darren.chester.mp@aph.gov.au 1300 131 785
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November 19, 2009

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (9.36 am) — I take the opportunity to commend the member for Throsby on her service to our nation in a variety of public roles over many years. I rise today to raise my concerns over the continued violence on the streets of Melbourne and in many regional centres, which has sickened us all. I believe it is time for a national strategy and for more resources to combat the problem. The headline in today’s Herald Sun newspaper about taking back our streets should be a call to action to all Victorians who have had a gutful of the violence on our streets. We are sick of the images of drunken thugs bashing innocent victims or one-punch cowards killing and maiming other young people on our streets. We are not immune from the violence in regional areas, including Gippsland, as we have seen several alcohol and drug fuelled incidents in Lakes Entrance, Bairnsdale, Sale and the Latrobe Valley.

There are plenty of theories about what needs to be done. There is no escaping the fact that changes need to be made and the issue of community based violence should be made a national priority by the Prime Minister and all national leaders. Increased numbers of police on the beat and more security at known trouble spots are just part of the solution. We are also going to need to change laws regarding liquor licences, impose harsher penalties on gang offenders, act decisively to take licences off poor business operators and work hard to change the culture which appears to have desensitised people to violence.

The Victorian state government has failed miserably to keep our streets safe and serious assaults have increased over the past decade. Our police need more numbers on the ground on active patrols. But this is not just a policing problem. It will require a concerted effort from all sections of the community. As we know, many of us enjoy a drink but we need to break the culture of excessive consumption of alcohol. It will take leadership at every level of the community, and I believe change is needed in our homes, at our sporting clubs and at community functions and in the behaviour of our sporting role models who many young people look up to. We have to get the message ingrained in our community that you can have a good time and you can a have few drinks but you do not have to end the day vomiting in the gutter and picking fights with the police.

I believe we need to overhaul our liquor licensing laws. Also, banning our hotels and nightclubs from selling alcohol after 2 am and forcing them to close by 3 am would be a very good start. I refer to some comments by the Police Commissioner of Victoria, Simon Overland, in today’s Herald Sun.

He said:

“Past 1am, there’s little good that happens in the city. Past 6am, it’s just all bad,” …

Court imposed penalties for gang violence should also reflect the community’s abhorrence of these attacks. In the short term I am concerned that the federal government has not gone far enough in providing funding for local communities, under the National Community Crime Prevention Program, which would help local communities find solutions to local problems. I believe the federal government is failing in this regard. In the community of the Latrobe Valley we have the Traralgon CBD Safety Committee, which has been working hard to clean up the streets and has sought funding for closed-circuit television, but its application has been rejected. The government should be supporting such local solutions, which, in this case, have the complete support of local police.

I quote from the Latrobe Valley Express, from an interview with Traralgon Police Senior Sergeant Ann-Marie Stevens, who said:

“It assists us to identify offenders at a later time and if people know these things are in existence, it prevents crime,” … … … …

“We will be able to identify people we previously haven’t been able to identify and that makes people feel safer.”

In our homes and our schools we need to be teaching our young people that respect for other people is a core principle of a civilised community and that they must take responsibility for their own actions. We must take action to make our streets safe again.

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