Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (21:19): I feel quite privileged to speak after Mr Grimley. Even though we may diverge on some of our views on mandatory sentencing, what we do not diverge on is our huge admiration and respect for our first responders. Knowing Mr Grimley’s firsthand experience in this and the many times that he has spoken about his experience as a police officer—defending and protecting us, working with his community in working out ways to problem-solve, with sometimes very complicated and difficult communities—and the work that he has done, I really commend Mr Grimley, and I commend his contribution here.
I do want to just make this point very clearly: it is never okay to assault our emergency workers in any way—ever. But the point I will make today—and I have made it in this chamber before—is that it is about problems and solutions. We all agree that we need solutions to assaults against our emergency workers, but what the evidence categorically shows us is that mandatory sentencing is not the solution. That is upheld by the Australian Law Reform Commission and it is what the Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council tells us. Mandatory sentencing does not make us safer; it does not help make our emergency workers safer. In fact there is no nexus between mandatory sentencing and protecting our emergency workers—none. There is no connection.
As the President of the Law Council of Australia, Pauline Wright, said only yesterday, mandatory sentencing sets a dangerous precedent and can cause perverse outcomes. It provides a disincentive to plead guilty, meaning more trials, more delays and more trauma for victims. The Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council outline in their research paper on mandatory sentencing that mandatory sentences have been shown to have no deterrent effect and no effect on the rate of offending. Again, I just want to stress absolutely and categorically that we must do everything to protect our ambos, our fireys and our police in the same way that they do everything to protect us. Our emergency workers put themselves in harm’s way to save our lives, to save our constituents’ lives, and it is an extraordinarily noble and challenging job. But the evidence shows that mandatory sentencing will not make them safer, which means that we are legislating on anecdotes—not research, not facts.
Mandatory sentencing has proved to have no deterrent effect, but we know that if you imprison someone, the chance of them reoffending is far higher. By imprisoning someone we will actually make the problem worse, not better, and that has been measured. Mandatory sentencing fetters judicial discretion, and I believe in judicial independence. Mandatory sentencing discriminates unfairly against the young, Indigenous, intellectually disabled and mentally unwell. Our courts, when they sentence an offender, must balance punishment, deterrence, denunciation, rehabilitation and community protection. They cannot do that when Parliament determines a sentence, not a judicial officer with all of the facts of the case.
There is also a subtext here that I think we should point out, this sense that if you do not get jail you do not get punished, and that simply is incorrect. A community correction order can be incredibly punitive. It can confine you, limit where you go and when you leave your home. It will almost always require hundreds of hours of community work. It requires you to attend supervision appointments and to not reoffend, and it will almost always require treatment to address the underpinning cause of that offending. The statistics are clear that someone is less likely to reoffend after completing a community correction order than completing a jail term. The community, including our ambos, our police and our fireys, is best protected when a person is rehabilitated and the factors that underpin their offending behaviour are addressed.
Places like the Netherlands now imprison half the people per head of population that we do in Victoria—half the people that we do in Victoria. They have less crime, not because they are soft on crime but because their reoffending rates are lower as a result of comprehensive rehabilitation programs.
So let us find an evidenced-based solution that will actually make our emergency services workers safer. This is why I actually fully support Mr Grimley’s amendments to review this legislation, because I think this is really important. I think it is really important for us to look at the evidence about the effect that mandatory sentencing has. Has it made our community safer? Has it made our first responders safer? The evidence to date would say no, it has not, but by having a review system in place we can test that yet again. I have to say it already has been tested many times over, but I want a solution that actually protects our first responders. I want a solution that actually protects our police, our fireys, our ambos, our paramedics, and I do not want to embrace an idea that is anything but a solution. Not only that, but it has been proven to make matters worse. Thank you.