Victoria to crack down on assaults against retail workers

Retail worker crime has been rising in Australia, with two states already adding new penalties. Victoria could be the third.
Retail Worker Crime

The Victorian Government has announced plans for new legislation to protect retail workers from assault and abuse.

The proposal, which would extend to fast food and public transport workers, will be introduced to Parliament by the end of next year.

It could include anti-stalking and harassment protections for workers.

If passed, Victoria will follow New South Wales and South Australia, where laws to protect retail workers are already in place.

Retail worker assaults

The SDA, one of the major unions representing retail and fast food workers, “welcomed” the proposal. Victorian Secretary Michael Donovan said workers have faced a “worsening scourge” of abuse since the pandemic, including being threatened at knifepoint.

Victoria’s proposed legislation will be developed by a worker protection consultation group.

The group will consider new penalties for retail worker assault or strengthening pre-existing assault penalties, including for the stalking, harassment and intimidation of customer-facing workers.

Victorian Shadow Attorney-General Michael O’Brien questioned why the draft law couldn’t be developed sooner.

The Opposition said it would wait to review the legislation before deciding if it would support the change.

Donovan said the SDA was looking forward to a “speedy introduction” of the legislation.

Rest of Australia

SA outlawed assault against retail workers in 2022, adding penalties of five to seven years for varying offences.

Similar penalties were introduced in NSW last year, including an 11-year prison sentence for causing serious injury to a retail worker.

In the seven months after the laws were introduced, data obtained by TDA found 24 people were charged in NSW. Those convicted were given low-level sentences, such as community service.

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