Youth justice system - maximum security prison beds (7.2.2017)

Written on the 10 February 2017

 

7 February 2017

COUNCIL

 

Questions without notice

 

Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan)

My question is to the Minister for Families and Children.

Minister, the Comrie report into Parkville was conducted following the riots of 12 to 14 November, where the damage was so extensive that 60 beds were taken out of the system, inexperienced staff were filling staff shortages and violent youths were making demands and threatening staff. The Comrie review has recommended that Parkville be shut down. However, a WorkSafe report last year at Malmsbury following riots at that youth justice facility recommended that Malmsbury be shut down because it was unsafe.

Minister, given Malmsbury has also been deemed unsafe by a government agency, will you be following that recommendation and also shutting down that youth justice facility?

Ms MIKAKOS (Minister for Families and Children) This is a rather odd question to receive from Ms Crozier, because in fact the three secure units at the Malmsbury facility, where we did have a recent escape, were commissioned by the previous government. I have to say in relation to that particular escape, as I indicated publicly at the time, I am very angry and outraged that that escape was even possible from what is meant to be a secure facility. I can reassure the community of Malmsbury and the wider community that we are going to take the steps necessary to make the Malmsbury facility secure.
We are addressing issues that have come through independent reviews that I have commissioned. We are working with WorkSafe in relation to concerns they have expressed, and we have made the biggest investment in our youth justice system that any state government has ever made in terms of investing in a new facility in Werribee South $288 million for a 224-bed facility. In fact we have embraced all the recommendations of former chief commissioner Neil Comrie. He said that Parkville should be shut down and it will be when the new facility opens and that it is not viable to continue to use it in the long term.
What we have seen from the opposition is that they are all over the shop on this issue. We had Ms Crozier say we need a new youth facility. Then we had the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Matthew Guy, on 3AW only last week saying he supports the Werribee South location. Then within 24 hours . . . 

Mr Finn interjected.

Ms MIKAKOS Yes, he did Mr Finn. Within 24 hours he said we should retrofit Parkville and Malmsbury. Just last night he backflipped again and he said, and I quote, 'We have been saying a supermax facility, if needed, should be built as soon as possible'.

Ms Crozier On a point of order, President, the minister is carrying on again. I ask you to bring her back to the point of the question. What she has just referred to is completely irrelevant, and I ask you to bring her back to the question that was asked: will Malmsbury be shut down as per WorkSafe?

Mr Jennings On the point of order, President, in contrast to Ms Crozier's suggestion, I have listened to my colleague outline relevant matters pertaining to this question. That would be the history of reports in relation to both the security and the viability of the fabric of the Parkville facility and of Malmsbury. There is no doubt that the information that has been provided by my colleague outlines the status of the fabric of those facilities that was inherited by this government, which is clearly identified in those reports. Those are the matters that my colleague is referring to. The entrapment that is involved in this line of questioning is: if Parkville is destroyed, Malmsbury is destroyed and you oppose the relocation of offenders to a facility at Grevillea, what options, as are implied, are left within the line of argument being mounted by the opposition? That is the issue that my colleague is responding to.

Ms Wooldridge interjected.

The PRESIDENT Order! Ms Wooldridge, I am prepared to hear your point of order if you wish to prosecute it, but I think I am in a position to deal with the matter.
Mr Jennings, welcome back. Perhaps a refresher on standing orders might be helpful in so much as that was clearly not a point of order; it was debate. I thank you for your wisdom on this matter. In regard to Ms Crozier's point of order, I believe that some of the material that Ms Mikakos has put before the house has been useful in understanding this issue and some of the government's actions in respect of addressing these issues that have been so much a part of the community focus of late. I accept that if there have been contradictions in the opposition's position

Ms Crozier There haven't.

The PRESIDENT Order! If there have not, we can take note of the minister's answer, and that would be the appropriate way to do it.
If there have been contradictions, then I think that is a relevant position to put. There was some sense to what the Leader of the Government said, notwithstanding that he did not have a point of order at all. But, Minister, I do concur with Ms Crozier in that I think you were debating as you moved along. I think we probably had the understanding of what the position was. I would bring you back to the question, notwithstanding that, given that you said in an early part of your answer that you were going to be doing more works at Malmsbury to upgrade it, I would have thought it was self-evident that in fact it is not to be closed. But at any rate that is your answer to give, not mine.

Ms MIKAKOS Thank you, President. I do think it is important to outline to the house the flip-flopping nature of the Leader of the Opposition in respect of these matters, because the opposition are yet to indicate their support for a new facility or to say where the new facility should be built. I think it is important to make that point.
Towards the beginning of my answer I did in fact make it very clear that we are responding to the concerns of WorkSafe in relation to Malmsbury and Parkville, for that matter and that we are in fact looking at what further measures can be put in place in terms of security at Malmsbury to ensure that it is a secure facility. In fact the premise of Ms Crozier's question was incorrect. WorkSafe has expressed concerns about Malmsbury; it has not said to shut it down. We are working to address their specific concerns, but I have asked Neil Comrie to look at the recent escape that we have had at Malmsbury to ensure that we can make sure that this is an appropriately secure facility. I think those opposite should really hang their heads in shame given that that was in fact a facility that they commissioned and that it is not secure, so we need to make sure it is adequately secure going into the future.

 

 

CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan)

Minister, under your watch beds at both Malmsbury and Parkville are currently uninhabitable and the Grevillea unit at Barwon Prison is soon to be full, so you have a significant and immediate capacity issue. I ask: will you rule out gazetting further maximum-security prison beds to the youth justice system?

Ms Mikakos Sorry, can I get that repeated?

Ms CROZIER

The question is: will you rule out gazetting further maximum-security prison beds to the youth justice system?

Ms Mikakos On a point of order, President, I fail to follow how the supplementary question is apposite to the substantive question that was posed. That was in relation to Malmsbury specifically, and now the member is asking a question that relates to the broader correctional system.

The PRESIDENT Order! I am satisfied that in fact the supplementary question does go to matters in terms of the capacity of Malmsbury, in particular given that now Parkville to a large extent cannot be used. There are obviously limitations there following the incidents at that facility. The point about the Grevillea unit went to what has been the remedy for some of the problems within the system.

That therefore now begs the question: given the experience of Malmsbury in recent weeks, is there in fact sufficient capacity within that or are you going to need to go to some further maximum-security prison space for the youth justice system? Minister, I think your point of order was pretty close, but I think that this squeaks in.

 

 


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