I rise to speak on the Crimes Amendment (Carjacking and Home Invasion) Bill 2016 that is before this house.
For some years the Greater Shepparton municipality, which is within my electorate, has been second only to the Latrobe municipality in its rate of crime per capita in regional Victoria.
In the 12 months to March this year Greater Shepparton recorded 7868 offences.
The rate is sadly climbing everywhere across the state except in the shires of Whitehorse and South Gippsland, according to the latest results released by the Crime Statistics Agency.
This bill creates the new offences of carjacking and home invasion. To the best of my knowledge carjacking is a rare offence in Greater Shepparton, but it has happened. A frightening case is one that was widely reported last year. It began a major man hunt. A Shepparton man was stopped in Shepparton South and forced to drive to Yarrawonga at knifepoint. On arrival he was forced to hand over his phone and wallet before the offender fled.
Home invasions are certainly another matter; however, until now we have known them as other offences, such as aggravated burglary, depending on whether a resident was home at the time the intrusion took place. How can anyone in Shepparton ever forget the ordeal of Bill Hickford, who miraculously survived after he was stabbed 20 times when two teenagers broke into his Kialla home a week before Christmas in 2010. It was an incident which rocked Shepparton district to the core. One of the teenagers was found not guilty of attempted murder and not guilty of intentionally causing serious injury. The second pleaded guilty to theft and aggravated burglary, a charge which, had the crime happened now, would be termed aggravated home invasion. While offences obviously exist in our Crimes Act at the moment that deal with these offences, I think this legislation will create a circumstance whereby the offences are actually called what they are. In addition to this, the penalties will more reflect the horror of the sorts of crimes that are being committed.
Increased youth crime is certainly an issue within our communities. An October 2015 Jesuit Social Services report, An escalating problem — Responding to the increased remand of children in Victoria, states that in 2014–15 there was a 57 per cent increase in the number of children admitted to remand — from 112 to 176 — following the introduction of bail reforms. We have to ask ourselves as a society whether remand, youth detention and ultimately jail is the answer we want for young people who are offending. We must have a vision for the future for those children who are very young now but who are very much at risk of being the next generation of offenders. Surely these incidents show that if we addressed family dysfunction and childhood trauma at an early age, we would be redirecting so many young people away from lives of criminal behaviour and detention.
We are attempting to do this in Shepparton through initiatives such as the Neighbourhood Schools Project, which is connecting children to paediatric and other services through their schools and finding success through a form of trauma play therapy. At least 60 per cent of the children who have been assessed to date have shown significant developmental and behavioural problems associated with early childhood trauma. This trauma may be associated with family violence, refugee experiences or foetal alcohol syndrome.
Shepparton is a multicultural community with various needs when it comes to our children, but we are working very hard to be inclusive. We celebrate cultural differences, we have an number of events throughout the town that try to create an inclusive community and we have a multicultural police officer, Mr Matthew Walker. But we still have a high crime rate. I firmly believe we need to be working at both ends of the spectrum — that is, in the early childhood phase and of course in the policing needed to deal with offenders. A stronger police presence on our streets is required, but we also need to know we can call on police at our stations when required. The two-up rule has had a major impact on our regional stations and police services generally. There are stations left unattended for long hours. At times on country roads a police officer may be alone and therefore not able to intervene in relation to an offence unless two of them are present, and very often that is simply not the case. We have a right to feel safe in our communities, whether it is walking through a shopping district, driving down the street or being in our own homes.
On another aspect of this matter, I note that Mr O’Donohue in the other place has recently introduced two bills, one in relation to carjacking and the other on ‘no body, no parole’. I call on Mr O’Donohue to take the time to brief me on such bills before they come to this place as a matter of courtesy not only to me but the people of the Shepparton district I represent. I think we could all do better than keeping the Independent member for Shepparton in the dark about proposed important legislation. With that, I support the bill.