Michael Sukkar MP

Federal Member for Deakin
Shadow Minister for Social Services
Shadow Minister for the NDIS
Shadow Minister for Housing
Shadow Minister for Homelessness
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Adjournment: Mandatory minimum sentences for crimes involving violence against women and children

I rise again today to draw the attention of this House to an issue that is of great concern in my electorate of Deakin. The basic freedom that we all take for granted. The right to walk our streets freely and without fear of harm is something that some people feel is under threat.

When I raised this matter in the House earlier this year, what prompted me to do so was the tragic death of local school student Masa Vukotic, who was fatally stabbed in a suburban park, and the resulting concern this raised about public safety in our area. This attack did not take place in a strange area far from the victim’s home but, rather, just a few hundred metres from her home on the Koonung Reserve near the border of the Deakin electorate. In this instance, the accused had been recently released from prison for other serious charges, when it is now abundantly clear he should still have been behind bars. Sadly, this is too late now for the victim. It was too late for another victim who none of us will forget—that is, Jill Meagher, who was murdered just a few short years ago at the hands of an offender who, at the time, was serving parole for multiple heinous and violent crimes against women. Our society cannot accept the slap-on-the-wrist mentality of our judiciary in relation to sentencing any longer. Enough is enough. We owe it to these and other victims to do better. Regrettably, over the last few years, this problem has been getting worse, not better, particularly in cases of violence against women.

It is terribly upsetting to say that we know of at least 47 Australian women who have died as a result of some form of violence this year. This is why I have repeatedly called on all jurisdictions around Australia to look into introducing mandatory minimum sentences for acts of violence against women and children with set periods of nonparole. Far too often the violent perpetrators of this violence are a known quantity, but sufficient action is not taken before the ultimate fateful consequences. In my view the time has long passed for activist judges and unelected parole boards to be entrusted with keeping violent offenders off our streets. They have proven themselves incapable of that task. This situation cannot be allowed to continue. Serious action must be taken now.

Unfortunately, in my home state of Victoria things seem to be moving in the wrong direction on this front. Recently a Victorian magistrate made the decision, in a well-publicised case, to release, on a community corrections order, Khodr Taha, an individual convicted of assault with a weapon; assault; criminal damage; stalking; making threats to kill; multiple counts of using communications services to threaten harm, harass and intimidate; and possessing prohibited weapons.    In particular, one of the assault charges related to an attack on his own 67-year-old mother. This sentence is way out of line with community expectations and further undermines public trust in our judicial system. I have therefore written to the Victorian Attorney-General expressing my absolute disgust that the magistrate in that case would let the offender walk out of court with a community corrections order. I have asked the Victorian Attorney-General to ensure the DPP appeal against this sentence as being manifestly inadequate. We know that Jill Meagher’s killer was out on the streets thanks to an activist judge and weak parole policies of the former Labor Attorney-General of Victoria, Rob Hulls. I urge the new Victorian Attorney-General to chart a new course and to not follow the previous views of Labor governments in Victoria.

It is about time that the rights of violent criminals are no longer placed above the rights of decent people who just want to go about their daily lives in safety. I once again call on all jurisdictions to look at legislating for mandatory minimum sentences for crimes involving violence against women and children. The talking must stop. We must act now—before tragedy strikes again.

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