Road Safety Amendment (Hoon Driving and Other Matters) Bill 2011

I rise to contribute to the debate on the Road Safety Amendment (Hoon Driving and Other Matters) Bill 2011 and make the point that when we debate road safety legislation in this place and talk about road safety issues, we do so on the back of four decades of innovation, leadership and success in Victoria. I am certainly proud to rise to speak on this bill as the shadow minister responsible for road safety and the Transport Accident Commission. Road safety remains a vital issue, and there is a high level of expectation in the community that governments, whatever their persuasion, will give it the attention and focus it deserves.

I will return to this theme — specifically, what the current government is not doing in relation to road safety.

Road safety does not begin and end with this hoon driving legislation. I make it clear at the outset that Labor does not oppose this bill. The bill is an extension of the hoon driving framework that Labor proudly introduced, firstly, with the Road Safety Act and Other Acts (Vehicle Impoundment and Other Amendments) Act 2005, which for the first time introduced hoon driving legislation covering a lot of hoon-related offences, including the improper use of a motor vehicle where the driver has intentionally caused one or more tyres to lose traction, exceeding the speed limit by 45 kilometres an hour or more or travelling at over 145 kilometres an hour in an 110-kilometre-an-hour zone, engaging in a race or speed trial, repeat incidents of driving whilst disqualified, dangerous driving, careless driving, failing to have proper control of the vehicle and causing the vehicle to make excessive noise or smoke.

A whole range of hoon-related offences were captured under that legislation.

That legislation emerged after the outcomes of some crash studies by Victoria Police showed that hoon driving contributed to 41 serious crashes between January 2003 and November 2004, resulting in 28 deaths. It was felt by the government at the time that there needed to be an intervention targeted solely at the behaviour of hoon drivers. There followed a few years later the Road Safety Amendment (Hoon Driving) Act 2010, further strengthening the hoon driving provisions. Under the original legislation the impoundment of vehicles on a first offence was for 48 hours. As an outcome of the second-reading debate on the bill which Labor introduced last year, the period of impoundment of a vehicle went from 48 hours to 14 days on a first offence and to 45 days on a second offence.

The bill also further strengthened the impoundment sanctions in cases where a driver is detected with a blood alcohol concentration of .10 or higher for a second or subsequent time and when a driver is detected with drugs present in his or her system. The offence of driving unlicensed for a second or subsequent time will also become subject to the vehicle impoundment scheme, so there were a number of further amendments to the hoon driving framework that Labor felt were appropriate at the time.

Before us today is the third iteration of this hoon driving legislation. Before I get into what this bill does and before I talk about Victoria’s proud record in road safety over the last four decades and the views of stakeholders, whether they be experts or families affected by road trauma, I would have to say that it is ironic that we are debating this legislation.

The now Minister for Public Transport was obviously involved in the debate last year, and it has been acknowledged that a longstanding policy of my colleagues opposite is that the impoundment should increase to 30 days. That is something they took to the election last year, but it must be said that the now Minister for Public Transport was actually a friend of the hoon when he was in opposition, and there are a number of examples — —

Ms Asher — That’s rude!

Mr MERLINO — No, it’s not. There are a number of examples where the now minister was either dog whistling or making his views quite clear in relation hoons. There was his famous comment that there should be greater tolerance given to people running red lights. Running a red light is the single most dangerous thing you can do on the roads, but in October last year it was reported that:

The opposition transport spokesperson, Terry Mulder, last week said he thought people with similar driving records —

that is, with a good driving record —

who run red lights by a fraction should also be entitled to apply for a warning.

That was the view of the then shadow minister, and he said drivers were ‘getting absolutely sick of it’ and had ‘lost trust in the entire system’. Monash University Accident Research Centre’s senior researcher, Bruce Corben, said this in response to the idea that there should be any tolerance of drivers running red lights:

Any moves to soften the enforcement is likely to lead to a less effective outcome against one of our most concerning categories of death and serious injury.

There are numerous examples of the now minister making comments about the road safety camera system. In a report a few years earlier, in March 2007, he was railing against the term ‘road safety camera’. He is reported to have said:

The Bracks government uses the term ‘road safety camera’ to deflect attention away from what Victorians see as a ‘speed camera revenue-raising bonanza …

However, it was not just the shadow minister. At one of the election campaign forums at the time the then opposition leader, now Premier, promised to locate road safety cameras ‘where they are needed, not just for revenue’.

There are numerous examples of the then opposition, now government, sending the message to people who speed and run red lights that it is okay in certain circumstances and that there should be greater tolerance of those offences.

I turn now to the bill. The bill provides for the immediate impoundment of a vehicle for 30 days for a first offence. As I said, this is something that those opposite referred to in the debate last year and also took to the election. Labor introduced an amendment last year to increase the period from 48 hours to 14 days, which was to be effective from 1 July. If the bill before the house proceeds through the Parliament, that amendment will be superseded and replaced by a period of 30 days. The other penalties in terms of the time that a car can be impounded for remain the same, so the only change relates to impoundment for a first offence, which will increase from 14 days to 30 days.

The other major change in relation to the impounding of cars is the extension of the period for which prior offences will be taken into account. At the moment if someone is charged with an offence under the hoon driving legislation, their relevant record for the previous three years is taken into account. That is being extended from three years to six years under this legislation.

There are a number of other changes that the government is proposing in this hoon driving bill, including the offence of overloading. Appropriately the legislation refers back to the relevant road rules in regard to overloading — that is, there cannot be more than one person sitting in a seat which has one seatbelt. There are four or five road rules referred to in this legislation. Many members will recall the incident that occurred in April involving a young, unsupervised learner driver from Balnarring. He was 17 years of age and had nine passengers in his car.

This young man faces charges including driving without an experienced driver, driving an unregistered vehicle and having false number plates. The car could not be seized under the hoon driving legislation as it stands, so this is an appropriate amendment to the legislation and one that Labor supports. It is incredible that this kind of behaviour, where a car is loaded with 9, 10 or 11 people, occurs. This is an appropriate amendment to the legislation.

This legislation does a number of other things. It clarifies that police are authorised to carry out roadworthiness inspections of impounded vehicles — that is, when a car is off the road or off the highway. As the legislation currently stands, police officers are only authorised to conduct roadworthiness inspections on roads and highways, so this is an appropriate amendment.

The period of impoundment that the government is proposing — that is, an increase from 14 days to 30 days — will mean that cars will be impounded for a much longer period of time. This will result in a significant, albeit appropriate, cost to Victoria Police. In his summing up in the Assembly and before the debate on this bill commences in the other place, I ask the minister to clarify how much this change will cost and where that money will come from. I think it is appropriate that the government be transparent about the cost impact of this change.

The bill clarifies the rights of persons who hold a security interest to participate in the distribution of proceeds of a sale of an uncollected impounded vehicle. We should be concerned about that security interest not just when a vehicle is forfeited but also when a vehicle has not been collected and is to be disposed of.

This is an appropriate provision and will improve the alignment between this legislation and the commonwealth personal property securities legislation.

The bill provides for a default date of no later than 1 February 2012 for the new provisions to come into operation, which is an appropriate amendment because the timing of the commonwealth legislation was not known at the time we debated the bill last year. The commonwealth legislation has been delayed, and it is appropriate to make this change in order to reflect the timing of the commonwealth legislation.

The bill also clarifies when the offence of loss of traction does not apply, which is in motorsport events, driver training, vehicle testing and so on. It also broadens the exemptions for on-road speed trials and enhances the ability of sanctioning bodies to seek an exemption. It also provides for drug-driving offenders who hold an interstate or overseas licence to be disqualified from driving on Victorian roads in the same way they would be if they held a Victorian licence. Again that is an appropriate thing to do. If someone is busted for such an offence, whether they hold a Victorian, interstate or international licence, they should not be driving on our roads.

Finally, the bill provides for the use by Victoria Police of a new Alcotest breath-analysing instrument. This will enhance the technology available to Victoria Police and ensure that police can use that new technology in their roadside breath-testing arrangements.

In a nutshell, those are the provisions of the legislation. The headline changes are the 30-day impoundment period, the increase of the period from three to six years in which prior offences can be taken into account, and the introduction of the overloading of vehicles as an offence under this legislation. As I said at the outset, Labor does not oppose these changes or the bill in its entirety.

The reaction from the community has been interesting and is something I have been talking about for quite some time. I will speak first about the reaction of families who have been affected by road trauma, including those who have experienced the death of a son or daughter — that is, young people in particular. I refer to one case in particular, that of Norm Robinson. As many members would know, Norm’s son Luke, who was 19 years old at the time, died at Lovely Banks last year while speeding at up to 160 kilometres an hour. Norm has been the face of the very effective, hard-hitting Transport Accident Commission Ripple Effect campaign. He is well known to this place, to members and to the broader community. This is what Norm had to say in response to the announcement by this government that it would be introducing this legislation:

Any move to put tougher penalties on hoons is good … My concern is what they are planning on doing to stop them from becoming hoons in the first place.

This is a common theme: it is a good move, but what more can be done to stop young people driving and behaving in this manner? This is the area of concern, and it is a critical issue facing government. This bill and the Road Safety Camera Commissioner Bill 2011, which has been introduced but is yet to be debated, are the only pieces of legislation on road safety to have been introduced by the government. They are no substitute for a road safety strategy. Norm’s view is one that is commonly held by families affected by road trauma; they support it but want to know what the government is going to do to stop hoon driving in the first place.

The Monash University Accident Research Centre, an organisation well known to both sides of the house, is a significant player in road safety policy not only in Victoria but also across the country and internationally. The view I am hearing from experts is that targeted interventions are a positive thing. That is why Labor introduced the hoon driving legislation in the first place.

Targeted interventions are the right thing to do. The other message from experts is that you need to have a road safety strategy, and it needs to be complemented. It needs to be a part of a whole strategy — a whole campaign — with a whole-of-government focus on reducing road trauma, the road toll and the number of people who suffer serious injuries as a result of road trauma.

In May this year, during the celebrations around the decade of action on road safety, the RACV issued a press release which stated, and I quote:

RACV notes that Victoria’s road safety strategy expired in 2010 and the state government has not yet released its own vision for Victoria’s road safety over the coming decades.

It went on:

… Victorians expect the government to improve road safety…

Whether you are talking about families who have been affected by road trauma, peak organisations like the RACV or expert bodies like MUARC (Monash University Accident Research Centre), everyone is saying, ‘We support this legislation, but for goodness sake where is the road safety strategy?’. It has now been more than six months since the Arrive Alive action plan was due to be updated — in December last year.

I mentioned that Victoria has led the way on road safety for four decades. We can all be proud of what we have done in Victoria in being innovative and playing that leadership role. When the Victorian government introduced seatbelt legislation in 1970, it was the first jurisdiction in the world to mandate the wearing of seatbelts.

This followed decades of campaigning by community and media amid concerns about what we all would consider an extraordinarily horrifying road toll during the late 1960s and early 1970s. There was quite a heated public debate at the time, but ultimately the government of the day recognised the importance of seatbelts in reducing the road toll. It was proven correct. In 1970, the road toll was 1061 — over 1000 people lost their lives. In 1971, following the introduction of seatbelt legislation, this dropped 13 per cent to 923. As we know, the road toll has been trending downwards ever since, with a record low of 288 lives lost on our roads last year.

Other states followed Victoria’s lead. By the end of 1972 all other Australian states had mandated the wearing of seatbelts. Countries around the world also followed Victoria’s lead, starting with France and western Europe in the 1970s. It was not until 1983 that the UK mandated seatbelt wearing. In the United States the fitting of seatbelts is compulsory, yet it is still not mandatory to wear them. Only about one-third of US citizens wear seatbelts. This is in contrast to Australia, where 97 per cent of drivers and front-seat passengers and 85 per cent of rear-seat passengers wear seatbelts.

Whether conducted by the World Health Organisation or the European Transport Safety Council, research has shown that wearing a seatbelt reduces the risk of fatality and serious injury by about half.

Countless lives have been saved by Victoria’s innovation 40 years ago, when it was the first jurisdiction in the world to mandate the use of that life-saving technology. It shows that action by governments can have a positive impact on the road toll and road safety.

I will give some other examples. Until last year, it has to be said, Victoria was still a leader in road safety. Victoria was the first jurisdiction in the world to bring in mass-scale roadside random breath testing with the introduction of booze buses in 1989. We backed that up by being the first jurisdiction in Australia to introduce random drug testing in 2006. From 1 January this year it has been compulsory for all new vehicles in Victoria to be fitted with electronic stability control (ESC). Again, this is something on which Victoria led the way. Victoria, under the former Minister for Roads and Ports, Tim Pallas, was one of the first jurisdictions in the world, if not the first, to make the fitting of ESC mandatory in all vehicles.

Victoria is leading the way in Australia again. I think it is going to be about 2013 before the rest of Australia catches up to what we have already done.

The latest research indicates that electronic stability control can reduce single-vehicle crashes by up to 29 per cent. That is a massive reduction. Victoria is again leading the way. We have also led the way in public education with the hard-hitting, effective and innovative TAC (Transport Accident Commission) campaigns that have been running now for more than 20 years. One of our greatest success stories is the Arrive Alive strategy, which has played a vital role in further driving down the road toll since it was introduced in 2001. The road toll has decreased by more than 35 per cent — from 444 people in 2001 to a record low of 288 at the end of last year. Nearly 1000 lives have been saved since the first road safety strategy. In the first three years of the most recent Arrive Alive strategy, the road toll has fallen by just under 15 per cent.

That is Victoria’s record. I am not saying it is Labor’s record; it is Victoria’s record over four decades. But what has the Baillieu government done since it was elected? What is its record on road safety? The lack of action and focus of this government in relation to road safety is raising alarm bells across the state. The government has reduced road safety funding. At the recent PAEC (Public Accounts and Estimates Committee) hearing, when asked why the effort on road safety projects had stalled when compared with the previous government’s efforts, the Assistant Treasurer, Gordon Rich-Phillips, replied that:

It is not always the case that new resources need to be committed in order to deliver outcomes.

If that is not an admission of a reduced focus on road safety, I do not know what is.

As I said, the government has failed to deliver the Arrive Alive action plan that was due last December. Nothing has happened since last December. Already this year we have needlessly lost 135 lives on our roads. That is 6 more than were lost at the same time last year and 8 more than at the same time the year before. At a time when the road toll is increasing, the government has ditched plans for the world’s first road safety experience centre, which was aimed directly at saving the lives of young people on the state’s roads. It is a fact that Victorians are still more likely to die violently as the result of a road crash than from any other cause. These crashes are preventable. This is a statistic we just cannot accept.

For young Victorians this risk is exponentially higher. P-plate drivers are involved in fatal car crashes at triple the rate of experienced drivers.

The road safety experience centre would have further cemented our reputation as a world leader in road safety and would have represented the next innovative step in our road safety journey. It would have provided young people in particular with a dynamic and innovative learning environment with state-of-the-art interactive and educational displays and activities. If supported by this government, it would have given young people the chance to learn in an innovative way about the impact of road trauma. It would have featured simulation displays and interactive learning facilities and presented real life traffic situations through high-quality online and 3D simulations. The stages of road trauma would have been further highlighted through testimonial or case study presentations, which add a tangible aspect to road risks and link these to preventive measures.

We must do more. Too many Victorians, too many families and too many young people have to deal with the trauma that comes from road accidents. We know that the major factors in crashes that involve young people are inexperience, deliberate risk taking and overconfidence. This facility would have addressed those issues head-on. It would have become a centre of excellence to which experts from all over the world could have come to share their learning.

It is not just the Labor opposition now or the Labor government of the time that thought this was a new idea. Karen Robinson — not related to Norm — also tragically lost her son, Ben, to an accident, and now Karen speaks at road trauma presentations to young people who have been ordered to attend those presentations.

In what was the letter of the day in the Herald Sun on 30 May this year, Ms Robinson said:

My 25-year-old son was killed on November 5, 2009, in a road crash just outside of Bendigo.

Since then, I have become a volunteer speaker for Road Trauma Support Services Victoria.

I deliver ‘My story’ at awareness seminars attended by about 15 participants, mainly young men aged between 16 and 25 — sons, just like my son.

They are directed to the seminars by the courts or by solicitors before court hearings.

It is extraordinary how much impact ‘My story’ has on these young people. The message, that if they don’t change their driver behaviour they could be killed (just like my son) or be seriously injured, and/or be responsible for the death or injury of others, does get through.

Given the success of such strategies, it is tragic that the state coalition government has decided the proposed TAC road safety experience centre will now not go ahead.

I wish my son had been a part of what this could have offered young drivers. It may well have saved his life …

That is the view of a mother impacted by road trauma — it would have made a difference. The excuse given by the government is that there was no business case and no funding, and that is an absolute fabrication.

A mountain of work was undertaken by the department and the TAC in testing this model and providing advice to the minister at the time. It could have been funded via the TAC. TAC actuaries advised the government last year that their surplus in premiums will be of the order of $150 million. The road safety experience centre could be funded by the TAC, and that is what we want to see — a road safety strategy, not just one single bill.

rise to make a contribution to the grievance debate, and I join with the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in focusing on Victoria Police. I too grieve for Victoria Police. I grieve for the men and women of our force, people who put their lives on the line every day. The men and women of our police force are witnessing their institution — our institution — being deliberately torn down and undermined in a cowardly and disgraceful manner by the government of Victoria, the Baillieu-Ryan government.

There are times when the police minister and I are in agreement. On the subject of the campaign against the Chief Commissioner of Police, Simon Overland, the minister for police was recently quoted as saying:

I’ve not seen the like of the campaign that’s been run against him, never seen the like of it in my 18 years in politics and in my similar time in private life … It is unremitting and it’s remorseless.

‘Unremitting’ and ‘remorseless’ were the words the police minister used when referring to the campaign against the chief commissioner, Simon Overland, and the minister is dead right. The extraordinary problem for the police minister is that it is his government, the Baillieu-Ryan government, that is the source and inspiration for this unremitting and remorseless campaign. This unprecedented and cowardly campaign is being orchestrated by people with whom the minister works every day — that is, his colleagues at the highest level. The police minister is either unwilling or unable to halt the unravelling of the police portfolio. The police minister has suggested that we should all take a deep breath and step back. He has said that the facts before us are ‘very slim’, so we should do as he suggests.

Let us take a step back and look at the facts as we know them. In the same period during which the Premier publicly declared his support for Simon Overland, the Premier’s most trusted adviser, his chief of staff, Michael Kapel, secretly met with the deputy chief commissioner, Sir Ken Jones. This 2-hour meeting at the home of Sir Ken Jones was conducted without the knowledge of the Deputy Premier and police minister and without the knowledge of the chief commissioner; it was conducted behind their backs. It was a meeting considered by the police minister to be ‘inappropriate’. The police minister has said that he was approached to meet with Sir Ken Jones, but we do not know by whom he was approached. Mr Ryan said:

I just don’t think it is the right thing for me to do …

Yet according to the Premier it was not inappropriate. The Premier said:

… when it was explained to me I understood it was done in good faith.

The meeting was explained to the Premier, yet the Premier refuses to divulge to the Victorian community what was discussed by his chief of staff. Was the replacement of Simon Overland discussed? The Premier refuses to say. Why was the police minister not informed? Was Sir Ken offered the position of chief commissioner, or was he offered the position of head of the independent, broadbased anticorruption commission?

Was it an excuse to gather dirt on the chief commissioner? If members look at the comment allegedly made by Sir Ken Jones — that is, that he thinks that members of the government are ‘on to Overland’ — they will find that it would suggest that that is exactly what they discussed. However, we do not get answers from this government or from the Premier; we get just chaos. So much for transparency and accountability.

Depending on whom you believe, the meeting occurred after a ‘private approach from government’, according to Sir Ken Jones, or Sir Ken Jones requested the meeting, according to the Premier and the police minister. The Premier has claimed to have had no knowledge of the meeting. We are asked to suspend belief and buy the line that in the midst of this government’s campaign against Simon Overland — the backgrounding of journalists that has been occurring for six months and the undermining of police command — the Premier’s closest adviser met with Deputy Commissioner Sir Ken Jones without the knowledge of his boss.

We are asked to buy the fanciful line that the Premier’s private mobile number was also provided to Sir Ken Jones without the Premier’s knowledge. For goodness sake! Who in this place — who in Victoria — would believe that the Premier’s private mobile number would be given out to people like Sir Ken Jones and others without the Premier’s knowledge? It is just farcical. The Premier said that he found out about the meeting from the police minister, that the police minister found out about the meeting from the secretary of the Police Association and that the secretary found out about the meeting from Sir Ken Jones. Does anyone believe that?

Honourable members interjecting.

Mr MERLINO — We have had the interjection ‘What a circus!’. We can turn our minds back to the Police Association ads of a few months ago in relation to the EBA (enterprise bargaining agreement) and the vaudeville circus.

It was a circus right then in terms of the EBA negotiations, and it is a circus right now in terms of the crisis in police command.

We have a crisis in the police portfolio, because either scenario is extraordinary. Either the Premier knew about the meeting and was complicit in unprecedented political interference in the independence of Victoria Police or he did not know and has been exposed as the most ignorant, detached and dithering Premier we have ever seen. He is the ostrich of Victorian politics. He supposedly has his head in the sand and is blissfully unaware while his chief of staff undermines police command behind the back of the police minister.

This farce has got so bad that in only six months a member of this government — the parliamentary secretary for police, no less — has become so appalled by the behaviour of this government that he has threatened to sit on the crossbenches as an Independent.

Like the police minister, his view is that the behaviour of the government has been inappropriate, and he clearly expressed his concern that the government must at all times act with integrity. The member for Benambra has been reported as having said:

That’s right through from not only those who are publicly elected representatives, but it is also the staff that the government and the executive engages to do those tasks of the government.

That is a pointed and clear reference to Michael Kapel and other staff of this government. The police minister and the parliamentary secretary for police are both concerned about the behaviour of their government in relation to the police portfolio. The parliamentary secretary for police has subsequently been given a talking to and is apparently no longer considering the option of becoming an Independent.

At least for a time we had some truthful comments from those opposite.

The crisis continues. It has been revealed that Tristan Weston, the failed Liberal Party candidate and senior adviser to the minister for police, has resigned from Victoria Police. It has been reported that the allegations of misconduct were considered serious enough that Mr Weston’s secondary employment authority was immediately revoked by Victoria Police. This required Mr Weston to cease working in the minister’s office and to return to police duty and answer some questions. He headed this off by resigning from the force. He is currently on leave, but yesterday the Premier expressed full confidence in this individual.

What was Mr Weston’s role in this grubby episode? What part did he play in undermining police command? Has the Premier sought assurances from Mr Weston that these allegations of misconduct do not compromise his role as a ministerial adviser? Will the Minister for Police and Emergency Services take him back? I do not think he will. What was the Minister for Police and Emergency Services thinking? A Liberal Party stooge was implanted in his office. Was Mr Weston providing frank and fearless political advice to his minister, who trusts him to do so, or was he doing the bidding of Michael Kapel and the Premier? What was Tristan Weston doing in the Minister for Police and Emergency Service’s office? I think the minister is asking himself that very question.

I will predict another thing — it is a shame there are no Nationals ministers in the chamber at the moment — which is that I do not think that Nationals ministers will agree to have any more ambitious Liberal Party players imposed on them by the Premier’s chief of staff anymore.

I think they will be very wary of having anyone associated with the Liberal Party in their Nationals ministerial offices, because we know who their masters are. We know who Tristan Weston was taking directions from.

Who are the losers in all of this? The answer is: the Victorian community as a whole. This crisis in the police portfolio, this unremitting and remorseless campaign conducted by the government against the Chief Commissioner of Police and police command, undermines public confidence in our force. We tried to pursue those questions during the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearings — but were shut down by the Liberal Party chair — because there are clear indicators of a lack of public confidence in community safety. When you have a crisis in police command orchestrated by this government you will undermine public confidence in it.

This crisis impacts on police command.

For the next 12 months every decision it makes and everything it does will be conducted with the Rush inquiry hanging over its head. There will be no clear decision and direction from the government and no leadership but rather another long period of destabilisation and crisis. Who can work effectively under those conditions? Who can work effectively when those opposite, those secret cowards, continue to background journalists against the chief commissioner and against police command?

This crisis impacts on police morale. The men and women who make up our force, the people who put their lives on the line to ensure our safety, are witnessing a government-sponsored assault on this most vital of state institutions. This crisis impacts on jobs. How can you possibly deliver on the 1700 additional police and 940 protective services officers funded in Labor’s last budget with this mess going on? Current and potential recruits will be looking at this crisis and respectively saying, ‘How can I stay?’ and ‘Why should I join?’.

Further on the issue of jobs, there is a major EBA (enterprise bargaining agreement) negotiation for police currently before the government. The government has a job to do to negotiate in good faith and produce an outcome as promised by the Premier — that is, wages based on inflation plus productivity improvements. That is the promise of the Premier which he made to the Police Association — a far cry from the breadcrumbs of a 2.5 per cent rise.

It is no surprise that in the six months that this government has fostered the crisis in the police portfolio it has gone missing in the EBA negotiations. The government has been absent from the negotiating table because it has been preoccupied with creating a crisis in police command and is now deeply divided as to how to respond. The Premier is frozen in the spotlight. The Minister for Police and Emergency Services is left in the dark. The Premier’s chief of staff is playing dangerous games and the Police Association secretary is left with no-one in government to talk to.

His members and our police officers who are protecting our local communities are the losers.

It is time the Premier and his government started to talk honestly with the Victorian community. It is time for them to come clean and divulge the role they have played in this mess. It is time for police command to be allowed to do its work in keeping our community safe without the constant and cowardly undermining and backgrounding from this government. It is time for rank and file police to be treated with the respect that they deserve and to receive a fair and just outcome in the EBA negotiations. It is time for the Premier to wake up and show some leadership. We have a crisis in police command. We have an undermining of the Chief Commissioner of Police, which has been orchestrated by those opposite.

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