SENTENCING AMENDMENT (HISTORICAL HOMOSEXUAL CONVICTIONS EXPUNGEMENT) BILL 2014
14 October 2014
Mr Wynne (Richmond) – I rise to lend my voice of support to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community, as I have done on many occasions in this house, to right a fundamental wrong that has been done to a group of citizens in our community.
I reflect on what has been an extraordinary journey of reform
that was led by the previous government and the great reforming
Attorney-General, Rob Hulls, whom I had the honour of working with for four
years as his parliamentary secretary and then as a cabinet colleague going
forward. Today we attest to his extraordinary work in righting fundamental
injustices that have been on the statute books of this state for many years that
people failed to properly recognise and that were prejudicial to the LGBTI
community. Those matters have been washed away. However, that is not to say that no further reform has to be done in this space.
I stand here proudly as somebody who has worked tirelessly with
many people who are in this chamber today. I am proud to say that many of them are both my colleagues and friends. Many members of the LGBTI advisory group that advised Rob Hulls are here today. Jamie Gardiner is here today. He is an icon of the LGBTI community and a great friend of mine. I acknowledge him today.
I also acknowledge Anna Brown, who in a previous life was a key legal adviser to Rob Hulls and steered through much of the enormous tranche of legal reform that was one of the great legacies of Rob Hulls, and Noel Tovey. Today is Noel’s day, as it is for some other people who are with us today and whom I will also talk about.
I will not elaborate on the reform in great detail, as my colleagues the members for Albert Park and Prahran have canvassed the broad
scope of what it is about. It echoes back to the Hamer government, which in 1980 decriminalised homosexual acts. It was a reform of a Liberal government, led by Sir Rupert Hamer.
I recommend to people the book Dick Hamer — The liberal
Liberal by Tim Colebatch, which is an excellent expose of that government. There is no doubt that it was a reforming government in a whole range of areas, whether with this sort of reform or with reforms around the environment and so forth, which I have spoken about extensively in this house.
Nonetheless, this bill is righting a wrong. It is removing a
stain that has endured for many people who are in the Parliament today. As we know, the bill creates a scheme under which a person convicted of a historical homosexual offence may apply to the Secretary of the Department of Justice for the conviction to be expunged. For the purposes of the bill, included in that are offences where there were findings of guilt but no conviction was recorded.
As we know, historical homosexual offences are defined broadly to include sexual offences and public morality offences.
The bill does not target specific offences, as many different
offences have been used to criminalise homosexual activity. The bill places the
onus on the applicant to show that the conviction ought to be expunged.
Under new section 105G inserted by the bill the secretary must refuse an application unless satisfied that the offence is a historical homosexual offence and that on the balance of probabilities both of the following tests are satisfied:
(i) the applicant would not have been charged with the
historical homosexual offence …
(ii) that conduct, if engaged in by the applicant at the time
of making the application, would not constitute an offence under the law of
If a person’s application is refused they have the right to go to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) and have the matter ventilated further there. There are appropriate guidelines that guide the Secretary of the Department of Justice in deliberating on these matters, and if the secretary fails to agree with an application the applicant can appeal to VCAT, and that is important.
The member for Albert Park has circulated a number of important
amendments to the bill. I am pleased the Premier is here in the chamber to
listen to this contribution, because we come to this debate taking a bipartisan
position about the issue. The opposition will move a range of sensible
amendments. I take on board the comment by the member for Prahran that some of these are straightforward and may be adopted — hopefully — at the
consideration-in-detail stage. No doubt there will be an opportunity for
officers of the Department of Justice to look at some of these.
We do this absolutely in a spirit of goodwill and of ensuring
that we embrace as far as we possibly can the aim of not only righting the
historical wrong but addressing what we believe are anomalies that ought to be part of the broader conversation we want to have with the LGBTI community about further amendments.
In doing some research for my contribution today I came across
some commentary on ABC News online. The article is about a young man named Peter McEwan. At the time of his offence and subsequent conviction in 1967 Peter McEwan was a 17-year-old boy. The article states:
- Peter McEwan was convicted of homosexual offences in 1967 as a 17-year-old, after police found him in the bushes with a 22-year-old man at a beach known to have been frequented by gay men.
I was surprised to see this commentary. I had not seen it before.
I know Peter McEwan. I have known him for 20 years — 25 years,
probably. Peter McEwan was my chief of staff when I was the Lord Mayor of
Melbourne. Peter McEwan has had an extraordinary and distinguished career in the public service as a senior person — some would say an expert — in planning. In the whole time I have known Peter we talked about many issues and spoke in great detail about many personal matters, but Peter never spoke to me about this. I point him out for the chamber today to acknowledge him and say that this reform is about Peter and about Jamie. It is about many of the people here today who have lived with what many would say is the stain and the shame of being
wrongfully targeted and identified. Frankly, it is high time that we as a
Parliament stand and in a clear and unambiguous way say to all of them — to
Noel and to Peter, as a dear and longstanding friend of mine — that we are
fundamentally righting a wrong that Peter has carried since the age of 17. That is an unfair burden for anybody to carry.
Finally, I say that the commentary in the article lends weight
to just how important these sorts of reforms are. It quotes Peter as saying:
- I was just utterly humiliated in front of absolutely everyone and I had not a person I could talk to and I had no emotional resources to be able to withstand it.
This was the sort of humiliation that Peter went through in his
early formative years, but he got through that and has had an extraordinary
career in the service of the people. More importantly, he has been a person who has stood unambiguously with the LGBTI community for so long. Today I honour Peter, and I honour Noel. We honour them because when members of Parliament work together to address and resolve a fundamental injustice in our community, we are a better and nobler place. As a Parliament we say this is a time when Peter and Noel can free themselves from the terrible and unfair burden they have carried.
I welcome this legislation, and I welcome the spirit in which
this debate has occurred. I hope the government may pick up some of the
amendments we have suggested.