STATE OF DISORDER Victoria’s government has been accused of abandoning antiassociation laws designed to stop Victorian youths from falling in with gangs, after it allowed the bill to lapse in the state’s upper house.
The Victorian Coalition has upped its attack on the Andrews government for failing to contain a street gang crisis, saying it would have voted in favour of the new anti-gangs measures if the government had persisted and put the bill to a final upper house vote.
In response to more than 18 months of escalating gang violence, the government in July introduced legislation giving police enhanced powers to stop Victorians at risk of joining gangs from associating with known gang members, even if they had not been charged.
The proposed new bill gave police officers ranked sergeant and above the power to issue antiassociation orders to individuals as young as 14, barring them from contact with gang members in person or by technology and social media. The older scheme applied only to individuals over 18.
The legislation passed the Legislative Assembly but lapsed in the upper house when the parliamentary sitting term ended before a second reading vote, and a third and final reading.
The opposition said the legislation was desperately needed to tackle youth and street gang crime. ”
After Daniel Andrews seriously weakened anti-gang laws in 2015, it took a violent youth gang crisis for his government to finally admit it needed to fix the legislative mess that followed. But as always with the Andrews Labor government, its talk was unmatched by action, with the bill lapsing on the expiry of parliament,” opposition spokesman for legal affairs John Pesutto said.
“It would have passed had Daniel Andrews brought in on.”
A government spokesman said the Coalition contributed to the delays in bills being heard.
He did not respond when asked whether there were plans to reintroduce the legislation under a re-elected Andrews government.
“The passage of bills through parliament is dependent on parliamentary process,” he said.
“Thanks to the Liberals’ filibustering and delaying tactics, a number of bills were held up in the Legislative Council and failed to pass parliament before the end of the last sitting week.”
As it stands, police are bound by the Criminal Organisations Control Act 2015, which theoretically gives police the power to stop two individuals from associating if one has been charged with a serious offence.
Police say the legislation is impractical and rarely used because of too many ambiguities in its wording, including a requirement that an offender must have been “tried on indictment” to be considered as carrying a conviction.
In July, Attorney-General Martin Pakula said Victoria Police believed the wording created legal uncertainty, particularly where a person has pleaded guilty to a serious offence rather than stood trial.
“Victoria Police has concerns that uncertainties such as these can be exploited by those involved in organised crime to frustrate the operation of the laws,” he said.
Mr Pakula said the government had modelled in part on NSW consorting laws that were modernised and expanded in 2012. He said the NSW laws had been successful in reducing the number of outlaw motorcycle gang members operating within the state.