Mildura needs a dedicated drug court

Question without notice

October 28, 2021

Tania MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (12:22):

My question is to the Attorney-General. Attorney, court reports from Mildura are filled with cases linked to drug use and abuse, particularly relating to ice. Mildura desperately needs a dedicated drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre. Drug courts are also proving to be quite successful in linking therapeutic interventions, such as rehabilitation, into the justice process. Given the pressing issues of drug-related offending in the Mallee, could you please advise what, if any, consultation is underway for establishing a Drug Court in the Magistrates Court of Mildura?

Jaclyn SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:23):

I thank Ms Maxwell for her question and the opportunity to talk about Labor’s introduction of drug courts into the state of Victoria. Of course many of you are aware that the drug court model was brought to Victoria, brought to Melbourne, from the United States by former Attorney-General Rob Hulls, and the first site opened in Dandenong. The model was subsequently expanded to Melbourne, with two drug courts operating in this location.

We further provided $35 million in the 2019–20 state budget to establish the County Court drug and alcohol treatment court pilot and expand the Magistrates Court Drug Courts to Ballarat and Shepparton. We are big supporters of the Drug Court. I have recently visited the Dandenong Drug Court and spoken to participants of that court, and they are brilliant.

The Drug Courts in Ballarat and Shepparton are the first regional locations to have the program, with hearings expected to begin in the coming months. The investments over many years that I have run through I think certainly demonstrate that we are committed to the drug court model and its widely celebrated successes.

Noting that we are still in the process of standing up the first regional Drug Courts, the findings of the rollout would be extremely critical to consider our next steps.

Ms MAXWELL (12:24):

Thank you, Attorney. The 2014 evaluation of Drug Courts recommended collection of longitudinal data on a range of patterns including reoffending for both completing and non-completing clients. This data could be imperative to supporting an evidenced-based approach to assess the need for such a Drug Court in Mildura. Could you provide an update on the collection of this data and public reporting of the results?

Ms SYMES (12:25):

In relation to the 2014 evaluation, they were independent consultancies, both from 2005 and 2014, and certainly showed that not only is this investment good but the cost-benefit ratio community dividend is 5:1, which is fantastic. The evaluations also found a 32 per cent reduction in unemployment rates, a 70 per cent reduction in the number of prison days required and a 21 per cent reduction in reoffending rates. We are constantly evaluating the government’s funded initiatives, but I would reiterate that we know that Drug Courts work. They provide a wonderful opportunity for people to deal with their underlying causes of crime and put them back onto the right path in terms of their lives.

Image: Mildura Magistrates’ Court (Film Victoria)

Yarra Ranges still chasing storm help

Constituency question

October 27, 2021

Tania MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (12:44):

My constituency question is to the Minister for Local Government (Hon. Shaun Leane MP), and is to ask what funding will be provided by the state government to the Yarra Ranges to help recovery efforts following the storm that hit the community in the middle of this year.

It is more than four months since the significant storm event damaged 135 homes, leaving 74 of them uninhabitable. The estimated cost of storm recovery is $65 million, and I am concerned by reports that council has only received $3.5 million to date by way of support.

There are multiple issues with telecommunications across the affected area, and there is a lot of work to do in collecting green waste, road rehabilitation and helping residents clean up ahead of the fire season. This community needs assurance and a flow of funds to support their recovery efforts.

Cover image: The Guardian 2021

Hub steps up to vax verification demand

Constituency question

October 26, 2021

Tania Maxwell MP, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party Member for Northern Victoria, proposes to ask this constituency question of Minister for Government Services Danny Pearson MP in the Legislative Council today – October 26:

My question is to the Minister for Government Services regarding the massive demand in my electorate for people needing to set up proof of vaccination.

The Wangaratta Digital Hub is doing a fantastic job helping members of our community who might not have the technology, or sufficient digital access or literacy, to set up a MyGov account, download the Services Vic app and link everything together to get the green vaccination tick they need to access a lot of venues. Hubs like this operate for limited hours due to funding and cannot keep up with demand.

So, my question is, with only a few days until the ‘vaccinated economy’ ramps up, what urgent support will be provided to ensure help is available for people who need to set up their digital verification?

Is the Albury-Wodonga Regional Deal on track?

Constituency question

October 14, 2021

Tania Maxwell (Northern Victoria, 15:42):

My constituency question is to the Minister for Regional Development (Hon. Mary-Anne Thomas MP) regarding the Albury-Wodonga Regional Deal.

The Albury-Wodonga Regional Deal was announced in 2019 and touted as a game-changer for this cross-border community.

The deal should deliver opportunities to streamline planning between the two communities – public transport is just one example.  Different state laws and party politics on each side of the border can complicate cross-border services.  Throw in the overlay of federal politics, and it is no wonder a formalised deal is needed.

A Statement of Intent was agreed between the three levels of government in 2020, but nothing seems to have progressed since.

And so I ask the Minister: can she advise when the Victorian government will formally sign off on the Albury-Wodonga Regional Deal?  

Victims support assistance open to question

Question without notice

October 13, 2021

  • Asked by Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party state leader Stuart Grimley MP for Tania Maxwell MP, in her absence:

Mr GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (15:07): My question is to the Minister for Higher Education and Minister for Training and Skills, representing the Minister for Victim Support.

Minister, it is nearly five years since the government asked the Victorian Law Reform Commission to consider changes to the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal and the victims’ assistance program. The VLRC made 100 recommendations, which were accepted by the government and included establishing a new state-funded financial assistance scheme for victims of crime.

Minister, what is the status of this new assistance scheme, and when can victims expect it will be delivered?

Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria—Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education) (15:08):

I thank Mr Grimley for his question and his ongoing interest in and support for victims. I will refer it to the Minister for Victim Support, Minister Hutchins, and expect a response as per the standing orders.

Mr GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (15:08):

Thank you, Minister. My colleague, Ms Maxwell, raised in this Parliament the difficulties that victims of crime face in accessing support through the current scheme, particularly as a result of the classification system.

My supplementary question is: will the government initiate any interim changes to the current scheme so that the recommendations of the VLRC are available to victims until the new act is in force?

Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria—Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education) (15:09):

Again, thank you for the question, Mr Grimley. I am sure Minister Hutchins will respond as per the standing orders. This is a key area of interest that she has in her portfolio.

Mandatory vax order challenges local business

Constituency question

October 12, 2021

Tania Maxwell MP (Northern Victoria, 15:52):

My question is the Minister for Industry Support and Recovery (Hon. Martin Pakula MP):

My office was contacted yesterday by a retailer in Wangaratta who is going to lose 50 per cent of their staff because they are hesitant to be vaccinated. There is no mandate that people entering their store, which supplies food, have to be vaccinated. They can’t deny entry to unvaccinated customers, but their staff will not be able to attend work, despite other COVID-safe measures being put into place.

Minister, this business will struggle to advertise, interview, appoint and train new staff in one week. The COVID hotline told them to close their doors until this process is completed, but they couldn’t tell them if they’d be given any financial assistance. So, what financial support will be given to this constituent and others in these circumstances?

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Resourcing regional paramedic demand

QUESTION WITHOUT NOTICE

September 14, 2021

Tania MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) 11:37:

My question is to the Minister for Emergency Services, Ms Symes:

Minister, congratulations on your new portfolio. As you know, Northern Victoria has some of the greatest gains to make in the state to improve ambulance response times.

We know our ambulance workforce is committed to the care of their patients, but regional services are challenged by increased demand, hospital ramping and geography.

Minister, in a meeting with the Health and Community Services Union last week, my office was told there are approximately 1000 paramedics in Victoria who are trying to obtain work in the system. 

Ambulance Victoria has only allocated 56 more paramedics for rural Victoria as part of the 300 committed (new) positions in the past 12 months. This is despite a 26 per cent increase in code 1 callouts for local government areas in Northern Victoria, compared with the same time last year.

Minister, will the government allocate more paramedics to regional Victoria to help meet this massive increase in demand?

Ms SYMES:

I thank Ms Maxwell for her question. I am the Minister for Emergency Services, but I act for Minister Foley, who is the Minister for Ambulance Services. So I will seek an answer in relation to the provision of paramedics from Minister Foley. I do thank you for your question, and there has been record investment and recruitment of paramedics. I recognise the same issues that you do in our shared electorate in relation to areas that are seeking to have additional resources, so I would be quite interested in the answer as well. So I will seek those details and provide them to the house.

Ms MAXWELL:

Thank you, Attorney. Ambulance Victoria is currently in talks with the CFA about delivering a first-response program in partnership with a number of regional brigades. This will be welcome news to Kiewa CFA, who have put their hand up for a pilot as first aid responders. Could the minister please update the house on those talks, if possible?

Ms SYMES:

Thank you, Ms Maxwell, for your supplementary question, which crosses more over into my portfolio as opposed to the Minister for Ambulance Services, but I might take that on notice and get you an update of the emergency medical response rollout, because I have only received preliminary briefings and I am not in a position to provide specific locations of where that might be rolled out to. I can assure you that I have heard that many brigades in regional Victoria are very keen to take on that role, but in terms of specific locations I am more than happy to provide you some more information in relation to that matter.

Thank you, President, and thank you, Minister. Ambulance Victoria is currently in talks with the Country Fire Authority about delivering a first response program in partnership with a number of regional brigades. This will be welcome news to Kiewa CFA, which has put its hand up for a pilot as first aid responders. Could the Minister please update the house on these talks?