Police Crime

Bourke Street Tragedy

Tuesday 7th February 2017

Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) — I rise as Leader of The Nationals to support the motion and support the Leader of the Opposition, the Premier, the Deputy Premier and all members of this house in expressing my heartfelt condolences and sympathy to the victims and the families of this absolute tragedy that occurred in Bourke Street Mall.

We all know the series of circumstances that led to a car being driven through the Bourke Street Mall in the early afternoon of 20 January, and it is well documented. Six people tragically lost their lives that day, and 37 were injured; nine of those are still in hospital. The effects on those families from this tragedy will live with them forever, and I do not think we should ever underestimate the impact that will have on those families for the rest of their lives.

Tens of thousands of people are in the Bourke Street Mall on any given day, and so many people who we know were there sometime during that day, were there the day before, the day after, and they all say, ‘There but for the grace of God go I’ — that just by the point of being at a certain place at a certain time some people lost their lives or were seriously injured. We all know people who use the mall and who were there before or after that time, and they all are so grateful that it was not them, but they all have absolute sympathy for those who were affected.

We also know that the events of 20 January are caused by the worst of human nature, but as has already been said, it also brings out the best in humanity, as evidenced by all those who assisted after the event had actually happened. To all the emergency services personnel, thank you very much for everything that you did after that event. To all the medical staff and the hospitals that received those patients, thank you from everyone again for what you did. To all of those in the mall who actually assisted before the emergency services arrived, thank you very much, and we have heard what they did there.

I think the telling remembrance of that is probably the 8‑minute YouTube video message done by the paramedics that talks about those particular people who helped there. I quote from two of the paramedics who spoke on that video. One said:

It’s hard to explain just how inspiring that was to see that people were just doing what needed to be done amid the tragedy.

Another said:

You could see it meant a lot to the patients on the street that everyone was helping them.

To all those people whose instinct and compassion kicked in and who helped, thank you very, very much.

Probably like all members of this Parliament, on the Sunday when I came to Melbourne I visited the site where the memorial and the flowers were placed. I think we also owe a vote of thanks to all the volunteers who were there talking to people, those who were emotionally affected, upset by the events and the aftermath, all those volunteers who gave their time to be there to counsel; we thank them as well.

Probably like all members of the Parliament, I attended a number of Australia Day functions this year, as I do every year and as everyone does every year. With the Bourke Street Mall tragedy fresh in people’s minds, with the latest riots and escape from Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre the day before, people sought me out to express their anger, their seething anger about what had happened over the last weeks and what has evolved here in Victoria when it comes to law and order issues.

They were polite, as country people are, but you could tell that they were very, very angry about the events that are unfolding in this state. They expressed their concerns that the police seem powerless at times to do what needs to be done, and they would like to see that changed. As I talk to the police, everyone goes to work to do a good job but there is a belief that the system is actually failing people at the moment. They were the things that were brought to me at those Australia Day functions.

The more important thing that people brought to me at those Australia Day functions was that they believe that the court system in Victoria is failing both the people of Victoria and the police who capture the perpetrators of crime here in Victoria and that the bail system does need reform. We have heard the Premier talk about that, but they want to see real reform; they do not want to see another review and some small, incremental changes. They want to see real reform. They want to feel safe in their homes.

For the first time in my lifetime we have country people who do not feel safe in their own homes now, and that is something that we all need to work to change in the future. One of the first priorities of any government in the world is to make sure that its people feel safe and particularly feel safe in their community. If nothing else comes out of this tragedy, people need to know that there will be change so that they feel safer into the future, because they feel that the perpetrators get more advantage out of the system than the victims do and they want to see that change.

I do support the motion. I notice we are adjourning after this motion. I believe we should, as a mark of respect, adjourn for a shorter period of time and that this Parliament should come back and debate these issues and talk about the changes that are necessary in this state so that the legal system reflects the values of the community and makes sure that the people of Victoria feel safer in their homes and in their communities.

My heartfelt sympathy goes to all the families that were affected, to all those who were affected by helping afterwards and to all Victorians, because these sorts of events are life changing, do shape a society and do shape a city, and we need to make sure we actually learn from it and improve from it.

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