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Labor Matter of Public Importance - Community Safety

24 September 2019
Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Deputy Speaker, I am surprised that Labor did not jump up because they are certainly frothing at the mouth on this matter.

I start by thanking the Tasmanian Police for their excellent work in apprehending the prisoner who was at large. No doubt it would have greatly relieved the anxiety of people living in the vicinity who have been either in lockdown or under fear of possible attack over the last day or more.

This is a Liberal Government with a terrible record on managing the prisons - an appalling record. By every single measure, they have failed prisoners. They have failed officers who work at the prison. They have failed the Tasmanian Budget. More importantly, they have failed the community who expect that they will not be exposed to the risk that they were exposed to over the last 24 hours and that they will not be exposed to the risk that they have been exposed to over the last couple of weeks. There has now been a number of prisoners who have escaped in the last couple of weeks, at large in the community with gun-related crimes.

Let us just revisit the truth of the history, not the spin that the Liberals have been talking. The fact is that when a Greens corrections minister, Nick McKim, was elected in 2010, he immediately took responsibility for the disastrous state of the Risdon Prison complex and engaged a previous Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Mick Palmer, to do a root-and-branch review of the sick culture in the Risdon Prison. Mick Palmer completed the review in 2011. It recommended a number of major changes, both to infrastructure and to culture, which the minister at the time set about implementing. He brought in a change agent. He introduced a huge number of cultural changes to the prison. He stood down a very unhappy union and working staff and he resolved the underlying issues. In 2014, when this Liberal Government came in, recidivism rates had gone down, prisoner-on-prisoner assault rates had gone down.

The minister might like to listen to these facts but she is leaving the Chamber. Very unfortunate that she wants to close her mind to the truth.

Under a Greens correction minister, recidivism rates went down, prisoner-on-prisoner assault rates went down and prisoner-on-staff assault rates went down. More importantly, people left the prison and were housed and supported to reintegrate into the community so that it effectively was breaking the cycle.

What we have now is a disastrous situation where the Government has failed on every single one of its own measures. They came in with a tough-on-crime approach but they have failed. They have failed to reduce the amount of crime in the community. Crime rates are going up, property crime is going up, assaults are going up, and burglaries are going up. Which bit of that is good for the community? None of it.

They have failed to make the prison a safer place for the prisoners who are there. Assaults are going up. Prisoner-to-prisoner assaults are going up. They have failed to make it safer for the staff, who are off on stress leave. No wonder the minister has her hands full trying to train more people because people are leaving.

The prison is bursting at the seams. The Government's failed approach to supporting people is a lock-'em-up, throw-away-the-key approach. They take no responsibility for dealing with the underlying pressures that are driving people to petty crime. They are locking people up for personal levels of illicit drug use. It is disgraceful that there is not the money put into drug rehabilitation. That is where the money should go, not wasting it on building a new northern prison. Hundreds of millions of dollars should be put back into the communities where these people come from, where crime is happening, back into the community to support them.

Ms Archer - It is not that easy.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order.

Dr WOODRUFF - You have no idea. It is that easy. We have demonstrated with a Greens correction minister, we have shown you how to do it. You choose to do it the bad way, the hard way and the wrong way. It is not only wrong for the safety of Tasmanians, it is wrong for the Budget, it is a criminal waste of resources that should be put into remote area teams, to training up people for bushfire prevention, to supporting communities to prepare themselves against fire storms, to listening and engaging the wise counsel of previous chief commissioners of the Tasmanian Fire Service whom I would like to tell this Government what they should really be focusing their resources on. Instead they have a punitive approach to people who are living in poverty, who have intergenerational lack of employment and who have drug addiction. None of those of those services have been provided. The Government's attitude is to privatise everything so there is no support for public schools, no support into the things which are determining this terrible trajectory that the Liberals are determined to continue us on.