Member’s Statement- Student disengagement during Covid-19 pandemic

During the current pandemic, there has been an overwhelming focus on whether schools should physically remain open or not.
I am therefore concerned that a number of important, underlying problems in education policy are potentially being overlooked.

One of those is the need to mitigate the substantially elevated risk of student disengagement in these changed circumstances for teaching and learning.

Constituency question- Recently released sex offender

My constituency question is for the Attorney-General.

It follows numerous concerns raised with me by constituents in Beechworth about the whereabouts of a recently-released sex offender. I ask the Attorney-General to clarify under what circumstances or conditions someone previously convicted of sexually assaulting 16 young boys would be free to live within close proximity of a school, to change their name and to work where children are present?

Constituency Question- Illegal tobacco

My matter, for the Police Minister, is about the worsening problems in the illegal supply and sale of tobacco in Northern Victoria.

Members Statement- Corryong Sensory Play

Play is fundamental to the development of children and there is widespread evidence that play is an effective change agent. Sensory play equipment is known to be very successful in supporting children with special needs, including development of problem-solving skills and self-confidence for children who are on the spectrum, ODD, ASD and with other needs.

Adjournment- K9TEACH Pet therapy funding

My Adjournment matter for the Minister of Education, requesting further funding for K9TEACH Pet Therapy.

Adjournment- Drug rehabilitation upon prison release

My matter, for the Minister for Corrections, relates to the shocking impact of illicit drug use.
Naturally, there is always intense debate (including in this place) around how best to tackle such usage, and people bring a variety of perspectives to that question.
However, we surely all agree that these substances (whether ice, or any of a number of other destructive drugs) are being used in record numbers in Victoria, and are inflicting a staggering degree of carnage on users, their families and communities.
Indeed, for a timely picture of the scale of that use, we need look no further than last week’s release of the latest in the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s excellent annual wastewater series.
While I do so cautiously, I especially want to express my continued despair tonight about drug-related court cases that regularly highlight disconnects between our justice and health systems.  These disconnects are failing all of us in numerous ways, including in a lack of timely resourcing.
In late February, this was again underscored when an offender was bailed in Shepparton, then absconded (and I think is still on the loose) because his rehabilitation bed wasn’t ready.  He was still bailed in these circumstances even despite the opposition of the police prosecutor to the release, including specifically because of his concerns about that very flight risk.
If beds are not available in such circumstances, then isn’t it just common sense that these inmates must remain detained?

Rehabilitation programs are already available in correctional facilities in any case and, surely, should be mandated there as well as during remand.  This would likely not only achieve better accountability for drug-fuelled crimes, but also provide a genuine opportunity for these offenders to detox and increase their chances of resetting their lives on paths that do not again encompass crime or further drug addiction.

I should add that immediate access to rehab (which generally considerably helps prevent recidivism in these cases) is further complicated by the fact that Victoria (and certainly my electorate of Northern Victoria) has a critical shortage of these services.  Given that illicit drugs are so potent to addicts that they remain near-impossible for them to resist without comprehensive treatment, this immediate access is critically important.

Accordingly, the action I seek is that the Minister consider modifying current practice so that, if an offender is bailed to a drug rehabilitation program, they must always continue to be detained until they are able to be released directly to the facility running the program.

Child abuse tendency evidence

I moved a motion in Parliament to expand evidence and make sex offenders’ histories known to Juries. We should follow the lead of other states and expand the range of evidence admissible to juries.

Constituency Question- Bushfire infrastructure for Councils

I ask the Treasurer if he could supply, for each year from 2014-15 inclusive, the total dollar amounts collected from the Fire Services Levy from all of the councils in my electorate – and, for those same years, how much (in total dollar amounts) they have received from the State Government specifically to upgrade bushfire-related infrastructure.

Question without Notice- Myrtleford Ambulance response time

My question is to the Minister for Ambulance Services, Ms Mikakos.

It concerns yet another case (this one in Myrtleford, in February) of exceedingly slow ambulance response times in Northern Victoria.

This patient (who had a strangulated hernia) actually needed an ambulance twice, but neither arrived for around an hour.  No CERT team was available either, and all these problems were exacerbated by the apparent failure of the ambulance crews and hospital staff to even communicate with one another about the patient’s condition and requirements.

Minister: what do you and/or Ambulance Victoria currently regard as a reasonable time for a person with a strangulated hernia to have an ambulance arrive and be transported from Myrtleford to a hospital in Wangaratta?

Supplementary question: Minister: the 2019-20 Statement of Priorities agreement that you signed with Ambulance Victoria includes these key goals, quote:

  • “care is always being there when people need it”;
  • “equal access to care”; and
  • “people are connected to the full range of care and support they need”.

Minister: on the basis of the continuing emergence of so many unacceptable incidents in non-metropolitan areas, these priorities are clearly not being realised.

So, especially given the significantly increased pressures confronting the State’s health system because of coronavirus, what actions are you now going to take in order to improve ambulance resourcing and response times that continue to fail critically-ill people in Northern Victoria?

Speech- Road Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019

I rise this evening to speak on the Road Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019. On an ongoing basis Mr Grimley and I, and of course Derryn Hinch before us, have worked with many stakeholders and other interested parties on the possibility of these kinds of changes to existing laws.