Minister for Families and Children - No Confidence Motion
Written on the 8 February 2017
8 February 2017
Minister for Families and Children
GEORGIE CROZIER (LIB-Southern Metropolitan)
I move:That the Minister for Families and Children no longer possesses the confidence of this house due to the minister's failure to
(1) accept responsibility for the ongoing crisis engulfing Victoria's youth justice system;(2) act on the numerous reports and reviews commissioned by her into the youth justice system;
(3) comply with the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 in relation to the transfer of young offenders from Parkville youth justice centre to Barwon Prison; and(4) provide accurate and timely information to this house and to the Victorian public in relation to youth justice incidents.
I note that this is a significant and serious motion that the house no longer possesses confidence in the minister. I note that these motions are moved very rarely; in fact only a couple of these types of motions have been moved in this place over the last 15 to 20 years. I am not moving this motion lightly; I am moving this motion because I believe that the Victorian community has lost confidence in the minister's ability to manage this important portfolio area, and I believe that the minister has not undertaken her responsibilities to the level the community expects. In doing so, throughout the course of the debate I will explain why I think that.Before I go to those relevant issues in relation to each of the areas that I have highlighted, I want to just remind members about what is expected of ministers, governance issues and how the Victorian community expects to have confidence in a government and of course in the executive, that being the ministers. On the Victorian Parliament's own website, in describing the role of the Parliament and the executive of government, it says, and I quote:
Ministers are then allocated responsibility for specific areas of government administration, known as portfolios. Ministers oversee the administration of their departments and are accountable to Parliament for their departments' actions.On the Victorian Public Sector Commission website it states:
Good governance provides the foundation for high performance.It strengthens community confidence in public entities and helps ensure their reputations are maintained and enhanced. It should enable public entities to perform efficiently and effectively and to respond strategically to changing demands.Governance in the public sector is built on:
constitutional, legal and government frameworks;government decision-making and reporting;
authorisations and delegations in decision-making;accountability, transparency, integrity, stewardship, efficiency and leadership;
values and codes of conduct;effective risk management;
the integrity bodies protecting public entities against crime and misconduct.
Governance gives practical meaning to public sector accountability obligations.I think these principles that I have just read out in relation to why we are here and what we are doing on behalf of every single Victorian are absolutely critical to why I have moved this motion. Again, I believe that the Victorian community has lost confidence in the minister's ability to be able to handle the youth justice crisis that has engulfed this government, quite frankly, for the last two years. We are in the third year of this government's term, and yesterday we again saw examples of the government and the minister trying to, if I can be frank, spin her way out of a situation that we should never have been in the inability for her to be up-front with the Victorian community about where the latest youth justice facility that is required is going to be built. The consultation process that she claims has been undertaken simply has not been, and that has been confirmed by what has happened the public backlash from that community, who had no idea of the government's plans.
This goes to the heart of what this government, I think, is failing to do. It is failing on so many fronts to be transparent and up-front. We have seen that with the sky rail decision along the Pakenham rail line, and we have seen that with the metro tunnel in the Domain Road precinct, where people are going to have significant impacts on them without any consultation undertaken by this government.Getting back to this motion, it is obvious that the community has got great concerns about the government's ability to manage crime. We have got a crime wave and significant issues around crime occurring right across Victoria we know that from the stats and the data and the horrific events but in recent weeks within youth justice we have seen some extremely serious developments. Some extremely serious crimes have occurred across Victoria whereby the Victorian community's lives and safety have been put at risk. That situation, which I will come back to, should never have occurred.
If I can go to the points of my motion, looking at accepting responsibility for the ongoing crisis which hasMr Herbert You should accept it.
Ms CROZIER Your minister should accept it, Mr Herbert. You are right in saying you should accept it, because that is the expectation of the Victorian public. They expect the ministerMr Herbert Then you should have done something when you were in government.
Ms CROZIER I will go to the point of what the coalition government did, Mr Herbert. I will take that interjection up because it was in fact the Victorian coalition government that acted on the 2010 Ombudsman report that was commissioned under the former Labor government, which again demonstrated a litany of failures under your administration. So I will, as I said, take up your interjection by just explaining to members what actually occurred under the former coalition government.The fact is that what the minister said, that fortification works were not undertaken, was completely untrue because of the increase in capacity in Malmsbury that was undertaken. As I said, that 2010 Ombudsman report highlighted many failures in the system, including the significant strain, low security and appalling conditions that the youth justice facilities were in and the fact that youth custodial offenders were left to their own devices. It is a fact that the coalition actually did improve the situation in the four years that we were in government by upgrading and renovating certain areas of the youth justice facilities, including by putting an education facility into Parkville. That was something that was
Mr Herbert interjected.Ms CROZIER You might nod your head, Mr Herbert
Mr Herbert It did not work.Ms CROZIER There is room for rehabilitation and support by giving young offenders a chance, and you are denying what has actually happened. You cannot deny that the former coalition government did nothing because there were no riots under the former coalition government. There was none of this mess, and there was none of this out-of-control situation where the staff members have been threatened with rape and have been assaulted day in and day out
Mr Herbert Absolute rubbish.Ms CROZIER It is not rubbish, Mr Herbert! I can see that Mr Herbert is on the defensive here because he understands that there were no riots under the former coalition government. There was an investment and expansion of youth justice diversionary options, which helped reduce reoffending. There was a reduction in the number of young offenders aged 10 to 17 who came into contact with Victoria Police by up to 7 per cent during that time. There was a reduction in the average number of young people on community-based supervision orders. There was an investment in a range of drug and alcohol health and rehabilitative services for those offenders who were in youth justice facilities. There was significant infrastructure investment, as I said, including $54.5 million for security. Again, Mr Herbert, there were no riots, and that investment of 45 beds at Malmsbury was just the start. You have done nothing. You have just overseen a system in crisis that has been trashed because your minister has actually lost control. So you cannot sit there and lecture me, because the facts and the data stand for themselves
Mr Herbert interjected.Ms CROZIER You can banter on, Mr Herbert, but you know that the community has lost confidence in your government and your minister to handle this very serious situation. I am going to go back to what has actually happened under your watch in the two years well, we are in the third year of your government now that you have been in government. Your minister has been an absolute failure. There have been more than 30 riots or serious incidents at youth justice facilities since October 2015. I am just going to go through them all for members' benefit so that we get an understanding of their severity.
On 31 October six inmates armed with cricket bats and tennis rackets climbed onto the roof of Parkville youth justice centre. Four workers were assaulted, one during an attempted stabbing. On 6 March Parkville youth justice centre was in lockdown after hammers, pitchforks and metal bars were stolen from a horticultural shed. On 7 March six teenage boys were involved in a 7-hour stand-off on the roof of the Parkville facility. They were armed with poles and some were involved in destructive and damaging behaviour. Violent incidents at Parkville, it was revealedMr Herbert It's fanciful!
Ms Wooldridge Thirty riots!Ms CROZIER Thirty riots!
Mr Herbert That's made up. You just made that up.Ms CROZIER It's not made up! Mr Herbert, this is
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Melhem) Order! Mr Herbert!Ms CROZIER Through you, Acting President, this is the problem with you and your government
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Melhem) Order! Ms Crozier, I did call for order!Mr Herbert interjected.
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Melhem) Order! Mr Herbert! Ms Crozier to continue without interruption. Ms Crozier, can you please direct your comments through the Chair.Ms CROZIER As I was saying, there have been over 30 riots and serious incidents that we know about. On 23 March an employee at the Parkville youth justice centre was injured when he intervened to separate a physical altercation between detainees. One of the clients within the unit observed a client in the foyer through the aluminium door and began kicking the door. It was broken from its hinges, which then compromised the physical separation. The two gangs of clients interacted and several began fighting. Staff intervened, which led to the injury. It has since been revealed that findings were made against the Department of Health and Human Services because the Minister for Families and Children was unable to provide a safe workplace, and that is fact.
On 26 March a youth justice inmate was rushed to hospital after suffering a broken leg. On 6 May dozens of images were issued through media outlets that demonstrated the issues that were arising. The huge amount of damage demonstrated to the Victorian public for the first time the true extent of what was going on: extensive damage to the infrastructure, including large holes in the ceilings and walls; smashed doors and windows; destroyed office equipment; importantly and alarmingly, private information was accessed in a series of these events; and even up to the latest escape from Malmsbury just a few weeks ago.On 27 July there were probes into alleged abuses at the various detention centres. A young offender spent 10 days in solitary confinement. On 17 August there was another issue that caused lengthy lockdowns for youths at the Parkville youth justice centre. The issues just roll on and on at Parkville. On 8 September a shocking WorkSafe report revealed that staff at a Victorian youth prison were at risk of being killed by its violent inmates. Some of those workers were quoted, saying it was more dangerous there than at an adult jail. Female staff were regularly threatened with rape. Code blacks or assaults were at an alarming rate, and the staff felt that they did not have the capacity or ability to manage the situation. In fact it was reported that staff were frightened for their lives and they were also frightened that other young offenders who were not involved in the activity could be very badly hurt and assaulted due to the many issues that were going on.
On 10 September staff at Parkville youth justice centre reported gang activities occurring on the Friday night prior, with louts in balaclavas outside the Parkville centre letting off firecrackers and flares in support of those inside. A spokesman from the Department of Health and Human Services said that there were a number of young offenders involved in incidents and the unit was in lockdown.On 11 September about 11 juvenile offenders, some believed to be members of the Apex gang, threatened three staff and took over the Melbourne Youth Justice Centre for 2 hours on the Saturday night. Staff were forced to barricade themselves in an office, where they placed furniture against the door to stop young inmates from breaking in. On 13 September
Mr Herbert interjected.Ms CROZIER You can prattle on over there. Just listen to me. On 13 September trouble erupted for the third successive night at a major youth detention centre, where more property was damaged by inmates
Mr Herbert interjected.Ms CROZIER These are the riots that occurred, Mr Herbert, under your watch. These are the riots that your minister through you, Acting President denied even happening. I am going to go on because I want to list these riots.
On 19 September dangerous teen thugs inside a notorious youth detention centre acted up after it emerged an inmate had received preferential treatment in a bid to curb his violent behaviour.We know that the rioters were bribed with pizzas and soft drinks to get off the roof. This does not go to the heart of what is required to rehabilitate or support these young offenders. You are just rewarding bad behaviour. The consequences are not being felt, and of course the ongoing issues just keep going. We know that more demands and more rewards have been undertaken, whether it has been icy poles, TV remote controls or any number of rewards that have been provided to try to placate some of these young offenders who have been causing serious damage while the minister has just sat on her hands and done nothing.
On 3 October 2016 a teenager had his skull cracked in an attack by a member of a rival gang inside a Melbourne youth detention centre. This 17-year-old was king hit by another teenager shortly before midday on that Monday. That was a very serious offence that at the time I asked questions about and that could have had catastrophic results for that young person. It is just disgraceful.On 17 October 2016 four youths allegedly vandalised a Melbourne detention centre before climbing on its roof, engaging in a staff stand-off for the second time in as many months. It is understood the youths damaged one of the remand units, and again significant damage was caused to the ability of that actual centre to be functioning.
On 22 October 2016 the police were investigating the rampage at the central Victorian youth justice centre on that Saturday night, which took hours to come under control.On 9 November 2016 again we saw an offender escape from Malmsbury. Somebody who had a broken leg and was on crutches or in a wheelchair could escape. He was known to be very violent. He was finally, after days on the run, caught in South Australia. That was a serious issue in itself.
On 13 November 2016 again a very serious riot occurred, and this was the one where the minister started to change her language and started to try to backtrack on a few things, but this was a significant riot that occurred that went into a number of days as we saw it unfold. That is when Victorians started to understand, because that issue that riot and what occurred for many hours started on Saturday night, calmed down, flared up again on Sunday and went right through to Monday. Everybody knew that a serious incident was unfolding, yet the minister well, where was the minister? She did not even come out and she did not even explain herself for many hours not to mention the Premier, who was missing in action as usual.These issues actually highlighted to the Victorian community the extent of what had been going on, and of course the media pictures that were soon to emerge were not from that actual riot in November, they were from months before in May. The extent of the riot that was shown through those media reports that were obtained through court proceedings, I understand, just demonstrated that you cannot put people into this facility when it is uninhabitable. Of course the situation just got worse from there. That riot caused the capacity to be severely diminished within our youth justice system when 60 beds were taken out, and then we had the inability of the minister to be able to bring it under control.
Mr Herbert interjected.Ms CROZIER I will go again to my list, which I am going to persevere with because it is important that members understand not, as Mr Herbert said, that it has been made up; it is not being made up that this is actually happening.
Mr Herbert interjected.Ms CROZIER An alternate universe? Do you really think so, Mr Herbert? That is the problem with your government. You just do not get how concerned the community is.
On 28 November 2016 a code aqua, which is a staff evacuation, was called at Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre, with two units reported damaged. Once again young offenders had accessed staff and client files. That is an abilityMr Herbert interjected.
Ms CROZIER I will come to that in my issue about the reporting, Mr Herbert. These offenders are accessing other offenders' details and making threats, and we saw what happened on 7 January, that horrific situation when that riot occurred, again in Parkville, where an offender's details were accessed, phone calls were made to that person's mother and I am paraphrasing she was told, 'You'd better come and get your dead son's body'. That is just an appalling situation, and that should never occur. That should never occur.This litany of damage and destruction and of very serious incidents that have arisen throughout the youth justice system is not fanciful; it is actually factual. Again we have seen the inability of the government, highlighted in the chamber today, to recognise the extent of this problem. That is why this motion is here, because the Victorian public has lost confidence in this government's ability to manage the situation.
On 12 January the police were called to Malmsbury after reports youths had locked themselves in a secure yard and were causing trouble, and a police spokesman said that some teens had armed themselves and that staff had retreated from the unit. We have had just an extensive litany. On 25 January, of course, we had 30 youths that were rampaging through Malmsbury, and 15 escaped from Malmsbury.Mr Herbert interjected.
Ms CROZIER What happened on 25 JanuaryMs Wooldridge interjected.
Ms CROZIER He is just irrelevant.Mr Herbert interjected.
Ms CROZIER You are irrelevant.The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Melhem) Order! Mr Herbert, I see your name on the list; we can bring it up the chart if you want, but I think Ms Crozier should be able to continue her contribution without further interruptions.
Ms CROZIER Thank you, Acting President. This is actually a serious issue. It is a serious motion, and I am just stunned that Mr Herbert and the government are taking it so lightly. That is the problem.Mr Herbert interjected.
Ms CROZIER That is the problem. You are ignoring what has actually gone on. I say again, 15 young offenders escaped from Malmsbury, got through a sally port door, which is a high security doorMr Herbert interjected.
Ms CROZIER You should know, you were the Minister for Corrections until your dogs got in the car. A sally port door was lifted, and they walked out and got swipe cards and personal details of staff members. They actually bashed a woman, bashed one of the staff members in one of the areas a terrifying experienceHonourable members interjecting.
Mrs Peulich On a point of order, Acting President, this is a serious motion, notwithstanding the fact that there may be different perspectives. The member opposite, Mr Herbert, is making it impossible for me to hear what our lead speaker is saying and I am only within metres of her.The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Melhem) Order! I uphold the point of order. Ms Crozier should be able to continue without interruption. I know it is quite a serious motion and an emotional subject for both sides, so I ask that members be a bit more respectful and not make it too personal. Ms Crozier may continue.
Ms CROZIER Thank you, Acting President. As I was saying, that escape from Malmsbury just highlighted again to the Victorian community the dire issues that were occurring within the youth justice facilities that I have mentioned.I want to talk about the Grevillea unit in a moment, but in the case of the escape from Malmsbury, those young offenders were on the run for hours. It took 24 hours for the police to capture the last two escapees in Colac. During that time they carjacked and they were very violent towards women and young families, who had to witness those events. The rampage occurred across Victoria. There were break-ins, carjackings which I have mentioned and very violent behaviour. They travelled almost 1000 kilometres across the state in the 24 hours. They were speeding on highways, and I am just so thankful that nobody was killed in the terrifying car chases that ensued and the mayhem that occurred.
Just how significant that escape was has been exposed. It should never have happened, and that is the point. It should never have happened, but it did. It has resulted again in serious capacity issues serious issues of staff capacity to be able to handle what has been going on. Staff have been dealing with these riots, assaults and serious incidents for many, many months, and quite frankly they are just burnt out. I know, because I have spoken to some of them, that many of them have feared for their own safety and lives on numerous occasions. I do not think that is good enough, and it is a terrible indictment of the serious situation.It is not as if the escape from Malmsbury, the riot in November in Parkville or the riot in January just occurred. There have been warnings time and time again. In October we had a debate on my motion to give a reference to the Standing Committee on Legal and Social Issues to look into what was happening, which I moved because of all the issues that we were hearing about and that were being reported. I certainly had information coming to me from a whole range of areas emails, telephone calls to my office and anonymous communication that was being dropped off to my office. There were serious concerns by a lot of people who were just saying, 'The government is just not listening. The minister is not listening. What is happening?'.
I go to my point: they were not listening. In the debate that occurred on 12 October the Minister for Families and Children said:There were never riots.
I find that just astounding. She said, like Mr Herbert did:You are just making things up
No, we have not been making things up. These issues have occurred. The riots occurred. The assaults occurred. The code black, code white and code aqua incidents have all occurred.That has just diminished the capacity for the youth justice system to work. In fact the whole notion of youth justice is not working because there is such a breakdown of the youth justice system that the education, the rehab and the support have not been provided to young offenders in the facilities. There has not been the capacity to do what is required for many of those young offenders. Quite frankly there are some who want to be rehabilitated. They do want an improvement in their situation and they want to be able to contribute back to society, but with so many stresses and strains on the staff the ability has just not been there. That is just another indictment of the government's inability to manage the situation. As I said, that whole notion of youth justice, which was once a leader in this state, is now gone. Even the minister's own Commission for Children and Young People has commented on where youth justice is under this government.
I am not going to go on anymore about the riots and the issues, but it is very evident that there are well over 30 that we know about. There are many, many more that I have been made aware of that have not been reported. These are significant issues that have come to light, and I am very pleased that they have because they just demonstrate what has been going on.The minister consistently has said that after the riot not that she called them that; she said there were never riots; she called them incidents of October 2015 Peter Muir, a former expert in youth justice, conducted a review and provided a report to the government. He also conducted a review into and provided a report to the government on the March incident; and of course just days ago that report was leaked. It revealed there was chaos in the system. It beggars belief, if he was saying back in October 2015 that there was chaos in the system, that nothing was done and that the denials kept coming from the minister in this place and outside it. I quote from an article on this secret report the one that this house actually asked to see but was denied because of privacy issues but was leaked to the media which says:
The Andrews government was warned in an explosive secret report months before the latest riots in Victoria's youth prisons that the system was spiralling out of control in 'a continued and ongoing threat to the safety of staff and clients'.This was a warning that was given a long, long time ago, and the minister has done nothing to act on it. In fact in October she again said there were no riots. It is in Hansard.
The article goes on to say that young inmates were able to get access to many weapons and describes lockdowns where young prisoners are locked in their cells for long periods due to endemic staffing problems. The 61-page report was ordered after those riots that I mentioned in March and obviously the one before that in October 2015. That report was given to the government in May. That was well before the November riots, the January riots and the escapes that occurred, and still the government and the minister said there were never any riots. She also said there were no gangs operating out of the youth justice facilities. She is either in denial about what has been going on, or she has just refused to accept the true consequences of her mismanagement.Peter Muir was not the only consultant and his was not the only report that was undertaken. Former Chief Commissioner of Police Neil Comrie undertook a report after the November riots, and we have seen his recommendations in that report. It is no wonder that in that report it is stated that Parkville is uninhabitable. There were 60 beds taken out of the facility, and a number of units were totally trashed. There was severe damage, whether it was through water or through the damage and destruction that occurred when inmates got into the roofs and broke through the infrastructure.
In the minister's own words, some of these violent young offenders are the worst of the worst and they needed to be transferred to Barwon and I will come to that in a minute. They had to go; they had to be housed somewhere. But the minister's inability to manage that process is just astounding as well. The reports and the reviews, whether it be WorkSafe's, the Neil Comrie report or the Peter Muir report, that have occurred in youth justice over many months just demonstrate that the government did not know how to manage this. The minister did not have an ability to do so. She was totally out of her depth and was trying to spin her way out. But the simple facts are that an extraordinary litany of damage has occurred, and the inability of the government to respond has been evident in the ongoing chaos and the crisis that has arisen.I also note that the report by Peter Muir notes that during 2014 and 2015 staff were forced to restrain youths 160 times over an 11-month period and staff were assaulted on 57 occasions. I am also aware from reports in the media that the minister had a secret meeting way back in December 2014 when she was actually told of some of the issues in the youth justice system. If she was told way back then, why did she not do anything? If she has had review after review and report after report following riot after riot and has done nothing, that is why this motion is in the house. It is because clearly the public has no confidence in her ability to understand the gravity of the situation and what has occurred.
Mr Leane interjected.Ms CROZIER Mr Leane, the community across Victoria has no confidence in your minister. There is clearly concern about what is going on, and the minister's inability to be accountable and responsible for this chaos and this crisis that she has presided over has cost the Victorian taxpayer tens of millions of dollars, although we do not know the true extent because she will not release those figures either.
If I could just go to my third point in relation to compliance with the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 in relation to the transfer of young offenders from Parkville youth justice centre to Barwon Prison, this was, as I said, after an absolute debacle of a process that this minister presided over. It was demonstrated and played out in our court system in December, and it has been shown that she bungled that process too. She absolutely botched the process.The reports at the time show there was a panic situation because the minister had severely mismanaged everything leading up to what occurred in Parkville in November and had ignored all those prior warnings. Anyone who was working in the system knew that it was very dire. There were serious concerns being raised all the time. But in the Supreme Court's findings after the court case was heard and the government was forced to defend its decision, Justice Garde concluded in his findings that the government actually did operate illegally. I want to read out what Chief Justice Marilyn Warren said about those findings after the government lost the Supreme Court action and then went to the Court of Appeal, because it is very enlightening in terms of all of the issues that were highlighted throughout that process.
Obviously when the government realised that they had botched the process and legal action was taken the Supreme Court upheld those findings. It was absolutely damning and just demonstrated again the inability of this minister and her incompetence.If I could just read from some of those proceedings from the Court of Appeal following the findings:
On 17 November 2016 three orders in council were made by the Governor in Council the first, to excise the Grevillea unit from Barwon Prison, and the second and third to establish it as a remand centre and youth justice centre for use as emergency accommodation.There is a lot of detail in the explanation of this, but what the Court of Appeal found was the full extent of the situation. We actually found out that there were a number of people who were transferred to Malmsbury, and six were transferred to the Mill Park police station holding cells; that the Youth Parole Board rejected the applications, declining to exercise its powers under section 467 of the act; and that there were 40 adult prisoners moved from the Grevillea unit to accommodate the Parkville young offenders to be moved there after they had trashed Parkville. Many of these findings explain what happened.
Of course the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service undertook their proceedings. We saw three Indigenous offenders moved from Barwon, from Grevillea, back to Malmsbury. There was that situation. This was all unfolding and all being watched, in terms of the minister's inability to demonstrate any ministerial responsibility. She should have known this, she should have been in charge, she should have understood the act and she should have been able to comply with the act. Instead, all of these issues that are highlighted in these court proceedings just demonstrate where she has failed.In its consideration the Court of Appeal made many points. I am just going to read from the announcement of the decision by Chief Justice Marilyn Warren. She said:
(3) In their proposed grounds of appeal, the applicants challenge both His Honour's finding that the decisions were invalid and his declaration that the charter was breached.She also said:
(5) Having considered these arguments, and the authorities relied on, we have come to a unanimous conclusion that the applicants' challenge to the finding of invalidity should be dismissed. For reasons which will be published as soon as practicable, we have concluded that no error has been shown in His Honour's findings that the minister and hence the Governor in Council acting on the minister's advice failed to take into account relevant considerations bearing on the exercise of the power conferred by subsection 478(a) and (c). At the same time, we have concluded that His Honour erred in finding that the orders in council were made for an improper purpose.(6) Failure to take into account relevant considerations constitutes jurisdictional error and is sufficient, by itself, to support the judge's findings of invalidity.
As the Chief Justice demonstrates, the role of the Supreme Court is to ensure that the government operates according to law and that the powers conferred on ministers and public officials are exercised within the legal limits imposed on them by the Parliament. In this case the judge held that those legal limits were exceeded and hence the decisions had not been made according to law, so the Chief Justice concluded that His Honour was correct in the finding. The government again lost the appeal. They botched that process. The minister did not comply with the act; she did not comply with the law.That final sentence announcing the decision made by Chief Justice Warren sums it up: the minister did not follow what was supposed to have been undertaken. That is damning in itself. It is an indictment of the minister's ability to operate under the Children, Youth and Families Act in relation to this very serious area. Again, it is an indictment of her to just refuse and not take any responsibility when it comes to those decisions, whether it be that one or whether it be her inability to respond to the warnings that have come out of the youth justice centres for many, many months. We have seen that, as I have said, through the numerous riots, the assaults, the incidents that have occurred, the very serious breakouts and the very serious risk to the life and safety of so many people, and I think that is unacceptable.
The fourth paragraph of my motion goes to providing accurate and timely information to this house and the Victorian public in relation to youth justice incidents. I want to just say that I have been calling on the minister to provide information, and that is why I moved my motion for a referral to the legal and social issues committee, because one of the issues is that we were not getting the full details and full accounts of what has actually been occurring. I have read out before to this house the objectives of youth justice in Victoria. I will say it again. The objectives of the youth justice service are:where appropriate support diversion of young people charged with an offence from the criminal justice system;
minimise the likelihood of reoffending and further progression into the criminal justice system through supervision that challenges offending behaviours and related attitudes and promotes prosocial behaviours;work with other services to strengthen community-based options for young people enabling an integrated approach to the provision of support that extends beyond the court order;
engender public support and confidence in the youth justice service.On that same website, under 'Youth justice custodial: quarterly incident reporting', it describes what a category 1 incident is:
Category 1 incidents are the most serious incidents and include incidents such as death of clients; allegations of physical or sexual assault; and serious client behavioural issues that impact on client or staff safety.As members know, I have time and time again asked for what is going on. But when you see this data and when you see what is published by the government, you have to wonder what it is that is being told or what the government is not providing. Yes, the minister will say that this is the first time that this data has been published. Well, quite frankly, it is no good being published when it is totally inaccurate. I say it is inaccurate, because with all of the incidents, with all of the riots that have occurred and given what I have just highlighted and actually explained as to what categorises a category 1 incident, we know that with so many issues going on in youth justice that these category 1 incidents are not being reported properly.
On the government's own website from the first quarter of 201617, from July to September, there were 12 assaults, two behavioural issues and three other incident types. A total of 17 incidents. With all of those riots and assaults that I described, with the issue that occurred in Parkville with all of those people, with the numbers that were transferred out of Parkville, with those that were involved in the riots, with those that were involved in accessing other offenders' details and with the offenders who threatened staff, each and every one of those, you would have thought, would have had an incident report against them a category 1 incident report against them.Sorry, that was the second quarter, from September to December, that I was referring to in relation to the Parkville riots. The second quarter saw 16 assaults and three behavioural problems and, with other incident types, a total of 24 incidents. So that refers to the Parkville riots. I inadvertently referred to the Parkville riots in relation to the first-quarter data.
There were assaults and riots that occurred in that first quarter, and of course it beggars belief that with all of those incidents that occurred between September and December those figures can actually be accurate. We know that they get released, and they were released on 21 January. Actually they were released 10 days before they were due to be, which was curious in itself, but nevertheless they were released. But I have to question the validity of that reporting regime and those incidents, because they just do not reflect what we know. The facts are out there in the public domain. Look, with everything going on this cannot possibly be true, because how can you justify 16 assaults, three behavioural problems and five other incident reports between September and December with all of those other issues that have arisen? It just does not stack up.Again, when you ask for the data in this place the minister provides a banal answer and just gives nothing away. Instead it is just a typical response of blaming the former government, of saying the government is being transparent for the first time and of providing information. That is what this part of the motion goes to, because when you are seeking answers, when you are trying to figure out what is going on and when you are learning from reports and from people directly who are concerned about the situation that has arisen, you want to understand. That is what we have got a duty to do here to hold the government to account in relation to these issues.
I will just read out a question on notice that I asked of the minister in relation to youth justice:what was the total cost of damages at the Parkville Youth Justice Precinct due to riots or youth clients' destructive behaviour between 1 January 30 September 2016; and
what was the total cost of damages at the Malmsbury Youth Justice Precinct due to riots or youth clients' destructive behaviour between 1 January 30 September 2016.The reply I got from the minister was:
I refer the member to the answer I gave to her question without notice on 23 November 2016.That was the answer she gave to me on 23 November to my question, which was about the damage bill to the Parkville youth justice centre from the riots of 12 to 14 November, when it was stated by the government or by the minister that it was less than $500 000.
Well, the minister's answer was:the preliminary estimate of the costs of repair as a result of the incident last weekend is in the vicinity of half a million dollars to $1 million.
Well, we know that is not accurate; we know that is not true, and that just demonstrates what I am talking about. The reporting and the ability to provide information by giving a response as she has by just flicking it off demonstrates that she is not willing to provide accurate information in relation to what has actually occurred and that she is not willing to be up-front about issues that have arisen. She keeps talking about and blaming a lack of fortification, staff cuts or ice everything but herself and that is the issue with this minister: she will not take responsibility. She refuses to be accountable for her ministerial portfolio responsibilities.She has had to go and get staff from interstate. She is advertising for youth justice workers with 'Casual positions available; no qualifications are required'. I have just highlighted to the chamber the very dangerous situations that are occurring within our youth justice facilities because this minister has lost control. How do you think you can put inexperienced young people or anybody not just young people into these situations, where there are complex behavioural issues and individuals who are very, very violent? How irresponsible. It just demonstrates that the minister has got no capacity to address those staffing issues, with many staff on extended stress or sick leave because of the ongoing very difficult circumstances that they have had to put up with for months and months and months.
As I have already highlighted, there are the constant threats and assaults and the inability for staff to be able to do their job, and they have expressed their concerns. They have expressed their concerns to the union and tried to express their concerns to the government and, quite frankly, both the union and the government have sat on their hands and done nothing. I think it is an indictment of the minister's refusal to accept what has actually happened. Her going to other states and asking for experienced staff is an admission that she requires staff, because they are leaving in droves or they are on sick or stress leave because of the circumstances that they have been put in. The government's own admission that they have failed in so many respects in this area is being played out on a daily basis.The last point in my motion is about the minister coming out to try and make announcements about a new youth justice facility. It is clear to all and sundry that when you have trashed a facility, something has got to happen, and it should never have got to that. The escape from Malmsbury should never have happened. That destruction that occurred across Victoria that damage and mayhem that occurred after those 15 escaped from Malmsbury just two weeks ago should never have happened. Parkville being trashed, as it was, should never have happened. This is not just about fortification; it is about attitude and the government's ability to manage this.
The minister has failed dismally. She refuses to take responsibility for anything, whether it is the botched process of legal proceedings to transfer offenders from Parkville to the Grevillea unit at Barwon Prison, her inability to provide accurate and important relevant information to this house and into the public domain or her inability to act on those numerous reports and reviews that were conducted 16, 17 or 18 months ago. This just demonstrates that she has done very little to curb what has gone on. She will defend herself and say that previous governments did nothing.The Ombudsman's report of 2014 actually commended the former government for the work they did. There is no point trying to blame others when the fault clearly lies with this government. In 2014 the Victorian Ombudsman said of the Victorian coalition's improvements:
The response of the department and the impact this has had on youth justice services for children has been both effective and commendable.Under this government's watch, under this minister, we have had a litany of very, very serious and dangerous behaviours and incidents that have put the lives and safety of too many Victorians at risk. For that alone, this minister should do the right thing and resign. That is why I have moved this motion because she refuses to budge. It is a disgrace. For too many Victorians the tens of millions of dollars of cost to the taxpayer and the lives and safety that have been put at risk because of her inaction are a disgrace. Her refusal to provide accurate information demonstrates what she is trying to hide. Well, she cannot hide. She cannot hide from the facts. The facts are there. The riots have occurred under her watch. They did not occur under previous governments. The whole system is in a mess. It is a debacle of her own making, and she should do the right thing and just resign.
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