How Labor – or preferably the Liberals – can fix our police problem

We’ve been critical of the conduct of the Victoria Police over the past couple of years, because of their interference in the policy making process, and refusal to be open and transparent.

Now they have given us a response to another Freedom Of Information (FOI) request which shows how toxic their behaviour has become. 

It’s a deliberate pattern of behaviour which has played a major part on why the shooting community has decided to take a strong position against Labor at this month’s state election.

In this blog we’ll take you through what they have done, why they’re failing the government – and show how whoever wins this month’s state election can fix it.

Victoria Police’s role

Victoria’s role and functions are set out under sections 8 and 9 of the Victoria Police Act 2013.  Those sections state:

8 Role of Victoria Police

The role of Victoria Police is to serve the Victorian community and uphold the law so as to promote a safe, secure and orderly society. 

9 General functions of Victoria Police   

(1) The functions of Victoria Police include the following— 

(a) preserving the peace;

(b) protecting life and property;

(c) preventing the commission of offences;

(d) detecting and apprehending offenders;

(e) helping those in need of assistance.

Yet over the past couple of years, we’ve seen Police Command have secret meetings with the government over the future of our gun laws, avoiding scrutiny and probity in the process – and outside their role and functions.

We know this because they admitted the facts which underpin this in a statement they gave to VCAT last year.

This, and the refusal by our Police Minister to engage with the shooting community, has created a policy environment which is toxic – and the only way to fix it is to remove the minister, the government, or both.

When the regulator is ‘the problem’

The last thing any decent minister should tolerate is a regulator that is ‘on the nose’ of the sector they regulate.  It is even worse when the regulator does it deliberately.

We think part of the problem is that Victoria Police – or at least it’s upper echelons – don’t understand the sector it regulates.  While this can be fixed, we get the impression they aren’t interested in trying to understand it.

Three recent FOIs

A few days ago we received a response from the FOI Commissioner in relation to Victoria Police’s refusal to release data relating to the distribution of shooters licences by postcode.

That information used to be provided to us through FOI.  In the early to mid 2000s, the Licensing & Regulation Division (then named differently) started providing the data by agreement, which worked well.

Victoria Police decided to stop that practice earlier this year.  Then they refused to provide it through FOI.  The reason they gave is that the data we were after forms part of the firearms registry, which is exempted from FOI laws under section 114 of the Firearms Act 1996.

Section 113 of the Act sets out what the registry is to contain.  Essentially it is, as you would expect, information on the individual firearm owners and firearms, such as name, address, calibre, action and so on.

The FOI Commissioner agreed, saying that a ‘summary’ of that data was also exempt.  However section 113 doesn’t mention ‘summary’ or say anything which could be interpreted that way, so their interpretation is, in our view, without any obvious basis.

To be clear, we weren’t asking for names, addresses, calibres, or anything that the Act specifies.

The other two recent FOIs were did were on:

  • Victoria Police’s front page boast to the Herald Sun that they had submitted proposals for “firearm reform legislation” to government. Victoria Police would not show us what those reforms were, so we took them to VCAT.    These ‘reforms’ resulted in changes to the Firearms Act earlier this year, with more on their way; and
  • their more recent refusal to release any documents on what “Operation Baffler” is. Readers may recall that in February this year, Victoria Police told The Age that Operation Baffler was aimed at the security industry.

Victoria Police is now saying the operation related to specific individuals who have since been charged with offences and that The Age got it wrong.

If The Age did get it wrong, then why didn’t Victoria Police seek clarification?

They have not done this, which makes us think the journo is to be believed before the people entrusted to uphold the law.

Public controls over their conduct

Victoria Police has a problem with transparency, accountability, and staying within their statutory role and functions.

There are two key controls the government has over Victoria Police which are relevant here. The first is the Victorian Public Sector (VPS) Code of Conduct and the second is their “Statement of Expectations”.

These are discussed in turn.

 VPS Code of Conduct

 All public servants are required to comply with the VPS Code of Conduct.  The sanctions for failing to comply with the Code can include dismissal.

The Code is based on seven key principles, which are that they need to demonstrate:

  • Responsiveness
  • Integrity
  • Impartiality
  • Accountability
  • Respect
  • Leadership; and
  • Human Rights

If you’re a shooter, then you will agree that it is hard to tick those boxes when it comes to dealing with those in government and Victoria Police Command involved with firearms policy.  Even if they are ticked, the perception within the shooting community is strong – and for good reason.

If we were to pick the most problematic one, it would be impartiality.  This is because those who have been dictating firearms policy don’t engage with the community they regulate.

Statement of Expectations

By now, Labor will realise that we’re about to recommend to shooters that they  vote for the coalition above Labor and the Greens.

The reason for this is this has a LOT to do with the conduct of Victoria Police management and their Minister.

In addition to the tools which are available to the Minister under the Victoria Police Act 2013, is the government’s requirement that regulators comply with a “Statement of Expectations”.

The SOE has no legal basis but is intended to provide an open assurance that or regulators behave the way they are expected to.

The SOE for Victoria Police, as it relates to firearms, doesn’t do that.  The current SOE, which can be viewed by clicking here, has 5 requirements, four of which relate to online / IT requirements.  The fifth one relates to ensuring compliance.

Yet the Statement of Expectations Framework for Regulators issued by the Department of Treasury and Finance has a number of mandatory and recommended elements, which are missing from the SOE which applies to you and me.

The mandatory element which isn’t there is ‘timeliness’.  The recommended ones we think are relevant – which missing – include clarity, stakeholder consultation and engagement, accountability, transparency, and clear and consistent regulatory activities.

The one person who could have fixed this, is Police Minister, Lisa Neville.  That’s why we’re opposing Labor.

What the government can do about it

Regardless of who forms government, we believe part of the problem can be solved by asking the Firearms Consultative Committee to review and renew Victoria Police’s SOE.

This should include a stronger commitment to the VPS values and a process for a performance review by the FCC towards the end of 2020, halfway through the next term of Parliament.

Otherwise the problems with our regulator won’t go away.

  1. Great write up,thanks for keeping the pressure on them and also for informing us.

  2. Good explanation!

  3. Like the rest of this Andrews Labor (left wing socialist) government, they just go ahead with their arrogant dictatorial style plans in defiance of the community’s wishes whom they affect and without proper community consult. They have demonstrated the same arrogance and disregard for individual and group’s ‘rights’ in various sectors they have been legislating in and dealing with, including the shooting community. They have also as in this instance (as well as in others) conducted secret meetings to effect legislation changes affecting various groups and relied on secrecy (and citizen complacency or apathy) not to challenge legislation until passed through parliament, enacted and too late.
    This Marxist government is forcing oppressive legislation on citizens as suits their agenda and part of that agenda is to eventually and incrementally remove firearms from all public citizens except their own government authorities. (The Greens would very much like for this to happen as they are even more left wing than Labor). In the end socialism, communism and all such oppressive, tyrannical, undemocratic systems of governance seek to control, enslave/(tax) and deny citizens of freedoms and rights.
    Watch this space for the CFCV’s recommendation on the best way to vote in the upcoming elections – hopefully together we can make a difference before it is too late and the nanny state wins….

  4. Very good non sided article we cannot allow our country fall to the communist Greens. Keep up the fight I will be.(free speech!)

  5. If the FOI commissioner agreed that a summary is exempt from the FOI then how and why was Shoebridge given a summary for NSW to then publish on his “TOO MANY GUNS” site????

  6. Well done and thank you for providing us with well written, factual and educational information.

    Anyone heard of 1MDB Scandal of Malaysia? The lack of any code of conduct similar to the above mentioned VPS and SOE and their enforcement was the key reason why top echelons of government there got away with it.

    I hope it doesn’t happen here because the corruption of the judiciary and public service easily takes hold, spreads and will not be reversible for generations.

    I’m proud and grafeful to be a member of the shooting community which seems to be the only organisation who gives a damn when politicians and holders of public office do not.

    Keep up the good work Firearms Council!!

  7. We have the same problem in SA. Normally the regulator eg motor vehicle licensing is not responsible for day to day enforcement of the act the state police mainly enforce it. In other words there is a separation of powers. A similar situation applies between the Minister responsible for Policing etc and the Commissioner of Police in terms of administrative and operational matters. When it comes to the firearms legislation and police there is no separation of powers and therefore the regulator is in a conflict of interest situation. The way around this would be to make another department responsible for the administration (day to day processing of licensing and registration of firearms) and let the police deal with enforcement only. Will it ever happen? Unfortunately probably not. Un-elected members of the police and public service have the more influence over what laws and regulations are passed than the voters that give all of these people the power to wield over us: often with little accountability to either Parliament or the People.

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