Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:21): I would like to ask a question, thanks President, and I would like to ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council, representing the Attorney-General.
As the minister would be aware, Victoria is the only state in this country without a spent convictions scheme despite some of the other states having schemes for over 30 years and despite the fact that I introduced a spent convictions bill in February 2019.
The government referred that bill to an inquiry. The Attorney-General said, ‘Yes, we’re looking at this. We will act on this. It’s well overdue’. My question is: the bill has really been consulted to death and we have talked about this for decades in Victoria, where is the spent convictions bill?
The PRESIDENT: Before I call the Leader of the Government—
Ms Symes: I think you can call me on this one.
The PRESIDENT: Okay.
Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Agriculture, Minister for Resources) (12:22): Thank you for your question, Ms Patten.
I can answer it in my capacity as Leader of the Government in terms of its legislative progress, noting that the actual topic is a matter for the Attorney-General, who Minister Tierney has responsibility for.
However, in that regard I am very conscious of the important issue. Enabling people to put their lives back on track, to obtain employment, to obtain housing when they have had a cross against their name 10 years ago or something I think is absolutely important.
I think it is important now more than ever because of the ramifications of an economic recovery after COVID and a lot of people are displaced from work at the moment. I can inform you that that legislation is under development and due for introduction to the Parliament this year.
Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:23): Thanks, Minister, and I apologise for mixing that up a bit, but by way of a supplementary, and I think it follows on from your response as well, we categorically know that historical convictions are a significant barrier to employment and, as you quite rightly say, as we start coming out of COVID and we start looking at the government’s approaches to stimulus and things like that we will still be the only state in the country where employers can discriminate against people for these convictions.
So I suppose my supplementary is: can I expect that the government might expedite this bill given that we are coming out of COVID and this is important?
Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Agriculture, Minister for Resources) (12:24): Thank you, Ms Patten, for your supplementary question. It is true to say that the legislative agenda has been slightly disrupted by COVID. We obviously had our emergency bills and the like. I understand that this is on track to be considered before the end of the year. It will be in this place before the end of the year.