Thursday, 9 February 2023
Questions without notice and ministers statements
Melina BATH (Eastern Victoria) (12:35): (31) My question is to the Minister for Corrections. Minister, this is a sensitive matter in my electorate and indeed all of Victoria, as the Black Saturday fires have scarred the lives of many, many people and trauma still exists within the communities that I and others represent. It has been revealed that the arsonist who was convicted of starting the fires in Gippsland is due to have their parole considered. What steps will the government take, including any new necessary amendments to the operations of the adult parole board, to ensure that someone who could pose a significant risk to my community will not be released on parole?
Enver ERDOGAN (Northern Metropolitan – Minister for Corrections, Minister for Youth Justice, Minister for Victim Support) (12:36): I thank the member for their question and their interest in this matter, a matter in which there is great public interest, I note, especially because of the connection with their electorate. It is important from the outset that I do state that the events of February 2009 have left their mark on all Victorians, but none more so than the families of the victims who lost their lives. My thoughts are with those families today on the anniversary of those terrible fires. Knowing that someone lit some of those fires deliberately still shocks me, and I can only imagine the additional distress this adds to those grieving families.
Parole applications, as the member has outlined, can be incredibly difficult for victims and their families. I would encourage anyone affected to reach out to the Victims of Crime Helpline for the support they need. The victims register also provides support during this process, including helping registered victims to make submissions to the adult parole board.
This government is committed to keeping the Victorian community safe. That is why Victoria has the toughest parole system in the nation. Community safety is the adult parole board’s paramount consideration when considering whether to grant parole. This decision-making is enshrined in legislation. There is a longstanding process where each prisoner is eligible to make an application for parole, and this will be considered by the independent adult parole board in accordance with the Corrections Act. I appreciate the question; however, I will not be speculating on individual parole applications in this place.
Melina BATH (Eastern Victoria) (12:38): I thank the minister for his response on this very important issue in our region. If released on parole, what assurances will the government give the people of the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland to ensure that the person in question is monitored and does not pose a significant risk to the community?
The PRESIDENT: The supplementary, Ms Bath, is hypothetical. I am happy for you to rephrase it if you like.
Melina BATH: Thank you, President. Minister, will you review your policies about the protection of vulnerable communities and people within those communities and the perception that they have around persons who have been released on parole to ensure that there is good communication within those communities and that they are indeed safe and not at risk?
Enver ERDOGAN (Northern Metropolitan – Minister for Corrections, Minister for Youth Justice, Minister for Victim Support) (12:39): I again thank the member for their question and their interest in this matter. As I outlined earlier, the adult parole board are an independent statutory body and decisions around parole are a matter for them – whether to grant, deny or defer parole in these instances. But my thoughts are with the families. As I said in my earlier answer, it can be a very distressing and stressful period. There are supports available through the victims register to assist victims and their families through that process.
As you would appreciate, I am not going to speculate on every individual parole application. But the adult parole board, as the member should be aware, has a range of options available to ensure the safety of the community, including imposing requirements for persons to be subject to electronic monitoring as a condition of their parole order, exclusion zones and a number of others. If you would like to know some of the other options available to the adult parole board, I do recommend going to their website, but my office is also happy to pass on information on what the options are. But they are all matters for the adult parole board.