Justice Legislation Amendment (Police Custody Officers) Bill 2015


Wednesday, 21 October 2015


Second reading

Mr WELLS (Rowville) — I rise to join the debate on the Justice Legislation Amendment (Police Custody Officers) Bill 2015. I have to say that the concept of replacing police with another form of management to look after prisoners in police cells is the right thing to do. We on this side of the house had a different way of approaching this matter, and that is why we are not opposing the bill.

In fact when we came into government in 2010 we were very clear about what we were going to promise and deliver. We promised 1700 police and 940 protective services officers (PSOs). As has been mentioned many times, the member for Monbulk, the now Minister for Education, called them ‘plastic police’, yet the PSOs have been an outstanding success.

The point I want to make is that when the coalition was in government it actually delivered on what it said was its policy in opposition. We promised 1700 police but ended up delivering 1900, and we promised 940 PSOs but ended up delivering 950. I thought I heard the Attorney‑General during question time today make a comment about us not delivering any new police, which I found a bit rich. I am sure that what he said was not what he was trying to say.

The other point I want to make about question time today in regard to prisoners in police cells — and that is what this bill is about — is that when the Minister for Police speaks about prisoners in police cells he always uses the 2013 number. Why would you use a 2013 number if you are in 2015? The reason he uses that number is that there was a peak in that year. The question is: why does he not use the 2014 number, which showed very clearly that there were fewer than 100 prisoners in police cells? It was an exceptional effort by Edward O’Donohue, a member for Eastern Victoria Region in the other place, who was the Minister for Corrections at the time, to get the prisoners out of the police cells and into proper correctional facilities.

We went to the election in 2014 saying we would put on 250 frontline officers and we would be returning 450 officers from police cell management to frontline duty. The two policies were not too far apart, with Labor promising 400 officers and the coalition promising 450, but the government is choosing to have police custody officers, whereas we had a different method of completely freeing up police. In addition, we promised 250 specialist staff to help with e‑crime and fraud.

Another point I want to make in regard to police resourcing is how the government is very quick to comment that any allocation of police anywhere in the state is a matter for the Chief Commissioner of Police. That is what the Victoria Police Act 2013 says — the act that we brought in in the coalition term of government. You can approach the chief commissioner, but the chief commissioner has the ultimate say in the allocation of police. When we look at Labor’s election commitments and its last budget, we see the promise of 15 police in Bellarine, a marginal Labor seat. I wonder whether this is a new way of allocating police in this state. It simply makes no sense to me that you have an act that says the allocation of resources is at the discretion of the chief commissioner but then in the next breath you say you will allocate police to particular locations.

The coalition is not opposing this bill. When we on this side looked at police stations across the state, whether they be 24‑hour police stations or others that had prisoners in police cells, we were concerned about tying up police resources with looking after prisoners in police cells. However, with those few comments I can say we are not opposing the bill.