The Nationals leader and Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, has strongly backed the proposed legislation to keep killers such as Paul Denyer behind bars for life.
Mr Walsh says the Denyers of the world, the Julian Knights and Craig Minogues, have committed crimes “so absolutely atrocious” they do not deserve to be released from jail.
Particularly, he says, when they never show any remorse, not at their arrests, their trials or their incarcerations.
“It is just incomprehensible to me, and to any rightminded person, that these people could be released from jail at any time in the foreseeable future, if ever,” Mr Walsh told Parliament on Thursday.
“This bill [the Corrections Amendment (Parole Reform) Bill 2023], as I understand it, gives the parole board the power to effectively keep someone in jail forever, and that is very, very important here because people who commit these heinous crimes just do not deserve to be out in society,” he says.
“This finally puts Denyer in the same category as Knight (convicted of seven murders) and Minogue (convicted of the Russell St bombing), as I mentioned before, with the years he will spend in jail into the future.”
In 1993 Denyer was sentenced to three life sentences without parole for the murders of Elizabeth Stevens, Debbie Fream and Natalie Russell until he successfully challenged the term and was granted a 30-year non-parole period on appeal in 1994.
The sentencing judge, Frank Vincent, described Denyer’s extraordinary savagery as “almost beyond comprehension”.
Mr Walsh says it is sad in society we have to do these sorts of things and that we have criminals like this in our state, in our communities, who will deliberately go out and cause harm.
He says for most it is incomprehensible someone would do that, but “more incomprehensible – unless you are family of those victims – is what you would go through when this happens”.
“That is what this bill is about: delivering justice, or as much justice as can be delivered to these shattered, grieving families, who have been given a life sentence with absolutely no chance of parole,” Mr Walsh says.
“At the same time this bill is proof positive the system works, even though it has been too long in coming, for which I believe all of us here in Parliament owe the families of Denyer’s victims an apology for that delay,” he says.
“I would like to do that on behalf of the Nationals and sincerely say: we have finally got here, and we are glad we are.”
Mr Walsh says if anyone doubts the role, and influence, of Opposition, they should look at the work of the Liberal Members for Berwick (Brad Battin) and Mornington (Chris Crewther) to keep pushing this issue along.
He says this is a shining example of how democracies work.
“His Majesty’s loyal oppositions are there to hold the government of the day to account, and when that government is not doing the job on behalf of Victorians, the opposition is there to continue to push – as in the case of pushing for this, initially through a private member’s bill – to just keep the pressure on and make sure things come to the fore,” Mr Walsh added.
“You keep putting the case forward and use all the parliamentary processes available to you and you can deliver an outcome on behalf of those who need justice here in Victoria.
“I would hope the work now done, and the fact the affected families have heard the debate, understand the sincerity to ensure there is closure for them and ensure they do not have to go through circumstances where there may be a parole hearing in the future, where you would be traumatised again by reliving the events you suffered through so many years ago.”