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Labor Matter of Public Importance - Community Safety

11 September 2019
Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Deputy Speaker, on behalf of the Greens, I reject the whole basis of this conversation. It is utterly wrong on so many levels. Both the Labor and the Liberal parties have a narrow frame for this conversation. What we are really talking about here is two parties that support the building of a massive investment in prison infrastructure in the north of the state that would, by the early estimates, have cost $137 million to build - that is an early estimate so one could only expect that would increase by 50 per cent before the project had been built - and $39 million a year to run.

Anybody working in justice rehabilitation or working to successfully bring down rates of recidivism around the world in other jurisdictions could tell you that is a failed policy response. It is doomed to incarcerate more people, create more crime in the community and decrease community safety, not increase it.

There is no evidence or logic to spending public money on building prisons to lock people up. That is a legacy of this island that we do not want to go back to. It is not the place we want to be as a state. It is not the future for us. The future for us is building strong communities, reuniting families, giving people who leave prison a home, support with drug therapy, support to cope with highly addictive drugs that are now available far too plentifully in the state, support to find a job and investing. Imagine if we could invest $100 million, let alone $200 million, just imagine what would happen to those suburbs in northern Tasmania around Launceston where we know there is a very high level of crime? If we put that money into supporting those families and people to get off highly addictive drugs, who are struggling with galloping rates of addiction in those suburbs, families who have intergenerational unemployment or underemployment, imagine what $100 million could do for the people living in those suburbs.

It is unbelievable, and yet we would choose to make a policy decision to build a prison to lock people up, the old punitive Port Arthur colonial Tasmanian style? Is that really the best we can do as a state? Is that really brave future thinking? Is that really what we want to give the children of those families, something that they can look forward to, being locked up for personal levels of illicit drug use? Other successful jurisdictions around the world such as Texas used to take that approach but found it failed miserably.

Portugal and other countries have been on their knees because of endemic, astronomical rates of drug addiction, with terrible crimes that have occurred around narcotics and trafficking drugs in an environment that has criminalised people for every type of drug they put into their bodies on a personal level, and mistakenly put money into locking those people up and creating serial criminals of those people. Instead, we need to get rid of this ridiculous tough on drug use approach that has failed, put that money into drug therapy and put the focus on the trafficking of drugs and supporting police to do the work to catch those large and medium-sized imports, which are being funnelled purposefully to the poorest communities in Tasmania. What are we doing?

We should be supporting the families, wives, children, husbands, mothers and fathers who desperately want their son, daughter, husband or sister to be supported to get out of addiction, to be supported to get a house when they get out of jail so that they do not get stuck in a cycle of petty crime which leads them back into jail and into connection with other people. It is an all-too-easy way of looking at crime as a solution to poverty instead of being supported to find another solution. Let us not forget that these are also the communities that have the lowest levels of education and attendance at school. These are the things we need to put our money into.

It is terrible policy for both the Liberal and Labor parties to continue to flog this approach to punitive management of petty crime and fail to understand the structural things we can do to make a difference, such as Texas and Portugal have done. Why don't the members in this House from the Labor and Liberal Party go and read a few of the top-line reports from around the world about how those communities have changed for the better? Why not do that work? Why persist with this? Because it is lazy, that is why. It is lazy, it is easy and it is letting Tasmanians down.