I rise to speak in support of the Graffiti Prevention Bill.
As we have heard, there are three main objectives to the bill — that is, to reduce the financial and social costs connected to graffiti; to promote a strong deterrent to the perpetrators and promote accountability, and to reduce the incidence of graffiti. There are three main elements to this: new offences, new investigative powers and new procedures in relation to graffiti removal.
When we think of graffiti we often think of tagging and of property being defaced, and often it is done in very dangerous circumstances. Before I go to certain clauses of the bill I want to make some comments that are supportive of graffiti activity that I have heard of or know about directly.
One of these is an activity that is undertaken in Geelong, often in conjunction with the Australia Day weekend where there is a lot of activity with yachts down on the waterfront. Local graffiti artists have the chance to compete for prizes during a public art competition on that weekend.
In Geelong there is also a local group called the City Aerosol Network; that group likes to be known as CAN. It runs a number of programs for people and groups who are interested in aerosol art. It is also a way of engaging young people, because this is a form of activity that they are familiar with and it is a way that they can connect and talk about a whole range of other issues. Recently CAN was involved in creating the billboard on the Princes Highway that read ‘Go Cats’, obviously in support of the local Geelong football team who took out the grand final this year.
There has also been another project where local young people have been engaged in creating a mural that has connected the courts and the police station in the justice precinct in Geelong. That in itself has provided a lot of pride among the young people in Geelong, but it also has played a part in breaking down the important barriers that exist in the community. We all know that there have been some issues with nightclubs and violence in Geelong, and this project is part of a positive way that we can link up artistic expression, youth and responsible behaviour. I am not going to go down the road of saying graffiti is all bad, it is menacing and it leads to a whole range of other socially delinquent activities. I want to say that there is a range of activities that are not just acceptable but supportive generally.
Recently in the Melbourne Times we had a report on the case of Gladys Sinclair-Cohen, who a couple of years ago saw some graffiti artists at work.
Now, two years later, she has a mural on the side of her house and is fully supportive of that sort of activity. Indeed the owner of that property is quoted in the article saying:
- When you walk down the lane, the only place you find rubbish is where there’s no murals.
It has created a sense of creativity and some artistic pride as well as community pride in the inner suburb of Fitzroy.
We have also heard about the city of Melbourne. It is true to say that in the laneways there have been a number of city public art programs that have invited graffiti artists to put their stamp on some of Melbourne’s inner city lanes.
There are a number of Melbourne tourist publications that give directions on where people can go through laneways, get a tour and become acquainted with and educated about street art and graffiti.
We are not talking about graffiti in that sense in respect to this bill tonight. What we are talking about are those incidences of graffiti that are done at night, as I said, often in very difficult physical situations that can endanger people, not just the people who are using the spray cans but those who might be around. We also know that the spray cans are toxic, not only for people inhaling the contents, but also in terms of the property they are used on: when there is rain the cans get into the waterways and cause difficulties for our environment.
There is a whole range of problems associated with graffiti activity outside of the normal socially acceptable ways that you would go about your activities and giving expression to your art.
This bill is also about making sure, as much as we can as legislators, that spray cans are not sold to young people under the age of 18. I think all of us in this room would absolutely endorse that.
I also refer to a report by criminologists Moon, Meyer and Grau entitled Australia’s Young People — Their Health and Wellbeing. They found that 7 per cent of young people have reported inhalant use and that this is due to the substance being easily accessible, legal and inducing intoxication rapidly.
This bill serves the interests of a number of individuals as well as groups. They include persons who are thinking of offending, who will think harder about obtaining material and will think very much harder about the penalty it is likely to draw. I hope they will think twice about chroming and inhalant sniffing.
The wider community having an opportunity to take part in cleaning up and thereby investing a sense of pride in their local community areas is an excellent idea. In terms of public transport companies, there is the impact of cancellations and delays as a result of clean-ups. As a society we owe our public transport users something more than that. We need to ensure that the perception and use of public transport is enhanced and not detracted from. Clearly that will be the case with the reduced incidence of irresponsible graffiti. With all those points having been made, I commend the bill and wish it a speedy passage through the house.