Archives: Speeches

Monitoring of Places of Detention by the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (OPCAT) Bill 2022


Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (14:55): I rise to speak on this bill. Despite Mr Finn’s assertions that this is some giant conspiracy for some amorphous, foreign force to take us over and take the information out of our brains and do some other conspiratorial things, this is actually a very sensible piece of legislation. It is a very sensible treaty that we signed five years ago as a country, and it has been progressively rolled out around the world and certainly around Australia. The monitoring of places of detention, Mr Finn—places of detention, the places where Mr Finn would like to see everyone locked up forever. I have never heard Mr Finn defend the rights of people in prison before. But new things happen in here all the time.

This is the monitoring of places of detention by the United Nations subcommittee on the prevention of torture—the prevention of torture. This is important. This is legislation that, as I say, has been in the process of being implemented for a number of years. I do not think we are going to get it perfect, because this is looking at how we introduce the monitoring of places of detention, how we work out how we do that monitoring and how we enable the United Nations subcommittee on the prevention of torture to access our places of detention. This is it—it is places of detention. It is our prisons, it is our mental health secure care, it is our youth detention. By way of hoping that we do not go into too much committee on this, I do have a question around whether this legislation would also enable that subcommittee to access prison cells, which would also be places of detention under the definition of this act. But I am not certain, from reading the bill or the second reading, whether police cells would come under this domestic national preventative mechanism.

This is a treaty and a piece of legislation that was much talked about during the inquiry into the criminal justice system. That inquiry, which many of you took part in, received submissions from hundreds of organisations around our state and around our country. It has presented over 100 recommendations. It runs to two volumes. It is a substantive piece of work. Sadly the government is due to respond to it by 24 September at the latest, and I am afraid today is the 19th and tomorrow the 20th, so I would hope that the government may have actually started work on that and might be able to provide this house with a response to that report tomorrow. Unfortunately I do not hold my breath because even substantive reports like the inquiry into homelessness and the inquiry into the use of cannabis have remained unanswered by the government.

Again I refer back to Mr Finn’s concerns about people getting our secret information. This is actually also about protecting the privacy of those in detention, and this legislation sets out some very good protective parameters to protect the privacy of detained people. As it says in the second-reading speech, it will ‘ensure detained or other persons who provide information to the Subcommittee are protected’. Not only is their privacy protected, but they are protected from reprisal. Certainly in the inquiries that I have been involved in, when we have had the opportunity to visit juvenile justice detention centres and when we have had the opportunity to visit prisons both in Melbourne and regionally, there is that fear of reprisal. People are fearful of making complaints and speaking up for fear that that will come back and bite them. Anecdotal experience would say that that actually does happen, so this is very welcomed.

We heard this from numerous organisations in Victoria that gave evidence to the criminal justice inquiry, that OPCAT was going to provide some of the answers to questions around the unnecessary use of restraints and the use of solitary confinement in unnecessary circumstances. In part of what we were hearing and in some of the issues that were raised—even in the inquiry into the impact of parental incarceration on children—we were hearing about circumstances where mothers were being shackled during childbirth if they were operating out of a prison. This is just something that a modern society like Victoria would not countenance. It needs to be exposed if it is occurring, and it needs to stop happening. Mothers were being shackled and handcuffed when they were taken to the doctor for neonatal care of their babies and kept in handcuffs until the doctor required that those handcuffs be removed. This is the type of activity where OPCAT and this legislation and the monitoring of these places will provide the much-needed sunlight.

There was much concern during that inquiry around the secrecy around private prisons, and we know that we have privatised many of our prisons in Victoria. They are multibillion-dollar industries. I myself have been caught when asking questions around the operation of these prisons and the organisations that run them. I have been caught by ministers telling me that that is commercial in confidence. That will not be the case under this legislation. This legislation will ensure that there is a level of transparency in prison conditions, and it will address some of the problematic practices that we heard about during our inquiry. Again, it is an inquiry that the government has not responded to, but I would encourage them, even if they do not get a chance today, to tomorrow agree to just some of the recommendations. I would look at, in line with the spirit of this legislation, recommendation 82, which calls on the Victorian government to review the use of solitary confinement, physical restraints and strip-searching in Victorian prisons with a view to introduce policy to regulate the use of these practices. Let us not leave it to the UN to tell us what to. We know that this is wrong. We know that when we are strip-searching women in the Dame Phyllis Frost prison—over 90 per cent them, in fact almost all of them, have got experiences of trauma and experiences of sexual violence and family violence—we are further traumatising them through the practices of that prison, and that must end. This legislation will go some way to shining a light on that, but I think there are things that we can do without having to wait for the UN subcommittee to look at this.

The Fitzroy Legal Service, in my region, also concurred with this, saying that ‘OPCAT alone isn’t enough’. We know the importance of organisations like our community legal centres in shining a light. We are awaiting with trepidation the coroner’s report on Ms Veronica Nelson, an Aboriginal woman who died in custody under extraordinary conditions. It was an absolute tragedy. It showed everything that is wrong with some of our bail laws, but it also showed what was wrong with the health services that are provided in our prisons. We are now—and my heart pounds as I say this—having a coronial inquest into a baby that died in a prison, and I would say that that baby would not have died if that baby had the same health services that you and I have outside of prison. This is one of the reasons why OPCAT is so important—to ensure that transparency is there and to ensure that practices where health services are denied are not allowed to happen in our prisons and in our detention centres in Victoria.

Jesuit Social Services are also calling for the urgent implementation of OPCAT. They cautioned that implementing OPCAT, as this bill will do, cannot address all the issues in the criminal justice system and advocated for change in other areas—more transformative change. Now, I am harping on this, but I would refer the government to the committee’s inquiry into the criminal justice system, where we made numerous recommendations and findings in this area.

We need to look at how we keep people out of prison and not continue to expand our prisons and build new ones. I despair when I see Cherry Creek being built right next to an adult prison. Is that the message that we are sending young people who are some of our most disadvantaged children in our community? The message we are sending them is, you know, ‘Your next stop is next door’. This is what we need to change. We heard this very loudly and clearly from the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, the Aboriginal Justice Caucus and many of the other Aboriginal community controlled organisations, and in particular the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, who all gave evidence to say that what we are doing now is inadequate. What they also stressed, and I hope and would like to be optimistic and have confidence, is that in the rollout of this as we develop the framework for monitoring places of detention by the subcommittee that we will ensure that that subcommittee understands the cultural significance, understands that they need to do this in a culturally appropriate way that is safe for Aboriginal people. Because we know we are still locking up more Aboriginal people than anyone else in our community per capita. We are still seeing deaths in custody of Aboriginal people in our prisons in Victoria.

My heart goes out to the family and friends of people like Veronica Nelson. My heart goes out to the family and friends of all people who have died in custody, but in particular the families and friends of the Aboriginal people who have died in our custody. This is why, while OPCAT is one measure, and it is a significant measure and an important measure that we take, we need to wholeheartedly consider how we detain people, why we detain people and how we can improve our criminal justice system.

Now, I note that there was about half a million dollars put forward for the funding of OPCAT in the budget. We know that that will not be enough. I understand that the minister is in communication with the federal government around providing significantly more funding for this. I hope that that is forthcoming because we want this to work, but it will not work if it is not properly funded. We want to see that OPCAT operates alongside the Ombudsman and operates alongside IBAC so, I guess, that we can have faith that our prison structures are doing what they are supposed to do, and that is ensuring that while protecting the community we are also rehabilitating people in prison and that we are not unnecessarily detaining people, which I would have to say we are doing right now, when the majority of women in our prisons are there on remand—they are unsentenced.

So I welcome this legislation, but I do urge the government and implore the government to consider the report of the Legal and Social Issues Committee and the very hard work that so many organisations, non-government organisations, put into that report—the number of people with lived experience who talked about their life in detention, talked about the experiences of that period of detention and talked about what we could do better. OPCAT is certainly part of that toolbox of improving our system, but it is not the silver bullet. We can do more, and that will be around bail reform, that will be around parole reform and that will be around drug law reform. All of these areas have to walk alongside OPCAT and the oversight that this legislation will bring to our detention centres. So while I welcome this legislation, I implore the government to do more.


Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Second reading speech 20/9/22



Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (11:46): I would like to briefly speak on the Casino Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Implementation and Other Matters) Bill 2022. I think, as we have heard from some of my colleagues here today, it is quite pleasing to come to the end of this term with some positive work done in this area. This bill acquits most of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence. Many of you will recall that I raised the matter of Crown Casino as a matter of public importance in this chamber. It was knocked out at the time, but I feel like I was absolutely vindicated by what happened after. Certainly I would like to commend, while I am on my feet, Mr Andrew Wilkie in the federal Parliament for the tireless work that he has done on exposing the criminal elements of not just Crown Casino but also, as we are seeing play out, Star casino in New South Wales.

Among other things, this bill will strengthen anti-money-laundering measures and implement mandatory precommitment and other gambling harm minimisation measures at the casino, and these are important reforms. I know most of us have walked through the casino at some time; while many people might be enjoying themselves, we see many people who are not. Certainly, as the chair of the criminal justice inquiry—and even looking at the other justice inquiries that we have done over this term, be that spent convictions or even the impact of parental incarceration on children—we have seen the thread of gambling that weaves its damaging and life-destroying path through so many people’s lives, that leads them into our criminal justice system, that creates circumstances of family violence at home and that leads, ultimately and tragically, to loss of life.

So these are important changes, but I think sadly there is also a missed opportunity. As the Alliance for Gambling Reform have indicated—and I know others have referred to the alliance—while they are glad to see the government make every effort to legislate and meet the recommendations of the Crown royal commission before the election, it is absolutely critical that the government commit to mandatory precommitment on all poker machines statewide, not just at the casino. It troubles me that on one hand we are acknowledging the harms—and we are acknowledging them by accepting the recommendations of the royal commission and by putting forward this legislation today—but we are failing to recognise that the vast majority of poker machine gambling is not happening at the casino.

In fact only 10 per cent of pokies are located at the casino. The rest are in our electorates. The rest are in some of the most disadvantaged areas of our electorates, and I know Dr Ratnam and I in Northern Metropolitan carry a fair proportion of those poker machines in some of the poorest pockets of our electorate.

Mandatory precommitment has the ability to reduce gambling harm by ensuring people set time and monetary limits and stick to them. The bill also ensures identity measures that will also prevent money laundering. If this happens at the casino but not at other poker machine venues, well, it is a bit of a whack-a-mole project, isn’t it. We may reduce this harm and we may reduce this happening at the casino, but it means that we may be seeing that crime and that harm relocated to our pubs and clubs in our communities. And, as we say, we know that gambling harm is not isolated to the casinos.

Victoria just experienced the highest losses ever recorded in one month, in July 2022. That was $270 million in our pubs and clubs. That is how much money went through our poker machines. Certainly it is why this is not the first time that I have stood up and spoken about this. I have certainly put up amendments in this area, not just in this term but in the last term. It is why Reason has a longstanding policy to reduce the negative impacts of poker machines and promote responsible gambling—doing simple things like making the maximum bet per spin $1, reducing maximum daily trading hours at poker machine venues and the density of poker machines per electorate, making transparent the lobbying activities of pokie providers and their influence on government and engaging in long-term planning to try and decouple the government from poker machine revenue. I know it is not easy, but some of these actually are quite simple. And they are tools and measures that our communities have been crying out for, particularly those that have experienced firsthand, as many of us have, the harms of gambling addiction. This is the way we save lives and reduce the significant harm associated with gambling, and that, as I mentioned earlier, includes mental health, it includes suicide, it includes family violence and it includes the incarceration of many of our citizens.

Having made these points it will not be surprising that I will be supporting Dr Ratnam’s amendments here. It may be more surprising that I will also be supporting Dr Cumming’s amendments here today, but for the same reasons that I spoke about last year in December, I will not be supporting Mr Davis’s.


Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Second reading 20/9/22


SARC alert digest no. 13


Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (09:53): I would just like to make a couple of points and to concur with the chair of the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee, Mr Gepp, on the incredible work of the team, lead very well by Helen Mason, and the insight that Jeremy Gans has been able to give us from a human rights aspect. I have to say, having been a member of SARC for the whole term, I highly recommend it. I did not think I would say that at the beginning of this term, but as an independent it gives you a wonderful insight into legislation that you might not be able to garner using the limited resources that your offices have.

I would particularly like to note my knowledge of the King Henry VIII clause, which was something quite foreign to me until my time on SARC. It was quite an extraordinary time. There was quite an extraordinary number of pieces of legislation that we went through, some controversial, many very interesting, and I would like to commend Mr Gepp for leading and chairing the committee extremely well.


Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Statement on report 20/9/22


Coburg High School


Petition of certain citizens of the State of Victoria draws to the attention of the Legislative Council that Coburg High School (CHS) is the largest school in the Pascoe Vale electorate with 1,225 enrolments in 2022, yet it is consistently overlooked for critical infrastructure funding.

After a long community campaign, CHS was reopened in 2015. It is a vibrant, diverse and inclusive school with dedicated teachers, exceptional leadership, strong community engagement and excellent student results. Critical infrastructure to support the school’s rapid growth has never been adequately funded.

CHS is currently under resourced by 18 specialist learning classrooms and lacking appropriate facilities for subjects like STEM, performing arts, visual arts and sports. This deficit will rise to 21 when the projected enrolment of 1,475 in 2027 is reached. It lacks the quality facilities of neighbouring schools with music lessons held in storage cupboards, science classes in portables without lab facilities and students counselled out of taking food technology as there is only one commercial kitchen for the entire school.

With the introduction of the Vocational Major and Victorian Pathways Certificate in 2023, CHS needs to be able to retain senior students and provide the educational opportunities they deserve. A commitment to Capital Works funding by the Victorian State Government will ensure our students have access to all parts of the Victorian curriculum and vocational specialisations and our transformational infrastructure projects.

The petitioners therefore request that the Legislative Council call on the Government to urgently commit Capital Works funding for Coburg High School so they may create adequate facilities that will meet the learning needs of current and future students.

By Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (2048 signatures).

Laid on table.


Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Petition tabled 20/9/22


Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II


Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan)

Incorporated pursuant to order of Council of 7 September 2021:

I rise to pay my respects and recognise the significant contribution made by Queen Elizabeth II in seven decades as head of state of Australia and this state, Victoria.

I, like most Australians, have known no other head of state.

Queen Elizabeth was a patron of more than 600 organisations and served them commendably.

She had dignity and grace in office and great strength of character, which meant for many Australians that being a republican and an Elizabethan were not mutually exclusive things.

Queen Elizabeth respected the self-determination of the Australian people, backing the right of Australians to become a fully independent nation during the referendum on an Australian republic, saying at that time she ‘always made it clear that the future of the monarchy in Australia is an issue for the Australian people and them alone to decide, by democratic and constitutional means’.

I am saddened by the news of Queen Elizabeth’s passing and express my gratitude for her service to the Commonwealth.


Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Condolence motion 13/9/22


Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (14:58): I am pleased to rise to speak briefly to the Justice Legislation Amendment (Sexual Offences and Other Matters) Bill 2022. It has been interesting and really fruitful listening to this debate. I think when the public thinks about what we do, to hear the very heartfelt and sensible comments that are being made in this chamber about this bill I hope builds some faith in the Parliament itself, because this is an important bill. It will reform the way sexual violence, rape, is dealt with in Victoria by adopting an affirmative consent model, something that advocates have been calling for for not just years but I would say probably decades. It acquits the recommendations of the Victorian Law Reform Commission and makes it clear that a person cannot have a reasonable belief in consent if they did not say or do anything to find out.

The way someone dresses is not consent. How much that person has had to drink is not consent. How that person walks home at night is not consent. We have all been, I am sure, involved with the Me Too movement, some of us probably in a more personal way than others, and before that we would march in the streets. We had marches in the street to keep women safe at night, and that started in the 1970s. Also for many years I was involved in a group called SlutWalk, which was again about saying that consent has to be affirmative. Consent is not suggesting ‘Well, she seemed to like me’ or ‘Gosh, she looked like she liked me’ or ‘She was dressed in a certain way’. So I think this is a proud day to be here to see this campaign come to fruition and see affirmative consent introduced into our justice legislation.

I was sexually assaulted as a young person, and I am not alone. The statistics show that if there are five women in a room there will certainly be number of them who have been assaulted. When you look at the LGBTIQA community those statistics become even higher. Particularly for our transgender community, the statistics are alarming. I did not report it to the police. I did speak to the person—he was an acquaintance—and made him understand very clearly that there was no consent there and that it was in actual fact sexual assault and in fact it was rape. That did not stop him. After that happened I actually went and spoke to his mates and told them what happened, and I am very grateful for those fellows—those young surfer guys. They immediately acted. They immediately asked that man to leave and they told him they never wanted to see him at the camp ever again, and we did not; he never came back. Had there been affirmative consent, had we had these conversations—because this was a long time ago, and it is still not much better. Most women or most people who are sexually assaulted will not go and report it, because they are worried that they will not be believed. They are worried that the bar is set at a certain level of proof so that in some ways they have to prove that they have been sexually assaulted, and basically they do. Affirmative consent takes this back, so that the perpetrator has to show that there was consent and has to show it in explicit and clear ways. The only person responsible for sexual assault is the person who did it.

So this change I hope will affect women today, and I hope that the outcome of this legislation will mean that more women will want to report and that, more importantly, less people will be raped or sexually assaulted. This is part of an education campaign, this is part of a worldwide movement. We saw that New Zealand has actually prosecuted people under some affirmative consent laws and some stealthing laws that I will mention in a moment, and we have seen other jurisdictions follow this path. We will see the ability for us to run national campaigns. This is yet another tool for us to address sexual violence in our community.

The bill also makes some important changes around stealthing and image-based sexual offences, and I am happy to support those. As someone who is a bit involved in the sex worker community, the term ‘stealthing’ is actually abhorred. Sex workers prefer not to call it stealthing. They prefer to call it sexual assault. When we were discussing this years ago there would be concerns about people saying ‘stealthing’. I think it came into our dictionary about five or six years ago, and sex workers would say that that kind of diminishes the harm that that action does to a person.

If a sex worker is working and someone pulls off a condom without consent, that is sexual assault, and this legislation goes to that, which I am very pleased about. So despite the term, the impact is that stealthing is now seen as sexual assault. For a sex worker this often would mean that they could no longer work, because they would have to take time off for sexual health checks to ensure that it had not caused any transmission of any STIs. There would also be the mental harm from this as well. So for sex workers I think there was a sense of urgency for this to be addressed, and I think if I remember rightly this was also raised in the debate around sex work law reform.

I would just like to touch on the proposed amendments by the opposition. I listened to Dr Bach presenting those amendments, and I have some sympathy to those arguments—certainly if there is a person in this room that knows about educating and speaking to young people it is Dr Bach. The reason I could not get there was the consistency of the Northern Territory, the ACT, Queensland and New South Wales. In having the same interpretations, in having the same definitions, I think we can approach this on a national level. Having a standardised interpretation also provides for a body of precedent from the other jurisdictions in other areas, and I think I have enough faith in the judicial officers to navigate around the word ‘voluntary’ here. As I said, importantly it will assist us in consistent education across the state and across the country, to assist in changing—frankly, and as Mr Melhem put it—men’s behaviour.

The Greens have put up some amendments to this legislation as well, and while I agree entirely with the purposes of these amendments—and I absolutely support the advocacy from my friends at the Victorian Pride Lobby and Equality Australia—I think what these amendments do is actually highlight that we need to rework the Crimes Act 1958, that actually our whole Crimes Act needs to be updated. So there is a little bit of homework for the Attorney-General—I suspect possibly not before this election, not before the end of this term. But I think it is a very important piece of work that needs to be done, and I would compel the Attorney-General to consider putting that on the to-do list if they were to form government or the opposition if they were to form government after this year’s election—that they would also consider having a whole update of the Crimes Act. So with those words I thank you.


Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Second reading 30/8/22



Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:32): Pursuant to standing order 23.29, I lay on the table a report from the Legal and Social Issues Committee on the inquiry into extremism in Victoria, including appendices and a minority report. I further present transcripts of evidence, and I move:

That the transcripts of evidence lie on the table and the report be published.

Motion agreed to.

Ms PATTEN: I move:

That the Council take note of the report.

I would just really like to start by acknowledging the extraordinary team that has guided the Legal and Social Issues Committee not just through this inquiry and this report but also through the other 11 that we have done. This is the 12th report of the Legal and Social Issues Committee and our 11th inquiry. I would also just like to recognise Dr Ratnam in bringing this inquiry to the committee and also her dedicated work on this inquiry, as well as all of the other committee members who took part in this inquiry.

You would not normally expect a state Parliament to be looking at an issue such as extremism—and we certainly followed on from our federal counterparts, who had begun an investigation into extremism in Australia. I think what I took from this is that to address and stop extremism in our community requires a whole-of-government approach, and it requires whole levels of approaches. Some of that is around security and legislation, but a lot of it is around community building. It is around addressing social exclusion. It is about addressing so many of the issues that some of our multicultural community, our First Nations people and many people are experiencing—that sense of isolation that can lead them down some very dark and sometimes dangerous paths.

This is certainly what we heard from—sometimes very brave—witnesses who gave evidence to this committee. They did that at personal risk and at risk not just to themselves but to their families. Many of them have actually been attacked since giving evidence to this committee. So we are enormously grateful for that. But as I say, this is not the end of this conversation. I do not think it is the end of this conversation in this state Parliament, and certainly it is not the end of this conversation nationally.

I feel that this report actually started the conversation about what we can do to address extremism in our community and what we can do to not only address it but prevent it. In doing that we really need to look at community building and other social cohesion measures.

Aside from that but as part of that—and certainly it is something that has been in conversations in the last 24 hours in the media but also in the last few months—is the responsibility that members of Parliament have to their community to support them and to not incite or help perpetrate social isolation or even extremism. To that end we recommended an integrity charter, which will again help build the public trust in our Parliament. We know that that public trust is at a pretty low ebb at the moment, and this committee recommended that we introduce an integrity charter as part of a whole bunch of other measures that we have heard about from IBAC and the Ombudsman in a whole range of areas.

I do encourage members to read this report. I think it covers off on a lot of areas. It does not pretend to provide the answers. What it does do is start opening the conversation. There are some very sensible measures that we have recommended in this report and I commend it to the house.


Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Report tabled 29/8/22



Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (14:53): I am pleased to rise briefly to speak on this bill. And I will speak briefly, because we have heard so many really terrific contributions to this legislation today. It is incredibly important work for this Parliament. As Ms Shing recently mentioned, it will set a new course in our approach to mental health and wellbeing, and not before time. As someone who has been chairing the Legal and Social Issues Committee this term, I know the impact of mental health and the impact of a lot of our mental health policies are so broad reaching. We see that whether it is when we are doing an inquiry into homelessness and looking at the impact that mental health has on people’s housing or whether it is recognising that two out of five people who enter our prison system have been diagnosed with mental health issues—and if it is women, two out of three women have been diagnosed with mental health issues. Nearly half of the women in our prisons are taking medication for their mental health.

So the policies that we have made on mental health impact our justice system, impact our housing and the services that we offer people who are experiencing homelessness and impact a lot of our drug and alcohol policies. I think that the harm minimisation approach that is taken throughout this bill and is taken throughout the intentions of this bill is very good. I hope that that means we will start seeing a strong harm minimisation approach to alcohol and other drugs, not just in the services we provide but in the laws that surround drugs and alcohol in our community, particularly illicit drugs.

But as we know, we have been forever operating ambulances at the bottom of a cliff. We have constantly been in crisis mode. I know that all of us have had those desperate calls from constituents who just cannot get help for their loved one or are really struggling with their own mental health and there is nowhere for them to go. This bill and this approach, this plan, will enable far easier early intervention. It will also assist us in addressing stigma. We know of the stigma around mental health. We also know that people delay seeking help for their mental health because of the shame and stigma that they experience from having mental ill health.

The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System found all of this—that we need a complete rebuild. But I have never met more dedicated people than the people in the mental health sector. I was recently at Heidelberg at the Austin’s acute mental health ward, and the dedication and the passion of the allied health workers there, of the nurses there, of the psychiatrists there and of even the receptionists there were quite overwhelming, but they were working with this incredibly dilapidated infrastructure and, to be honest, a fairly dilapidated system. There was a patient there who had an eating disorder, and I saw where she was staying and I could not help but think it was the last place that someone should be to get better. It was not conducive to making someone feel better and improving their health.

This legislation is really welcomed by our community. We commend the government on this work. It is well considered, and it is building from the base up. I was almost pleasantly surprised by the opposition’s amendments, which I am supportive of for recognising alcohol and other drugs and recognising they are important components of this and having that recognition introduced to the bill. This legislation and the implementation of it, being the implementation of the recommendations of the royal commission, will absolutely save lives. I do not think there is a single one of us who has not been affected by suicide or who has not mourned the loss of someone because of mental ill health and because of the fact that they were not able to get the help that they needed when they needed it. I think this legislation creates a vision for what a compassionate mental health system can look like—something that is responsive, something that is flexible, something that recognises that it is people centric. Having people with lived experience, which is so crucial to the system and to the checks and balances of this legislation, is incredibly important.

I thank everyone who spoke to me, whether that was Professor McGorry, the college of psychiatrists, the Health and Community Services Union (HACSU) or even the individuals in my community who wrote to me. I am very grateful for all of the people who spoke to my office and who I met with as part of our consultation on this. But to that end, there were a number of concerns raised with me by the nurses and midwives union and the Health and Community Services Union, and this led us to drafting a series of amendments. I am wondering if we could circulate those amendments now.

Fiona Patten’s Reason Party amendments circulated by Ms PATTEN pursuant to standing orders.

Ms PATTEN: These amendments establish a legislative basis for the Mental Health Workforce Safety and Wellbeing Committee. This is a committee that already exists, and it is currently established administratively via the secretary, so this is actually just embedding it into the legislation to ensure that this committee does continue to exist and continue to operate. Being a workforce safety and wellbeing committee, it will assist in some of the concerns that the workforce had about the implementation of various parts of the legislation and what impact they will have on the safety of their workplaces, and this ensures that there is transparent oversight of that. It flows from the royal commission’s recommendation 59, and as I say, its purpose will be to look at the prevention of and responses to the occupational health, safety and wellbeing risk to the mental health and wellbeing workforce. I think this is very sensible. It is implementing something that already exists, and I hope that it will be supported here.

As I said, I support the amendments that the opposition has raised and introduced for this bill as well, because alcohol and other drugs should not be seen as either/or in mental health. An alcohol or drug use disorder is part of a mental health spectrum, and so often we have seen and heard of people saying, ‘I can’t treat you for your mental health until you’re treated for your drug use disorder’ or ‘I can’t treat you for your drug use disorder until you have been treated for your mental health disorder’. It needs to be seen on the continuum, and we can do both. I think this legislation also enables that to happen. I hope this also means that we will see a lot more funding for alcohol and other drug services. I would like to see a lot more law reform in regard to alcohol and drugs because I think that actually would enable us to make far better early interventions before someone’s drug use or alcohol use becomes a problem, but particularly their drug use.

Just finally, I would like to highlight something that the Health and Community Services Union sent to me. It is not in the legislation, but I think it is something that really should be considered. It is recognising the importance of our allied health workers, whether that is our occupational therapists, our speech pathologists or our art therapists. They have such a crucial role to play in our mental health systems, and that really should be recognised:

HACSU believe that having access to the right intervention, at the right time, is integral to the experience of Consumers and the smooth functioning of the mental health system. We view Mental Health as a holistic service, rather than silos of disciplines. All professions must work hand in hand for the sector to work. Without one of the pieces the system falls apart. That is why we are advocating for staffing profiles across all disciplines …

Staffing profiles historically only apply to nursing staff. HACSU members know that staffing profiles must extended to all those working in the mental health sector.

I concur, and I hope as part of the implementation of this legislation we will see staffing profiles being extended to allied health workers.

Again, I would like to extend my thanks and gratitude to the many people who reached out to me about this legislation. As I have said, it goes directly to harm reduction in our community. It will save lives, and of course in that important context it has my full support.


Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Second reading 18/8/22



Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (16:59): I am pleased to rise to make a very brief contribution to Mr Hayes’s Planning and Environment Amendment (Wake Up to Climate Change) Bill 2022. I think we need to give Mr Hayes credit. I think this is the best title of a bill this term. It is very snappy, Mr Hayes. Well done.

As I said in the address-in-reply to the Governor’s speech at the commencement of this term, we are seeing more and more weather extremes and we do need to start thinking of mitigation plans for that. We are looking at La Niña going on for a fourth year, so we are going to see floods on top of floods on already soaked land. We need to be really leading in this very true and existential threat of climate change. The forecasts are compelling, the scenarios are devastating. The other big issue is how do we restore. This is the decade. We are probably too far along so we are going to just be looking at mitigation, but can we restore some of these? Can we pull it back? And that means we need to be transitioning quicker than we are now to zero emissions.

There is work being done, and it is not bad. As we heard from Dr Ratnam and then we heard from Mr Melhem, there is some work being done, but it does need to go faster. Looking at the zero emissions that Scotland is working towards, they are much more ambitious than Victoria. Also their housing will be zero emissions by 2030. By 2030 they will be at zero emissions. If you look at the big build over there, it is 100 000 houses in 10 years—100 000 social houses—and they will all be double glazed, they all will be zero emission housing, and that will be done by 2030, including the retrofitting of existing public housing. Other countries show us that we can take a lead as long as we pay attention to it, and that is what this bill does. This bill insists that we pay attention to climate change when we are looking at planning decisions.

I think this is an intelligent bill. As Mr Hayes pointed out, it brings us into line with the Local Government Act, which requires us to be considering these issues. To that end, Mr Hayes’s bill can engage us to consider more and more how we deal with the consequences of climate change but also how we can look at reducing climate change in the coming years, which will be absolutely crucial. On that, I support this bill.


Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Second reading speech 17/8/22


Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (15:47): I am just so pleased to rise to speak to this bill. This is a really significant occasion, but it is one that is long overdue—hundreds and hundreds of years overdue. The action of this Parliament today truly does mark respect for the traditional owners of this land. As I said in my address-in-reply to the Governor’s speech at the start of this term, in acknowledging the Wurundjeri people and the Woiwurrung people of the Kulin nation, during the 59th Parliament I hoped that we would pay the ultimate respect of a fair and fulsome treaty process. Almost four years on, I am glad that we are here truly paying respect to the traditional owners of this land by changing the Victorian law in this way. And I pay my respects to the elders that have given so much to get us to this point, to those present here today and to those emerging and to those that will follow. I would also like to particularly acknowledge and thank the First Peoples’ Assembly and their co-chairs, Aunty Geri Atkinson and Marcus Stewart, for their work and their briefings to me and to my office. Such an important precursor to this bill the First Peoples’ Assembly was.

This bill, as many others have said, is as important a bill as we have ever seen before this Parliament. This is not just about words, it is about action—action in partnership with the Victorian Aboriginal community. It is an opportunity to address the heartache of the past, to acknowledge a long and incredible Indigenous culture and to work together for a shared future.

First Nations people know what is right for their communities and making the decisions that matter and that make a difference. They know. This is about that connection to country and community.

I would like to quote Marcus Stewart right now:

“There’s overwhelming evidence that shows when First Peoples are in charge of the programs, and policies that affect us and our lives … They succeed.”

As the chair of the Legal and Social Issues Committee, when we have looked at spent convictions, when most recently we have looked at the impact of parental incarceration on children, when we have looked at the criminal justice system and when we have looked at drug law reform it is the voices of the Aboriginal communities that have really shone a light on the way forward—I think none more powerfully than when we were investigating spent convictions.

I put up a bill in this chamber, a private members bill, to address how historical convictions could become life sentences and how we could move on from that. Unbeknownst to me there was this terrific program, the Woor-Dungin project, which was run out of RMIT. This was a program that was run with Indigenous communities around our state. I had an idea about what spent convictions should look like, and I had put a private members bill up to say just that, but after hearing from the Woor-Dungin project and after listening to our First Nations people—who are exponentially affected by our criminal justice system and by what we call out-of-home care, but I am not sure there is much care in it—I completely changed my mind on what the spent convictions would look like, and the report reflected that. I am pleased to say that the government’s response to that report and the subsequent bill that came before this chamber, which was successful, reflected the work of the Woor-Dungin project. There were First Nations people showing us the way, and this is what this process, what treaty, will go on to do.

This bill will allow the Treaty Authority to be established as a truly independent umpire, and this is what Aboriginal communities are saying needs to happen. The creation of the Treaty Authority is a key part of the architecture that will enable treaty-making between First Peoples and the state by acting as an independent umpire for treaty negotiations. The bill will enable the Treaty Authority to operate as a legal entity by conferring on it legal powers and capacities. I actually get a little bit of a shiver when we are saying these words because of what this means and the hundreds of years late that we are in coming to the table for this to happen. Ultimately this will enable traditional owners and First Peoples of Victoria to negotiate future treaties with the Victorian government, with the Victorian people, on a wide range of matters.

Many of us have visited New Zealand—probably less so over the last few years, but I have certainly been fortunate in the last couple of years to travel to New Zealand. I have always just been struck by the relationship between the Māori community and the New Zealand government and how different it is to here in Australia and in Victoria. So like in New Zealand, these treaties that this is the beginning of will cover matters like recognition of historic wrongs and injustices, which we have heard about here today; recognition of self-determination and self-government; rights to access and manage land and resources, health, education and economic development; and rights to practise and revitalise culture, language and heritage. I for one am really looking forward to that—to learning more about the culture of this land that has the oldest living culture in the world.

I am proud to be here today, and I am proud that this state can make this commitment to treaty today. I do not want to finish without quoting the wonderful Aunty Geri Atkinson. She put this out on Twitter maybe even today. She said:

“I’m delighted that our communities have crafted the Treaty umpire in a way that respects our way of doing things and will draw on the wisdom of the oldest living culture in the world.”

I commend this bill wholeheartedly.


Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Second reading speech 16/8/22