Police Cells and Justice Reform


Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (14:19): My question is to the Minister for Correctional Services. Now that the minister has had 24 hours to read the comments of the police commissioner and given the comments this morning by Corrections CEO, David Brown, that the use of surge beds have an impact on police operations, does the minister stand by his statement in question time yesterday and I quote, '…our current use of surge beds is not having a negative impact on their operations'?

The Hon. A. PICCOLO (LightMinister for Disabilities, Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) (14:19): I would like to thank the honourable member for his question. My answer would be the same: nothing was said by the CEO of Corrections this morning on radio which would indicate that is incorrect, as he indicated that we have a number of surge beds allocated to us in a number of cells and, certainly, we use them and we use them on a regular basis. At this point in time—

An honourable member interjecting:

The Hon. A. PICCOLO: That's correct—we will do our best to make sure that we keep within that. Having said that, I am confident that both SAPOL and Corrections will meet the orders of any court should they insist that we house somebody.

Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (14:20): Supplementary, sir: are any special arrangements being considered in order to deal with the anticipated further spike in prisoner numbers over the Christmas period when the courts are closed for nine days in a row?

The Hon. A. PICCOLO (LightMinister for Disabilities, Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) (14:20): All I can say is that I am advised and assured by the department that they have plans in place and, as I said, I can just reaffirm that people who are not given bail by police and need to be housed by Corrections will be housed. If the member would like details on the matters, which I prefer not to go into, I am happy to brief him.

Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (14:21): My supplementary—

The SPEAKER: Supplementary, member for Morialta.

Mr GARDNER: —is to the Minister for Justice Reform. Given that yesterday, when answering a similar question, he identified that the government's approach was going to be based on changes to bail laws and other things in his justice reform package, which is due out, I think, at the end of this year or early next year, and given that the courts are closing for nine days, will the minister now release his bail reform proposals so that they can be considered immediately?

The Hon. J.R. RAU (EnfieldDeputy Premier, Attorney-General, Minister for Justice Reform, Minister for Planning, Minister for Housing and Urban Development, Minister for Industrial Relations) (14:21): I thank the honourable member for his question. I am working on a number of proposals, some of them very actively, in conjunction with the Minister for Police and Corrections. As a matter of fact, the Minister for Police and Corrections and I have been very busy in looking at this particular problem, and we feel that we are reasonably close to being in a position where we have something we can say publicly about some of these matters.

I need to emphasise again what I was trying to explain yesterday: none of this is a simple, silver bullet solution to the problem. That is just not the case. It is no more realistic to say, 'Tweak the courts,' or tweak something, 'and you'll solve this problem,' than it is to say, 'Have lessons in being a nice person at school and you won't have criminals committing crime.' It is not that simple.

What has to happen is a series of interconnected changes. My hope is that I will be able to put a paper out in the public domain—which I would be very happy to share and discuss, and I have said this to the member for Morialta before. I am very keen to engage, but it is difficult to engage on a paper that is not yet complete.

When it is complete, I am very happy to engage with the member for Morialta—and, indeed, everybody—about it, but I can say that, in the meantime, there are elements we will be dealing with in that paper that the Minister for Police and Corrections and I have been working on, and I am reasonably confident (and I think the minister would share this view) that we should be in a position to say something about some of these things before the release of that document. But what we will be saying will be something which fits into the high level—

Ms Chapman interjecting:

The SPEAKER: The deputy leader is warned.

The Hon. J.R. RAU: You can put it that way, but this parliament, in the last parliament, dealt with discounts for early guilty pleas, for instance. That is a part of justice reform. That is one of the pillars of justice reform which we have already put in place. The mere fact that it is already there doesn't mean it is not part of the whole structure. When you are building a house, you put the foundations down before you start putting the roof on, so what—

Ms Chapman: What if the house was already full, overloaded?

The SPEAKER: The deputy leader is warned for the second and final time.

The Hon. J.R. RAU: So that's the situation. Can I say to the member for Morialta, because I know he is genuinely interested in this and he and I have spoken about this, I am happy to engage with the member for Morialta about these matters—I know he does have a genuine interest in it—and as soon as it is possible for me to talk to him about particular matters, I am very happy to do that.

It is not much good me talking to him about things which have not yet been formulated or which I have not yet had the opportunity to discuss with my cabinet colleagues, but as soon as we are in that position, I am very happy to brief the member for Morialta and anyone else who is interested in these matters. As I said before, the Minister for Correctional Services and Police and I have been talking about a number of these matters, and we are hopeful to be able to put something before the parliament and certainly before the public very soon.

Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (14:25): A final supplementary on this line, sir: given that the CEO of Corrections in evidence to the Public Works Committee on 9 October identified that the spike in prisoner numbers is partly due to a 30 per cent increase in assault, 50 per cent of which are domestic violence related and also Parole Board warrants and bail breaches, can the minister reassure the house that his proposals to relax bail conditions will not make it easier for these categories of remand prisoners to walk free?

The Hon. J.R. RAU (EnfieldDeputy Premier, Attorney-General, Minister for Justice Reform, Minister for Planning, Minister for Housing and Urban Development, Minister for Industrial Relations) (14:26): Again, I thank the honourable member for his question; it is a very good question. I make it clear that in respect of bail he has used the word 'relax'. I do not want to let that word be passed by into Hansard and not be commented upon. I am not talking about relaxing bail conditions if what you mean to imply by that is say that a lot of people who should not be getting bail are getting bail; that is not what we mean. We are talking about refining the tests that are used to ascertain whether bail is appropriate in particular cases; that is a different proposition.

The second point is that the primary concern this government has—and we have demonstrated this time and time again in terms of legislative change—is with public safety and an analysis of the risk presented to the public by particular accused people. The member for Morialta in saying that in cases of domestic violence we do have particularly difficult circumstances where there may be a significant risk to particular individuals, although not necessarily to the whole community, is absolutely correct. Of course, we are not taking those matters lightly; they are very serious matters.

The point I was trying to make the other day is that there might be a person who is perhaps facing a custodial sentence because of repeated abuses of the Road Traffic Act—driving without a licence or unregistered and uninsured or whatever the case might be. I am not condoning that behaviour for a moment; I don't wish to say that. But I do raise the question—and it is one of the questions that we will be asking in the context of this overall review of the justice system—is custodial sentence in a prison institution the appropriate way to deal with that person having regard to the risk that that person presents to other members of the community if they were to be punished in a different way? That is the question. I do not purport to have the answer here for you at the moment, but that is the sort of question we are asking because we need to be a bit honest with ourselves here.

The prison system is a very intensive system from the point of view of the people who are in it. It is a resource intensive system, it occupies significant government resources, and it means that the people who are in prison for the time that they are in prison are denied whatever benefits—and I realise sometimes these are not great—they might have of living with friends and family and whatever benefits they might have of potentially being employed. Anybody will tell you that a person in employment who has decent connections with family and other people who will keep them on the right track is less likely to become a reoffender than somebody who does not have that position.

If, for example, we have people who are not dangerous and the alternative is there that that person might be able to be dealt with in a circumstance where they continue to go to work, albeit with a curfew or something, and they continue to live with their family and have some contact and responsibility, it is my view—and I think the data bears this out—that it is more likely than not that that person will produce a better outcome at the end than if you took that person and stuck them in Yatala for two years. That's what I am saying.

Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (14:29): A final supplementary, sir.

The SPEAKER: Member for Morialta, you said the last one was a final one.

Mr GARDNER: Well, I am saying it again now, sir. The minister introduced a lot of new information in that answer. The minister is now saying that there are these vast categories of prisoners in our prison system who don't deserve to be there. Where has the minister been for the last three elections?

The SPEAKER: I am very inclined to suspend the member for Morialta from the service of the house for using a supplementary question to make a speech and not even cast it in an interrogatory form.

An honourable member: 'Where has he been'?

The SPEAKER: 'Where has the minister been for the last however many years?' That's a question, is it?

Mr Gardner interjecting:

The SPEAKER: I call the member for Morialta to order, and I warn him for the first time.

The Hon. J.R. RAU: Point of order: I appreciate—

The SPEAKER: The minister wants to tell us where he's been!

The Hon. J.R. RAU: I have been right here; well, not specifically right here, but—

The SPEAKER: I want the answer to be strictly to the terms of the question: where has the minister

been?

The Hon. J.R. RAU (EnfieldDeputy Premier, Attorney-General, Minister for Justice Reform, Minister for Planning, Minister for Housing and Urban Development, Minister for Industrial Relations) (14:30): I'm objecting to the use of the word 'vast'. In the question was 'vast numbers of prisoners'. I object; I am being verballed there. Otherwise, the answer is, I have been in this building.