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Urgent laws to fix Victoria Police bungle

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Victoria has taken the first legislative step to undo an administrative bungle that resulted in more than 1000 police officers operating without valid powers.

The blunder, revealed late last month and created by legislative changes in 2014, meant 1076 police officers, 157 protective service officers and 29 police custody officers were unlawfully sworn in by acting assistant commissioners.

It means some Victoria Police officers have been making arrests, pressing charges and issuing orders without valid powers over the past eight years.

To rectify the issue, Victoria Police has re-sworn the majority of officers as the state government moved to draft retrospective legislation to ensure court rulings involving those impacted are not deemed invalid.

Police Minister Lisa Neville officially introduced the bill in the lower house on Tuesday, describing it as a “very targeted piece of legislation”.

“It is not changing the substance of the legislation but providing a retrospective capacity to make right those appointments … as if they were correct as at the time of their oath and affirmation,” she said.

The opposition has previously flagged in-principle support for the retrospective legislation.

Meanwhile, Victoria’s firefighters union has raised the stakes in its push to stop the extension of presumptive cancer rights to other workers.

The scheme was originally designed to negate the need for firefighters diagnosed with cancer to prove causation to claim compensation, but the government plans to extend it to fire service-affiliated mechanics.

The United Firefighters Union is concerned expanding eligibility will undermine the scheme and on Tuesday referred the matter to the state’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission, ahead the legislation coming before the upper house.

Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said she had considered the union’s suggestion to make the changes through separate legislation or WorkCover amendments, but argued the cohort of about 90 mechanics did not warrant a new bill.

She stressed the mechanics will only be eligible if they contract cancer and also demonstrate attendance at several fires, or as part of an extended campaign such as the Hazelwood coal mine blaze in 2014.

Premier Daniel Andrews said it was estimated two mechanics a year would qualify under the changes and defended the decision to add them to the list.

“You don’t have fire trucks if you don’t have mechanics to keep them going,” he said.

“People can refer it wherever they want. It’ll be up to the Legislative Council whether it passes but the aim and the intention is pretty clear.”

The Liberals and Nationals do not plan to oppose the legislation.

– AAP

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