Victorian Coalition Government’s Law Reforms and Initiatives

The Victorian Coalition Government came to office in 2010 determined to repair the damage caused by 11 years of the former Labor government’s soft on crime approach, its hostility towards the courts and the legal profession and its neglect of much-needed law reforms in areas important people’s everyday lives.

 The Coalition’s reform agenda focussed on three goals:

  • strengthening community safety
  • supporting a fair, just and timely legal system
  • practical law reforms to make a real difference for the better in people’s lives.

The following are some of the reforms and other initiatives implemented by the Coalition Government.

Strengthening community safety – stronger and more effective sentences

The Coalition Government introduced a wide range of stronger and more effective sentences to better protect the community and ensure that jail means jail, including:

  • abolishing suspended sentences
  • abolishing home detention
  • introducing baseline sentences, to give the community greater say about the overall level of sentences for serious crimes including murder, drug trafficking, child sexual abuse and culpable driving causing death
  • introducing 10 year statutory minimum non-parole jail terms for coward punch killers and gross violence gang attacks causing death
  • introducing four year statutory minimum non-parole jail terms for attacks causing serious injury with gross violence
  • introducing tougher sentences for attacks on police and emergency workers
  • introducing sentences of up to five years’ jail for serious or repeated breaches of family violence orders
  • putting teeth into community based sentencing, including options such as curfews, no-go zones, non-association orders, alcohol exclusion orders and up to 600 hours of community service
  • legislating to reform the law on fines and infringements to make the system fairer and to enable better enforcement
  • legislating so that those convicted of alcohol fuelled violence are banned from licensed premises for two years
  • legislating for those convicted of large scale commercial drug trafficking to automatically forfeit almost everything they own upon conviction
  • introducing unexplained wealth laws and laws for seizure of unlawfully acquired assets.

Strengthening community safety – stronger criminal law and safeguards

The Coalition Government also made other key reforms to strengthen the criminal law and safeguards, including:

  • strengthening bail laws
  • legislating to allow criminal bikie and similar gangs to be outlawed and fortifications on their premises demolished
  • ensuring parolees who reoffend have their parole automatically cancelled or reassessed.
  • reforming double-jeopardy laws
  • introducing Brodie’s law to make serious bullying a serious crime
  • strengthening police powers to use and retain DNA evidence
  • broadening move-on laws to cover unlawful blockades
  • providing for crime victims to be consulted prior to judges giving sentence indications
  • establishing Victoria’s first Commissioner for Victims of Crime
  • strengthening Working With Children Check laws
  • extending the power of police to issue family violence safety notices so they can issue notices 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • extending the duration of police family violence safety notices from 72 hours or the next working day to five working days
  • giving family violence victims the right to make their story public when a perpetrator is charged with or convicted of breaching a family violence order
  • new laws against grooming of potential child sex offence victims or their families or carers
  • legislating for new offences for those who cover up or fail to report child sexual abuse
  • abolishing the offence of defensive homicide so killers can’t get away with murder through unjustified claims of self-defence
  • legislating to simplify and strengthen the law on rape and other sexual offences
  • legislating to restore the right to appeal to the Supreme Court against Coroners Court decisions not to hold an inquest or reopen an investigation
  • increased crime victim and front-line police representation on the Sentencing Advisory Council
  • legislating for those convicted of historical homosexual offences to have those convictions expunged
  • new laws on sexting to create new offences for distributing explicit images without consent, while avoiding treating juvenile sexting as child pornography.

Supporting the legal system – law reforms

The Coalition Government introduced a wide range of reforms to support the operation of Victoria’s courts and legal system, including:

  • establishing Court Services Victoria to give Victoria’s courts control of their own administration, independent of executive government – one of the most far reaching reforms in the almost 180 year history of our courts
  • driving the landmark Uniform Legal Profession Reforms between Victoria and NSW that provide a solid foundation for a future truly national profession based on a federalist rather than a centralist model
  • simplifying civil litigation by scrapping Labor’s mandatory pre-litigation requirements
  • reforming and strengthening the operation of the Public Prosecutions Service
  • far-reaching reforms to simplify and shorten jury directions, thus reducing trial times and removing opportunities for technical appeals
  • reforming the law on expert witnesses and costs in civil litigation
  • abolishing Labor’s acting judges regime and introducing reserve judges under the responsibility of the head of jurisdiction
  • the Open Courts Act 2014 to reform suppression orders and support open justice
  • the Vexatious Proceedings Act 2014 to reform the law on vexatious litigants
  • strengthening the independence of the Victoria Law Foundation
  • legislating to require leave for Supreme Court civil appeals so as to speed up appeals and give litigants better assurance of a timely final resolution of proceedings
  • simplifying the law of committals.

Supporting the legal system – facilities and funding

The Coalition Government also backed the courts and legal system with facilities and funding support, including:

  • record funding for Victoria Legal Aid
  • a world-leading mega-trials court room
  • Victoria’s first commercial arbitration and mediation centre
  • funding for a new $63 million court complex at Shepparton
  • funding for a new Children’s Court at Broadmeadows
  • funding for a $12 million refurbishment of the OPP offices in Melbourne
  • funding for the Ashley-Venne Supreme Court criminal appeal reforms
  • funding for weekend sittings of the Magistrates’ Court
  • upgrading of courthouses at Bendigo and Wangaratta
  • CCTV security in 20 courthouses across rural and regional Victoria that were neglected by Labor
  • funding specialist family violence registrars and applicant and respondent support workers based at all 12 headquarters Magistrates’ Courts around Victoria
  • funding to expand the Court Integrated Services Program (CISP) so that CISP or CREDIT/Bail will be available at all headquarters Magistrates’ Courts around Victoria.

Practical law reforms

The Coalition Government introduced a wide range of reforms to civil law and practice to make a real practical difference in people’s lives, including:

  • a new Powers of Attorney Act 2014, including the introduction of supportive attorneys
  • improving the law of wills and succession, including amendments to prevent unjustified claims that can consume much of an estate in legal fees
  • simplifying the law on fences
  • bringing laws on commercial arbitration into line with international practice
  • restoring fairness and common sense to equal opportunity laws
  • new laws to better protect the privacy and security of data held by State Government, while also making it easier for agencies to share data when needed, such as for better community protection
  • on-line renewal of legal practising certificates
  • making it easier for corporate and government lawyers to undertake pro-bono work.   



In addition to the reforms introduced between 2010 and 2014, a wide range of further reforms were announced and underway at the time of the 2014 election or were announced during the election as commitments to be implemented by a re-elected Coalition Government, including:

 Community safety

  • further reforms to police investigation powers and the use of fingerprint, DNA and other forensic evidence – exposure draft Bill published
  • requiring debt collectors to be registered and be fit and proper persons – election announcement
  • trialling a GPS monitoring system for high risk family violence perpetrators that allows victims to be warned when a perpetrator comes near– announced and funding provided
  • piloting data sharing between police, corrections and courts using advanced software technology to allow identification of high risk family violence perpetrators – announced and funding provided
  • allowing details of serious youth offending to be made public if the offender commits a further serious offence as an adult – exposure draft Bill published
  • giving police the power to drug test anyone arrested for an indictable offence and suspected of being under the influence of drugs – election announcement
  • compulsory ongoing drug testing for anyone sentenced to a community correction order for an ice-related offence – election announcement
  • halving the quantities of ice at which traffickers are liable to longer jail terms, unexplained wealth laws and asset forfeiture – election announcement
  • strengthening the power of the Director of Public Prosecutions to appeal against inadequate sentences – election announcement
  • four year statutory minimum jail terms for those who attack and cause serious injury to their victims in breach of a family violence order – election announcement
  • indefinite jail terms for repeat killers or serious sex offenders who go on to offend again after having been released from jail for their previous offence – election announcement
  • implementing a Children’s Court pre-plea diversion program – election announcement and funds provided for pilot
  • expanding the use of GPS monitoring to allow monitoring of persons on bail and criminal gang members subject to control orders – election announcement. 

Supporting a fair, just and timely legal system

  • establishing a Judicial Commission to set standards for judicial conduct and investigate complaints – lapsed Bill to be reintroduced
  • reform of Funds in Court legislation – lapsed Bill to be reintroduced
  • a new Rural and Farming Legal Centre to provide information and advice to farmers and other rural Victorians on legal issues relating to farming and access to justice – election announcement
  • further reforms to jury directions in criminal trials – Bill defeated by Labor to be re-introduced
  • establishment of a single integrated system for collection of all legal debt, whether court fines, infringements, judgement debts or victim compensation orders – building on the Fines Reform Act
  • funds provided to the courts to support improved use of technology within the courts, including greater use of internet based video appearances, electronic filing and on-line forms and payments
  • funds provided to the courts to further implement the International Framework for Courts Excellence
  • completing the introduction of the uniform legal profession reforms and encouraging other jurisdictions to join – appointments made and scheduled to commence by 1 July 2015.

Practical law reform

  • reform of guardianship laws – lapsed Bill to be reintroduced
  • removing limitation periods and improving redress for survivors of criminal child abuses – exposure draft Bill published
  • Wrongs Act reforms to address anomalies arising from the post-HIH collapse changes – exposure draft Bill published.