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Ashley Youth Detention Centre Report Redactions

29 October 2019

 

Ms O'CONNOR question to the MINISTER for HUMAN SERVICES, Mr JAENSCH

In the last sitting of parliament, you tabled a report about the Ashley Youth Detention Centre. Do you remember that report? Just checking.

This report outlined a range of deeply concerning issues at the centre. Some of the most politically damaging content was blacked out. When asked by the media the next day who was responsible for these redactions, you denied any responsibility. In the Westminster system you are responsible. Were you telling the truth? Or, will you now confirm it was your office that directed the independent Custodial Inspector to redact a damning report into Ashley?

 

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question. Like the last question I answered, I am proud to say it was the Hodgman Liberal Government that established the Custodial Inspector as an independent statutory officer with responsibilities including regular inspections and reporting to ensure that our facilities are meeting relevant standards so we can ensure that our facilities, management and reforms are continuously improving.

The member who raised the question is correct. In the last sitting of parliament I tabled the report of the Custodial Inspector. I tabled the report as it was provided to me by the Office of the Custodial Inspector. Prior to that I had been provided with a briefing and a copy of an unredacted report. The redactions in the report were the redactions provided by the Custodial Inspector.

There has been considerable reporting, interest and fascination with these redactions. As anyone who has looked into them and read the reports on them will note in those cases, the material that was publicised around the redacted sections, in most regard, goes to matters of security. Technical matters around the way that the Ashley Youth Detention Centre is configured and the purpose as I am -

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. I am hoping to save the minister from himself, perversely. I listened very carefully. The question is, did your office ask the Custodial Inspector to redact that report?

Madam SPEAKER - That is not a point of order.

Ms O'CONNOR - It is a point of order.

Madam SPEAKER - I have heard the question, thank you.

Mr JAENSCH - I am advised that the redactions in the report were made by the Custodial Inspector in consultation with the Department of Communities Tasmania.

Ms O'Connor - Right, but did your office direct the redactions?

Mr JAENSCH - Madam Speaker, I have given my answer to that question and I want to be very clear -

Members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order. Could I have some order here, please?

Mr JAENSCH - Anybody who has viewed the matters that were in the redacted sections of the report, and I caution those who are publicising those further, will see that they are more to do with the security of the facility, the people who work in it, and the people who are detained in it, than they are about any aspects of Government policy. What they will also note, if they have actually read the report, is that of the 38 recommendations all but four have been supported. Because the report was based on an inspection that occurred in February 2018, by the time of the tabling of the report, the vast majority of those recommended actions were underway or they had been completed.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker, and with the greatest respect to you, and I do apologise, but it is very important that we get to the truth. Minister, did your office direct that that report be redacted?

Madam SPEAKER - It is not a point of order, please continue.

Mr JAENSCH - Thank you, Madam Speaker. I had answered that question. What I find deeply distasteful and irresponsible is the characterisation, in particular by the Greens, of what this report is and what it is not. In particular, Dr Woodruff comes out of the blocks saying, 'This is shocking and scandalous', and drawing connections with shades of Don Dale in Tasmania. She said how vital it is that the Government acts with urgency, spreading fear and characterising this as a situation akin to that covered in the ABC Four Corners reports on the Don Dale facility in the Northern Territory.

There are parents and families of young people on remand and who are detainees in the Ashley facility, and when they hear, in the media, comments from someone who has had access to this report and its detail and recommendations in it, including those that were redacted, and to characterise that this report -

Ms O'CONNOR - Madam Speaker, point of order. We are in the Westminster system and the question was really simple: did Mr Jaensch's office direct the independent Custodial Inspector to redact that report? You have not answered it; you know you have not answered it. You have been tricky with language.

Madam SPEAKER - That is not a point of order. We are now getting to a few frivolous ones. You know the limitations of that standing order. Please proceed, minister.

Mr JAENSCH - Madam Speaker, to those concerned citizens out there who are genuinely interested in the welfare and the wellbeing of the young people in the Ashley Youth Detention Centre, we are changing it from being a prison-like environment to a therapeutic environment. We have a plan. We are investing $7.3 million into a therapeutic redesign of that facility. Members who follow the news will note that last weekend we advertised for a project manager for that job, for an architect to finalise the parameters. We expect the construction will commence in -

Ms O'Connor - So the answer is, 'Yes, your office asked for the redactions'.

Mr JAENSCH - Madam Speaker, what I want to do is, in terms of the overall findings and outcomes of the report, I need to put into the record the Custodial Inspector's own comments on the issue. The custodial inspector, Mr Richard Connock, said in his media release on the release of the report that -

The treatment of young people at Ashley Youth Detention Centre is satisfactory as are the conditions and facilities of the detention centre. The management of and interactions with young people by Ashley Youth Detention Centre staff, was observed at inspection to be positive and conducted with respect and politeness. Cleanliness is kept to a high standard and facilities are well maintained. Ashley Youth Detention Centre's daily routine also places high importance on education and programs tailored to each individual, addressing rehabilitation and development skills and also providing life skills, notably lock downs for extended periods are rare in the facility.

The report contained 38 recommendations for the Department of Communities Tasmania to address. Only four of those have not been directly supported. The Custodial Inspector's findings and those comments in particular reflect that we are turning Ashley Youth Detention Centre into a child-centred therapeutic facility. We have a plan for the Ashley Youth Detention Centre. We are investing $7.3 million. We care about the kids who are in care there. We are making it less like a prison and more like a facility that can return them to productive lives and we are getting on with it.

Madam SPEAKER - Before I take any more questions, we are running behind and we have a lot of questions still to go. I ask the questioners to be sharper and the Government to be quicker too.