Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (11:06): I rise to speak to Ms Maxwell’s motion. It is interesting following the opposition and the government both kind of touting that they have done better than the other, and I would have to say that I do not think either of them have done well in addressing the growing problems that our justice system is facing and preventing people entering into our justice system. I think that is where we have absolutely tragically failed our community, our young people and even, as Mr O’Donohue said, the parents of young people who are facing things like drug addiction.
One of my advisers observed, when we were looking at the Justice Party and Ms Maxwell’s motion, that the Venn diagram of this motion and Reason’s policy agenda is actually a circle. There is nothing outside that circle. We may not be aligned on solutions in this motion—we may have different perceptions about how we might solve this—but we are very aligned that these issues need to be addressed and we welcome this inquiry. This inquiry allows what Reason always seeks, and that is evidence-based solutions found in empirical scientific research.
It has been fortunate to be the chair of the committee to which this referral has been made. I will limit my commentary, and I also will limit it to allow others to make their comments on this, but we do need to think how we address our growing remand numbers and reduce our criminal reoffending rates. And I suspect that this inquiry will really provide us with the evidence that we need to address some of those problems. As we have heard from the previous speakers, we know remand and recidivism rates are too high. Being the fourth-best in Australia does not even get you a medal. It certainly is not something that we should be proud of, and I do not think either side has got anything to be proud of.
We have been talking about 44 and 43 per cent recidivism rates. Let us just remember, that is people who are back in jail within two years. Our actual recidivism rates are more like 60 per cent. Most people who go to jail are going back, so if we want to stop our jail populations growing, we need to stop people going to jail. I hope that the solutions and answers to this are some of what we will find during this inquiry if it is to be supported by the house.
We know that probably a large number—and I would say even the majority—of those who are offending in Victoria have drug issues. But we also know that change is achievable. If you look at our incarceration rates in Victoria, we are at 138 per 100 000 and growing. That number is escalating. But then let us look at an example, the Netherlands.
Their incarceration rate is 69 per 100 000 and declining. I do not think the Dutch are that different to us, but the Dutch approach to crime and preventing crime is different. They are closing their prisons down. They are not having to put in containers to house prisoners. They are not having to build massive, massive new prisons in their community; they are closing them down. In fact some of them are being used to help people in homelessness. They are repurposing their prisons—something that is kind of a distant dream for us here, but I hope that in this inquiry we will work out how to break that cycle.
I make note that yesterday the Sentencing Advisory Council brought out its third report on the crossover kids. Some of the statistics that come out of that are not only startling but so tragic and so sad. In looking at some of the figures, they tell us that 91 per cent of kids who enter into our justice system or rub against our justice system are known by child protection—91 per cent. Seriously, we can start seeing some solutions by looking at how we can help those children.
We also fail to consider the effects of childhood trauma. We know that 98 per cent of the children that enter into our justice system have been victims of crime, whether that is sex abuse, whether that is neglect, whether that is any other traumatic crime against them. This affects their development, but it also means that we know who we probably need to be wrapping our services around. The minute child protection has any contact with a child, that is when we should be working. We should know that if those children brush against our justice system, they will continue to come into our justice system. So if we want to reduce the number of prisoners we have, we need to address it at the beginning. We know there are probably five postcodes where most prisoners in Victoria were born.
When we were doing some juvenile justice inquiries in the last term we actually heard that there was a survey done on the six-monthly check-ups of babies and children in the justice system and the majority of them had not had their six-monthly baby check-ups. So there are some checks and balances that we can address. Listening to both the government and the opposition about what they are doing, as I said, I do not think they have got anything to be proud of. We do not fund the services that stop people from entering into our prison system. We do not fund the services that prevent people from entering into our prison system.
Just last week there was a new study by the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. They have been introducing an innovative program around circle sentencing. This is a program that they have trialled with Aboriginal people. They have found absolutely, without a doubt, lower rates of imprisonment and recidivism than Aboriginal people who were sentenced in the more normal and traditional way.
We know the over-representation of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters is tragic. We know that our Aboriginal brothers and sisters are still dying in custody 20 years after the report about deaths in custody. It is something that we should all feel some shame for—we should feel a lot of shame for. It is happening today. This year we have seen that happen to people. We had a newly born baby die in the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre this year. A baby dying. How, in what we would consider a modern state, can we allow that to happen?
I am looking forward to this. I actually do not think that we need to amend this motion. I think this motion is far reaching, and we will have the opportunity to consider all range of things, certainly some of the issues that Mr O’Donohue has mentioned in his amendments. We will certainly be looking at the cost and we will certainly be looking at what happens in our justice system, what happens in our prisons, the violence in our prisons—whether that is to the prisoners or to the staff. Those will all be things that I have no doubt will be raised by people as they make submissions to this inquiry.
I do hope this inquiry is supported by the chamber, and I very much look forward to working with Ms Maxwell on what I think will be an incredibly important body of work for this Parliament.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Reference by Ms Maxwell 3/6/20
Ms MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (10:16): I move:
That this house requires the Legal and Social Issues Committee to inquire into, consider and report, by no later than 28 February 2022, on various issues associated with the operation of Victoria’s justice system,
including, but not limited to:
(1) an analysis of factors influencing Victoria’s growing remand and prison populations;
(2) strategies to reduce rates of criminal recidivism;
(3) an examination of how to ensure that judges and magistrates have appropriate knowledge and expertise when sentencing and dealing with offenders, including an understanding of recidivism and the causes
of crime; and
(4) the consideration of judicial appointment processes in other jurisdictions, specifically noting the particular skill set necessary for judges and magistrates overseeing specialist courts.