Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (14:32): I am very pleased to speak on Mr Quilty’s motion, and I have to say, for a man who is normally brief, this is not the briefest of motions. It almost speaks for itself in the facts that it lays out within the motion and really paints a very sad picture, particularly of Victoria Police. This is a picture that was painted by Victoria Police themselves. This was a survey of the police and it is their concerns, and I think it is those concerns that I would like to focus on today.
But we know, and the previous speakers said—and I think that is what Mr Finn was saying—that corruption is dangerous. It corrodes the fabric of our society and it undermines political institutions and political systems, and we have certainly seen the undermining of trust. We know that by all trust barometers, by all tests of trust, Australia is declining. Our communities just do not trust the structures and the institutions that are here to ensure a safe community—a safe, strong community that protects their human rights.
When corruption affects our police force and then they fail to act in the public interest, that is where we are facilitating human rights abuses and, obviously, opening the door to organised crime. Our police have very distinct powers over us and over the community, and quite rightly. They can arrest, they can detain, they can search and they can use force against individuals. They are powers that cannot afford to be abused.
I grew up with Kenny Koala; I grew up in the age where if something went wrong you went and asked a policeman. You went and spoke to a policeman. Just for the chamber’s information, Kenny Koala was a police officer who was in the form of a puppet who used to come to our school with an actual police officer and was there to, I guess, inform children and ensure that we had faith and trust in our police force.
I think that sadly, while Victoria Police does a brilliant job in serving our community, in protecting us, that trust is not as strong as it should be. This means that when police officers do the wrong thing they are held to account, and I think that is one of the reasons why our trust in our police forces has declined—because we no longer have that faith that when someone does the wrong thing they will be brought to task on it.
On a world scale we still are doing okay. We are considered the 12th least corrupt country. I am not sure being in the top 12 is anything to congratulate ourselves about, but we are slipping, and as the motion mentions we are slipping further and we have slipped significantly over the last eight years. From a policing perspective specifically there are real cracks, and they are cracks that we have not been able to ‘nothing to see here’ wallpaper over. It is impossible to do that, and certainly this motion raises that.
When nearly 10 per cent of Victorian police think that there is corruption in Victoria Police, we have a problem, and they are prepared to say it in a survey. That is startling, and that is incredibly concerning. Then obviously when you combine that with the Lawyer X royal commission and with every day the front pages rolling out the corruption, the lies that are coming out of our Victorian police force, no wonder our society and our community are losing faith in their police officer. They are losing faith that the police officer will act appropriately, will act honestly and is honestly there to help.
I know that they are there to help, but with these horror stories of brutality, police fudging breath tests and the misuse of the LEAP police database, it is clear that the current integrity structures within the police have failed us and have failed them.
So I support this motion because I do think that we need to make urgent change, and as Mr Quilty mentioned in his contribution there are templates for this. There is North Ireland, there are Canadian models and in fact there are models that have been recommended here.
In the last term of government the integrity committee inquired into the external oversight and investigation of police corruption and misconduct in Victoria. That was just in 2018. Now, this was a bipartisan report, and it made 69 significant recommendations to improve the transparency, impartiality, effectiveness and efficiency of the system. They determined that serious police misconduct could not be left to the police to investigate and that probes should instead be conducted by Victoria’s corruption watchdog—that is, the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission, IBAC. In fact recommendation 2 of that report states:
That IBAC should formally establish a dedicated Police Corruption and Misconduct Division to increase public confidence in Victoria’s system for the handling of complaints about police corruption and other misconduct, improve its capacity to conduct effective investigations, enhance its independence, develop its expertise and improve its overall performance. This division should consolidate IBAC’s legislated functions that relate to complaints and disclosures about police corruption and other misconduct in Victoria.
Unfortunately that report was tabled in September 2018, so the government never had the opportunity to respond to it before entering into caretaker mode. I raised this recommendation last year with the Special Minister of State in this house, and the response from the minister was that the government is currently considering recommendations directed to it in the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission.
That was in May 2019. So a year on we are still speaking about it. IBAC investigates about 2 per cent of the allegations that it determines warrant investigation. They refer the remainder back to the police. The police—that is, the professional standards command, investigates about 10 per cent of those complaints. The rest are just sent back to the station—’You deal with it’.
I do not know if other people are aware, but a couple of years ago there was a police shooting at the Inflation nightclub in King Street. There is a man who now will spend the rest of his life with a colostomy bag. There is a woman who now has a third of her thigh because of that shooting. A police shooting of two innocent people in a nightclub—guess what?—has never been investigated. The police have not done their own internal investigation on a police shooting of two people, for which they have had to pay millions of dollars of compensation because of that. But they have not investigated that.
The reality is that if police complaints are investigated at all, they are investigated by the police themselves. That is not suitable. That is an impossible situation that gives the community no confidence. I note Mr Grimley had great confidence, but I can tell you the Reason Party does not have confidence in police investigating police. In fact I believe that, going from the motion, the police do not have confidence in the police investigating themselves.
Certainly when I have spoken to police officers off the record they would say exactly the same thing. They fear making a report about corruption because they fear that it will go back to the person that they made the report about, because there is no-one independent for them to speak to. It is an inherent conflict of interest. It is mates looking after mates, and it is not good enough. It is certainly not good enough in the year 2020. Justice not only needs to be done but it needs to be seen to be done. We need institutional change to achieve that.
I thoroughly support this motion. I implore the government to implement the recommendations of the 2018 IBAC Committee inquiry. I think the minister was actually on that inquiry—the other minister. I commend the motion.
In finishing up, I also just hope that we are not raising this issue again in 2021. We raised it in 2018 and recommendations were made. In 2019 the government said it was onto it. In 2020 nothing has happened. Let us hope that something happens this year.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Motion by Mr Quilty 18/3/20
Mr QUILTY (Northern Victoria) (11:34): I move:
That this house:
(a) Australia’s decline in the corruption perceptions index from a score of 85 in 2012 to 77 in 2019;
(b) the cost of this corruption in Australia is estimated at $2916 per person, per year, 4 per cent of gross
(c) research by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand states that Australian governments
display widespread complacency about corruption;
(d) the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission’s (IBAC) Special Report on
Corruption Risks Associated with Procurement in Local Government found local governments
were at heightened risk of corruption;
(e) that IBAC’s Perceptions of Corruption: Survey of Victoria Police Employees found that:
(i) 46 per cent of Victoria Police employees believed reporting corruption would result in
(ii) 18 per cent thought they could lose their job;
(iii) only 38 per cent thought meaningful action would occur;
(iv) 8 per cent believe corruption occurs in their workplace;
(f) that IBAC’s Audit of Victoria Police Complaints Handling Systems at Regional Level found that:
(i) 16 per cent of police complainants were not contacted by internal investigating officers;
(ii) 34 per cent of witnesses were not contacted;
(iii) in 17 per cent of cases, relevant evidence was not considered;
(2) calls on the government to:
(a) expand the mandate of IBAC and increase its funding to allow for investigation of more allegations of public sector and council misconduct; and
(b) implement the recommendations from the 2018 parliamentary inquiry into external oversight of police corruption and misconduct in Victoria.
House divided on motion:
Barton, Mr (Teller)
Maxwell, Ms (Teller)
Erdogan, Mr (Teller)
Taylor, Ms (Teller)
Motion agreed to.