Thursday, 21 March 2024


Bills

Firearms and Control of Weapons (Machetes) Amendment Bill 2024


Evan MULHOLLAND, Michael GALEA, Katherine COPSEY, Richard WELCH, John BERGER, Jeff BOURMAN, David LIMBRICK, Trung LUU, Jacinta ERMACORA

Bills

Firearms and Control of Weapons (Machetes) Amendment Bill 2024

Second reading

Debate resumed on motion of Ingrid Stitt:

That the bill be now read a second time.

Evan MULHOLLAND (Northern Metropolitan) (10:08): I rise to speak on the Firearms and Control of Weapons (Machetes) Amendment Bill 2024. We know that this government is very good at putting politics ahead of community safety. The bill that the government is presenting, which they are calling the ‘machetes bill’, is 35 pages long but only has one line on machetes. While Labor has been napping when it comes to community safety, we have been making constructive proposals. In fact we are doing a lot more than making proposals; we introduced a bill to ban machetes in Victoria, but Labor did oppose that bill last year because they are not serious about community safety. The government is late to act, and we have been putting constructive proposals out there. We are not only warning and urging the government to do something, we actually did something ourselves – which the government opposed. Now they are scrambling back because they have suddenly realised, as is evidenced through the crime stats released today, that this is an issue with the community. They have maybe finally sat down with the Police Association Victoria and Victoria Police and actually realised that this is an issue.

When we did that last year we were mocked for doing that. For advocating the concerns of our community in the other place we were mocked by members of this government, who are very unserious about community safety. I actually did – and I make a habit of it – check Hansard to see what some of these members said about our concerns. The member for South Barwon said:

… what we see constantly, time after time, every single week, are juvenile political stunts from those on the other side. At every opportunity they seek to frustrate the government on the agenda that we took to the Victorian people and that was endorsed by the Victorian people.

Who knows what Labor think the people endorsed at the last election? I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that they did not endorse flagrant knife crime.

The member for Laverton in the other place said:

… to bring before this house a proposed bill at the, I dare say, eleventh hour, in the last sitting week for this year. It cannot be seen as anything else than a political stunt …

What I find so outrageous is that it is a bill … being proposed and debated as part of a procedural debate … It is an absolute disgrace to stand here and not have what I consider a really serious debate and conversation about these things. People have been seriously injured.

This is nothing other than a political stunt by those opposite.

The member for Laverton acknowledged that people are being seriously injured but at that time opposed measures to deal with that. They did nothing. They did absolutely nothing. Now they have their own bill to at least look like they are trying to address the very same serious issue. They called our bill a stunt, but their own bill does nothing, which I will come to soon.

The member for Greenvale in the other place had this to say:

I rise to oppose the member for Berwick’s motion not because the issues that the motion addresses are insignificant or unserious but because the motion itself is fundamentally unserious and another stunt, as the member for Laverton said. The reason I oppose the motion is because the issues warrant more consideration than just a slanging match and gratuitous interjections …

from those opposite, because:

… the issues really matter …

The issues do really matter. As we were calling for action for several months prior to introducing that bill, the government could have considered that. The government could have taken up our suggestions rather than just this rank, amateur, immature sledging of what we tried to do, which is evidenced by the member for Greenvale’s contribution calling us unserious for taking proactive measures to address this issue.

Every single resident deserves to feel safe in their home. I want to talk about one particular issue in the northern suburbs, in mine and the minister’s electorate. Last month Gurinder Singh, who lives in Kalkallo, just off Donnybrook Road, was subjected to a machete attack. He was slashed multiple times. His elderly mother was injured and traumatised. It traumatised his teenage son, who is going through VCE and having trouble sleeping. He said to me that there is a lack of police cars in the area and only one unit, and the closest police station is Kalkallo. Neighbouring Donnybrook and Mickleham, accommodating tens of thousands of new households, are set to grow rapidly, with no plans for a police station in the immediate future, something I will be continuing to advocate for on behalf of the people of Kalkallo, Donnybrook and Mickleham. But as always with this government, it is short-changing growth areas. It is taking all the stamp duty money from tens of thousands of new homes but not investing it in the places it is collected from, like on a new police station that is desperately needed in a place like Kalkallo, Donnybrook and Mickleham.

Gurinder told me he was shocked that machetes were not already banned as weapons and wanted to put more pressure on the government to do something. I alerted him to the fact that we did attempt to introduce a bill last year, which was opposed by those opposite. He told me that he called the member for Kalkallo’s office, who said there was nothing that they could do, He generally said that her office was quite unhelpful as he was trying to speak to the member directly. As is the case with most of my constituents, it was very easy for him to contact me, and I had several discussions with him. I am currently assisting Gurinder through the victims-of-crime process to see whether he can receive any compensation for things like roller shutters and a change of locks.

He is not the only person who has alerted me to the issues with crime in our growth areas, particularly in the Kalkallo Cloverton estate in the northern suburbs. The government needs to keep on top of this, particularly given there is no active police station in the area. The closest is between Craigieburn and another in Wallan. With tens of thousands of homes going into these rapidly growing areas, you would think it would warrant a dedicated police station for these communities.

I want to talk briefly, because I think it underlines quite a lot of points that I want to make and is relevant to this discussion, about the crime stats that just came out today. We see that Labor’s continuing under-resourcing of Victoria Police has seen aggravated burglaries rise to record levels and, alarmingly, leaves most of them unsolved. The Crime Statistics Agency data for the year ending 31 December 2023 has revealed a 29 per cent increase in residential aggravated burglaries over the last 12 months, with a total of 5887 incidents, a record for the last calendar year. Other alarming results include thefts from retail stores, up by 39 per cent; aggravated robbery, up 28 per cent; and theft from motor vehicles, up 19 per cent. These are the serious consequences of Labor’s failure to keep its promises over police numbers.

There is an alarming rise in crime remaining unsolved. I believe about 64 per cent of residential aggravated burglaries remained unsolved during the reporting period, up 16 per cent from 2022 and almost 33 per cent higher than when Labor was elected in 2014. Other crimes with a significant proportion unsolved include residential non-aggravated burglaries – a staggering 82 per cent remain unsolved; stealing from a motor vehicle, 88 per cent remain unsolved; motor vehicle theft, 57 per cent unsolved; and criminal damage, 47 per cent unsolved. The overall rate of offences across Victoria increased by 5.6 per cent, while criminal incidents increased by 10.6 per cent.

Victims of crime, indeed all Victorians, have again been badly let down by this Allan Labor government. Police numbers are going backwards, and that is an objective fact. I think my colleague Mr Luu would agree, as a former police officer. Police are doing the best they can, and we support them in what they do. They are just not being given the tools that they need to do their job. This leaves too many crimes occurring, too many crimes going unsolved and indeed too many victims like Gurinder in my electorate. It is just not good enough. Unless Labor stops the smoke and mirrors, like this bill, and increases the number of police above current levels, it will keep happening.

I believe only this side of the house has the desire to properly resource Victoria Police and do something about the crime epidemic, and that is exactly what we have been and are working towards at this time. We introduced, ourselves, a bill that would have dealt with a lot of these issues, and we have consistently flagged machete crime with the government. We are not the only ones doing it; there are several other respected individuals and organisations out there flagging the same issues with the government.

I am not sure what they have said today, but usually on the crime stats the government says, ‘Well, we are returning to pre-COVID levels. Nothing to see here; we are just returning to pre-COVID levels.’ The previous stats were actually double the pre-COVID levels when it comes to assaults and aggravated burglaries in our state, so I wonder if the government will keep to the same excuses.

On the bill, I would like to thank my friend and colleague Brad Battin, the shadow minister, for the work that he has done. The government wants accolades because they claim to be banning machetes, but there is no impact of that in this bill. We have sought the definition of what a machete is in Victoria. A machete – this is important – being a blade-edged weapon, is by its very definition a knife, and a knife with a blade that long would be a controlled weapon. If it is a controlled weapon, it cannot be sold to anyone under 18 years old. You must have a reason to have it, and there are conditions around having such a weapon. The government is now moving to make the machete a controlled weapon, so we know that this bill means nothing. The minister even said so in their maiden speech. Machetes are knives and therefore are controlled weapons, so a knife that could not be sold to someone under 18 last year cannot be sold to someone under 18 next year. A machete in the same circumstances which could not be sold to someone under 18 last year cannot be sold to them next year.

The reasoning the government gave for putting the machete into the Control of Weapons Act 1990 and making it a controlled weapon is some people may not understand that the machete is a weapon. I mean, seriously. This bill is a media release. This bill is not anything serious. This bill is a media release to give the illusion that the government is doing something when it is not actually doing anything serious. It is not. This bill is a media release, because they know that crime is a systemic issue, and it is not just in the south-eastern part of town in wealthier areas. I know that from my own electorate. Machete crime is a massive issue, it is out of control, and it has happened under this government’s watch. This government just sat there, did nothing and rejected our suggestions. It needed something to get this issue off the agenda, so it introduced a press release as a bill. That is what it did. This bill does nothing. Anyone can go into a store and still buy one. If the government thinks stallholders at markets do not understand the law, why isn’t enforcement increased? I wonder why. Why don’t they make machetes a prohibited weapon, which would prevent bulk importation? Good question. This bill is not going to do anything to improve community safety.

Why has this debate come about? We can go back to 23 June 2022. A young man was reportedly stabbed in a savage machete attack by hooded thugs in Springvale, Melbourne. The 23-year-old was out with friends in Melbourne’s south-east when he was attacked by thugs who were carrying machetes. They were carrying, by definition, a controlled weapon. If it had been a prohibited weapon, it would not have been able to be sold in most locations in our state and would have been very difficult to get in metropolitan areas at the time. That is a fact. The young man was stabbed and stomped on in this vicious machete attack in the south-east, and Victoria Police went hunting for those that did it. You see people in their homes being viciously attacked. You see people on trams as machete-wielding thugs storm them. They do it even when CCTV is installed and the home owner is home.

It is not just us advocating for machetes to be made a prohibited weapon. It is not just the Police Association Victoria. We all know Les Twentyman. He has done a lot of work around knife crime. He supports a ban. He has said that they are deeply terrifying edged weapons and has slammed the state government as ‘gutless’ for not taking a harder line on machetes. From the Herald Sun:

“No one should be able to do that, no matter the age,” Mr Twentyman said.

“Machetes should only be available to buy for their intended purpose, cutting cane in Queensland.”

Why is the government not listening to someone like Les Twentyman? It is not just Les either; it is many others. Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police Shane Patton told an inquiry he was speaking at that Victoria Police had been monitoring 600 members of 40 youth gangs and that cops had already apprehended a lot of people under the Control of Weapons Act. The chief commissioner said what we say – no person should be carrying around a machete in public because there is no reason for it. I do not believe young offenders are going around chopping sugar cane in my electorate in Kalkallo. There is no reason to have a machete and to go around at night with a machete – none. We need to make sure Victoria Police have the powers they need to take these machetes off the street.

We do not oppose this bill but will instead be moving an amendment to make machetes a prohibited weapon. I ask that the amendments in my name be now circulated.

Amendments circulated pursuant to standing orders.

Evan MULHOLLAND: We need real change like what we proposed in our private members bill. The changes would mean that machetes cannot be sold without evidence, approval or exemption. Places like markets and offbeat sellers will be under no illusions: it is banned. It cannot be purchased illegitimately. It cannot be imported from overseas, interstate or from places like the dark web. They will get stopped at the border, and people will be prosecuted, with substantial and unequivocal penalties for those that transgress. The flow of machetes onto our streets would be slowed greatly. Labor needs to stand up for Victorians. Labor needs to clean our streets so people can sleep easily at night without fear of machete-wielding thugs invading their homes, which is what happened to Gurinder Singh in my electorate.

The conversations with him were frightening. He was quivering about what happened to him because all of his doors were locked, his elderly mother was home and his kids were home, and they just smashed through the window. They came in with machetes and slashed him, slashed his elderly mother and took everything that they could find. It was a deeply traumatic event, but events like this are happening to too many people in our state. Too many people have had incidents of machete crime. It is out of control, and it is not going to change until we do something serious about it. I say Labor does need to listen to people like Gurinder, and Labor does need to listen to people like Les Twentyman.

Michael GALEA (South-Eastern Metropolitan) (10:31): I rise today to speak on the Firearms and Control of Weapons (Machetes) Amendment Bill 2024. The safety of all Victorians is at the forefront of what this bill seeks to do, which is to deliver reforms to ensure that Victoria Police have what they need to keep our communities safe. It will amend the Firearms Act 1996 to further provide for the service of firearm prohibition orders and related minor matters. This will enable additional powers for Victoria Police to serve an FPO on an individual who is avoiding service, including powers to detain and direct an individual to serve an FPO and to apply to a magistrate for a warrant to search premises for an individual in order to serve an FPO. It also amends the Control of Weapons Act 1990 to clarify that a machete is a knife and therefore a controlled weapon, and I will have some comments on that and specifically around Mr Mulholland’s amendments a little later.

This is a government that is proud to work genuinely and honestly with Victoria Police and police command to ensure that VicPol has the tools and the resources that they need to keep Victorians safe. Since coming into government we have invested more than $4.5 billion in Victoria Police to deliver Victorians the modern, world-class policing service that they deserve. This includes additional police, new and upgraded stations right across the state and investment in new technologies to ensure that VicPol continues to be a modern, fit-for-purpose organisation well into the future.

On that point and speaking, as Mr Mulholland was, about the outer suburbs, I am particularly pleased to see progress with the new Clyde North police station, with designs and a time line now released. I am very much looking forward to seeing that particular station open in the next few years, which is going to deliver one extra really important asset for the south-east. This is a government that is investing across the state but particularly in the outer suburbs. In my region of South-Eastern Metropolitan we have already seen three new primary schools open just in Clyde North, with a further two under construction. We have seen a high school as well, countless road upgrades, bus improvements, improvements to Casey Hospital and the delivery of new services in the health space with the new Cranbourne community hospital, which will be opening shortly. The Clyde North police station is going to be another big part of that – a part of the service delivery that we are providing to my growing community of the south-east, one of many across the state. It is a really exciting time to see a new police station right there in Clyde North. Also, there are upgrades coming to the Narre Warren police station with a rebuild there, which is going to be really exciting for that particular centre, with a growing area across the City of Casey and across south-east Melbourne. Both of these investments – a new station at Clyde North and an upgraded station at Narre Warren – are really timely, and it is great to see them coming along and progressing well.

As part of the 2022–23 budget we also invested $342 million to deliver 502 additional police officers and 50 additional PSOs, building on the more than 3100 additional police already on our streets. That is more than 3600 additional police funded by our government since 2014, and this includes 48 specialist youth officers who work across our local communities. This is a record. We have also invested in new equipment for our police, including the $214 million taser rollout, which I note the minister has spoken about, to all frontline police officers and PSOs to ensure that they have another nonlethal tool to respond to potentially violent offenders.

We have also invested more than $1 billion to deliver those new police stations across our state, and we will continue to do so. Significantly, this government has also invested in early intervention programs, including $12.4 million in the most recent budget to continue and expand the important work of the Aboriginal youth cautioning and embedded youth outreach programs. Through our crime prevention programs we have invested more than $40 million to prevent youth offending through the youth crime prevention program and more than $100 million in over 948 different initiatives since forming government, because this government understands that the best way to keep people out of the criminal justice system is to prevent them coming into contact with it in the first place, as much as we can. Additionally, the 2023–24 budget committed almost $54 million to support young people in the community and in custody to help improve life outcomes and steer them away from criminal activity, with a strong focus on early intervention and diversion measures.

Victoria is very proud of having some of the most robust and stringent firearm controls in the world, and our approach is underpinned by the National Firearms Agreement, which establishes national minimum standards for regulating firearms. The Allan Labor government is firmly committed to strong firearms regulations continuing. In 2018 we introduced the firearm prohibition order scheme, which the Chief Commissioner of Police has called a game changer in Victoria Police’s continued efforts to disrupt organised crime. Breaching an FPO carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. Since that time police have issued over 2200 FPOs to violent offenders, serious youth offenders, outlaw motorcycle gangs, other crime groups and counterterrorism persons of interest. Almost 1000 breaches have been recorded by police under specific FPO powers, and there have been 1000 occasions where police have been able to use this tool to disrupt and prevent serious firearms-related crime.

The amendments in this bill will make it easier for police to serve an FPO on a person. Under the current laws the FPO must be served directly in person, which can be difficult for police when an individual is actively evading service. Of course in the parliamentary precinct we saw one particular individual running away from people quite a lot this week too, but that is a subject for another debate, surely. In terms of the FPOs, this could be situations where the subject of the FPO refuses to answer the door, moves residence frequently or has other people lie regarding their whereabouts. This bill will enable police to stop a person in a public place and direct that they remain there or accompany them to a police station or other safe place for up to 2 hours in order to facilitate the serving of an FPO. Police will also be able to apply to a magistrate for a warrant to enter a premises to search for a person and to serve a person with an FPO. Where an individual in detention has declined a visit by a police officer, police will also be able to serve an FPO on that person by registered post.

During the government’s extensive consultation with key stakeholders, Victoria Police made it clear that these reforms are necessary to ensure that the police have the power to keep our community safe. As I referred to earlier, this bill will also amend the Control of Weapons Act to ensure that there is no doubt that a machete is regarded as a controlled weapon. By clarifying the definition of a controlled weapon, the legal status of machetes will be abundantly clear. They cannot be possessed, carried or used without a lawful excuse or sold to anyone under the age of 18.

Clearly machetes do have various legitimate and innocent uses, including in agricultural and other gardening settings. In drafting this bill the government has been clear that our intent on this side of the chamber is not to make famers’ lives any harder by forcing them to apply for permits to continue this legitimate use. These reforms clarify to traders that machetes are controlled weapons and that proof of age must be checked before sale to ensure that machetes do not end up in the hands of young people. The penalty for carrying a controlled weapon without a lawful excuse is a fine of more than $23,000 or a jail term of up to one year. It is also an offence for a person to sell a controlled weapon to any person that they know to be a child under the age of 18, with a fine of up to $3846. Further, it is an offence for a child to purchase a controlled weapon, with a fine of up to $2308.

We have an amendment before us from the Liberal Party which rather than making machetes a controlled weapon would make them a prohibited weapon. What this would do is – the amendment makes it quite clear; it literally put it after the word ‘firearm’ – put a machete into the same category as a firearm, with all the tight restrictions and regulations around that. Police have made it clear that they do not support making machetes prohibited weapons. A prohibited weapon, like a gun, for example, or other objects such as a butterfly knife or knuckle dusters, requires a whole other level of regulation, as it rightly should. What this would do is effectively criminalise a raft of people who currently use machetes for legitimate purposes, including, and chief amongst them, farmers. I am not sure what Mr Mulholland’s colleagues in the Nationals would have to say about this. If you are going to outright with one stroke of a pen, under your amendment, decide that all these farmers who currently use machetes are going to be subject to these onerous restrictions, they are going to have to scramble to register themselves, else they will find themselves inadvertently on the wrong side of the law merely for continuing a practice that they have legitimately been doing for a long time.

Despite what those on the other side have suggested, it would not serve the community well and indeed it would not serve the police well to go down such a path where we give our police and our departments the laborious task of making sure that everyone has to apply to own a machete, get a licence and do a safety course. I certainly do not think it is reasonable for us to be putting that sort of added pressure onto the licensing and regulation division of Victoria Police. This is not common sense, nor is it what any of the key stakeholders, including the police, have requested us to do. This Liberal amendment is, for those reasons, not going to be supported by the government, and it should not be supported by the chamber as a whole for those reasons, because on this side of the house we do not support criminalising Victoria’s primary producers.

The amendments in the bill today are just one of the steps that Victoria Police is taking to disrupt and deter youth crime, with a range of programs and youth crime specialists working in communities. It is essential to recognise that only a very small minority of young people are involved in serious and violent crime. It is neither accurate nor helpful to suggest that a sizable cohort of young people are engaging in criminal activity as if the local community has to fear young Victorians as a whole. This government continues to back early investment and support for those people who are involved, though, to keep them away from crime. On this side of the chamber we know that the factors that lead to youth offending are complex. We do not use youth crime as a chance to grandstand and scare the community to elicit support, something that the Liberals do every chance they get. Victoria Police have various operations and programs to address and tackle youth crime, including Operation Alliance, which is an embedded long-term strategy to designed to detect, disrupt and dismantle youth gangs before they can cause significant harm to the community. This includes enforcement activities such as community patrols, search warrants and bail compliance checks. They also have established an embedded youth outreach program which aims to reduce investment in criminal justice by engaging with a young person and their family, assessing their needs and referring them to youth-specific supports.

In summary, the Firearms and Control of Weapons (Machetes) Amendment Bill 2024 delivers critical reforms to improve community safety and tackle youth crime and addresses key stakeholder needs as well as the recommendations of experts and law enforcement. This is what it looks like when a government focuses on delivering considered and targeted reforms to address issues and improve legislation. I know this may shock and surprise members on the other side, but serious issues like this should be addressed with hard work, such as what this government has put into this bill. Violent crime is not just a chance for those opposite to play politics. They are complicated issues which require thorough, diligent, coordinated responses in consultation with major key stakeholders such as Victoria Police, which is exactly what this government has done in drafting these bills. We know that whilst others will continue to play politics, this is a government that is getting on with delivering and doing everything it can to support our communities where they are affected by crime.

I am really pleased to see the investments, as I discussed earlier, such as into the Clyde North police station, which is going to be a big benefit to my community, and I am very much looking forward to seeing that particular station open as I am of course the upgrade to the Narre Warren police station as well. It is all part of the broader investment we are making into policing, the criminal justice system and support for victims in this state as we continue to do our utmost to ensure that crime levels are kept as low as they possibly can be. I commend the bill to the house.

Katherine COPSEY (Southern Metropolitan) (10:47): I will take some time this morning to speak to a number of amendments that the Greens are putting forward on this bill. I have prepared those amendments in my name, and I ask that those be circulated now.

Amendments circulated pursuant to standing orders.

Katherine COPSEY: To give some context to the contribution today, as has been canvassed in other contributions, this bill is amending legislation that was introduced in 2017 when firearm prohibition orders were introduced in Victoria. Under the current situation, firearm prohibition orders can be made, to quote from the substantive legislation:

… even though the individual to whom the order applies or is to apply has never acquired, possessed, carried or used a firearm or a firearm related item.

Given this is a scheme that grants extensive and unchecked powers to Victoria Police and can be applied to people who have literally never touched a firearm, the Greens believe that all efforts should be made with the operation of this legislation to at minimum keep children out of the legislation in order to avoid that early contact with the criminal justice system and the criminalisation that we know that that can lead to.

We do note that there are additional protections for children under the bill. We do not believe these protections go far enough. Children should not be subject to search warrant, arrest and detention powers for the purpose of serving a firearm prohibition order, and our amendments could correct these omissions in the government’s bill. It is unnecessary and could result in criminalisation of a young person, which we know has lifelong consequences. There are instances where a young person who has never owned, seen or touched a firearm or weapon might not have had much interaction with the system, so the contact under those circumstances could be one of the earliest experiences of criminalisation that that young person experiences, and that could be easily prevented.

We also think that this bill should be consistent with the existing requirements in corresponding legislation regarding service of search warrants, and we do not really understand why this bill is an outlier. In the provision of search warrants under similar legislation, like the Crimes Act 1958, the Chief Commissioner of Police is required to apply to the court for the granting of a search warrant, and we believe that the same requirement should apply to firearm orders. Importantly, it would provide some external oversight of the power’s use. Further, a similar 28 days of expiration for that warrant should apply.

The protection provisions in this bill do not but they should at a minimum be amended to match section 456AA of the Crimes Act – that is, police officers when exercising these powers should provide the person who is the recipient of the order with the grounds for the belief that the person is the person who is the subject of the firearm order, and the officer must provide their name, rank and place of duty. We agree with stakeholders who have communicated with us strongly that this provision should be provided automatically without the person being stopped needing to know that they have a right to request that information or putting the onus on the person to request it. We also believe that every person stopped should be given a written receipt of this information by the officer at the time of service. As we saw with policing through the pandemic, there is substantiated evidence that systematic racial profiling has occurred with some stop, search and service powers. Information of ethnic background and appearance is collected by police, sometimes through their systems, and one of our amendments would go to seeing that information included in public annual reporting so that we can monitor and assess whether systemic profiling is occurring and be alive to that if it occurs as a result of the enactment of these laws.

Lastly, we believe that powers to transport and detain are unnecessary, and they are not justified for service of a civil order. For example, this bill gives the power to police to detain a person if they fail to provide a name and address, section 112ZB, and to leave the order on the ground having explained it to the person, section 112I(2). There is absolutely no need for the additional transport and detention powers under section 112ZC and section 112ZB. This is an example of unnecessary overreach of police powers, and it absolutely creates unnecessary infringement on one of the human rights that we hold and protect in Victoria, the right to freedom from arbitrary detention. If serving a firearms order is the goal, police will already have the powers that they need. There is no reason that a firearms prohibition order could not be served on the spot. It is absolutely possible with technology, including through body-worn cameras and iPad.

We know that prolonged contact with police is distressing, particularly for First Nations people, racialised communities and people experiencing poor mental health. So we do have concern, and there is well-documented evidence on the impact that transportation has on racialised and overpoliced communities, and this provision particularly regarding transport and detention powers goes against action to reduce First Nations deaths in custody if it is extended in an unwarranted circumstance.

From their introduction, firearms prohibition orders have been based on police requests for greater powers, and this bill unfortunately is another in a long line of incremental increases in police powers. We have suggested these amendments today as we believe they go some way to improving the bill. We hope that they will receive favourable consideration from the house, but what we do see again underlined with the government’s presentation of this bill is the clear need for an independent police ombudsman in Victoria to provide transparency about the use of powers such as these in governance and oversight. That is the conclusion of my comments today on the bill.

Richard WELCH (North-Eastern Metropolitan) (10:54): I rise to speak on the Firearms and Control of Weapons (Machetes) Amendment Bill 2024. Obviously it is a bill in two parts, where we are talking about the ability to serve and detain, and while we have no real genuine objection to the first half of the bill, around section 112 et cetera I think it should be on record that there needs to be a caution that at any time we are addressing due process or arbitrary detention we need to tread very, very cautiously. I do not have any concern with the intent here, but it will be the practice that will be of most concern.

Of far more interest today is of course the machete side of the bill, and I personally cannot think of anything more terrifying than to be accosted by someone brandishing a machete. The very concept of someone invading your home where you may have children in the house and someone is wielding a machete towards your children or your family is an incomprehensible horror to me. What really sticks out to me is that in most other respects in society we tend to err, rightly, on the side of caution when it comes to safety. Particularly we think about how we do not let people use their phone while they are driving, we restrict cigarettes and we do not allow paintball guns in Victoria. But if you look at the list of other prohibited weapons on the police website – this is easily accessible on the licensing and regulation division section of the police website – we have prohibited, amongst other things, batons. Batons are prohibited weapons. Flick-knives are prohibited weapons. Butterfly knives are prohibited weapons. Tonfa batons are prohibited weapons. Ceramic knives are prohibited weapons. If we think of something that relates to personal safety, pepper spray is a prohibited weapon. Tasers are prohibited weapons. It is quite enormous that the machete is not in this class.

The bill is not a solution. It is not even, as my colleague Mr Mulholland said, a stunt. I think it is less than a stunt; it is the government’s version of a shrug. It is the government saying ‘Whatever.’ If this came before me as a document I would say, ‘It’s very good draft, but go back and address the obvious shortcomings.’ I do not know which is worse: pretending a problem does not exist, which the government did in the first place, or acknowledging a problem exists but not caring enough about it to address it properly. I think as the body responsible it is probably the latter – knowing it is a problem but not being willing to address it properly. To put some substance to that, what the bill will not do is put machetes in the same category as all those other weapons, prohibiting them, but it will not stop the bulk import. I will tell you what: Australia needs a lot of things, but it does not need more machetes right now. It will not stop the sale of machetes and therefore the proliferation into the community. It will not make a crime of possession, like for a gun or any of these other weapons. It is a talking point. It is not a solution, it is a talking point, and this government is extremely good – it is adept – at putting out press releases and then not actually following through to deliver what it says. That is true of its housing targets, it is true of pulling down commission housing before they have got any new housing planned or built and it is true of saying we are going to do a regional Commonwealth Games and then choosing not to do it. It is not a solution.

The key argument that this is going to criminalise farmers is sort of laughable. I do not know what the image of farms or outer suburbs is – that it is some sort of jungle where people have to use a machete to get to school. Maybe they do, Mr Mulholland, in Airport West, because we know how long it takes to get anywhere in the north. Maybe they think that. Maybe in the inner city they think, ‘We must allow the peasants their machetes, otherwise how will they cut our coffee beans for our cafe lattes?’ Crime is a really serious thing and I should not jest about it, but the fact is machetes are not a commonly used tool. Farmers do not use machetes; they have electric tools these days. We all have electric tools. I do not prune my garden with a machete; I do not know anyone who does. It is troglodyte, frankly. Maybe in socialist hellholes they still use machetes to do basic agricultural work, but not in a modern agricultural society – and I hope my colleagues from the Nationals back me up on that point going forward.

Ultimately then, this is really a missed opportunity. It is talking points. We want to keep the community safe. We want our police to be able to do their job. My colleague across the way Mr Galea said the police do not want this. I demur; I think if you asked any policeman on the beat, he or she would absolutely want some prohibition on these, and the crime statistics suggest that as well. I think that the biggest obstacle to police being able to manage a law like this is probably that they are not resourced properly to do so. If we had more people out on the street, we probably would be able to police this quite adequately, as we police these other weapons: ceramic knives, batons – batons are prohibited weapons. Paintball guns are prohibited weapons. Tasers and pepper spray are prohibited weapons. Again, I suggest people refer themselves to the licensing and regulation section of the police website and avail themselves of the incredible list of things that are prohibited, that are managed in law, and stop the proliferation of things that reduce public safety.

Ultimately every future victim – and we know there will be more victims; we know there will be because the crime stats are going up – will look back at this bill’s missed opportunity. This bill or some form of this bill will have to come back through this Parliament. It will have to, because this bill does not solve the problem. It is a legislative shrug: ‘Let’s park it. We can put out the press release – parked. We’re being strong on crime, sort of, but we’re not.’ Intellectually it is lazy. I do not know why you would not do it, why you would not just say, ‘Okay, actually you’ve got a point. The house of review has come up with a good point. Let’s review it and put it in.’ Why wouldn’t you do it? I do not understand why, because it is in the interests of Victorians. It is in the interests of families.

The next family that has a machete waved in their faces will be looking at this law and the missed opportunity of this law. Next time I read it in the paper, next time you read it in the paper, that is what is going to happen, and in six months from now or a year from now when this law would have had time to take effect, that accountability will grow on you. Watch and wait, because you had an opportunity to do it right and you did not do it right. With that, I will conclude my contribution.

John BERGER (Southern Metropolitan) (11:02:372:): I rise today to speak on the Firearms and Control of Weapons (Machetes) Amendment Bill 2024, a reasonable and effective bill which leaves me in no doubt that our community will be left a lot safer as a result. I would first like to thank the Minister for Police and Minister for Crime Prevention in the other place, Mr Carbines, who has done some fantastic work in this field. I applaud him for putting together this important piece of legislation, which will help crack down on crime across Victoria and strengthen the power of Victoria Police to keep the community safe.

Every Victorian has the right to feel safe in their own home, workplace and school and in their community. Everyone deserves to feel secure in Victoria, and that means it is our responsibility to ensure that we are doing whatever we can to keep criminals off the streets and prevent crime before it happens, if possible. The work Victoria Police does every day is vital to upholding those principles. Police officers risk their lives every day out on the front lines making sure the rest of us are safe. I would therefore like to thank Victoria Police and their many hardworking police officers and staff who work day in, day out for all of us.

We are a government that is serious about crime prevention and keeping our community safe. Since 2014 we have invested $4 billion into Victoria Police, with over $200 million devoted to rolling out tasers for frontline officers, a boost of 3600 new officers in the past 10 years and a billion dollars towards upgrading police stations, all to ensure that they have the best equipment, training and capabilities to protect our community, because Victorians deserve to be safe and they deserve the very best. But we can do more, and that is what we are doing with this legislation. Before us is a bill which will further empower Victoria Police to enforce the service of firearm prohibition orders against individuals and expand their ability to search and uphold those laws. It also clarifies other matters which ought to help address the problem of youth crime relating to the use of machetes and knives. This bill is going to help us protect the community from dangerous individuals by making it easier for Victoria Police to enforce our firearms laws and restrictions, as well as clarifying our other restrictions on weapons such as knives to tackle the issue of machetes in the community.

First and foremost we must acknowledge the IBAC report tabled last year on the matter. These reports are important, as they ensure a level of oversight on these matters and allow us to make corrections where shortcomings arise. The report rightly highlights the importance of the firearm prohibition orders, or FPOs, in tackling violent criminals and organised crime in this state. They were introduced in 2018 and have since led to the issuing of over 2200 FPOs to members of organised crime gangs, youth offenders and persons of interest to counterterrorism. These FPOs are orders that can be issued against individuals where the Chief Commissioner of Police becomes convinced that it is contrary to the public interest for the individual to have such weapons, and the orders act to protect the community from these individuals obtaining or handling their weapons.

A key benefit of these FPOs is that they allow Victoria Police to quickly and effectively disrupt criminal activity, specifically when it involves the use of these controlled or prohibited firearms or weapons. The initiation of such an order against someone leads to the imposition of certain restrictions on individuals, ranging from surrendering firearms to the police to restrictions on entering certain premises. By being able to halt the purchasing or handling of these firearms by these individuals, the police can avert potential future attacks effectively. In summary, this can act as an extraordinary prevention measure by imposing restrictions on certain individuals where it is deemed they are a potential threat. This has been incredibly useful to disrupt and tackle criminal activities involving firearms in this state, as the IBAC report notes clearly. However, the report also notes that there have been certain challenges in serving these prohibition orders against certain individuals and suggested overcoming these hurdles through legislation.

Most notably, the report identifies three different classes of individuals to whom it has become difficult to serve firearm protection orders, and it recommends changes to meet these challenges. Something important to note is that under the law these prohibition orders must be served to the impacted individual in person, which raises some challenges when considering certain types of people. The rationale behind this is simple: for the order to be effective the individual must be alerted that it is in place, hence the need to serve the order in person. The three classes posing challenges include individuals who are actively avoiding being served an FPO, individuals whose whereabouts are currently unknown, and prisoners who simply refuse a visit from a police officer and as a result avoid being served an FPO in person as required by law for it to become effective.

This legislation will, in response, strengthen the power of Victoria Police to enforce and serve their firearm prohibition orders to tackle these hindrances. It allows Victoria Police, for example, to enter an individual’s premises and search the impacted individual and accompanying persons for the purposes of serving this prohibition order. The police will also be empowered to stop an individual for up to 2 hours in order to serve an individual with their prohibition order. This way it not only makes it easier for the police to enforce and serve the FPOs but also means individuals who might be trying to hide from or avoid the police to the best of their ability can be stopped and served their FPO to keep the community safe. It means Victoria Police are more easily and effectively able to enforce these restrictions on these individuals by searching their premises, but it also means, crucially, that the FPOs can be brought into effect more hastily. If the police have a reason to believe you are inside your home or inside your vehicle, which they have stopped, they can ensure that you are served with your prohibition order, and that is unavoidable. That swift action against these individuals means our community is safer as a result; the police are empowered to effectively enforce our laws and serve these prohibition orders against dangerous individuals.

Australia already has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world, a fact I am quite proud of, but atop that legacy we are always working towards making this country safer whenever we can. Last year national cabinet came together to agree to a firearms register to keep the community safe, showing this government’s commitment to listening to our police advice on security. Improving the prohibition order program will act in the same spirit, ensuring that those who ought not to have firearms for the protection of the community do not get access to them or, should they be in possession of one, that they have it appropriately managed by police.

I also want to take a minute to talk about machetes and about what is actually going to happen to them as a result of this legislation. Something that should not be controversial to say is that machetes are in fact weapons. Over the past year we have seen crimes committed whereby a knife or a long blade such as a machete has been employed. This is unacceptable. To echo Victoria Police’s Chief Commissioner of Police, there is no reason for a young person to be carrying around a machete in public. This legislation will prohibit Victorians under the age of 18 from purchasing a machete through the clarification of its legal status. There is a misconception out there in the community that machetes are not in fact weapons but tools and that it is somehow perfectly acceptable for teenagers to have such a tool. I strongly disagree. The machete is not a tool, it is a weapon and a dangerous one at that. I firmly believe that there is no need for a young person to own, let alone carry, a machete. That is why I am happy to say that one of the key elements of this legislation is that it clarifies and enshrines into law the status of machetes.

Under the Control of Weapons Act 1990 there are classifications of what constitutes a controlled weapon, an ever more strict prohibited weapons category. I will not bore the chamber with the fine print, but the important thing to note is that this segment of the legislation defines various types of knives as controlled weapons due to their criminal or harmful use. The status of machetes is clarified in this bill, making it clear that machetes are knives, and under that they are a controlled weapon. With this I hope we dispel the strange misconception among some circles that machetes are in fact not a controlled weapon but a tool for other purported uses. This clarity ought to spell it out for those who say otherwise: machetes are not some common tool with a general use but a controlled weapon, the carrying of which without a lawful excuse is illegal. The penalties for breaching the law are also strong and just, in my view. This also means that selling a machete requires the seller to seek an ID when someone comes to purchase a machete, because it ought to be clear who you are actually selling it to and why. This also, as a result, means that the sale of machetes in Victoria to those under the age of 18 is prohibited. Failure to comply, leading to the sale to a minor, carries a hefty fine, not just a penalty.

In summary, machetes are being clarified to be a controlled weapon akin to knives and will be treated as such, with heavy restrictions on ownership and use as well as restrictions on minors owning or attempting to purchase them. These are commonsense adjustments to the existing arrangements, clarifying laws where needed and strengthening restrictions where necessary. These changes and their clarification in law were of course done through consultation and cooperation and with recommendations from Victoria Police and various other bodies with whom we sought consultation on the matter. We listened, and now we are acting to ensure Victoria Police has what it needs to keep our community safe and to uphold the law to the best of its ability.

This legislation also ensures that the interests and concerns of accountability and oversight are meaningfully addressed. There is a large accountability structure in place for IBAC to ensure the proper administration and execution of the firearm prohibition order scheme. There sits a three-layered oversight system which includes a requirement for biennial reports, requirements to complete case reviews and the standing power for IBAC to monitor and report on the scheme. There are also safeguards embedded to require strict record keeping to make sure any service direction by the police is done properly and justly. Individuals placed under these directions are also able to access the records containing their particular circumstances for transparency. Integrity, oversight and accountability are important when dealing with circumstances such as restricting certain Victorians’ ability to go where they might otherwise desire to buy a firearm or something of the like. These checks and balances are strong and effective and ensure proper procedure and action is followed in these matters.

When all of these measures are coupled together, we can better our ability to fight crime and keep our streets safe. With one hand we are taking machetes out of the hands of criminals and young people, and with the other we will be able to more effectively deliver our firearm prohibition orders against dangerous individuals. That joint effort is what is at the heart of this bill, and it is indisputably going to lead to a safer Victoria for all of us. This legislation, which has a strong oversight structure in place for this expansion of police powers and enforcement capabilities, ought not to be controversial. It makes it easier to serve an FPO to a dangerous individual, it empowers the police to further disrupt organised crime efforts and violent individuals and it helps take machetes off the streets and restrict them. All the while, we maintain clear and efficient oversight and regulation of the process.

There are of course other protections in place for minors, such as a requirement to separately report on any order or action taken against someone under the age of 18 in this respect. This should be an open-and-shut debate. We know what we need to do to make a highly successful prohibition order program more effective in this state, and this legislation will do that by making it easier for Victoria Police to serve these orders to members of the community who need to be placed under these restrictions but who are difficult to get a hold of. It also clarifies the classification of machetes as knives and, as a result, as heavily regulated weapons that should not be in the hands of young people at all.

This piece of legislation was crafted through consultation and outreach to the relevant bodies that are well placed to speak on these matters, such as Victoria Police. With the rigid accountability structure in place and these effective measures embedded in this legislation, I am confident that with this bill we will see our streets safer as more criminals who are currently dodging or avoiding FPPs are issued with them and we will see less machetes out there on the street as we prohibit children from purchasing or obtaining these deadly weapons.

The Allan Labor government will always stand up for the security and safety of ordinary Victorians, and we will always listen out for new ways that we might improve or better our security apparatus in this state, such as these measures which build on an amazing program for protecting Victorians from firearms. For these reasons I commend the bill to the chamber.

Jeff BOURMAN (Eastern Victoria) (11:16): I am here to make a contribution to the Firearms and Control of Weapons (Machetes) Amendment Bill 2024. To a large degree I predict this bill is going to do nothing except for the firearm prohibition orders; I will get to that in a minute.I predict that changing machetes from one classification to another will achieve effectively nothing – a bit of paper, a bit of type here and there – because there are other problems. One, kids or anyone should not be carrying machetes as weapons. They are a gardening tool for those who wish to go gardening and have a particularly overgrown garden. They are for a whole lot of other things. You can use them when you are camping to chop down smallish bits of wood when you do not really want to get out anything bigger. But the police already have all sorts of powers for the control of these sorts of weapons. What they do not have is enough police. What they have is about 900 vacancies. What they have is about 900 people away on sick leave for various reasons. As least half of the problem, as I see it, is no matter what we do in here they do not have enough people to do this properly. It is not a reflection on the police, they have got a job to do, but when you have only got so many, there is only so much you can do.

I am going to digress a short way into what is going on in my own neighbourhood to do with crime. I live in Melbourne; I do not hide that. I live in what was a reasonable suburb, and I have lived there for 17 years now – since long before I came here, before anyone says anything. It has had its fair share of scallywags, but of late there have been problems. I am not the only one who has noticed it; all my neighbours have. They obviously know what I do for a job, and they talk to me. We are starting to get from petty crime from scallywags to serious crimes – armed robberies, stabbings and two murders in one week probably 500 metres from where I live and another stabbing about 500 metres from that. Recently – and when I say ‘recently’, I mean in the last couple of days – I have seen the police presence pick up a little bit. Again, it is no fault of the police, they cannot be everywhere all the time, but there is a wider crime problem that is not being addressed. It gets me to my main beef.

Catch them as you will – do what you like. Catch them in the act – do what you like. If they are under 18, it is almost a waste of time putting them before the courts. The problem we have is a judiciary that is out of touch. The problem we have is someone saying ‘Oh, he’s under 18; he’s a child’ when they have just robbed someone with a weapon, which is armed robbery. A child they may be legally, but they are doing serious crimes. They are killing people. They are holding people up. They are stealing cars. We had a pursuit around our suburb. The police helicopter was keeping me awake the other night whilst they were chasing around, I believe it was, a 13-year-old in a stolen car. The problem is they catch them and get them off the streets but even if they remand them overnight, when they put them before the court they are out. This is just an ongoing cycle.

I am not a ‘lock ’em up and leave them’ kind of person. I do believe in rehabilitation, but there is the bail situation and the inability of the justice system – sorry, the legal system – to understand that they are not there to be social justice warriors, they are not there to look after the criminal, they are there to look after society. I am not going to bore everyone with what I used to do for a job. I have seen the other end to this; I have seen what the victims go through. Sometimes the victim is their own family. It is brutal.

No-one seems to give – I was going to say a naughty word then. No-one seems to care about the victims. No-one seems to really care that much about what happens to them. I hear all sorts of hot air being expelled in this place about children needing to be kept out of the justice system and yadda, yadda, yadda. Fair enough. If it is a young scallywag and maybe a shop theft or they have done a couple of minor things, we certainly do not want them going to prison. But when we are starting to talk about children running down the street murdering other children with machetes or knives or whatever it might be, we are in a completely different scenario. We are not talking about children, we are talking about criminals. Maybe they can be rehabilitated, maybe not, but the system, in my view, should not be about rehabilitation solely – it should be about the protection of society.

As I said, I live in what was a nice suburb. I have gone back to my old ways. I have become hypervigilant. When I am putting stuff in my car now I look around to make sure that I am alone, and that is no way to live. I knew that, obviously, before I moved there, but now my neighbours – good solid middle-class people – have the same problem. One of my neighbours wanted to move because of what is going on. The problem is you move and you get the same problem.

The judiciary need reform, not necessarily ‘reams of paperwork’ reform, but I think they need to sit down, indulge in a bit of navel-gazing and have a think about what they are actually doing there. They are there to enforce laws; they are there to enforce society’s will. The will of society percolates through here from time to time, but what we do in here does not always, in my view, represent what is going on out there. What do they call it in America – ‘Beltway issues’ and things like that. We have a bubble here, and sometimes we get so caught up in what is going on in here we forget about the silent majority, the people who want to go about their business, the people who want to live their lives and watch their children go to school – do all that – and not have to worry about aggravated burglaries, not have to worry about getting up one morning and finding their car is gone and has been thrashed around and put into a pole by some criminal. These are the people we should be thinking of.

And fair enough, as I said, you do not get these young people and put them on the trash heap or garbage heap or whatever you want to call it, but until the judiciary really start to get off this social justice warrior stuff and start getting down to doing their job we are never going to fix it. The amendment the Libs have put in – that is not going to fix it. Until the pointy end of this is dealt with, we will never fix it. As I said, I am not for the scrap heap – we need rehabilitation. Anyone that wants a way out of this needs to be given help.

We will get to the bail laws. Honestly, I do not know why we have bail laws. It is almost like a ticket. Just keep on giving them tickets – they come in, they come out. I was talking to a copper the other day who shall obviously remain nameless. They were in court for one week every day with the same youth offender – serious offences – around and around and around and around and around. Every day there was at least one victim of that person; every day he got out to do it again. At some point in time we have got to say ‘Enough.’

Of course we will hear about the separation of powers. In this state – and in this country, to be honest – there is no separation of powers. The state – the government of the day – appoints the magistrates. The state – the parliament of the day – does the legislation. Until we can actually separate the judiciary from the parliament or the parliament from the judiciary – however you want to put it – there will never be a separation. Notwithstanding sub judice and all those sorts of things, for people to say ‘We can’t interfere’ – we already do. And until a wider review of this whole thing is done we will be here from time to time changing the Control of Weapons Act 1990 about prohibited weapons – firearms are not prohibited weapons, just for the record; they have got their own legislation – and there will be victims. There are victims commissioners and this and that, but that is for a tiny amount of victims. What about the people that do not come forward? What about the people that do not feel safe in their house? What about the women who will not walk down the streets at night because they are worried? I have got to be honest – I can look after myself. I have had training. I am not a small person. I do not like walking down the streets at night around my neighbourhood anymore. It is just the way it has turned. If I can avoid it, I will. That is not the Melbourne I came to in the 1980s. We had our problems in the 80s, without a doubt, but you could walk down the street, generally.

Anyway, that is enough of me going on about that. I will say a thing about police numbers. Police numbers are going to be a problem until the government deals with the stress and the burnout and the PTSD and deals with it properly – not using worthless third-party insurers, but actually embracing it and taking it on board and starting to deal with it early. The amount of people I see and the aggravation they get trying to get help for their PTSD is just astounding. I would not want to be a copper now. Honestly, I would not want to be.

Also, support of command – to be frank, the lack of support of command was why I belted out 24 years ago now. I am not going to go into the details, but I started later than most people, so I was a little bit wiser and I saw what went on. Nothing has changed. That copper that got charged and taken to court over his driving in going to a code 9 – which is urgent, police in trouble, completely within the law – got chucked out straightaway. What message does that send? That sends a message that police command will throw you under the bus, even if nothing went wrong, just to please somebody. I do not know who it is. I do not know why. Have a review about urgent driving and all that if you want, more training if you want, but I listened to it, I understood it. That police officer went fast. He was in a car designed for it. He was trained for it. He was on the Hume, if I remember correctly, so it was not exactly like he was belting along a single-lane dirt road doing 200-and-whatever. Why did he go to court? What message does that send? Honestly, I would not be a copper for a million bucks – well, maybe a million bucks a year. But I would not be a copper again under the current situation. Nothing has changed. If anything, it has gotten worse.

Firearm prohibition orders – this has always given me a bit of heartburn, this issue, because of being a firearms owner and an ex-copper. I see the uses of them, and I also do not like them. Mr Limbrick and I have discussions about them from time to time. He has got a somewhat different view to me, but at a lot of points our views intersect. I am not really opposed to what is going on today with the FPOs. I mean, the ship has already sailed; we have already got them. This is probably what should have been done back then. They should have figured out that people were going to try and dodge them. Although it is kind of amusing that you need to get a warrant to enter a place to serve an FPO, and the moment the firearm prohibition order is served, you do not need a warrant. It is a little bit of a non sequitur in its own way.

I want to talk about how they have been in my view misused in a couple of instances. I will not use a name, but there was a firearms dealer who mailed some handguns to someone, which did not arrive. It has been to court, it has been settled – I can say this – but we all know that things get lost in the mail. I am not going to pass judgement on what happened. He was charged. He was arrested, charged, chucked in the back of the divvy van, taken to the station and interviewed. All the firearms in his possession obviously, personal and business, were taken. He was found guilty, and then they hit him with an FPO, a firearm prohibition order.

I know this guy – not well, but I know him – and he ain’t no outlaw motorcycle gang member. He is not a member of the Calabrian mafia or anything like that. Actually at that stage I went hands off. I am being very careful about this. He appealed, and I do believe the appeal did not last long. The conviction was overturned, and then obviously the firearm prohibition order shortly thereafter had to go. My problem is that he got one in the beginning. Happy days with the conviction – whether the appeal was upheld or not – but that shows that I think they are being a little happy with how they are used. If that person was an ongoing problem, he never would have had a dealers licence. They could have just taken that off him – bang, like that – and then they could have dealt with that. So that is my concern with the FPOs. It is not the only one I have heard. I have heard of at least one being overturned in VCAT. That guy apparently was a bit of a scallywag, but he was not what the FPOs were designed for.

I think as a Parliament the oversight we need is – well, the government has hooks into the police via the justice department and this and that police minister. My view is: let us use these properly. We are having problems with organised crime again. I might swing back around to the Firearms Act 1996 and some of the stuff we have had to put up with with the FPOs. It went quiet when the FPOs first came in. We were all celebrating 2500 in the first month or whatever it was, and then we thought, ‘They’ve done the job,’ and I thought, ‘Oh, cool.’ Well, obviously they have not, because the crooks are back at it. They are starting to shoot at each other, they are starting to burn stuff down. I do not have an answer for that, I have got to be honest, but the firearm prohibition orders are there for a reason. If we keep them there for that reason – for the people they were supposed to be for in the second-reading speech and during the committee stage – it would work okay. As I said, it gives me heartburn. I kind of like it one way and I kind of do not like it another way. I think in some ways it is a wild abuse of human rights, but if you are an organised crime figure it is a lifestyle that you chose.

On that note, I will not be supporting the Greens’ stuff – no surprise there. I am still thinking about the Libs’ stuff. I do not think it will make any more difference than the original part of the bill.

David LIMBRICK (South-Eastern Metropolitan) (11:32): I would also like to speak on this bill, which amends two acts, the Firearms Act 1996 and the Control of Weapons Act 1990. I will deal with these two things separately. Firstly, I will deal with the machete part, which amends the Control of Weapons Act 1990. Literally this bill just adds in a sentence that says:

“Example

A machete is a type of knife.”.

Well, thank you, government, for letting us know that. So yes, a machete is a type of knife and should be classified, so it would be sort of silly to oppose this. But I do not think that will actually achieve anything. This is another example of government wanting to do something to appear like they are doing something.

I listened to the Liberal Party’s contribution in this debate saying, ‘Oh, the government should go further. They should classify machetes as a prohibited weapon,’ like knuckledusters and like butterfly knives and these sorts of things. I mean, this is frankly a ridiculous suggestion in my view. A machete is clearly a tool. Some people use it as a weapon, but many, many things can be used as weapons, including kitchen knives of course. A machete will be sort of the same classification as a kitchen knife. It cannot be purchased by someone that is a child, and you cannot carry it around without some good reason to do it. I have got something that maybe the Liberal Party want to register as well; I have got a Leatherman that I use sometimes, a very useful tool. It has got three knives on it in fact – it has got a serrated blade, a straight blade and a saw – so maybe it is three times as dangerous; I am not sure. You can take my Leatherman from my cold, dead hands.

I would like to talk about some of the things that are problems here, and on crime, which we are talking about here, I do agree that we have a big crime problem in Melbourne. I would like to talk about some potential solutions, some actual solutions, that might solve some of this crime. As I have brought up a number of times in this Parliament, it has been reported in the newspapers a few times now that young people, teenagers, are being recruited by organised crime to steal cars that are then used to commit other crimes, such as arson. We have spoken about arson a few times in this state. What happens is they want to commit a crime, and they need a car that they can then just torch and get rid of and cannot trace. These days cars are somewhat more difficult to steal than in the olden days when you could break into a car, break the lock and hotwire it or whatever. You cannot do that with modern cars – you need the keys. To get the keys they need to get into someone’s house. That is why we have these home invasions to steal cars.

One of the root causes of these arson attacks and therefore the associated theft of motor vehicles to commit those arson attacks is the current regulations. Again I do not blame the state government for this, but they could be shouting louder about it. The federal government’s tobacco excise tax and vaping regulations have caused an explosion in organised crime in this state, and subsequently all sorts of crimes have been committed, including motor vehicle theft, arson and murder. Something needs to be done about this. The root cause is government policy itself, and we can make a big dent in it by changing the laws on these things. Similarly, we could do a lot with our drug laws. There are many other things that are the root causes of many of these crimes that we could get rid of in the first place and stop the incentives for the crime existing.

Secondly, we are talking about prohibited weapons. There are some things that I think should not be a prohibited weapon, and one of those is pepper spray. I would like criminals that attempt to enter someone’s house to think twice because they might get a spray in the face from someone who has pepper spray in their house. I would like Victorians to be able to fight back if they choose to do so, and I think it is outrageous that our government just expects everyone in this state to be totally helpless at the hands of these violent criminals who invade people’s houses and hurt them on the street. People need some way to be able to defend themselves. I think that pepper spray should be legalised like it is in many countries in the world, and I think that people should have a means to defend themselves if they are not trained.

I know Mr Bourman said he is a big guy and he is able to look after himself, but many people are not. I know many women that, as Mr Bourman referred to, are scared to walk the streets at night. I think many of them might feel a little bit safer if they had something to protect themselves. I know many women have said that if pepper spray was available, they would absolutely purchase it and carry it on their person as a means to defend themselves. I would like to see pepper spray legalised in this state. Some of the things that are prohibited weapons are just ridiculous, like gel blasters, which are just toys. Anyway, I will not go there.

But the other part of this bill is firearm prohibition orders. What this bill is effectively doing is making it easier to serve firearm prohibition orders. I agree with Mr Bourman: they probably should have foreseen when they came up with the idea in the first place that people were going to try and dodge being served with these orders. My problem with this is not necessarily with making it easier to serve them. My problem is with the firearm prohibition orders themselves, as has been mentioned by others. I will refer to a great article on Robinson Gill Lawyers website on this exact topic. Firearm prohibition orders do not necessarily have anything to do with firearms, because an order can be made, the act says:

… even though the individual to whom the order applies or is to apply has never acquired, possessed, carried or used a firearm or a firearm related item.

That seems a bit odd, doesn’t it? It is not really about firearms necessarily. You can serve an order to someone whom you cannot get a warrant for or where you cannot get evidence of a crime, so you serve them with this firearm prohibition order. What happens when you get served with a firearm prohibition order is the police are able to search your property at any time without a warrant. More importantly, they are allowed to search the person and property of people that you happen to be with, which is an outrageous infringement on human rights. Firstly, how are you meant to know who has a firearm prohibition order on them? If you come into contact with them, you can be searched by the police without a warrant, without any sort of justification, simply because this person that you are standing next to happens to have a firearm prohibition order on them.

I know that they are meant to be used for bad people, these bad organised criminals that we give all sorts of incentives to to run their businesses through our crazy laws, but as Mr Bourman pointed out, there have been cases where these orders have not been used appropriately. I am not convinced that the oversights are sufficient to manage this system. I think that the potential breaches of human rights for people served these orders without appropriate evidence and being searched without a warrant are very, very problematic. Even when the system was introduced the incompatibility with the charter of human rights was acknowledged. It limits the rights of freedom of association and freedom of movement, the right to a fair hearing, the right to privacy, the right to protection of children, the right to property and the right to protection against self-incrimination, and the government feels that that is justified. I do not. I am going to oppose the bill.

Trung LUU (Western Metropolitan) (11:41): I rise today to speak on the Firearms and Control of Weapons (Machetes) Amendment Bill 2024 because this is a very important piece of legislation. It is about community safety. It is about providing the equipment, the tools and the powers for law enforcement agencies to protect us and our community.

Before I go to the bill, while sitting in this chamber I have heard a few amendments raised by both parties and the crossbench. I will touch on those amendments, but as Mr Bourman said, this bill will not address the crime rate. It will not address the crime rate, but it is a step in the right direction. I say to Mr Limbrick in relation to wishing a certain weapon not be prohibited – I will touch on that – I daresay that is a thing you certainly do not wish to happen to you.

Credit where it is due, I do acknowledge the government’s bill is heading in the right direction, but it does not fully address what is needed. A similar bill was introduced by my colleague in the other house the member for Berwick last year, outlining this great concern about tools and implements being used as weapons. The legislation at the time did not properly address or regulate such tools – that is, the machete – as has been spoken about so much in this chamber. The bill at that time clearly had the scope and was designed to prevent the sale of machetes, and the use of them by young offenders, to keep the community safe. The government at the time said it was not necessary as an amendment and rejected it. I recommend those in the house understand the consequences, understand the result, understand controlled weapons and understand weapons before they mention what a bill does and how you execute it and how law enforcement can go about their job of implementing that law. I would also touch on section 456AA of the Crimes Act 1958 to understand what it does and what it enables police officers to do when you are trying to take it away or inserting a certain part in the bill.

In relation to this bill, it has two parts: the Firearms Act 1996 and the Control of Weapons Act 1990. The Firearms Act, which I will mention briefly before I go to the actual weapons, does play an important role in providing police with a broad power to serve a firearm prohibition order, but as has been mentioned, an order is not in place until it is served. If we are going to prevent the police from serving orders by putting restrictions and barriers on them, how can we expect the legislation to be enforced? Section 456AA basically at the moment enables the police to demand a name and address if they suspect an offender has committed an offence. If you do not provide a name and address and details, the police cannot know who you are. That is why you are required to accompany the police officer back to the station, so they can make further inquiries in relation to who you are. That is what section 456AA is all about. In relation to demanding a police officer’s name and address when he is serving an order, that comes without any question. When you demand a police officer’s name and address, under current police legislation and under current guidelines they are to provide their name and address. I do not know why there are the amendments in relation to that to have a requirement for a name and address on demand. I have not had time to read all 60 different amendments to the bill that the Greens have put forward, but I have had a quick glance and all it is is basically more obstruction, more restrictions and barriers in relation to those who are executing the laws and are carrying out the legislation.

Some in this chamber mentioned the machete as not being a weapon and that it should not be a prohibited weapon. I want to outline some instances of what is happening at the moment. At the moment in the state there is an increase in crime, an increase in youth offenders and an increase in edged-weapon incidents – machetes are one of them. This bill does not solve everything, but it is a step in the right direction for law enforcement and those assisting them to mitigate those instances. I will give some examples of what I mean when I say there is an increase in crime as a result of those using machetes or edged weapons in our community. In my local area in Western Metro crime rates are getting much higher every day compared to the rest of the state, for various reasons. The lack of resources and infrastructure and the lack of police have been mentioned in this chamber, and under this government they are at a record low. The example I want to link to is back in November last year a teenager was chased down the street in this local area, and the offender was waving a machete. This is a local issue, and it is a great concern for many people. The thing is, kids as young as 14 are getting recruited by gangs, and their weapon of choice is a machete.

Why we need to prohibit the weapons – I will go into that. At the moment machetes are easy to access and easy to purchase by anyone. In headline after headline we see gangs breaking into houses, as Mr Limbrick mentioned, stealing cars, attacking people. We see it regularly on the news in relation to aggravated burglaries. And what are the weapons of choice? Besides edged weapons, machetes always seem to be in the picture frame. Kids as young as 11 are being caught carrying machetes on the street. Accessibility, again, is a big, big factor for minor offenders. People are not feeling safe in their homes anymore and they are taking extraordinary measures in relation to security – alarms, locks. They even purchase CCTV cameras just to feel safe for the family. The fact is crime is increasing, and machetes are the weapon of choice.

To those who say it is just a knife, I just want you to picture a knife with a blade. Picture a tennis racquet: that is like what a machete is, that is what the blade is. If it swings at you, it not only slashes you but can chop bones. Do not think a machete is not dangerous – just imagine. It does not matter how much weight is behind the swing carrying the machete – a kid could do this. Just imagine that it goes across your face or goes across your body – that not only will slash the flesh but will cut through the bone. That is the difference between a knife and a machete. Be very careful when you say that it is just an implement, a garden tool. Yes, it has been used in the past in relation to sugarcane farming – I understand that – but what we are now asking is that we change the implement to be a prohibited weapon. It is not banning it completely, taking it off and saying you are not going to carry it. It is putting it in the category the same as other weapons that are on the list – that is, extended batons and butterfly knives. And when you want to purchase those weapons, you need some sort of explanation and register for why you are purchasing those weapons. That is what we are asking to be done. It is not taking it off completely in Victoria and not having it anymore. You can still use it like other implements and tools, but you need a certain reason why you are carrying it.

People say, ‘Oh, it’s under controlled weapons. It’s all right. It’s covered.’ Well, understand that when a police officer is going about his job and interacts with an offender or a person carrying a weapon, under the controls of the act, if you give a reasonable excuse there is no offence – a reasonable excuse, a lawful excuse for carrying that weapon under the Control of Weapons Act 1990 if that weapon is under controlled weapons. If it is under prohibited weapons, you must justify it, not just give a reasonable excuse. If I was just working on a farm last year or last month, I can carry a weapon. That is a reasonable excuse. I could say, ‘I’m going back to the farm next week.’ That is a reasonable excuse. So how are police going to execute that law under that parameter? Understand what you are trying to put in a certain category.

With the amendment my colleague Evan Mulholland put forward, understand what it is trying to do. We understand the bill is heading in the right direction. It is trying to reduce crime. We are saying it has not fully covered what it is trying to do. Do not just vote against it – understand what we are trying to do here. We are trying to assist the justice system, assist the police, to reduce crime and give them powers to do so. So do not just stand up and say no without actually understanding the consequences and the impact of what you are doing. It is easy for us to put on a piece of paper a little paragraph, a little phrase here, and yet we do not understand the consequences of our actions in this chamber afterward. How are the police and how are lawmen going to carry out their duty if you do not give them the tools? If I sent a soldier over a trench – ‘Here’s a weapon. Here’s a gun. Go. I’ll give you the bullet when you come back.’ Please do understand the amendment. Do not put in various restrictions. Enable them to do their job.

I understand Mr Limbrick mentioned that he wished certain things were taken off the prohibited list. He mentioned pepper spray – fine, we have pepper spray, but imagine an offender coming in with those weapons. What then? If you really want to assist those at home with break-ins, change the legislation with lawful defence. Protect your own home, protect your own house. Do not enable other people to carry it to break into your home as well. Think on the other side as well – do not just think about what you can do, think of what the other person can actually do as well. When you say you wish certain things were off the prohibited list, think about it. All we ask is that the control of weapons amendment included in the bill enables people to do their job. I do acknowledge the bill is heading in the right direction, but what this side of the chamber is saying is: hear the community, hear what is going on with the crimes and enable law enforcement to do their job. That is why this amendment in relation to machetes has been raised on this side of the chamber.

Machetes are not everyday tools you carry around in Yarra or at Werribee beach. You cannot just have it in the back of your car. Think about it. Mr Limbrick compared a Leatherman tool to a machete – really? When the chamber is making legislation, let us not compare that sort of thing. Just think about when you mention those sorts of comments. I understand the government mentioned that the definition of a knife is broad. Yes, I understand that. A dictionary definition of a knife is ‘an instrument composed of a blade fixed into a handle, used for cutting’. That is what the definition of a knife is. But a machete is not a knife.

I have got another minute to go, and there is a lot of stuff I wanted to go through, but I just want this chamber to consider the bill. It is heading in the right direction. A lot of improvement is needed to it. It will not solve our crime rate. It will not solve all the crime in Victoria, but it will enable law enforcement to carry out that legislation – that is, the FPO, the firearm prohibition order. It also enables police to get those weapons that will cause serious harm to our community off the street. In closing, consider the amendment of ‘machete’ included in this bill and keep Victorians safe from various harmful and dangerous weapons. I do hope my colleagues in this chamber support this amendment that Mr Mulholland has raised, and I end my contribution there.

Jacinta ERMACORA (Western Victoria) (11:56): I speak today on the Firearms and Control of Weapons (Machetes) Amendment Bill 2024, and I assume that I will be interrupted at one point. This bill does several things. Firstly, it amends the Firearms Act 1996 to add new powers to the service of firearm prohibition orders, as has already been raised in this chamber, where a person refuses to accept the order or is in detention or immigration detention. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the police for the work that they do in Victoria. Our police men and women have put their hands up to help keep us safer by upholding the law. On our behalf they deal with some of the most complex, unpleasant and dangerous situations in our society. I thank every Victorian police member for their calmness and respect and for the confidence we have in them to keep us safe.

This bill provides police with additional tools and powers to do just that, specifically in relation to firearms and machetes. The bill also provides for a new section setting out new powers for police officers where there have been problems in serving a firearm prohibition order. Some individuals know they are about to be served with a firearm prohibition order and take evasive action to ensure that that does not happen. The bill provides for a new tool called a service direction determination, which can be used to ensure that a much-needed firearm prohibition order is served in a timely manner. It allows police officers to stop in a public place a person that they reasonably believe is subject to a service direction determination. The officer may ask for the individual’s name and address. Upon confirmation that the individual is subject to the determination, the police officer may give them a direction to stay or to go to a police station or another safe place to allow for serving of a firearm prohibition order. It also sets out new conditions for search warrants relating to individuals who are subject to firearm prohibition orders. This bill also amends the Control of Weapons Act 1990 to clarify that a machete is a type of knife and fits within the definition of ‘controlled weapon’.

Firearm prohibition orders allow for tighter constraints on offenders in accessing and utilising firearms in their offending. Ensuring firearm prohibition orders are served in a timely manner will reduce the risk of an individual obtaining a firearm or using one they already have to commit a crime. The firearm prohibition orders have wideranging uses, from the family violence space through to organised crime. They mean we can ensure a safer environment for women living in family violence situations and for Victorians as a whole. In the family violence setting there are processes under the intervention order pathway that prevent a user from having access to or purchasing firearms.

Business interrupted pursuant to standing orders.