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Youth Justice System

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Tags: Ashley Youth Detention Centre, Youth Justice, Ministerial Accountability, Westbury, Custodial Inspector

Youth Justice System: Cassy O'Connor, 29 October, 2019


Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, I found it very hard to disagree with anything that Ms Haddad said just then about the corrections system in Tasmania. I want to follow that with some comments on the youth justice system in Tasmania following on from the really scandalous tabling of a redacted report in the last sitting.

Given Mr Jaensch's confusion about lines of accountability, I thought he might want a handy flowchart on the Westminster system. It is very clear -

Madam SPEAKER - I think that is a prop Ms O'Connor.

Ms O'CONNOR - Okay, I will lay my handy flowchart down on the lectern so that it is not regarded as a prop, and thank you for your guidance, Madam Speaker. This handy flowchart makes it very clear that in the Westminster system parliament is supreme and parliament represents the people who pay us to be here.

In terms of accountability, when you have a department that is working literally underneath a minister's authority, that department answers to the minister and the minister then comes in and answers to parliament if he or she is an honest and open minister who has not tabled a report in parliament that is full of redactions which have yet to be explained. The buck stops always in the Westminster system with the minister. Yet, on the day he tabled the Inspection of Youth Custodial Services in Tasmania 2018 Youth Custodial Report, Mr Jaensch was asked by journalists why the report was so heavily redacted and the minister said he did not know anything about it.

So there are a couple of things here which are very concerning. The first is that as a minister when a report or documents are put on your table in this place for you to table in parliament, you want to have a look at them because you are taking responsibility for that document when you table it as the minister, yet Mr Jaensch did not take responsibility. He either did not look at the document, so he did not know it was full of huge black chunks - and I think that is what happened, so that is incompetence rather than being deceitful, but then there was an opportunity for the minister to admit he had made a mistake. This is something my mum told me to do. If you make a mistake, if you cock up, you 'fess up straight away, because the truth will always out. That is the thing about the truth, it always outs, yet we still have not had the truth from Mr Jaensch on the redactions in the Ashley custodial inspector's report, but the buck does stop with him.

When we asked the questions in parliament this morning we had a truly Scott Morrison performance from Mr Jaensch. I am sorry that I caused such disruption at one level, Madam Speaker, but it was very important that we had an answer to what happened to that independent custodial inspector's report so I kept getting up and saying, 'Point of order. The question was really direct: who redacted that report and why, and could he confirm that the direction or request or the strongly perhaps unexpressed desire of his office to the custodial inspector is that the most damning parts of the report be redacted?'. Maybe there was not a direction from the minister's office but the custodial inspector and the department sure knew what the minister's office wanted. We asked a clear question and then I said, 'Point of order. You need to answer the question: basically, did your office direct the redactions?'/ His reply was, 'Madam Speaker, I have given my answer to that question'.

Deja vu all over again. He sounds exactly like Scott Morrison when he is repeatedly lying about the fact that he asked the White House if the disgraced pastor Brian Houston from the Hillsong group could attend the White House with him. Then a bit later when he waffled on a bit more and started self-congratulating for no good reason, I said, 'Point of order, Madam Speaker'. You told me it was not a point of order but it was, and then Mr Jaensch said, 'Thank you, Madam Speaker, I have answered that question'.

That is not the way it works in here. When a question is asked it is on you as minister to come in here and answer it clear and straight and true on behalf of the people who pay us to be here. If you make a mistake, accept responsibility for the mistake and tell the parliament and, therefore, the people of Tasmania what you will do to make sure that mistake does not happen again and make sure there are processes in place so that ministers know that they are responsible for information they bring into this place and place on the table.

I am still concerned about the legality of the redactions of the independent Custodial Inspector's report. It is an offence without good reason to interfere with the work of the independent Custodial Inspector under the act that established that statutory position. That is part of the reason we have continued to badger the minister about this report.

We still do not have an answer even having asked the question again in parliament today. The question is why was the independent Custodial Inspector's report into the Ashley Youth Detention Centre redacted? Who directed or asked for that redaction to happen? What was the role of the minister? That means, what was the role of his office, because remember in a Westminster system in making sure that the report that was tabled in this place hid the worst aspects of the failures of the Ashley Youth Detention Centre to properly respond to young people who are in its care for a whole range of reasons?

We know there are massive problems at the Ashley Youth Detention Centre. It is a failed model for dealing with juvenile offenders. It fails to deliver a therapeutic approach and really - I have said this before, I will say it one more time before I am wound up - this Government has a problem with the proposed prison at Westbury. Westbury is not a good place for a prison and the local community has made that really clear. So why isn't this Government having a look at closing down the Ashley Youth Detention Centre, establishing a northern prison if it must have one at Ashley in Deloraine?