Monday, 26 May 2008

Hansard 2008-05-09 Police Integrity Bill

The Legislative Council voted 20 to 18 to decline to pass the Victorian government's Police Integrity Bill and voted to refer it to the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee for further investigation and consideration.
Peter Kavanagh’s support for referral to Committee motion for was crucial to its passage.
Peter Kavanagh MLC for Western Victoria expressed concern in Parliament that the aims of the Bill do not go far enough - that an Anti-Corruption Commission is needed. Mr Kavanagh also expressed concerns about two particular aspects of the Bill as detailed below:

Activity: Second Reading
Members: Peter Kavanagh
Date: 9 May 2008
Page: 1665

Page 1665


Second reading

Mr KAVANAGH (Western Victoria) -- I want to mention a few concerns about the bill and support its referral to the committee. The Police Integrity Bill is intended to improve measures that can be taken against police corruption in this state. The main general concern of the community is that perhaps the bill does not go quite far enough, and many people support the establishment of a broader anticorruption commission.

Indeed even in hearings of the Select Committee on Public Land Development we have had people calling for a broader commission because of concerns about some dealings at local council level about public land.

In addition to that, I have two particular concerns about the bill which I would like to state for the record. They are about the bill's provisions requiring self-incrimination in certain circumstances and the restrictions on the ability of accused persons to cross-examine on documents that are being used against them.

In respect of self-incrimination, such a provision would be prohibited in the United States by the fifth amendment to the constitution, which prevents any court or similar body from requiring people to incriminate themselves in any criminal matter in the United States of America.

While we do not have such a constitutional provision in Australia, traditionally it has been regarded as an important aspect of our civil liberties that people should not, generally speaking, be forced to incriminate themselves except in particular circumstances -- under for example, the .05 blood alcohol level legislation and commonwealth tax law.

In respect of cross-examination, this is a primary means that we have in our legal system of testing prosecution evidence. Indeed in many circumstances it is the only means we have of testing evidence. It would be a grave step to withdraw the right of cross-examination from a defendant, and we should be loath to do so and very careful in taking such a step. For both of those reasons -- concern over self-incrimination and cross-examination -- I will support the motion to have the bill considered in detail by committee.

…The Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee in this case, and I request that it gives its opinion on these aspects of the bill.

Motion agreed to.

Read second time.

Referral to committee

House divided on amended motion:

Ayes, 20
Kavanagh, Mr (Teller)

Noes, 18


Drum, Mr
Pulford, Ms

Amended motion agreed to.

Hansard 2008-05-08 South-West Helicopter

The State Government finally agreed to the provision of a dedicated medical evacuation helicopter based in South-West Victoria. This follows sustained lobbying efforts by many citizens in Western Victoria and of a number of Western Region Members including questions in Parliament from Mr Kavanagh to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, calls for its funding in other speeches and letters to the Premiers (both Bracks and Brumby) and relevant Ministers.

Title: Emergency services: south-western Victoria helicopter
Activity: Members Statements
Date: 8 May 2008
Page: 1570

Page 1570

Emergency services: south-western Victoria helicopter

Mr KAVANAGH (Western Victoria) -- I would like to express thanks and congratulations to the government for its decision to fund an emergency helicopter in south-western Victoria. As noted by a lot of observers, it has been a long time coming. But I would also like to express the hope that funding for the helicopter service will not be at the expense of funding for the Warrnambool and District Base Hospital, to which the government has promised $90 million.

In addition to congratulating the government, I would also like to congratulate the community of south-western Victoria on its successful efforts. In particular I thank and congratulate Dominique Fowler and Keith Meerback. They were very effective lobbyists in this good cause. I have been especially moved and inspired by Mr Meerback's loyalty to and affection for his sister-in-law
In thanking the government I will not emphasise that it took a long time to secure the service, because I, with many other people, asked the government to do something, and I think it would be very unappreciative to then criticise the government for the time taken. I thank the government for this correct decision.

Hansard 2008-05-08 Final Report - Gaming Licensing

In May of 2008 the Select Committee on Gaming Licensing established in 2007 tabled its final report. The report recommended several measures at Mr Kavanagh’s initiative including the introduction of mandatory warnings at the entrances of pokie venues and on the machines themselves. The Committee’s report did not go far enough however and therefore Mr Kavanagh added his own report suggesting further measures including a requirement that venues be required to discourage patrons from simultaneously drinking alcohol and playing pokies.

Title: Final report
Date: 8 May 2008
Page: 1560

Page 1560

Final report

Mr KAVANAGH (Western Victoria) -- The Select Committee on Gaming Licensing was established largely because of concerns held by the opposition and speculation in the media about the lotteries licensing process. In general terms it seems to me that the evidence before the committee of any irregularities in the licensing process was very weak and inconsistent and was indeed contradicted by other evidence.

In Australian culture we naturally tend to sympathise with the underdog.

It is a part of who we are. That is not a bad characteristic to have. However, I think in defending the low we should also bear in mind that we have responsibilities of fairness and justice to the high. I have to agree with the members of the government who consider that finding 3.24 and paragraph 191, although technically correct, do not fulfil our obligation to Mr Bracks or other people to be fair and just.

However, our commitment to the truth means that we should emphasise and underscore the government's hostility to the committee and its lack of cooperation throughout the 15 months of the committee's investigations. From the beginning the government, it seemed to me needlessly and wantonly, interfered to prevent the committee uncovering evidence. Indeed in the process it ignored independent legal evidence obtained on behalf of this house.

Victorians should be concerned about this, because if this attitude towards investigations by the government is to continue, it will mean that the role of this house in reviewing and scrutinising the government will be diminished. That should be a matter of concern for all Victorians.

In addition to the investigation of the licensing processes, the committee considered, among other things, problem gambling and methods of minimising the harm done by problem gambling. It seemed to me that that was an extremely important aspect of the committee's work. In the course of that investigation we heard testimony from people who have had problems with gambling. The evidence they gave us was quite harrowing. It pointed to personal despair of a profound nature.

In addition to hearing from the sufferers of the problem, we also heard from experts who spoke about their efforts to treat and help people with this problem. We found that particular problems included financial, health, social and personal aspects. We heard, for example, of a family whose members did their grocery shopping for the week, after which they went off to play the pokies. They came back later to the supermarket saying, 'We have lost all our money at the pokies. We want a refund. We want to cash our groceries in'.

We also heard from one problem gambling help organisation that its staff hear about six times a year of someone they have dealt with killing themselves. These people commit suicide because of problems arising from the use of EGMs (electronic gaming machines). That organisation covers a small part of Victoria, and indeed probably only deals with a small part of the problem within that particular region. The problem is huge and profound. I think it justifies the conclusion that pokies really are a scourge in our society.

The committee considered measures for dealing with problem gambling and to address the harm done by it. It seems to me that while there are worthwhile measures in the report, they do not go far enough. The state profits from this dangerous activity, and it seems that we are obliged to do everything we reasonably can to warn people so that Victorians who use EGMs do so after being warned soberly and on the understanding that they are very unlikely to win money in the long term.

The committee considered the introduction in the near future in Victoria of precommitment technology, as announced by the government. The government has not announced whether that will be optional or mandatory, and it seemed to me -- though not to a majority of the committee -- that the government should work towards making the technology mandatory. We also heard from a leading problem gambling expert from New Zealand whose evidence was very powerful. It showed us that Victoria has a lot to learn from New Zealand.

I would like to thank the chairman of the committee, Mr Gordon Rich-Phillips, who did a really great job for the whole 15 months. He was fair, he kept the process moving and did a pretty good job of preventing some of the disputes degenerating to an unseemly level. Thanks also to Mr Richard Willis and Mr Anthony Walsh, both of whom at all times were helpful, courteous, cheerful and professional in everything they did for us.

Motion agreed to.

Hansard 2008-05-07 Genetically Modified Crops

The government has not yet announced details about the regulations it intends to introduce about ‘quarantining’ GM seeds from other seeds.
It seems however that the government is intending to put the onus of keeping GM seeds out of non-GM crops on the non-GM farmer. Mr Kavanagh feels that this would be very unfair on non-GM farmers and has encouraged the government to take a different approach to this problem.
In Parliament Mr Kavanagh asked the government the following questions:

Title: Agriculture: genetically modified crops
Activity: Questions without Notice
Date: 7 May 2008
Page: 1471

Page 1471

Agriculture: genetically modified crops

Mr KAVANAGH (Western Victoria) -- My question without notice is for the Minister for Industry and Trade, the Honourable Theo Theophanous, representing the Minister for Agriculture, and it relates to regulations concerning GM (genetically modified) crops in Victoria. Why is the government imposing the burden of preventing the spread of genetically modified crops onto non-GM farmers' land, putting that burden on the non-GM farmer; and why has the government not released the details of regulations on the separation of GM and non-GM crops both on farms and in transportation?

Hon. T. C. THEOPHANOUS (Minister for Industry and Trade) -- I thank the member for his question. This is not my portfolio area, although I represent the Minister for Agriculture in this house.

Page 1471

I acknowledge also the concerns of the member in relation to GM (genetically modified) crops, which he has expressed on a number of occasions in the house. I acknowledge that concern and his ongoing interest in this.
What I can say to the member is that the government very carefully considered this issue in making its determinations in relation to allowing GM crops in Victoria. As he is aware, it is under fairly strict conditions that that is to occur. We acknowledge there is considerable debate in the community about it, but on balance the government made a decision about the benefits of those crops in relation to a lower use of pesticides and a range of benefits that have been canvassed in the house in the past.
With respect to the specific question about the detail of the regulations about which the member has asked me, I will seek to get a response from the agriculture minister in relation to that specific detail and inform him of that.

Page 1472

Supplementary question…..

Mr KAVANAGH -- How does placing the burden of preventing the spread of GM crops on non-GM farmers not contradict the principle established in Rylands v. Fletcher and common understandings of rules of fairness?

Hon. T. C. THEOPHANOUS (Minister for Industry and Trade) -- Again I will pass that question on to the agriculture minister, and the only other element I would add is that there is an assumption in the member's question that non-GM farmers are being required to do the things that he says. That is a matter I am not across the detail of. Obviously it is a matter which the agriculture minister would be, and I am sure he will respond to the claims of the member as well as to his question.


Peter Kavanagh MLC
Member for Western Victoria
Parliament of Victoria

"La Cabine"
2nd Floor
1 Yarra Street
Geelong VIC 3220

Ph: 03 5222 1503
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