Victorians to have a say on sentencing
The views of the community will be sought on the adequacy of sentencing in Victoria, the Coalition Government announced this week.
Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, said the on-line survey, which will run for four weeks starting in July, will fulfil a key Coalition commitment to provide Victorians with the opportunity to have direct input into the future of sentencing in our state.
“There has been considerable discussion over recent years on sentencing, with many public comments that sentencing is not in line with community standards. This extensive survey will determine just what community standards are.
“Discussions about sentencing tend to be dominated by experts and interest groups, but this is a chance for all Victorians to have input,” Mr Bull said.
A key component of the survey will be seeking the community's views about what levels should be set for the new "baseline" minimum sentences which the government has committed to introduce for serious crimes.
The baseline minimum sentence for each offence will be the minimum non-parole period that Parliament expects the courts to apply to the typical, or median, case involving that offence.
Attorney General, Robert Clark, said the Coalition committed during last year's election to listen to community views about sentencing and this survey delivers on that commitment.
Open to all Victorians, the survey will seek feedback on all aspects of sentencing, from the most serious offences such as murder and rape through to sentences for offences like vandalism and criminal damage.
Views will be sought on the use of different kinds of sentences including community-based sentences and imprisonment, and what can be done to improve the effectiveness of those sentences.
“The Victorian Coalition Government believes it's time for the community to have an opportunity for their views to be heard about sentencing. The views people provide in this survey will help shape the way we, as a community, respond to criminal behaviour,” Mr Clark said.
“It is vital that Victorians should have confidence in our justice system. We want to hear the community's views about how sentencing should be improved and what appropriate sentence levels should be.”
The survey of Victorian community views on sentencing will also be available in hard copy. The results of the survey will be compiled and published once completed.
Innovation and education funding boost
Community College East Gippsland has been successful in receiving $50,000 in grant funding for their “Small Business on the Move” project.
Minister for Tertiary Education, Peter Hall and Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, made the presentation this week.
Mr Ray Ferres, CEO of the Community College was delighted with the announcement and said, “the small business project is to be delivered in partnership with East Gippsland Regional Business Tourism Association in most towns across the region.
“This funding will enable us to further enhance the growth and development of small business networking, training and planning throughout East Gippsland.”
Mr Bull announced that a total of $4.2 million has been allocated under round one of the Adult Community and Further Education grants program to a number of Learn Local organisations across Victoria.
“The grants help adult community education Learn Local organisations such as Community College East Gippsland to expand their services, improve efficiency, offer new courses and increase participation and attainment of learners,” said Mr Bull.
“The Capacity and Innovation Fund is an initiative that will encourage innovation within adult education and support a sector of the Victorian education system that already does vital work in supporting adult learners.
“As a knowledge driven economy, Victoria will increasingly need a workforce with higher levels of qualifications and skills. Through these funds, Community College East Gippsland is further enhanced to help supply this education and training.”
Each year the state’s 320 Learn Local organisations provide education and training to more then 110,000 people, offering vocational, language, literacy and numeracy and work-skill courses.
The second and final round of the 2011 ACFE Board Capacity and Innovation Fund opens on 6 June and closes on 26 August. Guidelines and application forms will be available from www.acfe.vic.gov.au
Tough new laws to crack down on hoon drivers
Drivers who participate in dangerous activities on the local roads can expect to face harsh consequences with the State Government introducing the toughest hoon laws Victoria has ever seen.
Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, said “the new laws are aimed at sending a strong message that dangerous hoon driving will not be tolerated. I welcome the move – we can do without idiotic behaviour behind the wheel”.
“These new laws will send a clear message to hoon drivers that they will be taken off the road for longer under the Coalition Government’s new laws. We want to stop hoon driving in its tracks.
“This is about cracking down and sending the message that it won't be tolerated,” said Mr Bull.
The Government will also be introducing new laws to ban overloading of cars, where drivers carry more passengers than a car is designed to transport.
The impoundment and immobilisation laws have also been broadened to apply to other high risk offences such as repeat offences of unlicensed driving, drink driving and drug driving.
Under the changes, which come into effect from 1 July, the period of immediate impoundment or immobilisation of vehicles on detection of a ‘hoon’ offence will be extended to 30 days.
Other changes include the extension of the period, from three to six years, in which prior offences can be taken into account to determine if a vehicle impoundment offence is a second or subsequent offence.
“This legislation is about drivers taking responsibility for their actions and knowing that if they do the wrong thing, there is an immediate and substantial penalty,” Mr Bull said.
Mr Bull said people caught hooning won’t just lose their cars for the current 48 hours - their cars will be impounded immediately for 30 days. Police have been impounding (for 48 hours) an average of 10 vehicles a day.
Hoons caught a second time face losing their car for up to three months. In cases of extreme speeding (70km/hour or more), they can lose their car altogether.
If drivers cannot pay the fines and all of the costs associated with impoundment, they must forfeit the vehicle to police, who can dispose of or crush the vehicle. Hoons must pay the substantial costs of towing, storage, plus fines of up $2,389 if caught driving over the speed limit by 45km/hour or more.
The new laws will also mean for the first time police will be authorised to carry out roadworthiness inspections on hoons’ impounded cars, issue defect notices (‘canaries’), stipulate conditions about the use of the vehicle or ban the use of the vehicle outright. This will ensure unsafe cars are not returned to the streets to threaten public safety in the future.
“These changes to vehicle impoundment legislation will save lives by taking dangerous drivers off the road,” said Mr Bull.
Local sport to benefit from community grants
East Gippsland residents have the opportunity to get more involved in sporting activities thanks to a Victorian Government funding boost to local sport and recreation organisations that are running initiatives to encourage more active and healthy communities.
The second phase of the 2011 Victalent funding grants program will see 136 projects benefit from a share of $175,000.
“These grants will go a long way to help organisations increase their skills base, and improve their administration and program delivery so they can provide even better sports opportunities for the local community,” said Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull.
“A recent VicHealth study has shown that cutting physical inactivity by five per cent would save 1,000 lives nationally and result in 3,000 fewer cases of illness every year.”
Mr Bull stressed the need for more East Gippslanders to get the opportunity to play sport and get active, more often.
“Supporting local organisations to operate more effectively is just one of the many ways the Victorian Government is ensuring more Victorians are able to enjoy the benefits of physical activity,” Mr Bull said.
“The programs recognise the important role local sport and recreation organisations play in supporting grassroots sport and nurturing local talent.
“For officials, coaches, athletes and teams who travel extensively, the Victalent grants also help Victorians maximise their potential by contributing to travel costs in order to train and compete,” he said.
For further information on the grants visit www.grants.dpcd.vic.gov.au
School ground upgrade for Bairnsdale West Primary
Bairnsdale West Primary School is set to benefit from the Coalition Government’s commitment to restore play areas affected by Building the Education Revolution (BER) construction works.
One of more than 80 schools across the state, including Lakes Entrance Primary School, Bairnsdale West is set to receive $10,000 as a result of the Coalition Government’s decision to provide up to $5 million to reinstate playgrounds, hard courts and car parks which were removed or demolished as part of BER projects.
Education Minister Martin Dixon said the Government had listened to schools and acted to reinstate these facilities.
“The Coalition Government has ensured Victorian government schools such as Bairnsdale West Primary receive funding to reinstate facilities they lost during the BER program,” Mr Dixon said.
Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, welcomed the announcement and knows that the $10,000 will go a long way to restoring the school’s playgrounds back to their original state.
“It is a fact that many of the BER projects impacted on courts and other play areas as they were generally the flat areas within school grounds that were largely conducive to building.
“Bairnsdale West lost one of its student play areas as a result of the works.
“This is a win for Bairnsdale West Primary School and will wholly benefit the children in providing them again with playgrounds and hard courts that give them the space and freedom to interact and play with their friends and fellow students,” Mr Bull said.
Tightening net on “illegal fishing” offenders
Individuals involved in illegal fishing, fish trafficking or who assault or obstruct fisheries officers, will be hit with tougher penalties and equipment seizures under new legislation before Parliament, says Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull.
“As a result of present laws, it seems offenders are often more willing to obstruct or assault fisheries officers rather than be caught with illegal equipment or an illegal catch, as obstruction and assault carry lesser penalties.
The introduction into Parliament of the “Fisheries Amendment Bill, 2011”will create similar penalties and provide fisheries officers with more powers.
“As fisheries offences can occur at sea or in other remote areas, offenders are able to more easily destroy evidence, such as fish and equipment, to avoid prosecution.
“There is concern that the present relatively low penalties for obstructing or assaulting officers, when compared with the penalties for fishing offences, create an incentive to destroy evidence and resist seizure or apprehension.
“The current penalty for obstructing or assaulting an authorised officer under the Act is 50 penalty units or three months imprisonment. The bill will provide that the new maximum penalty will be 120 penalty units and/or 12 months imprisonment. This will provide a greater disincentive, as well as better reflect the seriousness of the offence.
“The amendments will provide a more robust set of penalties that should assist with conservation of the state’s fisheries resources.
“The Act currently provides for the automatic forfeiture of prohibited fishing equipment, but is being amended so that it also provides for the automatic forfeiture of fish, protected aquatic biota and noxious aquatic species.
“Under the Act a court can make an order to prohibit a person from carrying out fishing activities or fishing. These provisions are primarily preventative in nature. However, it must first be established that the offence is of a serious nature and that the person is likely to commit further offences against the Act if such an order is not made. This is often difficult to establish for repeat recreational fishing offenders.
“The bill will overcome this by creating a new penalty provision that allows the court to issue an order to revoke recreational fishing privileges for up to 12 months. Whether the court makes such an order will be at the discretion of the court, depending on the circumstances of the offence or the prior history of the offender. This will provide a better deterrent to offenders, especially repeat offenders,” said Mr Bull.