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Wednesday, 23 May 2018
Page: 4461


Mr WOOD (La Trobe) (12:15): I rise to speak on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2018-2019 and the electorate of La Trobe. This is a great budget when it comes to more infrastructure funding for Victoria, with a number of projects continuing the good work previously announced by this government in regard to major projects such as the Monash. La Trobe covers up to Dandenong ranges, including the suburbs of Ferny Creek and Olinda, right across to Emerald, Cockatoo, and Gembrook, which are great suburbs. We have previous election commitments there. For Emerald it is the Emerald Discovery Centre, which is part of the Puffing Billy Railway. In total, they have over 500,000 tourists visit each year, which has an incredible impact not only on the local economy but on the economy of Victoria. A lot of the visitors are international tourists, so it helps all Australians when we invest in Puffing Billy.

In the electorate we also have Narre Warren South, Beaconsfield, Officer and Berwick. I make the point that when it comes to infrastructure we need to keep up overall in Victoria, and especially in my electorate of La Trobe, where we have 300 families moving into Casey and Cardinia council electorates each week, which is quite amazing if you consider the number of families moving in and the need to keep up with schools, with police and with infrastructure. One thing we have noticed in my electorate, sadly, is that there has been a lot of criminal activity when it comes to gangs and home invasions, and I know that Deputy Speaker Vamvakinou is well aware of this. The Migration Committee, which I chair, had recommendations for something that is very important to me: the Australian Criminal Intelligence Database. This is part of the budget for helping law enforcement right across this country. In my maiden speech I raised the need to ensure that police agencies are able to capture the data from other departments. It could, for example, be what we saw as the failings of 11 September, where agencies such as the FBI were not immediately aware that terrorists were actually undertaking pilot training. You need to have this direct link in a database where agencies can look at it. Prior to my role as a member of parliament I was in the counter-terrorism unit with Victoria Police. I remember there was a domestic situation where the police from Malvern contacted our unit and said it seemed a bit bizarre to them that they went through 'domestic' and weren't aware that the person involved in the domestic had access to explosives. Why? Because that person had a licence to possess explosives. So, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Database is very important.

The crime figures in Victoria are something we really need to look at. Since the election of the Daniel Andrews government, crime overall is up 12.5 per cent, robberies are up 32 per cent, sexual offences are up 24.9 per cent, home invasions are up 54 per cent—that has had a huge impact in my electorate—assaults are up 17.2 per cent, and thefts of motor cars are up by 20 per cent. In actual fact, while the population of New South Wales is obviously greater than Victoria's, I believe their rate of theft of motor vehicles is something like 25 per cent lower than ours, and firearm offences are up by 14.6 per cent.

The key issue that I've raised time and time again is: how do we make Australia safe? This database is something that will help not only in Victoria but nationally. The NCIS will weed out foreign thugs, terrorists and youth gangs. This system is a crime database, providing agencies with new intelligence on potential suspects. I'm sure that this is happening right across the country at the moment. The police will be interviewing a person at a police station—laying charges or allowing the person to leave on bail or summons—and the police will not be aware that that person is on a visa. This raises a few issues. First of all, the immigration department is not aware of the person being in custody. If it were a minor offence and Immigration were aware, they could send a warning notice. If it were a theft, they could tell the person basically that if they continue down that path they are potentially jeopardising their chance of becoming an Australian citizen. In more serious cases it will alert the immigration department that action needs to be taken in preparation of cancelling that person's visa—something which is very important obviously to protect Australian citizens.

NCIS will be a whole-of-government capability operating in a secure national information-sharing environment. Let's look at one thing this database can actually do. For example, there could be a very specific way a criminal is committing an offence—we call this their modus operandi. It could be a sexual offence or an armed robbery. If that person moves interstate, the data exchange is not what it should be. This National Criminal Intelligence System will be able to wash through all the databases across the country and find a potential link with the modus operandi. All of a sudden you could have police in the Northern Territory realise that there were similar offences committed in Victoria and then the agencies could start working together. This is very important.

I go back to the Russell Street bombings. Sadly, this is where police Constable Angela Taylor died. This was just before my time in Victoria Police. The homicide investigators were trying to determine who the offenders were. They had the vehicle that had been used in the bombings. It was stored at Dawson Street. In those days there was the stolen motor vehicle squad. One of the detectives was walking through and out of curiosity looked at the car. He noticed that the vehicle left by the Russell Street bombers had very individual characteristics—I think there was drilling on the identification plate of the vehicle. The detective straightaway realised it was the same people they had been looking for 12 months ago for stealing cars. So then the investigation went from a homicide investigation to a stolen motor vehicle investigation, and that was how they eventually identified the offenders. This is the sort of thing this database can do if you have offences committed in one state and they wash right across the country. This is something I have been very excited about.

I very much want to thank the Home Affairs minister, Mr Peter Dutton, who has invested $59 million over four years. We need the states and territories to get on board. I acknowledge Deputy Speaker Vamvakinou because this was one of the recommendations of the migration committee. The great news is that this recommendation has now come to light. It's great to see that the government is very much focused on this. This will be a game changer when it comes to law enforcement. I know Victoria Police and the AFP are very excited about this. It is such a great tool that will dramatically help law enforcement across the country.

There is one thing I very much like about it. I was talking about gangs. Some 18 months or two years ago we had the Apex gang in Melbourne. This database will enable law enforcement to identify a potential gang that is emerging. Police officers can identify the gang and add to it. If the gang is growing quickly or becoming more violent then police can put more resources towards it. That was missing with the Apex gang. I again congratulate the minister, the PM and the Treasurer for ensuring this was included in the budget. It's an easy thing not to include in the budget, but law enforcement and security are so important to me. This is a great initiative.

When it comes to infrastructure in Victoria, the government committed $1.75 billion towards the great North East Link Project. This connection is a key missing link in Melbourne's outer metropolitan road network. The project will create approximately 10,000 jobs and save 30 minutes of travel time. Rowville Rail is another project that has always been talked about but no federal government has ever decided to put funding towards. Even state governments have not put money towards it. This is a crucial project. The route would see trams running in the central median strip of Dandenong Road, along the Princes Highway and down the centre of Wellington Road, beyond EastLink to Stud Road. $3 million has been invested for the design and planning works to examine details such as locations, park-and-ride options, and the travel time benefits that will be very much needed at this stage. The route will carry roughly 3,000 people per hour in peak times. The project will create another 2,000 parking spaces at Melbourne railway stations. This is a very good project, because so many people need this to go to Monash University. The Turnbull government has also provided tax relief to encourage and reward working Australians: 17,800 taxpayers in La Trobe stand to benefit from low and middle income tax relief in the upcoming 2019 financial year. That's a very important part of the budget.

When I talk to families, I hear that the Monash Freeway is a great concern of theirs. It's something I've been lobbying about for a number of years. The great news back in March 2016 was that we were able to secure $500 million from the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. The only annoying aspect is that the money came from the East West Link, which we're still committed to, but it was sitting there doing nothing, so we passed that money on to Daniel Andrews and the state Labor government. It's annoying that it has been sitting there for two years, and pretty much nothing has happened. Finally the state Labor government has committed to start the Monash Freeway Upgrade Stage 2. Stage 1 was from Clyde Road to the South Gippsland Highway. Stage 2 will be an extra lane from the South Gippsland Highway to Warrigal Road and from Kardinia Road to Clyde Road on the other side, where my electorate has this amazing growth in suburbs such as Officer and Clyde North. This project wasn't on the radar, and this is where I very much congratulate my federal Liberal Victorian colleagues and national members for understanding that, in an area growing so fast, we want the infrastructure to keep up. That's something all governments have always seemed to fail at. Very importantly, though, it also includes money for the Beaconsfield Interchange and the extension of O'Shea Road. This will make life so much easier for residents living in Berwick, but to be honest, it will just be keeping up with what we need.

Back in 2007 I committed $10 million for overtaking lanes on Wellington Road between Clematis and Lysterfield; sadly, the Labor government diverted this funding when they got in power in 2010, and only $2 million was spent. I'm on a mission to finish the job we started, and I'm in the process of sending a survey to residents in Cockatoo, Gembrook and Emerald to see whether they want full overtaking lanes or a dual carriageway the whole way through. That's something I'm very focused on.

The other big budget announcement was $5 billion for the airport rail project. All Victorians will be very excited about this. It's something that has been talked about for many years, and only the Turnbull government has decided to put its hand up and make this happen. I always say that it's embarrassing when international and interstate visitors come and have no rail connecting them from the airport to the CBD. We just want to catch up with the rest of the world. To me that's a great announcement. I will continue to listen to the residents of La Trobe when it comes to putting extra funding towards road and rail, and I'll be surveying my constituents again to find future road and rail projects for La Trobe.