ADJOURNMENT DEBATE ON BAIL JUSTICES
My adjournment matter tonight is for the attention of the Attorney-General, and it concerns the unjust treatment of our hardworking bail justice volunteers.
Bail justices volunteer their time to ensure that a person who has been arrested is given a timely hearing involving the decision to bail or remand them. Independent third-party volunteers are called upon by the Office of the Public Advocate when there is a person with cognitive impairment in the bail hearing. These volunteers are reimbursed for their kilometres travelled, while bail justices are not. The least this government could do is properly support volunteer bail justices by providing a kilometre allowance as they do for independent third parties.
There were once 244 bail justices in Victoria. There are now only 50, yet these 50 dedicated volunteers are still required to attend 129 Victoria Police sites. Victoria Police’s incident fact sheet says that the event of a bail justice not being available has spiked considerably. The declining number of bail justices should come as no surprise. Volunteers are clearly not respected or valued by this Labor government. The Andrews government appears only to recognise paid union members operating in areas where many of us on this side of the house appreciate the invaluable contribution of volunteers.
There is no night court available in regional Victoria, so from 4.00 p.m. on a Friday to 9.00 a.m. on a Monday and on long weekends bail justices are the critical cog in the justice system. Gary Poole, a constituent of mine, described the problem: “Last weekend I conducted 2 court hearings in Warrnambool between 7pm and 10 pm, went home, had 4 hours sleep, only to be woken to attend a Ballarat hearing.” That totalled 400km in unpaid travelling. Based on Australian Tax Office estimations, this 400 kilometres of travel would have cost Gary $270. Gary conducts between 100 and 150 hearings a year. Indeed, since changes to the remand law in July 2018 Gary has already attended 54 hearings. His stipend of $300 per annum would therefore equate to about $3 a hearing—barely a Big Mac.
Bail justices perform a vital role in our law and order system and it is critical that the government properly reimburses bail justices for their essential community service.
19 February 2019