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Ryan Smith MP, Member for WARRANDYTE

Warrandyte Media 

Bourke Street Tragedy

7 February, 2017

It was fantastic to see the outpouring of grief from Melburnians following this tragedy. It was a show of support that was evidenced by the number of tributes that were placed in the Bourke Street Mall and the crowds that turned up for the vigil at Federation Square. There are also obviously many who chose other, more private, ways to express their support and their grief at the tragedy that happened.

The following day, 21 January, I took my children to the Little Athletics club that we go to, and, like the Leader of the National Party, many people sought me out to discuss the issue and the broader issues. In those discussions we reflected on the young victims of the tragedy and we looked at our own children, who were playing on the field. We acknowledged that it could have been any one of our children.

I had in front of me a teacher who told me she was fed up, a policeman who said he could not believe things had gotten so bad and a father who had moved from Perth to Victoria only two years ago and who said he was seriously thinking about moving back because he did not believe his family was safe here in Melbourne. We are charged with a special responsibility here — a responsibility we sometimes forget. We are here to give voice to our communities, and we are here to raise the issues that they raise with us. When we are sent here we have a responsibility to do that, and sometimes we forget that. If we fail to do that, then frankly we are not doing our job.

If we are to truly honour those whose lives were taken, then things need to change, and they need to change quickly. I was at a junior football club on Sunday foreshadowing the government's agenda for the week. I have to say that the response from the families that I spoke to was one of disbelief. In their words, they said, 'Why are you guys taking a day off? You should be back in there doing something. You should be dealing with the issues. You should be dealing with the particular tragedy that was put before us two and a half weeks ago'. They said that on our first day for 2017, two weeks after the event, they wanted us to get on with doing the job and dealing with the issues at hand.

I have seen legislation go through this place, be drafted and moved through both houses, inside a week. It is possible if the will is there. We need to strengthen the bail laws as soon as possible, and any move by the government to do so would get in-principle bipartisan support. Victorians rightly expect us to be debating and passing these laws as quickly as possible. I urge the government to move much more swiftly than they so far have, to make sure that there are changes and to take heed of the principles that the Liberal and National parties put out only a couple of weeks. These principles have been embraced when I have discussed them with the community.

Anyone in here doing their job who talks to their community knows that there is angst about the situation here in Victoria. They know that Victorians are concerned about the depth of crime that is sweeping the state. They know that Victorians have opinions about recidivism rates. They believe that the justice system is broken. They believe that the corrections systems, both youth and adult, are in chaos, and they say that crime is rampant. If members are not hearing this, then frankly they are not listening to the public. As I said, we have a responsibility to come in here and raise these issues — to not shirk the responsibility that our community has given us but to come in here and talk about the issues that our community is talking about. It is not for this Parliament and it is not for this government to sit on their hands any longer.

It is bad enough that events like this have to unfold before there is even talk of change. Victorians want to see us take action. They do not want to see headlines that say that there is no rush to change bail laws, and they do not want us to take an extra day, or even the months that have been foreshadowed by the government, before changes are made. Our mark of respect to the victims of this terrible tragedy should be a commitment to quick and decisive action to make our community safer. Victorians expect no less from us, and we should sit here and listen and act.


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