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Inspection of Youth Custodial Services Redaction

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Tags: Ashley Youth Detention Centre, Custodial Inspector

Inspection of Youth Custodial Services Redaction: Cassy O'Connor, 30 October, 2019


Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Deputy Speaker, I also rise tonight to respond to the minister's clarification about the heavily redacted independent Custodial Inspector's report. I have before me the statement from Mr Connock from today, and I am also going to read it into the Hansard because each contribution is a stand-alone contribution.

I am deeply concerned about the implicit suggestion within this statement from Mr Connock that there was some pressure placed on him to redact large parts of his independent Custodial Inspector's report into Ashley.

On completion of the custody inspection report relating to Youth Custodial Services in Tasmania 2018, my office presented the report to the Department of Communities Tasmania and Minister Jaensch with no parts of the report redacted. At the request of Communities Tasmania and in response to concerns about the information contained in the report, specifically communicating security concerns, parts of the inspection of Youth Custodial Services in Tasmania 2018 were redacted.

The redacted version, as requested by Communities Tasmania, was then presented to Minister Jaensch for tabling. As a result of events, the inspectorate will be taking a strong stance in relation to future redaction of reports. No redactions will be made unless the information is considered by the inspector to be a significant security risk.

I stress that the Custodial Inspector is here to ensure accountability and scrutiny of Tasmanian prisons and the Ashley Youth Detention Centre and will always ensure that inspectorate performs its functions with the utmost integrity.

There is a strong suggestion within Mr Connock's statement notwithstanding the correspondence that the minister read into the Hansard. There is a strong suggestion that the Department of Communities Tasmania placed a measure of pressure on Mr Connock to redact parts of the report. In a Westminster system that means again that the buck stops with the minister. I know the minister feels aggrieved about the way this has all played out, but let us just go back a bit.

He tabled a redacted report, did not explain the redactions to the House, could not explain the redactions to the media. There were two weeks within which the minister had an opportunity to clear the air and did not. Two weeks the minister let himself be hung out to dry - comes back in, cops it this week. We have the extraordinary situation of Mr Connock, the Ombudsman and Custodial Inspector, feeling he has to make a further clarifying statement to justify the redactions. To be honest, with the greatest of respect to the terrific people in Communities Tasmania, this does look like an exercise - and I will use a colloquial term - in arse-covering. We have here redactions on things like, page 35 -

'the Inspector notes that there is' -

And we can see it in the unsuccessfully blacked out wording, that there is -

'a lack of staff drug and alcohol testing'.

That is a failure on the part of Government and the department. It is not a security issue.

Ms Haddad - It is not a security risk.

Ms O'CONNOR - It is not. That sort of redaction tells you this was a political exercise. It was designed to conceal, in part at least, how poorly managed Ashley Youth Detention Centre is from a security point of view, and a staff management point of view. The stuff that is not redacted in this report about the lack of a therapeutic response to those children is as damning as the redactions.

I know that minister Jaensch feels hurt. He has asked me to apologise for allegedly smearing him. No. We did not do that. We did exactly what Opposition parties have a responsibility to do in the Westminster system, and that is hold government to account; to seek transparency and accountability.

In my 11 years in this place I have never seen something like that dropped on the table. I have never seen an annual report with so much blacking out. We know that the minister received the unredacted report in August, so the agency under the direction of the minister has had at least six weeks to get its act together around security at Ashley Youth Detention Centre.

How hard can it be to have a system in place where you are checking contractors who come onsite? How hard can it be to make sure that cars that come onsite are security checked? There is a whole range of issues here that point to clumsy management of the Ashley Youth Detention Centre. In the Westminster system, whether minister Jaensch, who is a very nice man, likes it or not, the buck stops with him.

I will not be apologising, because there are still problems here. There are still significant problems here. I believe Mr Connock feels perhaps regretful that he so readily acceded to Communities Tasmania's requests for redactions. It is pretty clear to me from his statement today that he has been surprised by the public response and the political response to the redacted report. I think he would be feeling regretful about so easily allowing Communities Tasmania, under whose direction I do not know, if any, to have that report so thoroughly made the poorer and more secretive through those redactions.