliament and as members of the community. A number of law enforcement and support organisations have been trying to tackle this for a number of years, yet the problem continues to worsen. We need to do whatever we possibly can to fix it.

I commend the government for establishing a royal commission into family violence, and I am very keen to ensure that we get as many people involved in that as we possibly can and that we ultimately get a series of recommendations that can be implemented. The sort of work that is being done at the committee level is vitally important, but it is just as important to take that work and put it into action. Ultimately we are going to need to put the recommendations of the royal commission into action.

I want to make reference to a number of organisations that have done some work in my electorate in terms of tackling family violence and that I am sure will want to contribute to the royal commission. Firstly there is the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia (NCJWA). Early last year I was involved with the NCJWA in running a family violence forum with a number of participants, including former Chief Commissioner of Police Ken Lay. That was a fantastic forum that fostered some interesting conversation around tackling family violence. Earlier this year the NCJWA organised a brunch, which I attended along with George Crozier, a member for Southern Metropolitan Region in the other place. Fiona McCormack, the CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria, and Rosie Batty, 2015 Australian of the Year, spoke at that event. It was very confronting to hear them speak, and it was equally confronting to hear the questions that came from the 400-odd attendees in the room and to listen to their comments about some of their experiences.

I also acknowledge the Jewish Taskforce Against Family Violence, which has done a lot of work in this space. I am sure it will be very keen to present to the royal commission and talk about its experiences in tackling family violence. One of its initiatives a few years back was the book Will My Rabbi Believe Me? Will He Understand?, launched by former Chief Commissioner of Police Ken Lay. It gave the perspective of many women wanting to confront their religious leaders. It also helped to explain the importance of ensuring that the community takes responsibility, stands up and is educated on family violence.

When we talk about family violence and child abuse we must keep in mind that education is key. Law enforcement is also important, but we need to educate people in the very early years about what is and is not acceptable. The sorts of things we have seen in the past cannot happen in the future. We need to ensure that we learn from those experiences and show young people what is acceptable. We need to ensure that young people and women in our community have the protection they deserve and that we all live in a happy and safe society. I commend the bill to the house.

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