Lack of respect for laws has led us into a crisis

30 Dec 2016 • Herald Sun, Melbourne
by John Pesutto

VICTORIA is in the middle of a law-and-order crisis under the Andrews Government. Premier Daniel Andrews always seems able to create a situation in which one group wins and the other loses. Under his government, it seems violent criminals continue to get away with it while innocent Victorians suffer.

Public apprehension about violent crime and community safety is at sky-high levels – and it’s no wonder with crime rates the highest they’ve ever been in Victoria’s history.

Can you remember horrific carjackings being a daily feature of life in our community? Or violent home invasions that are so brazen as to make you think they could not possibly be real?

It’s no wonder people are fortifying their homes and taking other measures for their own protection. Victorians should not have to do that – it’s what our justice system is meant to do for us.

And tell me, when did looting become a thing here? Yes, that’s what happened recently when a group of violent youths walked into four Officeworks stores around Melbourne, stealing goods without the slightest respect for the law, staff, customers or police officers. And just when I thought I’d seen it all, scenes showing the West Gate Bridge in lockdown as police surrounded a stolen car with at least one offender who was out on bail made me wonder whether I was watching a movie set or footage from a live police operation in Los Angeles.

Our prison and youth justice systems are in chaos. Riots are happening frequently and two court cases over the past fortnight have found the Andrews Government was incapable of moving violent youths to Barwon Prison. The level of incompetence by the Andrews Government and minister Jenny Mikakos is difficult to comprehend. In the face of the kind of rampant violence that occurred at the Parkville and Malmsbury youth justice facilities recently, how could Andrews and Mikakos have bungled the process when the law allows for such transfers?

I hate to think of the legal costs of this fiasco. Remember, because the minister lost the case, taxpayers will have to foot the legal bill for the lawyers acting for the thugs who engaged in the very violence that started this mess.

It’s almost as if, under the Andrews Government, our entire corrections system is being driven by the inmates.

Labor governments have been in power, effectively, for 13 of the past 17 years and their decisions have caused many of the crises we face now, like Andrews’s disastrous decision to legalise the breaching of bail by people under 18 years of age, such as Apex gang members.

What worse message could you send to a generation of youths? How could you say to them that it’s fine to breach your bail, even when you have no reasonable excuse for doing so?

When a magistrate recently gave a violent person, who had already breached bail four times previously, a fifth chance at bail and who then went on to shoot someone, the government was dismissive of the community outrage.

The Andrews Government has refused to address weak sentencing and bail outcomes from our courts. Those outcomes have resulted from a number of higher court decisions that have jeopardised community safety and frustrated the will of parliament for stronger sentences.

The Premier weakened police move-on powers to carefully manage violent protesters. You know the protesters I’m talking about: the masked thugs who pose as paragons of democratic virtue, but are willing to beat up innocent bystanders. Can you really expect Daniel Andrews to be strong when his Police Minister condones illicit drug use in a public space by sanctioning non-enforcement?

You cannot tackle the causes of crime unless you first build respect for the law.

THE Andrews Government is simply not capable or prepared to take the firm approaches needed to put respect and responsibility at the heart of our criminal justice system. It’s no wonder it has lost all authority over our justice system.

And don’t offenders know it.

We need an approach that is driven by the right values and priorities. Community safety, respect and responsibility must come first with ideology giving way to common sense.

We know action is needed and that is why the Liberal Nationals led by Matthew Guy have introduced legislation to fill the huge gaps left by Andrews. Our team has introduced legislation to: crack down on carjackings and drive-by shootings; ensure murderers don’t get parole unless they reveal where their victims’ bodies are located; keep cop killer Craig Minogue in jail for life, and; ensure community safety is the paramount consideration for parole for all offenders.

Our laws should be putting the rights of victims first, not those of criminals.

Unlike Daniel Andrews, our priority is to put innocent Victorians first.

JOHN PESUTTO IS VICTORIA’S SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL
 

Lack of respect for laws has led us into a crisis

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