Victoria Police Amendment (Merit-based Transfer) Bill 2016

10 March 2016


9 March 2016

Ms RYAN (Euroa) — It is my pleasure to rise this afternoon to talk about the Victoria Police Amendment (Merit-based Transfer) Bill 2016 and to follow the very entertaining contribution on the matter of public importance by the member for Gippsland South. This bill amends the Victoria Police Act 2013 to change the way police are selected for country-based general duties. At the moment general duties police officers, as previous speakers have outlined, put forward an expression of interest if they wish to be stationed at a particular location. When that position becomes available, the position is offered to the police officer highest on the list. Under this bill there will be a performance and merit-based selection process introduced. It is my understanding that that has been the result of enterprise bargaining agreement negotiations between the Police Association Victoria and Victoria Police, and that it is obviously supported by both parties. I welcome the greater transparency that this selection process will give, and of course the new rights of appeal that police will have in being able to apply to the Police Registration and Services Board if they wish to question a particular decision.

It takes a very special person to be a general duties police officer in country Victoria. I do want to acknowledge the wonderful work done by police across my area and across country Victoria more broadly. In my area my local police commander is Dan Trimble and the divisional commander in Benalla is Darren McGrillen. Senior Sergeant Mark Byers is there as well. I have had quite a lot of dealings with them in the first 16 months that I have been in office and they have been absolutely fantastic to work with.

Of course, we also have a number of one-man police stations. We have people like Ricky Keats at Murchison and Pat Storer at Violet Town, who is also a Shire of Strathbogie councillor. Those police officers do an extraordinary job, particularly the ones who are working in one-man police stations. They are not just police officers but also community leaders. I had an instance last year where I needed the involvement of local police, and they were incredibly professional and supportive. I do want to place on record my thanks to them for that, particularly Detective Shannon Myers at Benalla police. He was absolutely wonderful to work with.

Country police are not just there to enforce the law or to protect the community and they do not just deal with crime, although police in my area certainly had a busy time last year when they got roped in to chase Gino and Mark Stocco over half of rural Victoria. They also deal with road accidents. That is so much harder in a small community where so often you know the person who is involved and you have to inform family, with all the difficulties associated with that. There is family violence as well, and the police are there in times of emergencies and floods. So being a general duties police officer in country Victoria is certainly no easy task. Like rural MPs, they have large distances to cover, and they are stretched.

On that point, I do want to talk about resourcing. I am very proud of the record that the coalition had whilst in government in terms of resourcing our country police. We obviously went to the 2014 election with a commitment to employ 1800 additional police officers, and we ended up with somewhere around 1900. There was as well, of course, a commitment to employ protective services officers and put them on metropolitan train stations.

I well remember the context of those election commitments, because during that time I was working for the Leader of The Nationals, who was then also the Minister for Police and Emergency Services. I remember the concerns of the police association at the time that funding for police under the Brumby government had dropped to the lowest per capita of any state or territory in Australia and that police patrols had actually declined by more than 20 per cent. In some areas it was up to 48 per cent. Violent crime was at record levels. My greatest concern now is that we are beginning to see a return to form by the Labor Party. We are actually going backwards in terms of police resourcing in this state.

We all understand, particularly in country areas, the reasons why Victoria Police may have introduced a two-up policy and we all want the very best in terms of safety for our police officers, but the reality is if the police are going to introduce that policy then the government needs to back that up with resourcing. Victoria's population is growing at about 100 000 people a year, but the government is not employing any additional police to meet that need. Across my area it is causing great concern, that we will see police increasingly being pulled out of country Victoria to plug gaps in growth areas and interface areas where the population is rapidly growing.

In recent weeks I have had an example of that in Rushworth. My local Neighbourhood Watch group wrote to me several weeks ago to express concern about its police station, which was originally designed for two police officers and also has a police residence. Those police officers in recent times have actually been dragged out of the town. One has been assigned to Bendigo and the other one is stationed in Rushworth only part time and is covering other general duties around the Shire of Campaspe. Whilst the community understands that they are attempting to cover Rushworth as best they can, the reality is that they are stretched and they simply do not have the resources that they require to ensure the safety of that town. There is a very similar situation at the one-man police station down the road in Stanhope. That means that now in Rushworth, particularly when there is an officer on leave, the community is exposed to a 30-minute wait for someone to come from Kyabram to address a call-out or another incident. I will just read what the Neighbourhood Watch group has written to me:

This often means, in the case of rowdy dangerous driving, the event has either cooled down or the suspects have moved to another location. The more sinister act of burglary, however, quietly takes place. Shopkeepers in our business precinct have been plagued by burglary with some having been hit more than once.

So it is a serious issue in that community. It is certainly worth the government taking another look at its commitments around resourcing in terms of additional police numbers.

It is of course also important that we provide our police with the facilities that they need. Again, an issue I have raised previously in this house is that the Benalla police station is one of the oldest in the state. It was built in 1956 and it is well overdue for an upgrade. We developed the plans for it over the last four years, and it was ready to be funded. Victoria Police put it forward as a budget and economic review committee bid to government in last year's budget, but it was knocked back. That is a serious issue for the police officers who work at that station. The building is full of asbestos and mould, and it has very poor facilities for female staff. Again, if we wish to attract people and we wish country Victoria to be seen as a great location for general duties police officers to actually put in for a transfer to and to come and work in our region, we need to make sure that we are giving them the facilities that they need in order for them to want to do that.

I was hoping that the acting police minister might be at the table. He was here earlier, before the lunch break. I have invited him to come and see the Benalla police station, and I am still waiting for him to come back to me on that invitation. I do look forward to having the acting police minister come and visit that police station with me before the budget, because that is an important priority.

I conclude by saying that the steps to improve transparency around the selection process for where and how general duties police officers are allocated in country Victoria are very, very important. But Labor really should demonstrate that its support for country police and for country communities extends beyond that, and it needs to put its money where its mouth is and actually fund the resourcing of police adequately in country Victoria. At the moment that simply is not happening.

Ms RYAN (Euroa) — It is my pleasure to rise this afternoon to talk about the Victoria Police Amendment (Merit-based Transfer) Bill 2016 and to follow the very entertaining contribution on the matter of public importance by the member for Gippsland South. This bill amends the Victoria Police Act 2013 to change the way police are selected for country-based general duties. At the moment general duties police officers, as previous speakers have outlined, put forward an expression of interest if they wish to be stationed at a particular location. When that position becomes available, the position is offered to the police officer highest on the list. Under this bill there will be a performance and merit-based selection process introduced. It is my understanding that that has been the result of enterprise bargaining agreement negotiations between the Police Association Victoria and Victoria Police, and that it is obviously supported by both parties. I welcome the greater transparency that this selection process will give, and of course the new rights of appeal that police will have in being able to apply to the Police Registration and Services Board if they wish to question a particular decision.

It takes a very special person to be a general duties police officer in country Victoria. I do want to acknowledge the wonderful work done by police across my area and across country Victoria more broadly. In my area my local police commander is Dan Trimble and the divisional commander in Benalla is Darren McGrillen. Senior Sergeant Mark Byers is there as well. I have had quite a lot of dealings with them in the first 16 months that I have been in office and they have been absolutely fantastic to work with.

Of course, we also have a number of one-man police stations. We have people like Ricky Keats at Murchison and Pat Storer at Violet Town, who is also a Shire of Strathbogie councillor. Those police officers do an extraordinary job, particularly the ones who are working in one-man police stations. They are not just police officers but also community leaders. I had an instance last year where I needed the involvement of local police, and they were incredibly professional and supportive. I do want to place on record my thanks to them for that, particularly Detective Shannon Myers at Benalla police. He was absolutely wonderful to work with.

Country police are not just there to enforce the law or to protect the community and they do not just deal with crime, although police in my area certainly had a busy time last year when they got roped in to chase Gino and Mark Stocco over half of rural Victoria. They also deal with road accidents. That is so much harder in a small community where so often you know the person who is involved and you have to inform family, with all the difficulties associated with that. There is family violence as well, and the police are there in times of emergencies and floods. So being a general duties police officer in country Victoria is certainly no easy task. Like rural MPs, they have large distances to cover, and they are stretched.

On that point, I do want to talk about resourcing. I am very proud of the record that the coalition had whilst in government in terms of resourcing our country police. We obviously went to the 2014 election with a commitment to employ 1800 additional police officers, and we ended up with somewhere around 1900. There was as well, of course, a commitment to employ protective services officers and put them on metropolitan train stations.

I well remember the context of those election commitments, because during that time I was working for the Leader of The Nationals, who was then also the Minister for Police and Emergency Services. I remember the concerns of the police association at the time that funding for police under the Brumby government had dropped to the lowest per capita of any state or territory in Australia and that police patrols had actually declined by more than 20 per cent. In some areas it was up to 48 per cent. Violent crime was at record levels. My greatest concern now is that we are beginning to see a return to form by the Labor Party. We are actually going backwards in terms of police resourcing in this state.

We all understand, particularly in country areas, the reasons why Victoria Police may have introduced a two-up policy and we all want the very best in terms of safety for our police officers, but the reality is if the police are going to introduce that policy then the government needs to back that up with resourcing. Victoria's population is growing at about 100 000 people a year, but the government is not employing any additional police to meet that need. Across my area it is causing great concern, that we will see police increasingly being pulled out of country Victoria to plug gaps in growth areas and interface areas where the population is rapidly growing.

In recent weeks I have had an example of that in Rushworth. My local Neighbourhood Watch group wrote to me several weeks ago to express concern about its police station, which was originally designed for two police officers and also has a police residence. Those police officers in recent times have actually been dragged out of the town. One has been assigned to Bendigo and the other one is stationed in Rushworth only part time and is covering other general duties around the Shire of Campaspe. Whilst the community understands that they are attempting to cover Rushworth as best they can, the reality is that they are stretched and they simply do not have the resources that they require to ensure the safety of that town. There is a very similar situation at the one-man police station down the road in Stanhope. That means that now in Rushworth, particularly when there is an officer on leave, the community is exposed to a 30-minute wait for someone to come from Kyabram to address a call-out or another incident. I will just read what the Neighbourhood Watch group has written to me:

This often means, in the case of rowdy dangerous driving, the event has either cooled down or the suspects have moved to another location. The more sinister act of burglary, however, quietly takes place. Shopkeepers in our business precinct have been plagued by burglary with some having been hit more than once.

So it is a serious issue in that community. It is certainly worth the government taking another look at its commitments around resourcing in terms of additional police numbers.

It is of course also important that we provide our police with the facilities that they need. Again, an issue I have raised previously in this house is that the Benalla police station is one of the oldest in the state. It was built in 1956 and it is well overdue for an upgrade. We developed the plans for it over the last four years, and it was ready to be funded. Victoria Police put it forward as a budget and economic review committee bid to government in last year's budget, but it was knocked back. That is a serious issue for the police officers who work at that station. The building is full of asbestos and mould, and it has very poor facilities for female staff. Again, if we wish to attract people and we wish country Victoria to be seen as a great location for general duties police officers to actually put in for a transfer to and to come and work in our region, we need to make sure that we are giving them the facilities that they need in order for them to want to do that.

I was hoping that the acting police minister might be at the table. He was here earlier, before the lunch break. I have invited him to come and see the Benalla police station, and I am still waiting for him to come back to me on that invitation. I do look forward to having the acting police minister come and visit that police station with me before the budget, because that is an important priority.

I conclude by saying that the steps to improve transparency around the selection process for where and how general duties police officers are allocated in country Victoria are very, very important. But Labor really should demonstrate that its support for country police and for country communities extends beyond that, and it needs to put its money where its mouth is and actually fund the resourcing of police adequately in country Victoria. At the moment that simply is not happening.

Ms RYAN (Euroa) — It is my pleasure to rise this afternoon to talk about the Victoria Police Amendment (Merit-based Transfer) Bill 2016 and to follow the very entertaining contribution on the matter of public importance by the member for Gippsland South. This bill amends the Victoria Police Act 2013 to change the way police are selected for country-based general duties. At the moment general duties police officers, as previous speakers have outlined, put forward an expression of interest if they wish to be stationed at a particular location. When that position becomes available, the position is offered to the police officer highest on the list. Under this bill there will be a performance and merit-based selection process introduced. It is my understanding that that has been the result of enterprise bargaining agreement negotiations between the Police Association Victoria and Victoria Police, and that it is obviously supported by both parties. I welcome the greater transparency that this selection process will give, and of course the new rights of appeal that police will have in being able to apply to the Police Registration and Services Board if they wish to question a particular decision.

It takes a very special person to be a general duties police officer in country Victoria. I do want to acknowledge the wonderful work done by police across my area and across country Victoria more broadly. In my area my local police commander is Dan Trimble and the divisional commander in Benalla is Darren McGrillen. Senior Sergeant Mark Byers is there as well. I have had quite a lot of dealings with them in the first 16 months that I have been in office and they have been absolutely fantastic to work with.

Of course, we also have a number of one-man police stations. We have people like Ricky Keats at Murchison and Pat Storer at Violet Town, who is also a Shire of Strathbogie councillor. Those police officers do an extraordinary job, particularly the ones who are working in one-man police stations. They are not just police officers but also community leaders. I had an instance last year where I needed the involvement of local police, and they were incredibly professional and supportive. I do want to place on record my thanks to them for that, particularly Detective Shannon Myers at Benalla police. He was absolutely wonderful to work with.

Country police are not just there to enforce the law or to protect the community and they do not just deal with crime, although police in my area certainly had a busy time last year when they got roped in to chase Gino and Mark Stocco over half of rural Victoria. They also deal with road accidents. That is so much harder in a small community where so often you know the person who is involved and you have to inform family, with all the difficulties associated with that. There is family violence as well, and the police are there in times of emergencies and floods. So being a general duties police officer in country Victoria is certainly no easy task. Like rural MPs, they have large distances to cover, and they are stretched.

On that point, I do want to talk about resourcing. I am very proud of the record that the coalition had whilst in government in terms of resourcing our country police. We obviously went to the 2014 election with a commitment to employ 1800 additional police officers, and we ended up with somewhere around 1900. There was as well, of course, a commitment to employ protective services officers and put them on metropolitan train stations.

I well remember the context of those election commitments, because during that time I was working for the Leader of The Nationals, who was then also the Minister for Police and Emergency Services. I remember the concerns of the police association at the time that funding for police under the Brumby government had dropped to the lowest per capita of any state or territory in Australia and that police patrols had actually declined by more than 20 per cent. In some areas it was up to 48 per cent. Violent crime was at record levels. My greatest concern now is that we are beginning to see a return to form by the Labor Party. We are actually going backwards in terms of police resourcing in this state.

We all understand, particularly in country areas, the reasons why Victoria Police may have introduced a two-up policy and we all want the very best in terms of safety for our police officers, but the reality is if the police are going to introduce that policy then the government needs to back that up with resourcing. Victoria's population is growing at about 100 000 people a year, but the government is not employing any additional police to meet that need. Across my area it is causing great concern, that we will see police increasingly being pulled out of country Victoria to plug gaps in growth areas and interface areas where the population is rapidly growing.

In recent weeks I have had an example of that in Rushworth. My local Neighbourhood Watch group wrote to me several weeks ago to express concern about its police station, which was originally designed for two police officers and also has a police residence. Those police officers in recent times have actually been dragged out of the town. One has been assigned to Bendigo and the other one is stationed in Rushworth only part time and is covering other general duties around the Shire of Campaspe. Whilst the community understands that they are attempting to cover Rushworth as best they can, the reality is that they are stretched and they simply do not have the resources that they require to ensure the safety of that town. There is a very similar situation at the one-man police station down the road in Stanhope. That means that now in Rushworth, particularly when there is an officer on leave, the community is exposed to a 30-minute wait for someone to come from Kyabram to address a call-out or another incident. I will just read what the Neighbourhood Watch group has written to me:

This often means, in the case of rowdy dangerous driving, the event has either cooled down or the suspects have moved to another location. The more sinister act of burglary, however, quietly takes place. Shopkeepers in our business precinct have been plagued by burglary with some having been hit more than once.

So it is a serious issue in that community. It is certainly worth the government taking another look at its commitments around resourcing in terms of additional police numbers.

It is of course also important that we provide our police with the facilities that they need. Again, an issue I have raised previously in this house is that the Benalla police station is one of the oldest in the state. It was built in 1956 and it is well overdue for an upgrade. We developed the plans for it over the last four years, and it was ready to be funded. Victoria Police put it forward as a budget and economic review committee bid to government in last year's budget, but it was knocked back. That is a serious issue for the police officers who work at that station. The building is full of asbestos and mould, and it has very poor facilities for female staff. Again, if we wish to attract people and we wish country Victoria to be seen as a great location for general duties police officers to actually put in for a transfer to and to come and work in our region, we need to make sure that we are giving them the facilities that they need in order for them to want to do that.

I was hoping that the acting police minister might be at the table. He was here earlier, before the lunch break. I have invited him to come and see the Benalla police station, and I am still waiting for him to come back to me on that invitation. I do look forward to having the acting police minister come and visit that police station with me before the budget, because that is an important priority.

I conclude by saying that the steps to improve transparency around the selection process for where and how general duties police officers are allocated in country Victoria are very, very important. But Labor really should demonstrate that its support for country police and for country communities extends beyond that, and it needs to put its money where its mouth is and actually fund the resourcing of police adequately in country Victoria. At the moment that simply is not happening.

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