June 21, 2017  |  Matters of public importance

Law and order

HOWARD (Buninyong) — I am pleased to speak on this serious matter because issues of crime and community safety are of course a serious matter for any good government to address. When we address this matter we need to deal with the facts. What is of concern in this debate before the house this afternoon is that those on the other side of the house seek to distort the realities and seek to misrepresent the situation across the state. We have words like ‘crisis’ and words like ‘lawlessness’ thrown around willy-nilly by the member for Mount Waverley and by other members on the other side of the house when there is no evidence to suggest this is the case.

They fail to recognise that crime did rise under the last government — it rose by 23 per cent. Clearly there has been an issue that has been rolling out all of the time that they were in government, and this government is continuing to work to address it. But as the member representing Buninyong, I am confident that the people in my electorate can and should feel safe in their homes, can and should feel safe when they go out of their homes about their business and can feel confident that their possessions are safe in their homes. The statistics show that in general they are, especially when you compare them to so many other countries around the world.

I do not want to see those opposite using statistics for political benefit, trying to misrepresent the facts and trying to make people feel unsafe. It is a matter of recognising the realities that are out there and dealing with them as they are. The Leader of the Opposition, the member for Ripon and the member for Lowan wanted to talk up the issue of crime in their electorates, but when you look at the crime statistics in those electorates the people in those electorates can feel fairly safe.

Even though the member for Ripon wanted to talk about break-ins in jewellery shops and so on, she clearly was not talking about the crime that is happening in her electorate. When she wanted to really get back to her electorate, which is something that she ought to do a lot more of, she talked about St Arnaud and said the crime rate in St Arnaud has increased. Yes, that might be a concern for the people in St Arnaud, but increased from what? She had to use the figures for St Arnaud, the small town in the north of her electorate, because she could not use the figures for the rest of the towns in her electorate. In the city of Ararat, over the last year crime has dropped by 6.5 per cent. She could not use the figures for Stawell, where again the figures for crime have dropped by 5.1 per cent over the last year. She could not use the figures for her major towns because crime has actually dropped in those areas. She wanted to just selectively use the figures and try and relate them to her electorate, and the best she could come up with was that crime has increased in St Arnaud.

I tell you, Acting Speaker, this just shows that the member for Ripon does not understand crime in her electorate, is not serious about the matter and wants to simply play political games as she does so enthusiastically rather than dealing with the issues of reality as they face the people in her electorate. If she looked at the Labor government’s record in her electorate, she would know that in so many of the towns across her electorate the Labor government built new police stations. If we look at the number of police in her electorate — and she does not seem to want to recognise the great efforts of the police in bringing down crime in her electorate — we see the number of police being increased since we came to office. The last significant budget to put more police out on the beat came in the days of the Brumby government, in 2010.

Let us just look at the budgets for supporting police under the previous government, because those opposite seem to want to relate law and order to police especially and they want to pretend that we have decreased the number of police out there. But that is not the case. If you look at their record in the 2012–13 budget, what did they do to their police budget? They increased it by $0.7 million. What was that going to cover? That was going to cover new lockers for their police stations. Their contribution was new lockers for police stations in 2012–13. In 2013–14 they did put a fairly healthy increase in the police budget — $46 million — half of which went to IT. They dropped it back to $23 million in their final budget of 2014–15.

How does that compare with funding by our government since then? In 2015–16, in the Andrews Labor government’s first budget, we increased the police budget by $84 million. In the following budget, our last budget, we increased the resourcing to police by $141 million. We continue to value the work of our police, we continue to increase police numbers in all parts of this state and we continue to deliver good resourcing for our police.

On that score, I congratulate Superintendent Andrew Allen, who is the superintendent for my region, and all the police who support him and the community across our region for the great work that they do. They continue to put in a great effort to address crime, as they need to do, and they have been well supported by our government because we have increased frontline police in regional Victoria by 270 since we came to government. In my region, frontline police have increased by 48 police and in all the country regions they have increased by at least 48. There has been an increase of 94 in the southern metropolitan region, 58 in the eastern region and 70 in the north-west metropolitan region. We are increasing our police numbers right across our regions, and that is one area in which we are trying to address the crime issue in this state.

But let me be clear, it is not just in increasing police numbers and resourcing police that the Andrews government have done so well. It is also in taking an overview of the whole community because being tough on crime is not the answer. We see it in so many countries around the world. Tomorrow I am looking forward to hearing from Jenna Moll, who comes from Texas, who is going to speak to us about the conservative Right On Crime activities that are taking place in Texas. They found they were just filling up their jails more and more, but crime was not going down so they needed to take a new approach. They needed to work on programs to support families in their electorates and to support young people in their electorates with jobs, good education and training options like building up TAFE. They needed to support people to gain accommodation. We need to address drug and mental health issues too in our electorates.

The Andrews government see these as part of an overall issue that we need to address, as we work strongly to address issues of crime across the state. I am very pleased to see that we are putting more money into great family support programs in my electorate across the Ballarat region. I was pleased to join the Minister for Families and Children, Jenny Mikakos, in announcing further funding of some innovative programs that are working with families in regard to victims of crime but also ensuring that the children of those families are given the best support, and that the families are given great support to try and deal with challenges that their children might experience as they grow up. We are doing some great things in that area.

I am pleased to see that we put a further $8 million in this budget to establish a new drug residential centre in my electorate, which is going to help with that issue. There is still more to be done on a whole range of issues of community support in our electorates — I acknowledge it and our government acknowledges it — but we have acted strongly from day one. Since the Andrews government was elected we have put more police out on the beat and supported them, we have taken the legislative action that we needed to get the balance right, and we have supported people in our communities to try and do away with the issues that encourage people to do the wrong thing and cause harm in our communities. Let us talk about facts. Let us not scaremonger in our communities but instead let us recognise the great work the Andrews government has done.