Benalla police station
10 February 2016
RYAN (Euroa) — I raise an important matter this evening for the attention of the acting Minister for Police. I ask the minister to visit Benalla police station with me before the budget is finalised this year to consider the station's urgent need for funding. The coalition constructed a number of new police stations across regional Victoria during the four years it was in government. Police stations at both Sale and Echuca were rebuilt, a new station was built at Waurn Ponds among other places, and plans were being developed for a new station at Benalla. As a result, when Labor came to government in 2014 a budget bid for about $11 million had already been prepared and all Labor had to do was allocate the funding. Unfortunately, like so many other projects across regional Victoria that the coalition had committed to, that did not happen and the upgrade was put on the backburner. I feel confident that if the minister accepts my invitation to visit, he will realise that the safety risks there cannot be ignored indefinitely.
Benalla's police station was built in 1956, and it is now the oldest 24-hour police station in Victoria. The building has become a serious occupational health and safety issue. It is riddled with asbestos and mould, it does not have sprinklers or fire alarms, and walls are cracking throughout the complex. Police officers are undertaking maintenance jobs around the building just to keep it in working order. The facilities for female officers and staff are also totally inadequate. In addition to addressing serious safety risks and providing appropriate facilities for both male and female officers, the new building would include a codivisional incident police operations centre, which would be purpose built for emergencies. This would have been invaluable in circumstances such as those we faced in December 2014 when we had major fires at both Stewarton and Creightons Creek. Both fires fell within the Benalla police area, but one was run from Wangaratta and the other from Shepparton, stretching police resources.
Policing has a long and, at times, contentious history in Benalla. A police station was first established in the town in 1839 following a massacre at Faithfuls Creek in which eight settlers were killed. And it is no secret that 140-odd years ago my family were not the biggest fans of the Benalla police, and I am pretty sure the feeling was mutual. When I visited the station last week I stopped to look at the photos on the walls of the station. One shows a group of photographers taking pictures of Joe Byrne's dead body propped against a wall. There is another of an officer wearing Ned Kelly's armour after the siege at Glenrowan. There is a good chance my ancestors would roll over in their graves if they could hear me making a case for additional funding for the police force in Benalla. But the 1870s were a long time ago, and so too were the 1950s. The men and women who do a fantastic job protecting our community deserve better than what they currently have. I am disappointed that we did not get a chance to finish the work that we started.