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November 19, 2008

The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has called on the Federal Government to invest in local community safety projects and to protect young people during busy times like ‘schoolies week’.

Mr Chester told Federal Parliament last week that the Traralgon CBD Safety committee required funding for taxi rank security, lighting and closed-circuit television to improve safety in the nightclub precinct.

He said Traralgon was one of many communities across regional Australia which had devised its own solutions to local problems, but couldn’t access the funds required.

 “In my electorate the coastal townships in particular will play host to many young people, and some of the major centres like Traralgon will have extra celebrations for the occasion,” Mr Chester said.

“Our local police have done an outstanding job in the past, and I am certain that this year will be no exception.

“But there is always someone who takes it too far, someone who cannot go out at night without causing trouble, and our police cannot be everywhere, which is why I want to raise the broader issue of community safety issues and the government’s opportunity to invest in local community initiatives going forward.”

Mr Chester made specific mention in Parliament of the Traralgon CBD Safety committee, which is seeking funding from the state and federal governments to continue hiring security guards to reduce trouble in the nightclub precinct at weekends.

“These communities know what steps they want to take to reduce the incidence of violence and to help make residents feel safer, but they cannot access funds to go ahead and implement some of these good ideas,” Mr Chester said.

He said the former Coalition Government had supported groups like the Traralgon CBD Safety Committee.

“The previous government provided this committee with seed funding of about $150,000 to trial security guards at taxi ranks on busy Saturday nights and the reports from that trial have been very promising,” Mr Chester said.

“Like Traralgon, the Advance Morwell group was also supported by the former Coalition Government and received an election commitment of $250,000 to install CCTV cameras in the centre of town.

“The Rudd Labor Government has failed to take action in this area.”

Mr Chester called on the government to make funding available through programs like the National Community Crime Prevention Program (NCCPP).

“It will mean that communities can attend to these incidents of violence and work with liquor licensees in these towns to clean up trouble spots,” Mr Chester said.

“I see it as a tragedy when parents fear for their children’s safety while doing something as simple as enjoying night life in their own local community.

“Naturally, security provisions and closed-circuit television do not go to the core of the problem of those people acting irresponsibly, but we can improve the safety of our streets through the use of security guards, closed circuit television and, of course, the extension of education programs to encourage young people to act responsibly at all times.

“Australians have a right to feel safe in their own community and the federal government should support local communities as they develop their own local solutions to local problems.”

Mr Chester also used the opportunity to encourage Year 12 students to act responsibly during “Schoolies Week,” which starts next week.

“Schoolies Week should be a time of celebration and great enjoyment for young people- it has become a rite of passage- as they move from secondary school into the next chapter of their lives.

“Across Gippsland, there will be young people celebrating the end of high school- filled with hope and enthusiasm and the exuberance that youth brings.

“I urge young people to look after their mates and to drink responsibly in the company of people they know and trust.”

“I don’t want to rain on the schoolies week parade, but there are predators out there who will prey on drunk young women and seek to pick fights with young men.

“I cannot stress enough the importance of arranging a designated driver to get all members of the group home safely and watch out for danger.”

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