Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (13:05:36):
Pursuant to standing order 23.29, I lay on the table a report from the Legal and Social Issues Committee on the inquiry into a legislated spent convictions scheme, including appendices, extract of proceedings 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.
I move: That the Council take note of the report. In doing so I am very pleased to present this first report from the Legal and Social Issues Committee for the 59th Parliament—in fact the first report from a committee for the 59th Parliament, with the exception of my good friends’ Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee reports that come out to us regularly.
This I think is an excellent report. I think we turned it around in a very quick process, and that was really because of the great work of the secretariat. I would initially like to very much thank the secretariat, Lilian Topic, Caitlin Connally, Vivienne Bannan and of course Matt Newington—and Caitlin has left us for other fields.
I would also like to thank the Deputy Chair, Dr Kieu, and the participants—the other members—Ms Lovell, Ms Maxwell, Mr Ondarchie, Ms Vaghela, and Ms Garrett, and the many participating members, but in particular Mr O’Donohue. This was an excellent process that started from a bill that I actually tabled in this Parliament.
We managed to have a number of firsts in this, but this report really did address the issues around spent convictions and the need for urgent action from the government.
Every single submission that we heard from and that we received recommended that we act on this and that we act on spent convictions as a matter of urgency. And that came from everyone—that came from Liberty Victoria right through to Police Association Victoria.
When we talk spent convictions in the report, you will note that we have actually tried to refer more to the notion of controlled disclosure. Because I think many people, when they think ‘spent convictions’, think that at a certain time someone’s conviction will be wiped and that they will have a clear slate. This is not the case at all.
In fact what spent convictions—better termed controlled disclosures—mean is that for some people we will control who that information is disclosed to. But of course for the police, for the courts and for many other bodies that need that information to ascertain whether a person is right for certain jobs—like the police—or certainly for further investigations this information is very important.
So it is finding that balance of protecting community safety but also allowing for the effective rehabilitation of offenders. We know that this is a growing issue. Ten years ago there were only 7000 police checks. Last year there were 700 000 police checks.
And certainly we are finding that employers are very much relying on police checks as a way of judging someone’s character. And a historical conviction is not who you are. These people were so brave to come and tell us their stories. We had a great first: an open mic night where we had members of the public come and tell their stories and talk about the effect that a historical conviction had on their lives, moving forward.
We heard in Shepparton from an employment agency that the major reason for people not getting jobs was a historical criminal conviction that was very much a conviction irrelevant to the work. In another first I would really like to thank the Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation for their generosity in inviting us down onto country where we could speak about this inquiry. I really would like to pay my respects to Michael Bell, who is the CEO.
I hope that other committees do come down onto country and undertake what we found to be a very rewarding process of speaking on country about these important issues. In the short time that I have left I would just like to quickly say that spent convictions and historical convictions affect our Aboriginal community.
And I would really like to thank the Woor-Dungin criminal record discrimination project for providing us with an excellent report, and I commend this report to the house.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Report tabled 27/8/19