Posted on 18. Oct, 2012 in Speeches

— I rise to speak on the Serious Sex Offenders (Detention and Supervision) Amendment Bill 2012. This bill makes a number of amendments to the Serious Sex Offenders (Detention and Supervision) Act 2009. I wish to comment specifically on two of these amendments.

The first amendment is clause 9 of this bill, which amends section 180 of the principal act in relation to name changes of offenders subject to supervision orders. This requires that the Secretary of the Department of Justice ‘must’ notify instead of ‘may’ notify the registrar of births, deaths and marriages of the names of offenders subject to supervision orders.

The second amendment I will refer to concerns clause 13 of the bill, which relates to the identification and whereabouts of serious sex offenders. Currently there is a general test as to whether the information is permitted to be published. This is being replaced by a community interest test, including the insertion of a new section 185C into the principal act which directs the court to consider ‘the protection of children, families and the community’.

In considering these amendments there are two questions that should be asked: firstly, whether they will have any real impact on community safety, and secondly, whether the Baillieu government’s actions match its rhetoric and promises. In regard to name changes, offenders are already required by section 176 of the principal act to obtain approval of the Adult Parole Board of Victoria, so one must question whether this amendment will have any real effect.

Of greater concern is a recent article in the Sunday Herald Sun entitled ‘Anger over Victorian inmates changing their names’. The Herald Sun disclosed that 12 prisoners have changed their names. We really need to question to what extent, except for very limited circumstances such as witness protection, offenders should be allowed to change their names. Tellingly, in the Sunday Herald Sun article the Baillieu government refused to disclose the names of these offenders. This makes a mockery of the rhetoric in this bill and any suggestion that increased transparency will provide greater community safety.

The second provision that I wish to canvass concerns the use of the community interest test in determining whether offenders subject to a supervision order may have their identity and whereabouts disclosed. Ultimately we will have to see whether with this change courts are more inclined to allow the disclosure to occur.

In the meantime I want to return to comments I made last year on the Serious Sex Offenders (Detention and Supervision) Amendment Bill 2011. I again question just how fair dinkum this government and the Minister for Corrections are on facilitating public disclosure of offenders. I referred to the tragic case of 73‑year‑old grandmother Marie Zidan, who was sodomised, raped and strangled in 2000 by two offenders who were aged 15 and 16 at the time. I also made the point that the subsequent application by the Director of Public Prosecutions to lift the suppression order on the names of the offenders was always bound to fail.

I again want to place on record a quote in the Herald Sun from the then acting shadow Attorney‑General, who now just happens to be the Minister for Corrections, the very minister who has introduced this bill. In relation to that case, the now minister had this to say in 2007 in an article entitled ‘Outrage over killer’s rights’:

Acting shadow Attorney‑General Andrew McIntosh said the onus should be on children accused of homicide or rape to convince a judge their case and identity should not be openly reported, not the other way around.

Last year I made the point that the minister, if he were fair dinkum, would have introduced an amendment in that bill to deliver on what he said. The minister, in introducing this bill into the house, has again been silent on this case, so we are entitled to assume that this bill will not fix the situation.

I conclude my remarks by saying that talk is cheap. Unfortunately the Baillieu government’s rhetoric, both in opposition and government, does not match its actions.


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