I rise to speak on what I think is an important piece of legislation.
Having examined the bill during the time that it has been before the house, it is really heartening to note that there is legislation of this kind.
I think a lot of people in our state wonder what happens to serious sex offenders once they have served their time and once they are back out in the community.
This particular legislation requires serious sex offenders who are deemed an unacceptable risk to the community to be subject to post-sentence supervision orders. That recognises the seriousness of the crimes that they committed and for which they were jailed in the first place. I think the main aim of this bill is to give the highest priority to the protection of the community from those people once they are released.
The legislation provides a layer of oversight for people who the court has determined pose an unacceptable risk of sexually reoffending. This is not a decision that is made lightly. These are people who have committed very serious offences, and they come back before the court for a determination such as this to be made. There are professionals who will give evidence about the nature of these people, about their likelihood to reoffend and about their risk to the community. The supervision orders can be imposed for up to 15 years while detention orders can be imposed for up to 3 years. Offenders will be subject to a range of court-ordered conditions, which can include curfews, alcohol and drug treatment, no-go zones and strict reporting requirements. I think it was interesting to see in the media just last week reports that people are afraid that these sorts of offenders were hanging around schools. The no-go zone clearly is a way that this can be prevented, and we have had other legislation on issues like this.
Without this scheme, people would just be released into the community at the end of their terms of imprisonment without anyone really knowing where they are or what is going on. It is an important piece of legislation. It provides that if offenders breach the scheme, they will go back to prison.
The legislation includes a number of particular measures I want to refer to. It enshrines in law that community safety is the paramount consideration. It expands supervision orders and extends the time that the police can hold serious sex offenders who are deemed to be at risk of breaching supervision orders from the short time of 10 hours to 72 hours. I think it is understandable that police would require that additional time for investigative purposes.
The act introduces a new specialist response unit which will enhance the monitoring and the management of these offenders in the community and provide even greater cooperation and information sharing between police and corrections. Information sharing is something that is really important and it has been legislated for in other legislation — for instance, between child protection agencies and the courts.
Indeed some of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence have highlighted the need for information sharing between agencies so that everyone understands what is going on in relation to particular people. The authorities will have a greater opportunity to intervene early before someone’s risk increases. More intelligence-based risk assessment and offender management will occur, and case managers will be able to again have access to that shared information.
The Harper review was put in place after a terrible incident early last year, and it has made a number of recommendations to government, and I understand that a number of these have been taken up in this legislation and that we may well see more into the future. The legislation is a civil non-punitive scheme. It is described that way, yet I think a lot of people would see it as punitive in some way, because the curtailment of people’s rights is in many ways punitive, but in situations such as these I believe that there is strong community support for this type of management and regulation of these offenders once they have been released.
A number of the women who have spoken on this bill have expressed concern about the fears they have had for themselves over the course of their lives — the fear of being attacked, the fear of walking out at night, the fear of going out and being able to freely walk home. That is something that I think all women have felt at times. It is unacceptable that in society — in cities, in towns where so many people are — you still feel afraid to walk down the street.
I am the mother of a daughter who came to university in Melbourne and worked in hospitality on weekends. She would often telephone me as she was walking home at night in Brunswick — near Lygon Street, near Sydney Road, near where Jill Meagher was murdered. I felt fear as a parent knowing that she was walking down the street. It is hard to explain how that makes a mother feel but also how it makes a woman feel. Thank God for mobile phones, because they have provided a sense of security for women. They have provided a sense of security for parents. Certainly in my case I would make sure that my daughter had the phone on as she walked down that dark street, after she got off the tram, down to her house.
These are situations that we all face all the time. The fact that there are 156 serious offenders who are just roaming about here in Victoria in our community is quite frightening. It is heartening to know that there is a system in place to regulate them. I have to say from my own experience I know of a time when this regulation was not there and that the best a serious offender might expect to get would be a phone call during the course of the day from his case manager to see what was happening.
I hope that the scheme of this legislation will provide a much tighter system, that there will be more regulation and that corrections and the police will be able to track these people more. Recently there was news of a woman who was murdered who did not know the status of the man living next door to her. The community has to wear that because we in our wisdom decide that people are not entitled to know where a sex offender or a paedophile is living. That is currently the situation. I do not know who lives next door to me or who lives in my street in terms of people being offenders of that nature. If we are not entitled to know where they are, it is very important that corrections and the police do know where they are, do monitor them and do keep a level of control.
This is a piece of legislation that really highlights for me that situation that women do face. It has been an interesting time in my short time in this Parliament that we have sat through Rosie Batty and others talking about their experiences of family violence, that we have now had the report of the Royal Commission into Family Violence released and tabled in Parliament, and we will now hear many speeches arising out of that. So many of these issues are tied up into one single issue — that is, the lack of respect for women.
I commend the member for Eltham on the words she had to say about the depiction of women in advertising and about the devaluation and the denigration of women in advertising in our community. It is only if we as women stand up to these things, do not buy from certain places and write letters and demand a higher standard that these things will change. I am pleased to be here in this house while there is a real movement afoot to make change occur in relation to family violence and to hopefully improve the lives of many women in our community, so I commend the bill to the house.