Special Investigator Repeal Bill

Melina BATH (Eastern Victoria) (10:33): I am pleased to rise to make my contribution on the Special Investigator Repeal Bill 2023. First of all, I want to put on record that the Nationals will oppose this bill, but we certainly support the reasoned amendment put forward by Mr Mulholland on behalf of the Nationals and the Liberals.

I also want to put on record my very great thanks to the rank-and-file Victorian police officers who serve our state so diligently and carefully, keeping us safe and locking up criminals – and I know complete endless piles of paperwork. We thank them very much. Particularly in my Eastern Victoria electorate, we thank those large and bustling stations. We thank those police stations that have a single police officer, which are potentially quite under threat from the Labor government at the moment, and we value their frontline services and their dedicated work. Indeed I regularly, where I can, attend Police Remembrance Day, which is on 29 September, and I am pleased to have gone to that at a number of locations – in Warragul this year, Drouin in the past, Traralgon and the like – to show my gratitude for those Victorian police officers who have died and paid the ultimate price in the line of their duty. We thank them and their families for carrying that burden in the line of duty.

I draw a line between those good people and the people that we are speaking about today in this bill or part of this whole scenario, this stained scenario, of the very slim but unscrupulous behaviour of a minority, a few, in the upper echelons of police command – and not only them but a lawyer who thought it would be a good idea, whether coerced or otherwise by this group of upper echelon Victorian police command, to do something that is quite outside any normal practising lawyer’s behaviour: to dob in and communicate to police about her clients’ work.

There should be a separation of powers and there should be trust in the legal system, and this whole case, which is some 15 years long, has been a debacle. One is being distorted – I think there has been a distortion of the separation of powers – and the other has been abused by the failings of the Labor government, which has led to this bill today.

In terms of the historical context, we saw those gangland wars back in the 1990s and 2000s. We saw underworld figures that are household names and 36 people dead – thugs and murderers. We saw, as is required by law, legal representation, in one case by Nicola Gobbo, categorised as Lawyer X, a criminal barrister who was used as a human source to inform on her clients. These are bad people that she was representing and they deserve to go to jail, but they also deserve to have a proper process, which was totally distorted.

Unfortunately, at the end of this we are not keeping Victorians safer because of this whole debacle. Millions of dollars of taxpayer money has been spent. Labor was boxed into a corner, and IBAC certainly came out and, using its powers to investigate serious police misconduct, instigated the Kellam review back in 2014. Indeed former Supreme Court judge the Honourable Murray Kellam reviewed that human source management. Subsequently, Mr Kellam decided that there was a high degree of negligence by Victoria Police and directed VicPol to provide a report to the Director of Public Prosecutions. There was tainted evidence. The DPP formed the view that certainly there should be that level of transparency. This led to VicPol trying to suppress information, and again we have seen millions of dollars being spent on this in saying no to media releases and no to the release of names.