Posted on 11. Mar, 2011 in Speeches

Mr LIM (Clayton) — I need to point out from the outset that we are debating this bill without the benefit of the oversight of the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee, which normally produces an Alert Digest for members of the chamber so they can become more familiar with what the bill is all about. Without that benefit I am a bit constrained in what I am trying to say, apart from what has been repeated time and again tonight, and I am trying to avoid that track and to make a reasonable contribution.

From my perspective I believe this bill is very important in the sense that we are at least providing safety and security for people using trains. Debate on the bill so far seems to have avoided why the bill has been introduced into the Parliament. That is about the bashing of many Indian students who came here from India. Their families and their country entrusted them to the Victorian community, and we failed them miserably in relation to those bashings.

Now we are addressing that. We are talking about a very important aspect of Victorian life, and this is multicultural Victoria. I hope the minister at the table takes this angle very seriously. As I see it, what is going to happen is that we are going to have more than 900 protective services officers (PSOs) coming on board. Other than just for the sake of having done something, which other members have alluded to, how are we going to make the most of that, and how are we going to make it work effectively?

I believe the minister would be sensitive enough to ensure that the composition of the more than 900 PSOs clearly reflects the composition of the population in this multicultural state of Victoria. Unless this is done, a large section of our community is going to say the government is not serious about what it says. I am not even going to go down the track of saying that the training period is going to be very short when compared with that of a professional police officer with more than 26 weeks training. Even in the case of police officers with 26 weeks full training we still have a lot of cultural interaction problems.

This house knows very well about the many reports that came out about the south‑eastern region. Sudanese youth feel completely alienated from the community and have blamed the police force for targeting them deliberately. They believe the police regard them as not being part of the community and give them a hard time. Unless we take all that into consideration in the training of PSOs — and again I question the suggested eight‑week period — how are we going to inculcate in them the need to take account of the diverse cultures of the young people coming to be part of our community?

I have been through all this before with the Indochinese youth. I was very much part of the settlement of that community. We have heard about those times in the 1970s and 1980s during the early settlement period and the unaccompanied, so‑called detached youths, who strayed into gambling and drugs. It took a long time for our police force and community leaders to work together and come to a solution of the problem. I am bringing up these points to stress to the minister at the table that this is a very important issue that should not be taken lightly. In practical terms, in any consideration of the introduction of law one has to take into account the acculturation of the PSOs.

I tried to imagine on the platform of Clayton station, which I use a lot, somebody suddenly coming in with all their gun gear and only eight weeks training, because I have seen what happened with a young Chinese chap who ran away from ticket inspectors — not even police officers — because he could not understand them. He ran for his life, and they caught him and bashed him up simply because of a misunderstanding. This is just unacceptable. It should not be part of Victorian life. We have come a long way. We are the leaders. Other states are looking up to and wanting to learn from us.

Hopefully this aspect would be incorporated very clearly into the PSOs’ training. I agree with many members on this side of the house that eight weeks is a very short time. The government might need to reconsider the length of training, which would mean it would involve a lot of reallocation of internal resources such as finance and all that so that the work of the PSO is real work that is translated into actual benefits for all concerned.

Having said that, I still believe many of the points that other members have raised are very pertinent to the fact that this bill is in many ways rushing through this Parliament without much consideration in terms of PSO training, and it is not covering everyone, everywhere; regional Victoria is going to be short‑changed in many ways. We do not know how the PSOs are going to deal in practical terms on the spot. Where is their boundary responsibility? Is it all the way to the car park? Members of Parliament who have many stations in their electorates all recall how we have been treated by station staff during election campaigns in terms of where and how we were to stand, and that demarcation is going to cause a problem.

I have not even mentioned yet how PSOs are going to be supported. We have heard all night in this debate about how many stations have no facilities which are conducive to the comfortable undertaking of responsibility by these officers. It is pretty insulting for a professional to be working under conditions where they do not have toilets or facilities and might have to stand there getting very tired and succumbing to the pressure of the environment and reacting negatively in an emergency. There is a whole range of emergency situations and the bill has not covered properly or clearly how these officers are going to conduct themselves in relation to first aid, for example. If an inspector is trying to chase someone about a ticket, how will the PSO react? Are they going to intervene? What is their role? The questions go on and on.

Again, I come back to my first point that the acculturation of the officer is the most important aspect, and that must be taken into consideration in this bill. I do not see it having been covered by anybody. I hope the Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship will also have a role to play in this very significant bill. The opposition is not opposing this bill.

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