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Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Page: 282

Senator HINCH (Victoria) (13:35): I was across the ditch on a brief holiday in New Zealand when the word came through that a killer on wheels had ripped the heart out of my beloved Melbourne. It prompted this gut-felt tweet, which turned out to be horribly prescient:

I'm overseas - reading horrific news. My heart aches for Melbourne. If this man was on bail all hell will, and should, break loose.

It was true, and what made it even worse was the instant, angry knowledge that it would be true. You just knew it. You just knew—even as far removed physically as I was—that our rotten, crumbling and increasingly deadly 'justice' system had failed the community again. It failed the way that it did with Adrian Bayley, when he was free to prowl the streets to rape and murder Jill Meagher. It failed the way it let Sean Price out to stab a defenceless, innocent, teenager, Masa Vukotic, 47 times. It failed the way it did in Brisbane, when David Bradford was let out on bail and only two weeks later stabbed his wife, Teresa, to death in front of their children, who fled next door.

How many rallies on the steps of parliament houses do disillusioned, betrayed, citizens have to hold? How many justice walks do we have to trudge on before we are heard? What did 30,000 people marching in Brunswick over the Jill Meagher murder achieve? After each brutal betrayal, I could write most premiers' speeches by cut and pasting their old ones. There is the hand-wringing, the long faces on the TV news, the appropriate condolences to victims' families and the promises—the ultimately shallow promises—that things will be different and that your anguished voices are being heard. Why should you believe them now?

In the immediate horrifying aftermath of the Bourke Street Mall massacre, I thought it would be wrong to get political at a time of such numbing pain and tragedy, especially for someone who founded and has their name associated with a political movement called the Justice Party. It was why I stayed off Facebook and sent only two tweets in five days. The second one was about the other hidden scandal involving police pursuits. That tweet said:

I'm told pursuing police had 7 chances to ram the Bourke Street killer and were denied permission.

That is a separate issue for the coroner, but it must have added to the grief of those victims' families.

I said that it is not usually appropriate to get political, but we have to. Only our political leaders can repair this. The bail system must be tightened, especially in Victoria. Does it surprise any increasingly cynical and disillusioned Victorian that mine is the only state where sergeants and officers in charge only have the power to bail offenders and not remand them in custody? You have to ask, why is this so? It means that every week hundreds of police spend hours sitting in court virtually babysitting offenders, waiting for their turn to apply to have the offender remanded. When it is after hours, which it usually is, a bail justice is called in. These people are volunteers, which was the case in the Bourke Street Mall situation. When police oppose bail they do so for a reason. They take that position from experience. Their warnings of further risks to the community or the risk of flight should carry more weight, I believe, than some dangerously lightweight bail justices. Frankly, I have seen some people in that exalted position whom I would not appoint dog catcher.

Surely, at least, the bail justice who bailed Dimitrious Gargasoulas should have been stood down or should have volunteered to stand down until the inquests. Very early in the piece, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said on radio that that would not happen. He did set up a night court. And on the first Saturday night the chief magistrate went in and symbolically sat until 9.30 pm. You ask, what about rural Victoria? Will there be night courts there too? At a moving remembrance ceremony at the GPO steps a week after the slaughter, we all stood, heads bowed, at 1.39 pm for a minute's silence. I said then that I believed the premier should recall parliament with six days notice and add just two words to the Victorian bail laws: just add the words 'or remand' to a police sergeant's bail powers—two words. I had already met with opposition leader Matthew Guy, who agreed to a recall of parliament and also had agreed with me that he would support that vital change to the bail law. Premier Andrews could have recalled parliament, had the amendment voted in and gone to the governor for royal assent, and it could have been life-saving law by 1.39 pm last Friday.

After that minute's silence a week after the massacre I called Premier Andrews's office to push the case for a recall of parliament, because I knew it meant so much to millions of Victorians. I had said that Friday 20 January had shown Melbourne at its worst and an heroic aftermath had shown Melbourne at its best. I do not think Friday 27 January was Dithering Dan's finest moment. He declined to take my phone call or to call me back. Now, I know he is a busy man, but he has not called in more than 10 days. We did have this exchange of text messages, though—or at least, I should say, to be accurate, our staffers had this exchange. I got a text message saying:

Apologies for not coming back to you sooner. Premier has asked our Attorney-General, Martin Pakula, to meet with the Senator and run him through our recent announcement. I'll ask his office to phone you to set time for a meeting. Thank you. Olivia. Premier Andrews Office.

My executive assistant, Annette Philpott, replied:

The Senator understands how busy the Premier must be. But would still prefer to speak to him in the next few days rather than meet with the Attorney-General.

That was a nice way of saying that I would rather talk to the organ grinder than the monkey.

Anyway, a couple more things: I posted a 'Jail not bail' editorial on the Justice Party Facebook page, and it reached around 200,000 people. Secondly, on the first day back in the Senate, in this first week back in the Senate, I just want to put on the record that I found the tweets from Senator Leyonhjelm about Bourke Street at that time to be untimely, insensitive, tasteless and even cruel, and I want to dissociate myself totally from them. Finally, I believe Premier Andrews should have recalled parliament, because it would have been a start to bail law revision. I do not believe that a seasoned police sergeant would have bailed Dimitrious Gargasoulas. A lot of lives may have been saved, and our city—my city—would not be going through one of its worst times ever.