Ms TIERNEY (Minister for Corrections) (17:13:57) — This bill represents a significant step forward in implementing the reforms recommended by Justice Harper in his 2015 review. Dealing with serious sex and violent offenders is extremely difficult. We all wish that these offences were never committed, those victims were never victims and those people were not offenders. We wish that upon finishing their time in prison those offenders would not commit further crimes, but unfortunately that is not the reality. Unfortunately that does not reflect what happens here and around the world. So it is incumbent upon governments to identify the risk and try to mitigate against it. The serious sex offender scheme has been identifying risk and protecting the community for over 10 years, but this bill today is a serious step up. The Harper reforms are the biggest set of reforms since Labor implemented the serious sex offenders detention and supervision scheme a decade ago, which continues to provide supervision and management of offenders after their sentence has been served. The scheme is a world leader, and we have our teams of qualified clinicians and other staff working to reduce the risk of reoffending. It is that mix of management and rehabilitation that sets Victoria ahead of the world in sex offender management. The ultimate aim is of course for safer communities.
The bill is also underpinned by an evidence base created by, amongst others, the Catalyst Consortium. Professor Jim Ogloff leads this network of researchers from across the globe, including the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada. It gathers together some of the brightest minds that we have here in Australia. Their work ensures that we are at the forefront in understanding and treating the causes of serious violent and serious sex offending, and that is what is at the heart of the Harper review.
This is a bill that begins to fulfil Justice Harper’s recommendation in terms of the infrastructure that is needed. This bill proposes the formulation of an independent authority to focus on the management of offenders in the post-sentence scheme whilst also overseeing the delivery of therapeutic services. The bill outlines the qualifications for the chair and the deputy chair of the Post Sentence Authority. These two roles on the authority are required to be filled by retired judicial officers of the Supreme, County and Magistrates courts and Australian lawyers of at least five years experience. The latter category is the same as that for the appointment of judicial officers here in Victoria, and I am sure we will have an opportunity to canvass this further in the committee stage.
The bill will also create multi-agency panels to ensure those offenders are getting those services, and it ensures responsibility across those agencies. The agencies will include Victoria Police, Corrections Victoria and a range of service providers. The bill also streamlines the breach process for those offenders that fall foul of the conditions of their order so that the breach and any other related offences can be heard in the same court at the same time.
I will go briefly to some matters that have been raised by members who contributed to the debate on the second-reading speech. The risk of having a new authority is that you replicate functions and issues that are already there. So in response to that, what we say is that the model is different in key ways to what is occurring with the detention and supervision order division of the Adult Parole Board of Victoria (APB). These reforms clearly delineate the roles of the authority, the courts — while removing a role from the APB where it did not sit well — and the multi-agency panels, which share the responsibility and ensure service delivery. It is a very different model and one that is best practice.
There was also an issue about seeking some clarification on information sharing and getting the balance right between transparency and ensuring community safety. In response to that, we say this is a civil scheme dealing with people who have committed serious crimes but who have served the time imposed on them by a court. They have finished their jail time. It is important in this space to ensure that we have vigorous transparency. As noted in the second-reading speech, the application of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 to the authority is to provide transparency, but at the same time the bill includes a list of information that is not appropriate for public release — for example, information about monitoring or the management of offenders on an order. We feel this gets the balance right between ensuring sensitive information is prohibited from release and that the post-sentence scheme remains transparent.
We also heard Mr O’Donohue and Mr Ondarchie quote Justice Whelan in relation to the cost that would be incurred by the APB if it were not to comply with the charter. The authority does not make the same decisions as the APB does with parolees. The court decides who is on the scheme and what conditions are applied. The APB decides who gets parole and what the conditions are. The Post Sentence Authority, as set out in the bill, does not have those functions. I believe that the coalition’s issue is not with the authority being subject to the charter but with the charter itself. The coalition forgets that the charter requires the authority to consider the human rights of all involved, including those of the victim.
Mr O’Donohue also raised the issue of the new secure facility at Ararat and its position within the charter. Firstly, there is nothing in this bill about the new facility. The charter only applies to the authority. But the opposition also fails to understand that the new facility — I was there only last week — has a different role to that of Corella Place. In any case, the placement of offenders is another matter before the courts, and it will be dealt with in the next tranche of legislation that comes before this house.
The coalition also raised the issue of the bill’s stated requirements for the chair and deputy chair, and I covered that earlier in my contribution. As I said, I understand that that is all subject to an amendment that is being proposed by Mr O’Donohue.
This is the first tranche of legislative changes that have arisen as a result of the Harper review. A further bill will be brought to the house that will finalise and overhaul the scheme and add serious violent offenders to that scheme. It is time for it to be finalised leading up to the completion of the facilities and the formation of the authority. This will be done next year, as we have consistently said. With those few words, at this point I now look forward to moving into committee for further discussion.
Motion agreed to.
Read second time.