One of the most commonly raised complaints in my office of recent times has been the rising crime rate and the State Government’s soft stance on crime.
In Parliament hearings last week, Victoria’s top policeman, Chief Commissioner, Graham Ashton, confirmed that the number of police per capita in Victoria has been cut.
He also relayed his members’ frustration with the bail system, being forced to arrest and then re-arrest the same alleged offenders again and again only to see them bailed and back on our streets.
The issue of rising crime rates in areas of rural and regional Victoria and less police to enforce the law is a concern to country communities.
Police statistics show the number of full-time equivalent sworn officers in rural and regional Victoria fell by over 80 between November 2014 and June 2016. This reduction has occurred while we have seen crime rates spiral - in East Gippsland by 10%, but much higher elsewhere.
If we had made a concerted effort to increase police numbers in that time it would be hard to be critical, but that’s not the case. The government has recently committed to an increase, but it will be a considerable period before they hit the ground and it has been left too late.
In my view, Mr Andrews has his priorities wrong. The latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed the number of public servants in Victoria jumped by 18,700 in the past two years - accounting for more than 80 per cent of bureaucrats hired by state and territory governments since 2013-14. This has come at a cost of $2.5 billion, but not on police!
In the same period, the NSW Government slashed its public service by 8,900 and its wage bill rose by just $256 million with salary increases.
Let’s also take a look north for some comparison on crime. The latest NSW crime stats report that crime in almost every major category has declined over the past two years. This is in stark contrast to Victoria’s crime figures that show a 13.4% increase in the last year alone.
Robberies are down 20% in NSW and significantly up here, break and enter is down 6.2% in NSW and well up here and vehicle theft has fallen 11.1% in NSW whilst spiralling in Victoria. In the two years of the Andrews Government, crime is up 19% when it is reducing in NSW.
While Daniel Andrews has spent the last two years weakening bail laws, cutting frontline police numbers per capita, closing police stations and turning youth justice into a revolving door system, NSW has been getting tough on crime and has the results to show.
The Victorian Auditor-General recently reported that the number of high-risk offenders out on Community Corrections Orders has dramatically increased from 128 in 2014, to 3180 in 2016.
The Auditor-General also found that: “Current practices for managing offenders are not effective due to the overwhelming number of offenders and the lack of trained staff.”
These statistics/findings confirm what we already know, that Victoria is less safe with more home invasions, car jackings, drive-by shootings and gangs like Apex running amok.
The justice system is in crisis due to weak sentencing, watered down bail laws, repeal of move on laws, cuts to frontline police and closure of police stations. This government is massively growing the public service while ignoring one of our most critical areas – community safety.
The one thing we should all be able to do is walk our streets safely and have some comfort that when we send our kids off for education or work in Melbourne that they will be safe. This government is not doing enough in this area. It is time to put law abiding Victorian citizens first.
As points of difference on law and order and what we can do about it, the following commitments have already been made by the Liberal/Nationals Coalition:
Bail system: The system is broken and needs reform. There will be three significant principles to guide our changes and make Victoria safer: (1) a presumption of remand for violent offences, (2) one strike and you’re out for bail breaches and (3) reinstate the youth bail laws which Labor watered down in 2016.
No body, no parole laws: Deny parole to convicted murderers who refuse to disclose the location of their victims and bring closure to their families.
Introduce carjacking offences: Create new offences of carjacking and aggravated carjacking. These would carry maximum penalties of 15 and 25 years in jail respectively.
Make drive-by shootings a specific offence: We are proposing tough new penalties for those who unlawfully fire guns and endanger the community.
Abolish cash payments for scrap metal: Stolen cars fund gangs and organised crime. We won't tolerate the booming black market for stolen cars in Victoria.
Deport violent criminals who are not citizens: Repeat violent criminals who are not Australian citizens have worn their welcome out and should be deported.
Reinstate Neighbourhood watch funding: Partner with Neighbourhood Watch and provide $2 million over four years to fund locally based crime prevention programs.
Address repeat violent youth offenders: Place tougher measures on those charged with violent crimes while on bail. The public’s right to know should be a key factor when deciding whether to override any anonymity.
Expose the juvenile criminal history of violent adult offenders: Teen offenders who commit serious offences, including murder, carjacking, rape and assault, would have their criminal history revealed if they went on to seriously reoffend as an adult.
Safety the top priority in youth parole: We have introduced a Bill to force the Youth Parole Board to give paramount consideration to protecting the public when determining whether to grant parole.
Put the rights of victims before those of criminals: For too long our justice system has focussed on the rights of criminals while victims are left behind. Victims of crime deserve more say and influence and under a Liberal Nationals Government, that is exactly what they will get.
Give victims of crime access to criminals’ superannuation: The Victorian Asset Confiscation Scheme should be given access to criminals’ superannuation entitlements.
Friday, February 17, 2017