Firearms Amendment Bill 2017
I take pleasure in again joining the debate on one of the many justice bills that this government has brought before the house. It gives the lie to what those opposite say — that we are not a government that is tough on crime. We are absolutely a government that is relentlessly tough on crime. Anyone observing in the chamber, in the gallery or watching or listening to the livestream would have heard the Minister for Police and other ministers outlining our absolute commitment to Victoria Police, to increasing police numbers and to giving them the powers they need to tackle the rise in crime in this state, which I must say has been occurring since about 2010 or 2011. As the police minister said, we have slowed that increase. The police minister has said that the police academy is now completely full and is constantly training and recruiting the best and brightest to get on the beat in Victoria. More than 3000 police will be trained and recruited under our watch, plus police custody officers and more protective services officers.
I note that the member for Williamstown is sitting behind me, and I know he will be very interested in what I have to say, because when he was the shadow Minister for Police, he and I took great pleasure in about October 2014 in Mernda in standing in the back of a flatbed truck with Ron Iddles, who was then the secretary of the Police Association Victoria, and Tom Joseph, now Cr Tom Joseph with the City of Whittlesea, who headed up the Mernda Needs a Police Station campaign.
I was absolutely delighted to be there backing the police association’s push for additional police in this state and for a much-needed police station in Mernda. They said it was their top priority, and we are delivering on that in spades. I really hope that the member for Williamstown, who made that commitment, will be at the opening. This police station will be operational this month. It is a massive facility. It is home to a family violence unit. It will be the police service area headquarters. It is really state-of-the-art, and it is much needed in the Mernda community.
I was really glad that Tom Joseph initiated the Mernda Needs a Police Station campaign. It was most disappointing that under the watch of those opposite no police minister set foot in my electorate, let alone the district of Mernda. But that is definitely different to us, because I know that the member for Williamstown as the Minister for Police came out and announced the funding. The now Minister for Police and I did the sod turn together, and it is going to make a huge difference to our community.
Mr Noonan interjected.
Ms Green — I thank the member for Williamstown. We have seen a bit of a scare campaign going on locally. The minister was forced to deny on numerous occasions the scurrilous accusations by the not-that-committed-to-opposing-all-crime member for Mount Waverley — he has got form with women —
An honourable member interjected.
Ms Green — I do not know whether he has given his Myki card back, but the Minister for Police was forced again to deny that. Of course we are not going to follow their path of having police kiosks. We actually believe in having police on the beat and increasing police on the beat.
Just like the minister has had to continue denying that lie, in my local community there has been a constant scurrilous lie that when the Mernda police station opens, the Whittlesea police station will close. It will not close. Read my lips: it will not close. The minister has said that on numerous occasions. Those opposite and in the other chamber have mounted a fear campaign. They did nothing on their watch. Anytime they have been in government since 1992, and we can look particularly from 2010 to 2014, not one police station has been built in the north — not one. But I can say that in the 15 years I have been in Parliament, in Melbourne’s north we have built the almost completed Mernda police station. We have built the police and emergency services complex in Diamond Creek. We built a police station at Hurstbridge. We introduced policing to Kinglake. We built a police station at Wallan. We built a police station at Craigieburn. We built a police station at Eltham. We built a police station at Warrandyte. Those opposite cannot name one police station that they have built in the north in my children’s lifetime — not one.
I ask the Whittlesea community, ‘Who can you trust to keep the police station in Whittlesea open? Who can you trust to actually have it staffed and to contract the response area?’. Once Mernda opens, the Whittlesea police will not have to patrol all the way to South Morang anymore, and they will not patrol through Mernda and Doreen anymore. They will be patrolling in Whittlesea, and only as far as Grants Road, and they will be properly resourced. I decry all of those scurrilous accusations, lies and claims that have been made by those opposite and their fellow travellers in the community. They should hang their heads in shame. They have attempted to scare the community of Whittlesea. I say you can trust this side of politics with keeping the north of Melbourne safe.
In his leading contribution on this bill the member for Box Hill raised concerns about who will be responsible for making decisions to make a firearm prohibition order (FPO). Victoria Police advises that initially the making of FPOs will be limited to the state anti-gang squad in crime command and that applications for FPOs will then be more broadly progressed to focus on organised crime figures. These powers can be delegated, so the bill restricts the delegation of the chief commissioner’s power to make an FPO to deputy and assistant commissioners, executive employees, commanders and select superintendents. The delegations have been further limited to only those superintendents who have line responsibility for the division commands that are responsible for public safety, frontline operations, intelligence, counterterrorism, tackling organised and firearm-related crime, and the regulation of firearms. This ensures that they can respond quickly to dynamic and evolving incidents, which we hope there are less of in this state, but we do live in an uncertain world. We are giving police these powers. I hope that addresses the opposition’s concerns, which were also raised by the member for Eildon.
The member for Box Hill also queried why reviews of the decision to make an FPO are dealt with by VCAT and not the Firearms Appeals Committee or a court. VCAT is the appropriate forum to determine a review of an FPO and also licence decisions that are based on the chief commissioner refusing a licence application, refusing to renew a licence or cancelling a licence due to serious criminal behaviour. VCAT has a fully functioning court-style registry system with appropriate and secure file storage arrangements, making it appropriate to deal with sensitive, complex and confidential material.
The bill before the house is not an attack on responsible firearm owners, who I am a great defender of. As the member for Eildon said, athletes like Chloe Esposito and many others throughout the region that she and I represent have represented our country and are responsible licensed shooters. Field and Game Australia do some outstanding work through the Goulburn area and through the Plenty River area in improving bird habitat and in doing environmental works. I know those in the Greens party try to decry our licensed shooters, but I am a great fan of them. They assist with reducing feral animals and pests in this state. We could not get by without them.
The bill before the house is definitely about strengthening the powers of police against those who would use firearms in a criminal way. It is part of a broader suite of measures from our Community Safety Statement, which shows that we are a government that is committed to fighting crime and fighting the causes of crime. I commend the bill to the house.