Grievances - Police Resources
23 November 2016 -
Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) — I rise today to grieve for all Victorians, because there is a law and order crisis here in Victoria. Victorians are living in fear, fear of carjackings, fear of home invasions, fear of assaults and fear of burglaries. If you look at the crime statistics, crime in this state has risen by 13.4 per cent in the last 12 months. It has gone up by 16.56 per cent since the election of the Andrews government. The Andrews government is failing one of the basic tenets of any government — that is, the responsibility of a government to keep its population safe.
Victorians feel less safe now than they did just two years ago. Victorians are actually making decisions about their lives now based on safety. People are making decisions not to go out at night because they are concerned about their safety. They are actually worried when they drive around now, particularly at night, about carjackings. Carjackings in this state are up 80 per cent. Victorians now do not feel safe in their own homes because of home invasions. If you go back to that basic tenet that it is a government’s responsibility to keep its population safe, the Andrews government is failing people when it comes to the issue of home invasions.
People should feel safe in their own homes. Under the Andrews government they no longer feel safe in their own homes. Sales of devices like locks and security cameras are going up because people just do not feel safe anymore. They are firmly of the view that the Andrews government is soft on crime. They do not believe the Andrews government is doing enough to stop violent offenders in this state.
The population of Victoria is growing by 100 000 people per year, so we are effectively adding another Bendigo or Ballarat to the population of Victoria every year. If you actually look at frontline police numbers, there are less frontline police in this state now than there were two years ago. Police stations cannot fill their rosters. Police stations are having to reduce their opening hours because there are not enough frontline police for them to stay open, and there is a long list of stations where that is happening.
I suppose the key thing in making these statements is actually comparing the situation with what the former Liberal‑National government did for this state. The former Liberal‑National government employed 1700 additional police and actually employed 960 protective services officers (PSO) in this state so that there would be two PSOs on all suburban stations from 6.00 p.m. until the last train every night, and people feel a lot safer because of that particular program here in Victoria. Some people would call them plastic police. Who would have done that? Who would have said that the PSOs are actually plastic police? Probably the Deputy Premier, who is sitting at the table. The Deputy Premier sitting at the table would have said that at one stage. We all know that the PSOs have helped to make people feel a lot safer, but because police recruitment has stalled under this government people do not feel as safe in their community anymore.
As the leader of a party that represents country Victoria, I can say that the crime wave sweeping Victoria is not just a city issue; it is very much an issue for country communities as well. There is a shortage of police to fill rosters at country police stations just as there is at city police stations. There are closures of police stations in country Victoria just as there have been reductions in hours at suburban police stations. The promise by the Andrews government that they would not close one‑man police stations is just not true, and country people see it for what it is: a hollow promise. Yes, they have not officially, formally said they will close a station, but they do not man it. There are a number of stations that have been unmanned for one year or two years with no‑one there because there is just no‑one to be there.
If you look at the statistics, you will see that from November 2014 to June 2016 there were actually 81 less police out there in rural and regional Victoria to man those particular stations. If you go to the west of the state to the member for Lowan’s area, the Kaniva police station was unmanned for a significant length of time. That particular area from the South Australian border through to Nhill, where the nearest police station is located, has one of the busiest highways in the state, and there were no police there for a significant period of time. In the Hindmarsh shire, if you actually look at its latest crime statistics, crime in that shire has gone up by approximately 30 per cent over the last 12 months.
Also in the west of the state, in the Shire of Yarriambiack crime is up by 44 per cent. Crime is up by 44 per cent in the Shire of Yarriambiack, a shire that is shared by the members for Mildura and Lowan. If you look at one of the police stations in the Shire of Yarriambiack, the Minyip police station, you find that that has had more periods of being unmanned than of being manned. So it is a huge issue. The crime wave is not an issue for just the city; it is also an issue for the regions.
If you go to the north‑east of the state, in the Rural City of Benalla crime is up 30 per cent and in the Shire of Mitchell it is up 33 per cent. If you go to the electorate of the member for Ovens Valley, you see that Whitfield, a little country town, has had nearly two years without a police presence in that town. People in that town are desperate. Despite the member raising it constantly and despite the shadow minister visiting that area, the government chooses to do nothing about making sure there is a police presence in Whitfield in the north‑east.
If you go to the other side of the state, to the east, there are some great tourist destinations. Lakes Entrance and Mallacoota are great spots to visit. Lakes Entrance normally has a population of 6500 people and has 17 police on the roster. During the busy Christmas and Easter periods the population grows to 60 000 people, with no additional police presence to help police there. In Mallacoota there is a similar story, with 1000 people increasing to about 5000 people over a holiday period. Those holiday destinations, like the ones closer to Melbourne, should have additional police resources over those particular periods. Because there is a lack of recruitment of police, there are not enough police to go into those particular areas.
If you go to the City of Latrobe, which is in the member for Morwell’s seat, you find that crime is up 18.4 per cent in that municipality. There are not enough police in the community to make sure that there is proactive policing and that there is actually a police presence in the community so that when people walk down the street they see a policeman around, doing their normal job, rather than what is happening at the moment where the police are overstretched and there are not enough of them.
I have a very sad story to relate to the house. It comes from the member for Gippsland South’s electorate. Recently a 68‑year‑old woman, a lady who uses a walking stick, was attacked at Southern Cross station by three youths, two boys and a girl, who tried to steal her handbag. She fought back and ended up with a bloodied nose and was badly shaken. When she went to see the member for Gippsland South she said, ‘I want you, as part of the opposition, to move a vote of no confidence in the Andrews government in the Parliament because of their lack of action on crime here in Victoria’. A 68‑year‑old lady had to defend herself on a platform at Southern Cross against three youths because there were not enough police on the beat to help her, and she wants a vote of no confidence in the Andrews government. I am sure that this is the feeling of a lot of people around Victoria, because they just do not feel safe in their community. They are very concerned about what is not happening when it comes to policing around this state and the fact that there are not enough police being recruited in this state.
I will spend just a couple of minutes talking about my own electorate. There are a number of towns in my electorate where people feel exactly as I have described for the rest of the state. If you go to the community of Gunbower, the people there feel that they are under siege from the criminal activity in that community. There are a number of families or households that are well known to the community as being where the perpetrators of these crimes come from. The police do not believe it, or they do not do anything about it. I was very concerned when I was there on Sunday at the Gunbower Cup, the trotting cup, that people in the community are openly talking about having vigilante groups because they do not believe that the police are doing enough to solve the crime issues in that community. No‑one in public life should be advocating for vigilante groups, but people in that community feel so disaffected by the lack of police presence that they are now talking about having a vigilante group there. People are concerned that someone will get hurt because of that activity, but it is because the police will not do anything about these particular crimes.
The letters that I have had from those in that community say that people no longer feel safe in their own homes. In a small country community of about 260 people they no longer feel safe in their homes because of that particular criminal element in their community. One of the letters I have had, from Sue McGillivray, says that young mums are no longer walking or riding their pushbikes for fitness because they do not feel safe in that community. She also said that people are now too scared to be walking their dogs because of that activity and that the elderly in the community are petrified.
I seriously grieve for all Victorians and I grieve particularly for country Victorians who are suffering this crime wave under the Andrews government. It all comes back to the fact that police recruitment has stalled under this government. There are not enough police out there to fill the rosters; there are not enough police out there to make sure that the police stations are manned all the time.
As recently as this morning we had a phone call to my office from a person from the little community of Nanneella, where they held a public meeting last week because they are sick of the crime wave. One farmer has been robbed four times. The last time it happened, the thieves took absolutely everything out of his shed — every piece of equipment, every tool, every nail — everything. They even emptied the rubbish bins and filled them with things from the shed to take away. The message from Mr and Mrs Adams was that people are absolutely fed up and fearful about the crime wave that is happening.
If you go around country Victoria, it is the same. The local supermarket in Lockington has been burgled four times now. In May when their baker turned up at 5 o’clock in the morning to commence work he was held up with a crossbow. He was actually held up with a crossbow at 5 o’clock in the morning in a small country community. The supermarket has been broken into and trashed three times since then. Leanne Pentreath, who is a second‑generation owner, is now questioning whether they will actually stay in that business because they are so traumatised by the crime there. Her quote to me was, ‘The worst part is knowing that they’re going to come back again and again’, because these people are purportedly feeding their drug habit by breaking into these businesses.
It is the same at Rochester, where the pony club has been broken into. It is the same at Gunbower — which I have talked about — for the baker’s shop, the butcher’s shop and the coffee shop. During the week the container at the racetrack was broken into and all the alcohol was stolen before the trots on Sunday. The Leitchville bakery has been broken into and the Leitchville Hotel has been broken into.
At Tongala, where the policeman was away on six weeks leave and had not been replaced, the local farm store business was broken into, with $8500 of property and cash stolen. The local owner there, Des Cornwall, cannot even put in an insurance claim for that particular burglary because until the policeman comes back from leave and does the report, the insurance company will not accept the claim. In Tongala the bakery has been broken into three times, the IGA store has been broken into a couple of times over the last year, and the medical clinic has been broken into as well. I grieve for all Victorians and particularly for country Victorians because there is a crime wave. The Andrews government just does not want to do anything about this; it does not want to recruit the police to make us safe.
The other matter I raise, in finishing, is that many people in the community are saying that even when these perpetrators are caught, they are let out on bail. They are just given a slap on the wrist. Nothing much happens to these people. When they are caught, the community feels that something may finally happen. They are taken to court and they are actually bailed out. They are let out, they are given a slap on the wrist, they are given a community service order — and they are back in the community reoffending. This is why people no longer feel safe in their homes. They know that those people who were in there last week or last month, breaking in, stealing a car or stealing stuff out of the shops, will be back again, because they are not locked up, they are not kept in jail. The Andrews government is soft on crime and is not doing enough to protect Victorians in their own homes, in their own cars, in their own streets or in their own communities.
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