I rise to make a contribution to debate on the Justice Legislation Further Amendment Bill 2010. This is a multifaceted bill and, as the previous speaker said, an omnibus bill. It makes a number of changes to legislation within the justice portfolio. Some 18 amendments amend an even larger number of acts that are instruments of this Parliament.
Firstly, there is an amendment to the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 to enable the immediate closure and evacuation of licensed premises where there is a serious fire or other emergency threat to the health and safety of any persons on or in close proximity to the licensed premises. The bill repeals section 63 of the Metropolitan Fire Brigades Act 1958 and amends that act and the Country Fire Authority Act 1958 to enable the penalty interest rates applicable to offences under those acts to change accordingly whenever the Attorney-General fixes a new penalty interest rate under the Penalty Interest Rates Act 1983. The bill also amends the Emergency Management Act 1986 to correct a cross-reference.
The bill amends the Corrections Act 1986 to allow sheriffs and contracted staff working in the sheriff’s communication centre to access and use particular Corrections Victoria information held on E*Justice when carrying out their duties. It also amends the Serious Sex Offenders (Detention and Supervision) Act 2009 to clarify that media organisations may publish the identity and location of an offender if the information is published at the request of the police and the publication is in the course of law enforcement functions or in the execution of a warrant or the arrest or apprehension of an offender. The bill amends the Crimes Act 1958 in relation to the digital evidence capture scheme and its impact on agencies other than Victoria Police that conduct investigations of indictable criminal matters. The bill also amends the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 to ban the sale, supply and display of ice pipes in Victoria, and I will go to that a little later.
The bill amends the Supreme Court Act 1986, the Magistrates’ Court Act 1989, the County Court Act 1958 and other acts to extend statutory immunities for judges and other court officers in the exercise of administrative functions in courts and VCAT (Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal).
The bill amends the Gambling Regulation Act 2003 to make a range of technical amendments to clarify the functions and obligations of the post-2012 monitoring licensee and gaming venues with respect to the operation of linked jackpot arrangements, to extend the powers of the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation to make standards for monitoring and gaming under the post-2012 gambling industry structure and to amend the wagering tax provisions to give effect to concessional tax arrangements for premium customers. The bill amends the Legal Profession Act 2004 to clarify the powers of the Legal Services Board of Victoria to invest money standing to the credit of the Public Purpose Fund.
The bill amends the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 to remove the 21-day limit on the duration and extension of certain interim accommodation orders (IAOs) and remove the requirement that the young person, parent or suitable person give an undertaking as a condition of the IAO. It amends the same act and the Infringements Act 2006 to clarify an earlier amendment to provide an extension of time to file a charge sheet in the Children’s Court in children’s infringement matters.
The bill amends the Interpretation of Legislation Act 1984 to permit parliamentary counsel to authorise electronic versions of legislation and statutory rules to be admissible as evidence. It amends the Fair Work (Commonwealth Powers) Act 2009 to replace a reference to the Equal Opportunity Act 1995 with a reference to the new Equal Opportunity Act 2010.
The bill amends the Guardianship and Administration Act 1986 to enable VCAT to appoint an administrator to manage the financial affairs of missing persons. Finally, the bill amends the Prostitution Control Act 1994 to establish a banning notice scheme directed at reducing the detrimental impact of street prostitution in certain residential areas.
As I said in my opening remarks this is an omnibus bill that packages together several measures and amendments to ensure the ongoing safety of the Victorian community, which has been a very strong core value of Labor governments over the last 11 years. As I said, 18 specific amendments are made by this bill, but it affects a larger number of acts. The core areas that all those 18 amendments address come under the banners of personal safety, community safety, law and order and up-to-date, timely procedures to ensure that these measures flow through to our communities.
In respect of personal safety it is often said that this government is not only committed to ensuring that there is greater personal safety for all Victorians but is committed to a program that will ensure that that is delivered in a very practical sense. A number of amendments in this bill work towards this highest possible degree of personal safety. One is the amendment to the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 that will ban the sale and display of ice pipes in Victoria. An ice pipe is broadly defined as a device which is used to smoke methamphetamines, or ‘ice’ as it is most commonly known. Victorians, if they were not aware of this device, may have seen one used in the recent Ben Cousins documentary.
Methamphetamine is a substance that can be snorted, injected, swallowed or smoked, with the recent trend being for users to smoke methamphetamines.
According to an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report titled Statistics on Drug Use in Australia 2006, methamphetamine seizures now make up the vast majority of drug seizures in Australia. This bill enables police to seize ice pipes they suspect have been displayed, sold or supplied.
In respect of community safety, a number of acts are to be amended by the bill. This will work towards maintaining the highest possible degree of community safety. Each and every person has the right to feel safe in their community. In this respect there are a number of amendments. One is the amendment to the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 that enables immediate closure and evacuation of licensed premises where there is a threat of serious fire or emergency. There is also the Serious Sex Offenders (Detention and Supervision) Act 2009 amendment and an amendment to the Prostitution Control Act 1994.
Victoria, particularly Melbourne, is famous for its vast array of entertainment, including live music, world-class sporting events and a vibrant nightlife. On average over 300 000 people converge on the Melbourne CBD every weekend. Whilst there is a strict fire safety inspection program for licensed premises that is administered by fire agencies, there are instances where these fire agencies have seen violations such as locked emergency exit doors and disconnected exit signs, sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers. This amendment will provide the director of liquor licensing with the power to immediately close and evacuate a venue which is believed to pose a serious threat in relation to fire or emergency.
The other area that these amendments touch on comes under the broad heading of ‘Procedure’. The bill contains a number of amendments to achieve the most timely and effective way for law and order matters to be resolved. The three examples I would give here include the amendment to the Corrections Act 1986, which provides sheriffs with the appropriate access needed to carry out their role in an effective manner; the amendment to the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005, which removes the 20-day limit; and the amendment to the Guardianship and Administration Act 1986, which enables the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to appoint an administrator to manage the financial affairs of missing persons.
There is also the amendment to the Corrections Act 1986. Sheriffs play a very important role in upholding law and order in this state. They are responsible for warrants for the non-payment of fines and have the power to seize property, assign payment plans and in some circumstances arrest an offender.
This amendment to the Corrections Act will give sheriffs access to offender address information and personal details held by Corrections Victoria, making the sheriffs’ time far more effective in exercising the powers of their office and executing their role.
Whilst this is a fairly long bill, and as I said it has got 18 specific amendments, it is a bill that is about making this state safer not only on an individual level but also in a community sense. It is a bill that is designed to streamline our law and make its processing far more effective and efficient in this state. I commend the bill to the house.