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Northern Region Prison Site

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Tags: Northern Prison, Corrections, Recidivism, Westbury

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, the Greens will not be supporting the amendment to this motion. We support the motion that it seeks to amend and I will make some comments about that. I am aware that Ms Butler would also like to speak so I will make some time for her to do that and make a shorter contribution.

The point which speaks most strongly to me in the Labor motion is paragraph 2 - 'That we lament the secrecy and lack of consultation with the community prior to the announcement'.

I have been approached by numerous people in the surrounding area with concerns about the consultation process. Frankly, I am never surprised to hear people's concerns in the community about this Liberal Government's failure to consult in good faith. On every issue that I have had to represent people in the community, every single time, time and again, this Government hides what they are doing. They work out what they want to do behind closed doors and proceed to go ahead. They do a show of community consultation so they can tick that box and proceed straight to the media spin department. Off they go from there.

I am not surprised when I get comments from local residents feeling that everything has been shut and decided under the radio silence from the Liberal members that they have contacted and their lack of engagement. They have contacted our members for Lyons. They have named Mr Barnett being one of them - what a surprise.

Members interjecting.

Dr WOODRUFF - This is the point. You can pretend to be listening to people but listening to people is taking on board what they are doing. It is being prepared to engage in a conversation that is a dialogue that has a possibility of having a third approach. Another way.

Although we will be supporting the Labor Party's motion we fundamentally disagree with its basic premise, which is that there needs to be a second northern prison. When we know so much about what works in justice rehabilitation, when we know what works is restorative justice, to put $270 million, a starting number, towards building a northern prison, both the Labor and the Liberal parties are manifestly crazy to go down this path at this point in time.

What a disaster. What an appalling use of public money. It will do exactly the opposite of what they are trying to do. Both parties are failing big time on this. It is signalling to people in the community in whipping up fear about crime and putting the spectre of tough-on-crime as being something that is going to protect people. It is not.

I do not have time now. I will give Ms Butler a chance to make her contribution. The evidence is there from countries around the world that have had the approach that we have taken. Little old Port Arthur was Van Diemen's convict land Tasmania. We still cannot get away from locking up people and throwing away the key with a bit of cruel punishment while we are at it. Other countries that have gone down this path know how expensive it is and how unsafe it makes the community. Under this Liberal Government, under this term of government, we have had a complete reversal of what the Greens correction minister did. Mr McKim, as minister, made a massive effort at turning around the Titanic of the Tasmanian correction system and succeeded on all the measures that really matter. Prisoner recidivism rates were down; prisoner-on-prisoner violence rates were down; prisoner-on-staff rates of assault were down.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I see you are smiling. Maybe you do not understand whether this is true or not. There is a level of scepticism on your face that surely cannot be matched with what I am telling you. I do not understand it. These are facts; they are there in the public record.

What we had in front of us at the last Budget Estimates was reoffending rates are going up under this Liberal minister. The rates of serious assaults from prisoner to prisoner are going up. The rate from serious assaults from prisoner to staff - going up. The number of sick and stressed security staff going up. These are all the measures that are going in the wrong way. But the most important measure is the measure of what is happening in the community on the ground. Is our community safer? No, it is not. Property theft is going up under this Liberal Government. People are not getting support, they are not getting the money put into drug rehabilitation, into treatment or into education. Prisoners come into the Risdon Prison or a northern prison and are reclassified by a minister who no longer lets them go the Botanical Gardens like they used to. Everyone gets locked up and put up a level regardless of whether or not they should be at that level of security classification.

People go in; they might have a sentence of six months, they might have a sentence of five years, but what they do not get is a literacy assessment. Here we have a perfect opportunity to work with people to help them turn their lives around. What we know is the first thing they need is to be able to read and write in English. So many people who go into that prison cannot do that. How would we even know what the true numbers are? We do not bother to assess that. We do not do literacy assessments; we do not help them with reading and writing and so we are wasting this incredible opportunity.

All the resources we put into building a prison - hundreds of millions of dollars - that will not even be keeping it open, that will just be building the concrete and steel box to put them in with razor wire. I am not surprised the residents of Westbury are outraged. I would be too. I would be outraged not only at a concrete, razor-wired box being built in this day and age but because countries like Scandinavia are moving people into essentially hotels. They have their way of working with rehabilitation to such a sophisticated level that they have a totally different system.

Guess what, Mr Jaensch? The reoffending in those countries is far lower than Tasmania. It is not like Club Med as Mr Barnett used to say when he was minister. It is not like giving people a good time. It is giving people what they need so that they change their behaviour. Is not the bottom line to keep us safer as a community? Why is this Liberal Government doing everything, supported by the Labor, if it was in power, doing everything to turn the clock back to where it was in 201718 in Tasmania? What a joke.

It is terrible to see that the Labor Party and the Liberal Party both support a northern prison. As for the Government amendment, I certainly cannot support the so-called enormous economic benefits and jobs. If that is why we are doing it, what a crazy idea. Why not put it into something which is good for the planet, good for the community and is actually going to keep us safer and not going to make it more dangerous and unsafe?

I am with local residents. It is a noxious idea. We will continue to support them in their efforts to have true consultation. We will continue to support everybody who wants to have a say about what happens in our wilderness areas, parks and reserves and all the dodgy deals that the Liberals are doing with private developers. We would all like a say, not just about where the prison is or is not but about the authentic nature of our brand. That is the sort of stuff that is going to keep us going into the future, not a prison in northern Tasmania.