In Parliament

Bill - Firearms and Control of Weapons (Machetes) Amendment Bill 2024



Thursday, 22 February 2024.

James NEWBURY (Brighton) (15:35):

I rise to speak on the Firearms and Control of Weapons (Machetes) Amendment Bill 2024.

This debate is a difficult debate. It is a difficult debate about issues that I know all of us in this Chamber are concerned about, and we have seen over time deep concerns in our community about safety, so throughout this debate a number of Members have made important contributions about crimes that have occurred in their communities.

Only this week some terrible crimes occurred in my community in Hampton – shocking crimes where there were people, families, who were subjected to home invasion. Unfortunately, it was not the only instance where this has occurred. It has been ongoing. We have seen members across both sides of the Chamber speak to those matters and speak to these incidents occurring across their communities.

It is important when we talk about these issues that we do it with consideration and we do it with the spirit that it should be spoken about, and that is to speak on behalf of the community and the victims, those who have been affected, and talk about what we can do as a Parliament to make sure that people are safe. At the end of the day that is what we all want, isn’t it? It is safety for our broader community. We want to make sure that people are safe in their homes and on their streets. I know as I look across the Chamber and see the Minister for Police, I am sure both sides of this Chamber want to ensure that we have a level of community safety where people feel safe in their homes – not just are safe in their homes but they feel safe in their homes – and this Bill is a measure to increase safety for the community in terms of control of machete weapons.

Sadly, it would be fair to say that crimes involving machetes have increased terribly. They are crimes that have, I think, scared the community in a way that has certainly caused increasing concern for all Victorians. The idea that you could have someone break into your home is an unimaginable fear. It is unimaginable.

As a father of young children, and I am sure for every parent of young children, the idea of someone coming into your home while you are asleep is one of the scariest things that you can imagine. To know that they may be carrying a machete scares the life out of you, honestly – it absolutely scares the life out of you. So, when these crimes actually occur and when those fears become a reality – when you see videos of those crimes and you see pictures of those crimes – as a Victorian you are just shocked to the core that these crimes have occurred. So, I am sure I say on behalf of every Member that we want to do everything we possibly can to make sure that these crimes do not occur, that they do not happen to anybody.

I have spoken about it before in this place but there was quite a shocking incident near Bay Street in Brighton where a father went out to go for a morning swim in his back pool and left the back door open. It was about 7 o’clock in the morning. It probably was not an uncommon thing, you know – Dad went out to have a swim in the morning before heading off to work, and while he did two people came in through the back door. It is not an uncommon thing to think that if you go out into your backyard you can leave your back door unlocked. The partner of the daughter of the homeowner walked out of his bedroom and into the kitchen, and there were two home invaders standing there with machetes. When you talk to the families, the victims, after an incident like that, it really shakes you in terms of how they are. Your immediate thoughts go to the victims, of course they do. Your first thoughts are about understanding if they are okay. But you do immediately think, ‘Where else is this happening? Could this happen again? Who else could be victims of such a crime?’

Knowing crimes of that nature occur in our community certainly brings fear to your mind. I do not think for any Victorian that should be part of their thinking. No Victorian wants to think that it is possible for these crimes to occur, so it is important in relation to this Bill and in relation to the law that we protect the community from these crimes occurring. Whether it be increasing penalties, whether it be enhancing the law or whether it be ensuring our bail system works and acts as a deterrent, all of these measures are important. But so too are police resources, and police resourcing is an issue in my community. I say that in as constructive a way as possible.

My community feels very, very strongly that the local police in our community do an incredible job. Many of the police force that are located in our community are known to the community through their community work and through their community engagement. We have a community forum next Tuesday night, which is a fantastic opportunity for Bayside people to speak to police to understand work that is going on in our community. I would strongly recommend to anybody in Bayside that they go down to that community forum in Sandringham. The community know how hard the local cops are working in our community, but we
do need to also point out that we are seeking increased resourcing in our community, and I say that to the Minister in as constructive a way as possible.

I have spoken previously about the need for an additional police station. It is something that my community feels very strongly about, and so they should. Before the election many people in my community raised this, and we took a policy to the election of a new police station in Brighton. Post the election I have run petitions, surveys and everything that you would expect a Member to do, and thousands of people have called for that increased resource. I say that in a constructive way, and I do hope the Minister takes my comments in that way. They are not in any way to detract from the work of our local police, because our community, to a man and a woman, knows how hard the police in our community work. We engage with the local cops in a fantastic way all the time.

I will give a second shout-out to the community forum next Tuesday evening in Sandringham, a really great opportunity for Bayside people to come to the Sandringham Yacht Club, I believe it is, and to talk to the local police about their work, their programs and what they have been doing and to ask questions. It is great for people in our community to meet the people who are protecting them and put a name to a face – nothing could be better than that – and work together in good spirit. I certainly encourage everybody in our community to do that.

But in relation to the Bill, it is important that we ensure that our laws fully protect us – that is what they are there for – and machete crimes have increased. They are concerning. Not only has there been a 68-burglary-a-day average in recent times, but we are seeing these machete crimes, so it is important that the Government implement laws that protect us from these most heinous crimes, not just the home invasions but where these types of violent, violent weapons are used. I am sure, as the Shadow has mentioned, that there are ways that the Coalition has put forward that we could have more fulsome protections in relation to these weapons and the laws more generally. This week we have had a debate in this place about bail laws and ensuring that our bail laws are more fulsome. We had a question in Question Time about that very issue today. But this Bill does something, and we need to as a Parliament do something. We must do something to protect our community from these crimes. These new laws will do something, and it is important that we do to protect our community.