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Mental Health and Wellbeing – Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and cruel and degrading treatment (OPCAT)

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Tags: Human Rights

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, I understand the Custodial Inspector Amendment (OPCAT) Bill 2020 is the Government's response to the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and cruel and degrading treatment, known as OPCAT. Australia has ratified OPCAT and has agreed to establish national preventative measures or NPMs at a national level and also for each state to create measures.

This is a significant victory for human rights, which is what Malcolm Turnbull the then Prime Minister said in 2017 when Australia signed up to the protocol. There are guidelines which should be represented in domestic law to enshrine the rights of Tasmanians to make sure that people aren't subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

In Tasmania, the Government, I understand, has the Custodial Inspector Amendment (OPCAT) Bill 2020 in a draft form in a consultation discussion phase. We want to make sure that in the proposal at the international and national level there is an independent visiting body for all agencies where a person is incarcerated to make sure that they are not subjected to cruel or degrading or inhuman treatment.

In your portfolios, minister for Mental Health, this would relate to psychiatric facilities, for example. This would also relate to aged care facilities but it's not your area. I'm putting it on your agenda, minister. Are you aware of this? Have you looked into the implications of the OPCAT requirements in facilities that you manage?

Mr ROCKLIFF - Our Attorney-General, Elise Archer, is our lead minister when it comes to this matter, so she's leading this. We might have some information for you from our chief psychiatrist.

Mr WEBSTER - The bill is, as you said, out for consultation at the moment. We are working through that to provide feedback to the Attorney-General from the mental health facility point of view at the moment.

Dr WOODRUFF - Can I flag the concerns that we would have if the national protection measures at this state level in Tasmania were devolved to the custodial inspectorate? I understand that that consultation draft proposes to put all that responsibility into one body. It's very clear in the international treaty and the obligations that Australia signed up to that's not a desirable outcome. There needs to be mechanisms within each agency for facilities to have the mechanisms in place to ensure that cruel inhuman and degrading treatment don't occur. Can I flag that putting all that responsibility in the custodial inspector does not sound sufficient?

Mr ROCKLIFF - You can flag it, or are you putting in a submission?

Dr WOODRUFF - Yes, we will be putting in a submission.

Mr ROCKLIFF - That's good.