Statement on the Summary Offences Amendment (Decriminalisation of Public Drunkenness) Bill 2020

The Liberal Nationals acknowledge that this legislation follows the recommendation of the Coroner into a recent tragic death in custody of an Indigenous woman. However, this legislation to decriminalise public drunkenness fails to detail the alternative health response model.

Both the Police Association and the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine have said ill-thought-out reforms will actually do more harm than good to community safety.

Often alcohol and drug use is associated with other serious offending, such as violent coward punch attacks, violence, verbal abuse and property damage. By decriminalising public drunkenness with no plan to manage affected individuals, Daniel Andrews threatens to leave Victoria Police unable to intervene and the broader community fending for itself. 

Independent Crime Statistics Agency data confirms that offences relating to drunk and disorderly in public have fallen from 10,745 to 7,093 between September 2014 and 2019 (-33.98 per cent) with Indigenous offenders accounting for 6.61 per cent of cases in 2019.

While other Australian jurisdictions have decriminalised public drunkenness, they have done so after implementing alternative response models, including additional police powers such as ‘move on’ direction laws (NSW). This is an approach Daniel Andrews has rejected.

In the absence of a comprehensive alternative policy approach, the Liberal Nationals will move a reasoned amendment that the Bill be withdrawn until such an alternative policy setting is developed and implemented.

Comments attributable to Shadow Attorney-General, Edward O’Donohue:

“Daniel Andrews has put a press release before a policy and failed to address the serious community safety concerns surrounding this change.

“Time and again we see this government rushing through legislation that only makes things worse. This Bill must be paused until a proper plan is developed and presented to the community and stakeholders alike.”

Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Police and Community Safety, David Southwick:

“Labor’s plan to decriminalise public drunkenness does nothing to address the underlying causes of drug and alcohol abuse, nor does it support those affected to get on the right path.

“Victorians going about their day or enjoying a night out deserve to know what these changes will mean for them and Labor must not rush through a half-baked Bill before a clear plan has been put forward.”

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