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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3355

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (21:50): I rise to highlight and commend the proactive approach of my community in addressing the issue of street violence and antisocial behaviour, and also to call on the federal government to adopt a national approach to community safety initiatives.

Late last year, I undertook a community survey which showed only 38 per cent of the people in my electorate—in the Latrobe Valley in particular—felt safe in their local community at night. That is a damning indictment on the issue of community safety generally. I must stress at the outset that there is a small minority of troublemakers who seem incapable of going out at night, particularly on weekends, and enjoying themselves without finding ways to cause a nuisance to others or, in the more extreme cases, to get involved in violent activities.

I wish to speak about the successful trial of the Traralgon Central Business District Safety Committee and the new Justice Reference Group that has been established by the four shires of Latrobe, Baw Baw, South Gippsland and Bass Coast to address crime prevention initiatives in my electorate. That partnership involves local police and community representatives. The group is being chaired by Superintendent Tess Walsh from the local police and Will Crinall, the Regional Director of the Department of Justice. Likewise, the Traralgon CBD Safety Committee has brought together a range of stakeholders concerned about this issue including local government representatives, the police, nightclub and hotel operators and taxi drivers to work out the best possible solutions to these local community problems. They work very closely with schools on early intervention programs and will host a safety forum in May this year to which local schools will be invited to send student representatives. So, while they have been successful in many regards—in particular, they secured a limited amount of funding for some closed-circuit television cameras in the CBD which are monitored by local police—there is still a lot more work to be done. I am calling on the federal government to start working more closely with communities which are facing these types of problems to actually support some of the initiatives that these community groups are coming up with.

One of these important initiatives, which I referred to just a moment ago, is the closed-circuit television cameras. These are very good at actually preventing crime in the first place but also, from the police perspective, they provide an opportunity for evidence gathering which is indisputable in court, and that has been very useful for them in terms of prosecuting offenders who have been detected in the Latrobe Valley region but particularly in the Traralgon CBD. I regularly liaise with the CBD safety committee and they are encouraging me to continue to work with both state and federal governments to secure greater funding to implement the strategies that they devise for the region. It is fair to say, I think, that most of my community would believe that the police do a fantastic job, but they cannot be everywhere at once and I think we need to assist them in any way we can—to provide them with the tools which will enable them to not only prevent crime but also track down offenders when incidents do occur.

On a more positive note, in the moments I have left I would like to also reflect on the success of the Latrobe Regional Hospital and its recent 'Run for your life' fun run which was held on the weekend. More than 740 local residents supported the Latrobe Regional Hospital in its fundraising initiatives on the weekend with a walk and a run through the Kay Street gardens area of Traralgon's streets.

It is an important initiative. They are trying to raise money for the allied health department. Their target is in the order of $500,000 over the next couple of years. It was a successful fundraiser on the weekend, but the broader issue, which I have spoken about before in the House, relates to the Latrobe Regional Hospital more generally and its need to secure federal government support for its application for $65 million to upgrade the facility. I understand the application, which is currently before the minister, has been well received by the department, and there is certainly a lot of interest within government in terms of supporting Latrobe Regional Hospital in that work. While the fundraiser on the weekend was, as I say, a success, it would take a lot of fun runs to raise $65 million, as I am sure the House would appreciate. So I am appealing to the government to give this application favourable consideration in the upcoming budget process. More than 1,500 people have signed a petition expressing their support for this upgrade and they have been online and supported my campaign to help fix our hospital.

I do like to, in this place, give credit where it is due, and I have mentioned in the past that the government has funded other important health initiatives in the Gippsland region, particularly in the Latrobe Valley in recent times. There has been the upgrade to the Gippsland Rotary Centenary House, which was well supported, and also the $20 million to the Gippsland Cancer Care Centre. So I am certainly grateful for the funding that has been provided in the past but mindful of the fact that the Latrobe Regional Hospital is going to need a massive injection of funds in the upcoming months to meet not only the current demands of the community but also the future expectations of the Latrobe Valley and the broader Gippsland region. (Time expired)