CORRECTIONS AMENDMENT (SMOKE-FREE PRISONS) BILL 2014
Written on the 27 May 2014
Mr TEE (Eastern Metropolitan) -- I welcome the opportunity to speak on this bill, which deals with smoking and smoking in prisons in particular. It has been a long three years under this government for people who like to see reform when it comes to smoking. As we heard today, Victoria now has the dubious distinction of having won the Dirty Ashtray Award for the third year in a row.
Hon. D. M. Davis -- It still is.Mr TEE -- The minister says, 'It still is'. That is not right, Minister. As you know, that is not the view of the AMA, which has clearly given Victoria a damning report card -- a massive fail -- when it comes to tackling the issue of smoking in our community, an issue which we know causes an enormous amount of harm to the lives of people.
It is really quite disappointing, or a coincidence I suppose, that we are -- --Mr Ondarchie -- You're supporting the bill, are you?
Mr TEE -- Mr Ondarchie, I am disappointed that under this government Victoria has stooped to such a low level when it comes to smoking.I want to make a few specific comments in relation to this bill, which deals with smoking in our prisons. It is worth noting the state of our prisons under this government. We have seen the proliferation of overcrowding. We have seen an increase in the incidence of violence, not just violence by prisoners against prisoners but also violence by prisoners against prison officers working in our prison system. Those reports have come through the media and through the Ombudsman, who has warned this government that overcrowding will lead to harm and injury for prisoners and guards. These are issues that we on this side of the house think need to be carefully managed.
We are concerned about this bill, which will lead to a ban on smoking in all areas of prisons. There is a risk that if you force prisoners to stop smoking against their will, which is what this bill does, they may become agitated and violent. That would be a terrible outcome not only for prisoners but also for prison guards.We are also concerned that the ban proposed in this bill may lead to a black market in cigarettes. Cigarettes might become contraband. We know this government has been unable to stop the flow of illegal goods into prisons. It has been unable to stop the flow of heroin into prisons. Here it proposes, rather ambitiously, I think, to stop the smuggling of tobacco products into prisons.
Mr Ondarchie interjected.Mr TEE -- Mr Ondarchie, I am evenly balanced in terms of my concerns about some of the consequences that may flow from this ban. We have a prison population -- 85 per cent of whom smoke, compared to 14 per cent of the general population -- which is increasingly overcrowded and which the Ombudsman has warned is likely to see further incidence of violence. On top of that this bill proposes to ban smoking.
We want to make sure that all these things are carefully considered, and we would urge the government to ensure that prison officers and prisoners have the support they need to ensure a successful transition to this new system. With those few caveats, I advise the chamber that the opposition does not oppose this bill.Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) -- I rise today on behalf of the Greens to speak on the Corrections Amendment (Smoke-Free Prisons) Bill 2014. I do not think anyone in this chamber would doubt that the Greens are extremely passionate about tobacco reform. As most people here would know, smoking kills around 4000 Victorians every year. That is more than the road toll, alcohol and drugs combined. It is the greatest public health issue of our time, and a range of measures can be taken to help further reduce smoking rates. However, banning smoking in prisons would not have been at the top of my priority list.
At the top of my list is banning smoking in outdoor dining and drinking areas. I believe this is one of the most important things the government could be doing to reduce smoking take-up rates, particularly reducing smoking by young people, to provide a prompt to Victorians across the state to quit, to reduce cues for smoking -- when children see people smoking in dining areas it says to them that it is a normal thing and that it is fine to take it up -- and to create a culture where smoking is no longer the norm. But time and again the government shies away from this key reform, I suspect to placate one of its key donors, the Australian Hotels Association. In 2012-13 the Australian Hotels Association donated $306 000 to the Victorian division of the Liberal Party. In the same period it donated $12 070 to The Nationals Victoria. As we all know, donations from lobby groups have gained quite some attention lately. Questions of integrity -- or lack of integrity -- and the undue political influence of wealthy and powerful lobby groups have been raised but have not been answered by this government.
If we are going to talk about the influence of wealthy lobby groups, we need to question the government on what influence the Australian Hotels Association has had on its decision to refuse to deal with smoking in outdoor dining areas. Why is this coalition government enduring the shame of Victoria being the only state not to have made outdoor dining and drinking areas smoke free? This week, for the third year running, those opposite received the Dirty Ashtray Award.
What more do they need to tell them that this is not the way to go?I found the minister's answer in question time to be quite amazing -- that somehow the Australian Medical Association was such a suspect organisation. This is a group of highly qualified doctors saying to the government that it has it wrong on smoking. It is not the Greens saying the government has it wrong on smoking; it is doctors in the field who deal with these issues every day saying it.
I would like to move now to the substantive content of the bill. The prohibition on smoking in enclosed workplaces was an important reform for the protection of workers' health, and I am old enough to remember the days when people used to smoke in the workplace and when people were still allowed to smoke in movie theatres and on trains.Every time one of those prohibitions came in, the world was going to end -- it was going to be terrible, it was going to be awful -- but people just managed to do it. At the time when that law was introduced, prison cells and prison exercise yards were excluded from it. In practice most prisons restrict smoking in cells, and most of the smoking happens in the prison yard. Now the government is looking to exclude smoking altogether. With around 85 per cent of Australian prisoners smoking and many prison officers smoking as well, this will have a significant impact on the prison environment.
With many prisoners suffering from mental health issues, acquired brain injuries or intellectual disabilities, I have had a number of reservations about this bill. I have been concerned that some prisoners will not understand the need for this, will see it as a violation of their rights and will become agitated or violent. I have had concerns that this smoking bill will lead to escalated violence as prisoners and guards go through nicotine withdrawal.I have been concerned that cigarettes will become yet another contraband item that will be illegally traded and form the basis upon which people experience standover tactics and bullying and end up financially out of pocket due to high prices. We know drugs are regularly trafficked into prisons. What is going to stop tobacco being trafficked in the same way?
I am not just doom and gloom here; I have actually done the work. I have looked at other jurisdictions to see how it has been implemented. New Zealand is a very good example of how to implement smoke-free prisons. In fact New Zealand's example is now being held up as best practice in how to do this. The key to new Zealand's success has been the comprehensive preparation provided both by the Department of Corrections and the individual correction facilities, the availability, range and standard of smoking cessation support services, and the opportunity to learn from overseas experiences and enact a comprehensive policy covering both indoors and outdoors.In the New Zealand example preparation started 12 months out from the ban, with information and access to quit supports, including nicotine support therapy. Nine months before the total ban, voluntary smoke-free units were established. Tobacco sales were outlawed in prisons a month beforehand, and police stations also promoted the smoke-free prisons policy in advance. While the Victorian government announced this ban in November last year, from what I can gather from discussions I have had with the department during our briefing and with stakeholders such as Quit, the government does not seem to be anywhere nearly as organised as that.
In relation to smoking cessation services, New Zealand provided inmates with both pharmacological and behavioural support. This included nicotine replacement therapy, access to the free national phone service Quitline, access to cessation guidance books and assistance from health-care staff trained in smoking cessation support.Extra activities were provided as part of the smoking cessation program, including sporting events, exercise initiatives, cultural activities and art classes. In one correctional facility prisoners were provided with healthy snacks such as carrot sticks to assist with withdrawal symptoms. In order for the Victorian smoke-free prison policy to work, these supports will be critical.
Some will question the need for the smoking bans to extend to outdoor areas as well as living quarters. I wondered about this myself, but research from New Zealand indicates that the 100 per cent smoke-free environment was one of the keys to its success, given that enforcement is a challenge when it is allowed in some areas. Getting staff on board with it also appears to be critical to success, as evidence from the US suggests that poor compliance with a smoke-free prison policy is associated with a lack of strict enforcement by staff who object to the rules.
Considering these findings in New Zealand, the Greens would be willing to support this bill on the proviso that we are convinced that the government will implement this new law in a way that is well planned, that the government will provide comprehensive and free supports to staff and inmates to quit and that the government will be willing to have this policy independently reviewed after 12 months. I have received a briefing from the department, but many of my questions were not answered, so I intend to ask the minister a number of questions during the committee stage.
Hon. R. A. DALLA-RIVA (Eastern Metropolitan) -- I rise to speak in support of the Corrections Amendment (Smoke-Free Prisons) Bill 2014.
From all the doom and gloom of the previous speakers, you would think we had created heresy with the introduction of this piece of legislation. I might just say that this is in fact a move towards ensuring that all prisons in Victoria go smoke free by 1 July 2015, and this was announced last year.As we know, Australian prisons have significant populations of smokers. When you look at the figure for the general community, you see that around 40 per cent of the population smokes. When you look at Australian prisoners, you see that figure rises to around 85 per cent. We know Victoria has led the way in prison rehabilitation. We know we have tried to support a healthy, smoke-free lifestyle. Moving now towards prisons being smoke free is part of a move towards long-term health not only for Victorian workers in those prison systems but also for the prisoners themselves.
When the announcement was made, Quit put out a press release on 14 November 2013, declaring, 'Smoke-free prisons a breath of fresh air for staff and prisoners'. The press release states:Quit Victoria has applauded the state government's decision to make all prisons in Victoria smoke free by 2015.
It goes on to say that prisoners have extremely high smoking rates and that prisons often become initiation points for smoking -- that is, prisoners who do not smoke before they enter the prison system are more likely to take up smoking and continue to smoke afterwards.
The other point to note is that all the evidence from around the world says that second-hand smoke is a significant issue for people who are confronted by it.A prison would perhaps be one of the worst places for second-hand smoke to collect because there is nowhere for it to go, given the nature of prisons. This bill is good for prisons, it is good for prisoners, and I might say it is good for prison staff, who will now be entitled to work in an environment that is safe from the scourge of second-hand smoke if they do not smoke themselves.
As a former member of the VicHealth board, I know the work that has been done in trying to eliminate cigarette smoking from our environment and from the community. I know Ms Hartland touched on issues where perhaps she would be in agreement with what VicHealth thought. Obviously these things, as the minister indicated today, need to be considered in a more wholesome environment. Ms Hartland perhaps drew a bit of a long bow with some the links she made.In the context of the debate, I do not intend to add anything further other than to say that this is a good bill.
It is a simple bill in the sense that it introduces some continuing reforms. I am pleased the Minister for Corrections is present, not only because he can listen to the main speakers from each of the parties but also because he can listen to what we are saying so that we do not end up going over the edge.
This is a good piece of legislation. I look forward to its speedy passage. There will be issues which will need to be dealt with in the transition stage, and I am sure the minister is well attuned to those. Given there is a fairly lengthy lead time to the introduction of these measures, the prison system itself will be well prepared and able to ensure the full delivery of the processes needed to establish smoke-free prisons in Victoria. I commend the bill to the house.
Mr RONALDS (Eastern Victoria) -- I rise to contribute to the debate on the Corrections Amendment (Smoke-Free Prisons) Bill 2014, which implements the coalition government's policy of delivering smoke-free Victorian prisons. The bill implements the coalition's policy by amending the Corrections Act 1986 and the Tobacco Act 1987. It permits the making of regulations concerning tobacco-smoking accessories such as pipes and sources of tobacco ignition such as cigarette lighters. This will allow regulations to be made restricting the entry of tobacco-smoking accessories to prisons and will also reduce the incidence of prisoners setting fires. Restricting the entry of these items will also make it more difficult for prisoners to make weapons, which in some cases is a very big problem.
Smoking is the largest contributor to preventable death in Victoria, and it increases the risk of someone developing a number of chronic health conditions. A total smoking ban in Victorian prisons will reduce the health risks associated with smoking and will eliminate the risk to prisoners and prison staff of exposure to second-hand smoke, as we have heard.
As announced by the Premier and the Minister for Corrections last year, the ban on smoking in Victorian prisons will commence on 1 July 2015. It is a fantastic policy that builds on other successful antismoking reforms introduced by the coalition government. In December 2013 a total smoking ban came into operation at the Malmsbury youth justice precinct. On 1 March 2014 all areas of railway stations and raised platform tram stops in Victoria were made smoke free. Smoking has been prohibited at patrolled Victorian beaches since 2012.Each of these reforms demonstrates and reflects the commitment of the coalition government to provide a safe and productive workplace, safe and clean public transport and improved health outcomes for all Victorians. I am sure many members of this house have had friends and family who have tried to quit smoking, and I am sure all would agree that it is very difficult.
The ban will start in July 2015. This commencement date will give authorities the opportunity to take action to reduce smoking rates amongst prisoners before the total ban starts, which will assist in a smooth transition. An implementation team has been established to ensure that all prisons are prepared and fully supported over the next 12 months and that any issues are addressed before the ban is brought into effect.As I said, quitting is not easy, and that would be particularly so for prisoners who have been smoking for a very long time.
To assist prisoners to quit, they will have access to smoking cessation programs and nicotine replacement therapy products. The government is also working with health organisations such as VicHealth, Quit Victoria and others on the provision of health promotion and smoking cessation support to assist prisoners to adjust to a new, healthier lifestyle.The smoking ban will also provide for a healthier and safer workplace for prison staff, reducing their exposure to second-hand smoke and preventing injury caused by the misuse of smoking paraphernalia such as matches and lighters. The smoking ban will ensure more prisoners return to the community smoke free at the completion of their sentences. The government is confident that the smoking ban will provide healthier outcomes for prison staff, a safer and healthier prison environment and a healthier community. I congratulate the minister and commend this bill to the house.
Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) -- I am pleased to rise to speak on the Corrections Amendment (Smoke-Free Prisons) Bill 2014. As others have highlighted to the chamber this evening, this is an important bill which implements the government's policy to deliver smoke-free Victorian prisons and address the long-term health and safety implications associated with smoking. As has been highlighted, the bill amends the Corrections Act 1986 to permit regulations to be made for a total smoking ban across the Victorian prison system from 1 July 2015. It also amends the Tobacco Act 1987 to remove the exemption from the offence of smoking in an enclosed workspace that currently applies in relation to prison cells and exercise yards.As has been stated by other members, smoking is an activity that is devastating in terms of what it inflicts on the individual. Second-hand smoke can also have a major impact on people's health. This bill provides for a total smoking ban in prisons.
This will not only reduce risks to prisoners but also reduce risks to prison staff by eliminating second-hand smoke.This morning I spoke about the Cats Don't Smoke app, which I launched on Friday night. As I said at the time, this app provides a number of tools. One of those tools is a discussion of the science of smoking. The facts are that cigarette smoke combines 4000 chemicals. The app refers to mainstream smoke, which is the smoke inhaled by the smoker -- in this case the prisoner. There is also sidestream smoke, which is the smoke from the end of a lit cigarette. Finally, there is second-hand smoke from smokers who exhale.
Of the 4000 or so chemicals present in cigarette smoke, more than 60 have been identified as cancer-causing chemicals. We know that each year around 4000 people in Victoria die from smoking or smoking-related diseases. It has an enormous impact on the individual of course but also on the wider community and on the health system. Looking through some of the cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco smoke, I see that they include chemicals such as benzene, 2-naphthylamine, 4-aminobiphenyl, chromium, cadmium, vinyl chloride, ethylene oxide, arsenic, beryllium, nickel and polonium-210. This information is provided in the Cats Don't Smoke app to assist people, and I would encourage anyone who smokes to download this app, whether they barrack for the Geelong Football Club or not, because it talks about the harmful effects of the toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke.
This legislation is in line with that in other jurisdictions. I believe the Northern Territory implemented a total smoking ban in prisons from 2013; Queensland has banned smoking in prisons from May -- I presume that occurred this year; and New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania have all announced they will ban smoking in prisons in 2015. So we are in line with several other jurisdictions that are undertaking this health reform.I see that this reform has been applauded by Quit Victoria. According to a Quit Victoria media release put out after this measure was announced:
Quit Victoria has been providing cessation support in prisons for more than a decade and many prisoners do want to quit but find it difficult in an environment where they are constantly exposed to cigarette smoke.
Mr ELSBURY (Western Metropolitan) -- I would like to echo a lot of the comments that have been made in relation to the Corrections Amendment (Smoke-Free Prisons) Bill 2014. As a society we have come a long way when it comes to how we deal with tobacco products -- from the 1980s when Benson & Hedges was advertising at the cricket all the way through to today when we have a Formula One grand prix where the various cigarette companies have to cover up their signage as the cars go around Albert Park. We have done these things because we see the detriment that smoking can cause to people in our community, both to smokers themselves and through second-hand smoke.
We provide a corrections system in this state which is as much about punishment for the crimes people commit as it is about rehabilitation of the individuals who are so unfortunate as to be incarcerated. This means we have a duty of care to these people.We need to be able to care for them, to provide them with a safe environment and also, where we can, to assist them in remedying some of the issues they have in their lives so that ultimately they will not reoffend but will, we hope, come out better people in the end.
This is basically the last bastion in terms of people being forced to deal with smoke at close quarters. We have got rid of smoking at train stations. It is now illegal in the state of Victoria to smoke on a train station platform, at a bus stop or at a tram stop. It is now illegal to smoke between the flags on patrolled beaches. It is illegal to smoke near play equipment or in and around kids sporting events. This all makes sense because we have come to a point where smoking cigarettes is becoming less and less socially acceptable. But imagine being stuck in a very small exercise yard in a prison with several people puffing away like there is no tomorrow.
I am thinking of what it was like to go to the pub when I was at university -- the haze you had to swim through to see the band that was playing or to go and say hi to the good-looking girl at the other end of the room. I should be careful where I am going with this considering that we are talking about prisons! In any case, to be able to enjoy that little bit of free time that you have in prison, to be able to enjoy the little bit of fresh air that you do get without having to suck down the smoke from the cigarette that someone else has been puffing away on is probably one of the last rights that we need to protect for people who are in prison, because second-hand smoke causes a great deal of damage.
In fact firsthand smoke causes a great deal of damage also. I have no idea why anybody would ever smoke, but forcing people to be in a confined space and be faced with having cigarette smoke at such close proximity seems to be completely out of touch with what we are trying to achieve in society, so why would we continue to inflict it on people who we are asking to become better people and better members of our society than they have been in the past?We are introducing legislation that will make it illegal to have tobacco products on prison grounds. We have our fair share of prisons in my electorate of Western Metropolitan Region, and we are about to get a new one -- a new prison will soon be built at Ravenhall -- and we will be able to restrict tobacco products from coming into that prison.
This does not apply to prison car parks, so you will still be able to drive into a prison car park quite safely with a packet of cigarettes and a lighter in your car and that will not be a problem, but if you were to try to take those cigarettes with you into the prison, that is where we would have an issue.There is a restriction on taking tobacco products into a prison complex, and it will be interesting to see what happens once this ban takes place. It will be almost like high school with kids hiding around the toilet blocks trying to get a sly durry in before the next class starts. Certainly there will be penalties for any prisoner caught with tobacco products.
Penalties include the withdrawal of privileges such as full canteen spends and canteen spend items other than essential toiletries; all in-cell electrical appliances other than a radio, fan, jug and shaver may be removed; television rights, including DVDs and videotapes, where available, may be taken away; shared-unit computers and unit electronic game consoles could be removed; sporting and recreational activities may be restricted; and hobby activities and other items the prisoner may enjoy may also be taken away as a measure of punishment.We have to remember that these poor individuals are incarcerated. Many of their freedoms are being impinged upon because they have caused some sort of mischief in our society, so what we are asking them to do is reflect upon what they have done, and if they break the rules within that system, penalties apply. I fully agree that when a prisoner breaches the rules, he or she should be punished to the extent that is reasonable for that offence.
We are not talking about changing their parole conditions or the length of their sentences because they happen to have a packet of Camels in their possession, but we are saying that where it is appropriate and where someone has broken the rules by having a tobacco product on their person they should be punished appropriately.We also have to consider the rights of the workforce inside a prison, including the corrections staff, the office administration staff, even the cleaning staff to some extent. They need to be able to go about their lives without being forced to deal with second-hand smoke. These are all things we have done for workforces right across Australia. We have made it illegal to smoke in office buildings. Believe it or not, when I first started working it was still legal to smoke in your office, and it did happen. Sometimes you hated having to go into certain managers' offices because you knew you would be stung with that stench of cigarette smoke.
Bars and clubs have also made smoking illegal, with some clubs offering outdoor areas upstairs in their clubs for smokers. I think that is a good thing because I can be downstairs watching the footy or talking to my friends and family members over a meal in the pub while the smokers are outside freezing. I quite like that idea because I enjoy my time with friends and family at bars, and being able to talk to them without having to deal with cigarette smoke makes me quite happy. For the workers in those establishments we are providing them with safety and flexibility in their workplaces.Finally, we will also remove an element of smoking paraphernalia which can cause a lot of disruption and danger in the system, and that occurs because lighting a cigarette requires fire. It might seem quite simple that you need fire to light a cigarette, but in a prison environment it can be quite dangerous. Whether it be matches or a cigarette lighter, we are talking about an implement that can be used against prison guards and against other prisoners.
Fire is one of the oldest weapons in the world, and being able to use it against someone is something I take quite seriously.
There have been incidents in the past where fires have been lit in prison blocks, mostly using implements that were made available to the prisoners for smoking cigarettes, and they have had disastrous consequences. You can look through the history of prisons and see that this has happened time and again right around the world where fires have been lit. We want to make our prisons as safe as possible for the prisoners and also for the people in the workforces at those prisons, ensuring that the prisoners are first of all doing what they are supposed to be doing, and certainly assisting them, because we are not just talking about the prison guards; we are also talking about the other staff that come in, such as the psychologists, the outreach workers and the chaplains who try to guide some of our prisoners through this very tough time in their lives.
We want to make our prisoners better than they were when they went in, and this is an important step forward. It is a reflection of what is going on in society, a reflection of how seriously the state government is taking cigarette smoking in society and indeed in our prison network. With those few words, I intend to vote in favour of the bill, and I look forward to its passage and seeing that from 1 July 2015 our prisons are smoke free.Mr ONDARCHIE (Northern Metropolitan) -- The Corrections Amendment (Smoke-Free Prisons) Bill 2014 is the one I rise to support tonight. I thank Mr Dalla-Riva, Ms Crozier, Mr Elsbury and Mr Ronalds for their contributions, along with Ms Hartland, and also Mr Tee, who gave us probably the longest extended sentence we have ever heard as we waited to hear whether he was going to support the bill.
He is the Legislative Council's own version of the Marlboro Man. He finally told us that he will not oppose this very important bill. I do not know why members opposite cannot just say they will support the bill.This bill implements the coalition's smoke-free prison policy by amending the Corrections Act 1986 to permit the making of regulations prohibiting smoking in prisons. This is another example of how we are trying to demonstrate to the people of Victoria our commitment to minimising the health impact of smoking in Victoria. Smoking is a health hazard. I know because I was a smoker, and occasionally I get caught having the odd cigarette.
The bill amends the Tobacco Act 1987 to remove the exemption from the offence of smoking in an enclosed work space that currently applies in relation to prison cells and exercise yards.It also permits regulations to be made to ban smoking accessories such as pipes and methods of tobacco ignition such as cigarette lighters. It will allow regulations to be made to restrict the entry of tobacco smoking accessories into prisons and will reduce the incidence of prisoners setting fires.
To ensure that our hardworking prison staff have the powers necessary to enforce the smoking ban, the Corrections Act will also be amended to make it clear that tobacco products and tobacco-smoking accessories can be seized. Our prison governors will be able to authorise the possession of tobacco products and related items such as lighters in limited areas, such as the prison car park, or require them to be kept in lockers in an area away from the cells and the prisoners. Visitors will be informed of the ban on tobacco products and smoking accessories at the entrance by signs, by our hardworking staff at Corrections Victoria and by our prison officers.As others have said tonight, smoking is the primary contributor to preventable death in Victoria. It increases the risk of developing a number of chronic health conditions. A total smoking ban in Victorian prisons will reduce the health risk for prisoners and prison staff and eliminate their exposure to second-hand smoke. But it is not just us saying this is an important thing: Quit Victoria has applauded the state government's decision to make all prisons in Victoria smoke free by 2015. Quit Victoria's policy manager, Kylie Lindorff, said on 14 November 2013:
We know that prisoners have extremely high smoking rates and prisons are often an initiation point for smoking. If you didn't smoke before you entered prison, it's highly likely you will afterwards ...
Mr RAMSAY (Western Victoria) -- It gives me pleasure to speak on the Corrections Amendment (Smoke-Free Prisons) Bill 2014. In doing so I would like to congratulate the Minister for Corrections, the Honourable Ed O'Donohue, on the good work he is doing in relation to his portfolio. I refer particularly to the Hopkins Correctional Centre, known as the Ararat jail, where he and his predecessor, Andrew McIntosh, turned around what was a chaotic shemozzle of a public-private partnership, which had significant economic impacts on the Ararat community.Unfortunately one of the consortium members was not able to fulfil their responsibilities under the terms of the contract negotiated by the Labor government at the time. Now we have over 200 people gainfully employed, and that prison is going through a number of stages of upgrade and extension work which will provide a state-of-the-art corrections facility for western Victoria. Langi Kal Kal and the new Ravenswood prison will also provide ongoing accommodation for those who trespass against the laws of the land.
The bill will amend the Corrections Act 1986 to permit regulations to be made for a total smoking ban across the Victorian prison system from 1 July 2015. The bill will amend the Tobacco Act 1987 to remove the exemption for the offence of smoking in an enclosed workplace that currently applies in relation to prison cells and exercise yards. That is the overall objective of the bill. It will insert the power to make regulations for the prohibition and regulation of smoking in any part of a prison. The bill will also permit regulations to be made concerning the entry, use and possession of tobacco products and tobacco-related accessories such as pipes and methods of ignition.
I want to flag that I have some sympathy with Ms Hartland -- and I have said this before -- in that our step-by-step approach in relation to confining designated smoking areas in Victoria, particularly in relation to food, is a concern of mine. We still allow people to eat and smoke in outdoor areas. This is from the point of view of a reformed smoker, like Mr Ondarchie. My prison was three children. Each time I used to light up they would say I was going to die, and that was motivation for me to give up smoking some 25 years ago.I have not touched a cigarette since. I think reformed smokers are even more acutely sensitive to the impact of smoke from smokers, particularly around food. That is why I will do what I can to support Ms Hartland's endeavours, and our government's endeavours, to provide smoke-free eating facilities in outside areas. I am pleased to see that the minister and the Parliamentary Secretary for Health have indicated that this step-by-step process will reach that outcome eventually, and I look forward to that.
As I said, this is a small bill. It will prohibit smoking in prisons. It will be good for the staff and for the prisoners, and it is certainly consistent with what other states are doing. On that basis I commend the bill to the house.Motion agreed to.
Read second time.Committed.
Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) -- I have a series of questions on clause 1, and then I have one question on clause 4.
Will the government be replicating the model for smoking bans in prisons which was implemented in New Zealand? What is the government's management plan for the implementation and ongoing management of this smoking ban?
Hon. E. J. O'DONOHUE (Minister for Corrections) -- The government made this announcement in November last year.One reason for the extended lead-in time until the ban takes effect in July next year is to consider the implementation that has taken place in other jurisdictions, including New Zealand. Other jurisdictions in Australia have recently implemented a ban on smoking, so we will be considering best practice and taking the learnings from those other jurisdictions. Corrections Victoria has established an implementation team, and I have asked for advice from the Justice Health Ministerial Advisory Council, which includes Jerril Rechter from VicHealth. There will be ongoing monitoring and evaluation, and prisoners who smoke who come into the system after July next year will be assisted to adapt to the smoke-free environment.
In response to this question I make this point while we are considering clause 1.In their contributions to the second-reading debate Mr Tee and Ms Hartland did not give appropriate weight to the health consequences for those who do not smoke in prison or for those who are stood over to commence smoking or who in some other way decide to take up smoking in prison because doing so is the culture of the prison and considered to be the norm. We need to consider those people when we are discussing this matter.
Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) -- My reputation for being a campaigner against tobacco products is very clear. The minister's last remarks about me not understanding the health implications of this were not appropriate. I understand that a committee has been set up to advise the government, and I understand that Jerril Rechter from VicHealth is on it. Who else is on that committee, or what other organisations are represented on that committee?
Hon. E. J. O'DONOHUE (Minister for Corrections) -- As I said in the answer to the first question Ms Hartland asked, a dedicated implementation team from Corrections Victoria is already working very hard to deliver best practice when it comes to this implementation. The Justice Health Ministerial Advisory Council, which I established, has on it a range of leading health and professionals experts, including Professor James Ogloff, who worked closely with Mr Callinan and who Corrections Victoria continues to consult as part of the implementation of the Callinan recommendations. We will take advice from a range of sources and consider the way other jurisdictions have managed this implementation. We have left a long lead-in time so that we can appropriately consider all those matters and give prisoners and prison staff every opportunity to adapt to the changed environment.
I quote from an email that the commissioner of Corrections Victoria received in November last year when the decision was announced. It is addressed to Jan, referring to Commissioner Shuard, and says:
What a tremendous and welcomed move this is.It is a move that has been in many work places for a long time.
My own father died of lung cancer some 20 years ago, he was 46 years of age. He was a heavy smoker.The loss to my family was immeasurable at the time and to this day is still felt.
I do not think that it is an overexaggeration to claim that this one decision will save many, many lives both prisoners and staff alike.
The email goes on to make further strong remarks about endorsing this decision of the government and congratulates the corrections commissioner for this decision. This is a decision that will be widely welcomed by staff. For those staff and prisoners who smoke, there will be appropriate assistance in place to help them transition to a smoke-free environment.
Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) -- Again I repeat that I do understand the health implications of tobacco use -- my mother died at the age of 60 years from lung cancer, and a number of my relatives have died from lung cancer -- so the minister does not need to lecture me about the health benefits of quitting smoking. I want to establish whether the government has a management plan so that this can run smoothly, so I will continue with my questions about the management plan. It is quite unfortunate that the minister has not been able to tell me who is on the committee, so could he tell me how often the committee has met?
Hon. E. J. O'DONOHUE (Minister for Corrections) -- The committee's task is to provide advice to government and to Corrections Victoria about how to best deliver this government policy.
Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) -- It was a fairly simple question. Could the minister tell me about the terms of reference of the committee?
Hon. E. J. O'DONOHUE (Minister for Corrections) -- I repeat my previous answer.Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) -- So the minister is not prepared to answer the question. Can the minister provide details of the implementation management plan, and will this overarching plan be made publicly available?
Hon. E. J. O'DONOHUE (Minister for Corrections) -- We are in May, and the cessation of smoking will commence in July next year. Part of the reason for the long lead-in time is to allow Corrections Victoria the appropriate time to consider best practice in the development of its implementation. That work is currently in train and is being undertaken.
Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) -- The New Zealand example showed us that it takes at least a year to do this work. What I need to know is whether it is in train and when it will become public. I do not think these are difficult questions. Can the government provide details of the programs that will be provided to support prisoners to quit, including what support services they will receive and for what duration they will receive them?
Hon. E. J. O'DONOHUE (Minister for Corrections) -- Prisoners will have access to counselling and support services, including Quit programs as well as nicotine replacement therapies (NRT). Details about the duration of Quit support are still being finalised. However, it is expected that products such as NRT will be available for 12 weeks or more as per community standards. The project team is working with key stakeholders such as Quit Victoria and VicHealth to develop prisoner-specific programs and information.
Hon. E. J. O'DONOHUE (Minister for Corrections) -- As I have said in response to many of Ms Hartland's questions, as part of the process we will consider best practice and make sure appropriate assistance and support is there to help prisoners and prison staff to quit smoking.
Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) -- I think that was a fairly simple question. I was only asking whether prisoners and staff members will be able to receive these services for more than 12 weeks, but again the minister does not appear to be able to answer that. I think that is most unfortunate.
How will prison workers be supported to manage and what strategies will be put in place to minimise the heightened anger that is likely to be associated with the introduction of a smoking ban and nicotine withdrawal, especially considering the large numbers of people within the prison population who have a brain injury, intellectual disability or mental illness?Hon. E. J. O'DONOHUE (Minister for Corrections) -- One of the reasons for the long lead-in time is so that all of those matters can be appropriately considered as part of the implementation of this policy.
Hon. E. J. O'DONOHUE (Minister for Corrections) -- Will staff and prisoners be notified of the ban? I just read into Hansard for the benefit of the house a piece of correspondence to the corrections commissioner from a prison officer at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre. The prison staff are well aware of this policy.
The government made this announcement in November last year, and I have spoken about this in the house. The general managers of all the prisons are obviously aware of the policy and have communicated it to the staff. The corrections commissioner has communicated this information to staff, and the prisoners are aware of this change. Part of the reason for that announcement being made was so that prisoners and prison staff could consider how they could best adapt to the changed, healthier and improved environment that will flow as a result of this policy change. The detailed implementation of the policy is being considered and worked on now. Work is being done now so that when the policy takes effect in 13 months time the system, the correction staff and the prisoners are ready.
Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) -- With respect to nicotine patches and other nicotine replacement products, will these be provided free to inmates? The minister has already talked about it being 12 weeks. If a prisoner requires them after 12 weeks, will they still be available, and at what cost?
Hon. E. J. O'DONOHUE (Minister for Corrections) -- Patches and other support products will be available for free, as prisoners are not eligible for the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Details around the duration of support are still being finalised, but it will reflect community standards.
Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) -- Will inmates be provided with increased activity programs to act as a distraction while they are quitting?Hon. E. J. O'DONOHUE (Minister for Corrections) -- This government is very proud of the fact that, according to the report on government services 89.1 per cent of eligible prisoners are engaged in some form of work in our prison system. Members such as Mr O'Brien, Mr Ramsay and Mr Koch have advocated for the Landmate program, and the other programs that Corrections Victoria runs employ prisoners in important community work. The prison environment is already a very busy environment.
Prisoners are expected to work, undertake education and prepare themselves for life in the community.
Part of the $84 million package associated with the reforms to the parole system based on the Callinan review will deliver better behavioural change programs in prisons. Our prisoners are already engaged in a range of activities. As I said, Victoria leads the way when it comes to the percentage of eligible prisoners engaged in some form of work, and the government is keen to expand that where possible. I note, for example, the relatively new bakery that is now in operation at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre, the women's prison, and with the new Ravenhall project a range of things are being considered. So in response to Ms Hartland's question, Victoria leads the way when it comes to eligible prisoners being engaged in work and a variety of other activities in a prison, and I would expect that to continue.
Hon. E. J. O'DONOHUE (Minister for Corrections) -- Prisoners will have access to health services staff and Quit facilitators for additional support should they need it.Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) -- Could the minister outline exactly what that means? Does that mean they are going to be able to access the Quitline? Does it mean there will be weekly sessions? What exactly does that mean? I am trying to find out what the management plan is for this transition, and the minister is giving me very vague answers.
We are setting the legislative framework tonight; we are not delivering the implementation plan.But I can give Ms Hartland comfort that the government will make the appropriate resources available and that Corrections Victoria will consider the learnings from other jurisdictions such as New Zealand and the Northern Territory in delivering the implementation plan that is currently being developed. But tonight we are implementing the government's policy, with the concurrence of the Parliament, to ban smoking in prisons, which is a significant step forward for the prison environment and for prisoner health, particularly when one considers that 85 per cent of prisoners smoke compared to 14 per cent of people in the broader population.
Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) -- Can the minister give an indication of when the plan will be completed and whether it will be publicly available?Hon. E. J. O'DONOHUE (Minister for Corrections) -- The implementation plan is currently being developed.
What that plan looks like will depend on each prison environment. As you know, Acting President, the environment in a prison like Barwon is vastly different to the environment at Dhurringile or Langi Kal Kal or Beechworth or at the Judy Lazarus Transition Centre, which is a completely different environment again.Although this will be a matter for the detailed implementation team, I envisage there will be different responses in the different prison environments. Every prison is different, but particularly where the security classifications vary. There will be appropriate responses and appropriate implementation at the different prisons to reflect their different environments, their different security challenges and whether there are different security classifications. All those issues will inform how the implementation takes place. Again, the government has allowed sufficient lead time for all those factors to be considered, analysed and accounted for when the implementation takes place.
Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) -- I thank the minister for explaining the differences in the prisons. I still stand by my question. I do not think it is unreasonable to ask: when will the plans be finished for these various prisons, and will they be publicly available?
Hon. E. J. O'DONOHUE (Minister for Corrections) -- The implementation of this policy will be finished with plenty of time to spare prior to smoking being banned in Victorian prisons from 1 July next year. The implementation of the policy will be public. There will be very clear instructions to visitors, to prisons and to the prison staff. There will be very clear advice given about how the implementation is to take place from an operational perspective, from an occupational health and safety perspective and from the perspective of helping prisoners and prison staff to quit smoking, because fundamentally that is the objective.
They take up smoking as a result of peer group pressure or because that is just what you do in prison and then have a lifetime addiction. This smoking cessation policy will help improve the environment in our prison system, and equally importantly it will mean fewer people are smoking in the broader community.Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) -- I still have not had my question answered, which I think is most unfortunate because the minister is asking us to vote on a bill about making prisons smoke free when he cannot supply a management plan for how he is going to do that. How it is going to be managed does concern me. How will the government stop illegal trade in tobacco products and accessories within the prisons?
Hon. E. J. O'DONOHUE (Minister for Corrections) -- First of all, let me take up Ms Hartland's first comment. Ms Hartland is absolutely correct: we are voting on a piece of legislation to ban smoking in prisons from 1 July.We are not voting on a management plan. There is no management plan attached to this piece of legislation. There are no clauses relating to the management plan because that is for the detailed implementation. I have attempted to give Ms Hartland some comfort that Corrections Victoria will be appropriately resourced to deliver this policy and that the appropriate expert advice and the learnings from other jurisdictions will be obtained so that this policy can be implemented as smoothly as possible.
Ms Hartland is correct. There is no management plan before the Parliament tonight, because that is not what the Parliament is considering. We are considering the government's policy to ban smoking in prisons from 1 July next year, and I hope the Parliament endorses that policy. In relation to Ms Hartland's other matter -- --Ms Hartland -- It was in relation to how the government will stop illegal trade in tobacco products and accessories.
Hon. E. J. O'DONOHUE -- Thank you, Ms Hartland. The Auditor-General tabled a report last year regarding drugs in prisons in Victoria. He found that barrier controls were generally effective. When this ban takes place, cigarettes and accessories will be contraband, so they will be dealt with in the same manner as other contraband. We can take some comfort from the Auditor-General's report; there are opportunities for improvement, but the general proposition is as cited by the Auditor-General. We can also take some comfort from the improved security and intelligence system Corrections Victoria is operating and the remarkable, highly trained detection dogs Corrections Victoria has that are operated by the Security and Emergency Services Group.The community can take comfort from the upgrade to prison infrastructure that is taking place. I note that the Hopkins Correctional Centre upgrade that Mr Ramsay referred to in his contribution will be completed before this ban takes place. Once that work is done we will have much improved barrier control. The old gatehouse will have gone, the new wall will be completed and the improved technology that will be used as part of the entrance to the prison will be completed. I note there is also improved security infrastructure being delivered at Loddon Prison.
Tobacco will be treated as a contraband product. We have confidence in the way the system operates now, and we expect improvements as a result of the infrastructure upgrades that are taking place, coupled with the new and upgraded security and intelligence systems.Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) -- I have one final question on clause 1.
I have tried to get the minister to explain the management plan, and there does not appear to be one at this stage, but the minister said there will be one in time for the ban. Will the government allow an independent review of the implementation of the scheme one year after its introduction to assess its impact?
Hon. E. J. O'DONOHUE (Minister for Corrections) -- Evaluations of the policy to ascertain the impacts and benefits are already planned. As prisoners who smoke will continue to enter the system after the ban date, the support that is offered will continue to be refined based on the findings of the evaluation and the learnings from the implementation.
Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) -- Will that independent review be made public?Hon. E. J. O'DONOHUE (Minister for Corrections) -- I can only repeat what I said in response to the previous question, that evaluations of the policy to ascertain the impacts and benefits are already planned, and as prisoners who smoke will continue to enter the system after the ban date, the support that is offered will continually be refined based on the evaluation findings.
Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) -- The minister is not prepared to answer my question. That is most unfortunate. I have no more questions on clause 1.
Clause agreed to; clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
Clause 4Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) -- I have one question on clause 4. Clause 4(2) provides fairly wide-ranging powers to a governor in respect of allowing prisoners to possess tobacco products and smoking accessories. Can the minister clarify the intention behind this?
Hon. E. J. O'DONOHUE (Minister for Corrections) -- The reason for that provision is to provide some discretion to the governor of each prison to adapt and respond to the particular environment of their prison. I discussed previously the differences between prisons across Victoria.In some industry areas -- for example, some of the prison factories -- there may be a need to have a light or matches, for example, which would in the normal course of things be contraband, so governors need some flexibility to manage their prison environments as appropriate, taking into account the differences between the various prisons.
Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) -- I have one follow-up to that. I absolutely understand the issue about accessories, as the minister has just described, but the other part of that was 'any tobacco product', and I do not understand why a governor would place an exemption on such a product. I completely understand the issue around accessories, but the clause says 'any tobacco product or tobacco smoking accessory'.Hon. E. J. O'DONOHUE (Minister for Corrections) -- To give Ms Hartland an example, Dhurringile Prison is on a large parcel of land and operates a working dairy farm. It may be more practical for prison officers -- those who are in transition to quitting smoking -- to leave the premises to have a cigarette, for example. There may be a designated area for visitors at the entrance but away from the prison environment. The whole land-holding is designated as prison land. It may be appropriate on a large parcel of land in a rural environment to have a safe area off a main road where visitors and off-duty prison officers can have a cigarette.
Clause agreed to; clauses 5 to 8 agreed to.Reported to house without amendment.
Ordered that third reading be made order of the day for next day.
Please sign up to receive Georgie's e-newsletter