Danny O’BRIEN (Gippsland South) (19:18): (479) My adjournment matter this evening is for the Minister for Police, and the action I seek is for the minister to increase police resources and numbers in Gippsland, particularly in the Shire of South Gippsland. Since the Labor government came to office the crime rate in South Gippsland has increased by 66.6 per cent – I will say that again: 66.6 per cent – that is two-thirds; in the Wellington shire it is 11.7 per cent; and in Latrobe City, which I represent part of, it is 9.7 per cent. But the issue I am particularly concerned about is in South Gippsland, where we have seen in the last couple of years but particularly in the last few months a spate of burglaries, thefts, hoon driving and indeed even arson. There is anecdotal and actual evidence that there are criminals coming out of, presumably, Melbourne, certainly the south-eastern suburbs, and literally driving down the South Gippsland Highway and doing a series of crimes along the highway.
A few weeks ago it was the Fish Creek Football Netball Club that was first ransacked and burgled and then literally set on fire and the entire clubrooms burnt down. I note the Minister for Community Sport is at the table, so I will just give Fish Creek another mention and highlight again that we will be seeking some funds no doubt very soon for the rebuild of that facility.
That night they had hit a number of different places – the supermarket in Meeniyan and the Yanakie motocross club. Two weeks ago there was a similar situation with a burglary at Aherns Fruit Market in Foster. It is believed that the same people then went on to Alberton, where they were disturbed by the general store owner and they smashed the windows on the way out. They then went on to Yarram where they undertook a further burglary.
It is of great concern to me that that the operators of Aherns Fruit Market in Foster, when they called 000, twice got a message saying, ‘Sorry, we’re too busy. Call us back’. The Attorney-General in the other place today said, ‘Oh well, that’s an issue for Telstra.’ I do not really care who it is. She is the Attorney-General, she is the Minister for Emergency Services, she needs to deal with that issue. When I raised it at the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearings last week the Department of Justice and Community Safety said they were very surprised that anyone was still getting that message when they called 000.
The point is though that there was no-one around. The same thing happened with Fish Creek. The police who did come to the fire there had come from I think Wonthaggi, and they were at that stage, I understand, the only two police officers on from Cowes to Welshpool, a very, very large area. It is a very big area. It is becoming an issue. People are concerned about it. They are raising consistently with me that the lack of police presence and the lack of deterrent are making us a soft target for criminals. It is a very, very thin blue line in South Gippsland. Our communities deserve better. We deserve more police.