Children, Youth and Families Amendment (Youth Offender Compliance) Bill 2018

09 August 2018


It is a pleasure to rise today to speak on the Children, Youth and Families Amendment (Youth Offender Compliance) Bill 2018. I have to say I do not often find much to agree on with the member for Essendon, but I do think that with respect to the Greens it is somewhat disappointing that they say they care a lot about this issue, yet the member for Northcote can only speak for a couple of minutes to an issue they say they are very passionate about. I would have thought that the Greens would have outlined a solid case for their position on this bill, but it seems that they are unable to do that or that they prefer to leave it to the debate in the other chamber.

Mr Pearson — They don't care.

Ms RYAN — As the member for Essendon said, perhaps they simply do not care enough about this issue. Those of us on this side of the chamber certainly do care about this issue. Concern around youth offenders in this state is something that we have been talking about for a number of years, and it concerns me that those opposite are now in a position where they are endeavouring to play catch-up. We welcome a number of the measures in this bill, but it is disheartening that they come just four months before an election after those opposite have been doing almost nothing for four years. I think it will be evident to the broader Victorian public that this bill is basically an election measure and that their heart is not really behind trying to solve the problems that we have in this state with young offenders and the huge law and order crisis that is facing the state.

We had a very tangible demonstration of that yesterday. Last night there were gangs of youths in the western suburbs of Melbourne, and police told people to actually lock their front doors and shelter inside. Today's Herald Sun says terrified residents were forced to shelter in their homes last night as close to 100 out-of-control youths wreaked havoc in Melbourne's north-west. Police warned residents that the rampaging teens were there for war. The Herald Sun was told that dozens of heavily armed riot and plain-clothed police swarmed the scene telling locals not to leave their homes and blocking off main roads.

It is just extraordinary that Victoria is confronting these problems. We now have terms like 'home invasion' and 'carjacking', which I had not even heard of four years ago, but now it seems that they are a daily occurrence in this state, because we have a government that has allowed these issues to fester and has weakened the justice system instead of strengthening it.

If you have a look at some of the policies that we have released so far, I think it is clear that Victorians have a very clear choice at this election as to who will reinstate a law and order system here in Victoria. We have promised that we will overhaul Victoria's bail system and that we will reinstate the offence of breaching bail by juveniles, which those opposite abolished and are now desperately trying to find a solution to. We have said that we will explicitly enshrine in law the fact that community safety will be a paramount consideration when deciding whether or not juvenile offenders should be released on parole. We will actually name for the public the identity of those who commit serious offences while on bail. These are measures that those opposite have rejected. Whilst we welcome a trial of electronic monitoring for certain young people on parole orders who have committed serious offences, quite simply they have not gone far enough to address these issues.

We have also, of course, committed to introducing statutory mandatory sentencing for criminals who are found guilty of a second violent offence, including offences like murder, rape and aggravated home invasion. I believe that is what the Victorian public are now calling for. They want to see a tougher sentencing system, and they want to know that they are safe in their communities. At the moment, quite frankly, I do not think people do feel safe.

We have also committed to a number of crime prevention initiatives, such as establishing police shopfronts in different shopping centres across Victoria to provide that visible police presence that people are asking for, and establishing the police in schools program, which I think is an excellent initiative that gives young people a positive first interaction with the police in their community so they see them as people who are there to help them, not people who are there to punish them. It will re-establish the respect that is required for our police force.

I have to say that in my position as the shadow minister for young Victorians I certainly recognise that the vast majority of young people in our community are doing fantastic things, but we have a problem with a core group of offenders in this state that the Andrews government has failed to control. I am always heartened when I talk to young people across Victoria and see the wonderful things that they are doing to shape our state and create a positive future for Victoria. These measures should by no means be seen as a reflection of all young people in Victoria.

I can think of a number of young people I have had the pleasure of meeting in my own electorate. One, Daniel Williams from Avenel, is just a fantastic young man. At 17 he is a qualified drone operator, or remote pilot operator, and he is halfway through his helicopter pilot's licence training. He has come to me seeking to find out how he can help give those skills back to other young people, to help train them in the skills that he has, to give them more employment opportunities. There is no question that the vast majority of young people in Victoria contribute very positively to our society, but there can be no doubt that we have a core group of young offenders who are creating some very, very serious problems in our state.

I want to touch briefly on some comments by the member for Essendon around TAFE and training in Victoria. I certainly agree that TAFE and training is a critical element of giving people opportunity and ensuring that they do not fall into a life of crime in the first place. But it is incredibly disheartening to me that those opposite have actually cut the guts out of the training budget in Victoria. In 2016 —

Honourable members interjecting.

Ms RYAN — Listen to the protests. Let us have a look at some of the statistics. In 2016, according to the Productivity Commission, $502 million was ripped out of the training budget. The training budget has been repeatedly underspent. The number of students enrolling in government-subsidised training in this state is down by more than 30 per cent. Community education providers operate at the very front line of a lot of these young people that we are referring to. They deal with a high number of people who are unemployed, they deal with adult students, they deal with high levels of refugee and migrant communities, and they deal with a high number of people with disabilities. More than 20 of those community education providers have closed since Labor came to government.

We now have, for example, Campaspe College in Echuca pleading with the government, telling us that they too are now on the brink of closure as a result of the policies that those opposite have put in place. Karen Hagan has described their policies as pure politics.

Ms Thomas interjected.

Ms RYAN — The member for Macedon says that we sacked 2400 teachers. I would encourage the member for Macedon to have a look at the TAFE annual reports to see how many TAFE teachers have lost their jobs under those opposite. They do not like to talk about it, but it is more than 1000. TAFE teachers have vanished from the training system, from TAFEs, since you were elected. Your record on TAFE is absolutely appalling.

Honourable members interjecting.

Ms RYAN — If you talk to anyone in the sector, they know, because you have ripped hundreds of millions of dollars out of TAFE in this state and you —

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Carbines) — Order! The member's time has expired.

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