Police Disciplinary Tribunal, Prison Numbers


Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (15:16): My question is to the Minister for Police. What mechanism will replace the functions of the Police Disciplinary Tribunal when it is abolished?

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) (15:16): I am grateful for the question because it actually raises a very important issue, and that is about probably two or more years ago, if I remember correctly, the minister for police—who at that time was known to us simply as the member, our parliamentary secretary—undertook a very lengthy—

Mr BELL: Point of order, Mr Speaker. There is no clock and knowing the minister's words, it could go for 14 minutes, sir.

The SPEAKER: Thank you. Our mistake.

The Hon. J.R. RAU: I will assume that was an indirect allusion to me having some similarities with the member for Bragg, and I accept that from that side as a compliment. A while ago the minister undertook a piece of work leading up to the eventual passage last year of legislation to establish a civil and administrative tribunal, which I think everyone in the parliament has agreed is a good idea. That legislation was at the time explained to everybody as being a piece of legislation that would establish a framework, an architecture, and that would eventually be populated over time with different waves of jurisdiction.

The idea was that the first of those waves, which is presently a matter which is going on here, would involve the Guardianship Board and the Residential Tenancies Tribunal. For various reasons that I may or may not be permitted to entertain at the moment, that appears to be stuck in the mud, so conversations about the immediate future of the SACAT have become complicated because of a peculiar coalition of members of the opposition and the crossbenchers.

Members interjecting:

The Hon. J.R. RAU: The interjections are foolish because not only are they out of order but it is a well-known fact to anyone with many fingers and toes that the government does not have a majority of people in the other place, so what goes on in there is actually something over which we have no control.

As to the question about boards and committees, the background to that matter is the Premier made it clear some time ago that the government thought it was appropriate for us to go through a thorough review of boards and committees and to ascertain a number of things. The first of those things was: do we need this at all? The second one was: if it is performing some useful function, need that function be performed by a committee? Could it be performed by some other entity or merged into another entity? Then there are questions of redundancy and various other things.

Further to that, the Premier earlier this week released a document. The document was put out there so that there could be an informed public conversation about matters relating to boards, committees and such like, and there are a number of propositions contained within that. I think the Premier has made it clear that he is inviting the public to have a look at that—the opposition too for that matter. Have a look at it and consider what they have to say.

Mr Griffiths: The Premier described those being abolished as the sludge of government.

The Hon. J.R. RAU: Indeed. I am not arguing with that at all. I am glad you were paying attention to it.

Mr Marshall: We hang on every word.

The Hon. J.R. RAU: As one should. We all do over here. The point is that this is one of the matters—

The Hon. T.R. Kenyon interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Newland is warned for interjecting out of his seat and for interjecting that the deputy leader has never seen state cabinet.

The Hon. J.R. RAU: It is disappointing, but the clock appears to have stopped.

Mr GARDNER: Supplementary: I think the Deputy Premier just suggested SACAT preferably. Can the police minister advise if he has had any stakeholder feedback on this matter and, in particular, whether any of it was in favour of the move from the Police Disciplinary Tribunal to SACAT?

The Hon. J.R. RAU: I will take that question, if I might. As I was trying to explain, the situation is that we are looking at many alternatives, but can I say, in general terms, there is a multiplicity of disciplinary tribunals and bodies around the place. There are some—

The SPEAKER: You mean there is a lot of them.

The Hon. J.R. RAU: Indeed, there are many. Some—

Mr GARDNER: My question was very specifically in relation to one tribunal, not the multiplicity, and specifically more than that, the stakeholder feedback that the Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services and Minister for Emergency Services has received in relation to this one tribunal.

The SPEAKER: Could the Deputy Premier hasten his approach to the target.

The Hon. J.R. RAU: As I was trying to explain, we have disciplinary jurisdictions within the Magistrates Court. We have disciplinary jurisdictions within the District Court. We have many individual disciplinary bodies floating around the place. The conversation the Premier has begun in a public way this week is to ask the obvious question: should we be one rather than many?

Mr GARDNER: I think that was a 'no'. My question is to the Minister for Police. What is the current number of prisoners in the South Australian corrections system?

The Hon. A. PICCOLO: As the honourable member would know, that figure changes from day to day. I do not have the figure for today. I am more than happy to obtain it for him.

Mr GARDNER: Is it the case that, given the minister cannot give us one for today, prisoner numbers have recently reached a high of 2,601?

The Hon. A. PICCOLO: I would like to thank the honourable member for the question. Certainly that was the figure some weeks ago. That is a figure which I have actually announced publicly already, so I am not sure why—

Mr Marshall interjecting:

The SPEAKER: The leader is called to order.

Ms Bedford interjecting:

The Hon. A. PICCOLO: I'm actually answering the question I was asked.

The SPEAKER: The member for Florey is called to order.

Mr Marshall interjecting:

The SPEAKER: The leader is warned.

The Hon. A. PICCOLO: The question that I was asked by the honourable member was: did we reach that figure at some point in the recent past? I said, 'Yes, we have. I don't have that figure today,' so I have answered exactly the question I was asked.

Mr GARDNER (Morialta): I will ask another supplementary responding to that. Given that our prisons have an approved maximum capacity of 2,500 and the minister has previously outlined emergency surge capacity totalling 99 extra beds, and given that the number he said is now over 2,600, where have those extra prisoners been housed over and above the identified surge capacity cells?

The Hon. A. PICCOLO: The question I was asked a moment ago was: was that figure reached some time ago? The figures vary from day to day. I am not suggesting that the figure is the same today or even higher; in fact I think it was down. As I have outlined to the house on a number of occasions, we have a number of strategies to accommodate surge situations.

Ms Chapman: What, the Royal Adelaide Hospital morgue waiting room?

The SPEAKER: Deputy leader!

The Hon. A. PICCOLO: I can reassure the house that any order imposed by a court is actually implemented by my agency in terms of custody of our prisoners and our community can feel safe. I can't say that that is true if the Liberal government—

Mr GARDNER: Supplementary, sir.

The SPEAKER: Supplementary, member for Morialta.

Mr Whetstone interjecting:

The SPEAKER: The member for Chaffey is warned for the second and final time.

Mr GARDNER: The minister's last answer said that he has previously outlined the surge capacity for when we are over capacity. Given that the entire totality of the surge capacity he has ever outlined is 99 cells, in addition to the 2,500 we have approved, and the minister has admitted that we have had more prisoners than those combined numbers, where are they? Where have they been kept?

Mr Marshall: Answer a straight question.

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

The Hon. A. PICCOLO: As I indicated, and I have indicated previously, we have a number of strategies to build within our existing footprint. Those strategies continue. Every prisoner who is supposed to be behind bars is behind bars and the community is kept safe.

An honourable member: Where?

The Hon. A. PICCOLO: In an institution, where do you think they are kept? If the member would like a breakdown of which institution, I am happy to get those exact figures for him.

Mr GARDNER: Can the minister advise the house what is the average unbudgeted cost per prisoner kept in that surge capacity?

The Hon. P. Caica: You've run out of questions today.

The SPEAKER: The member for Colton is warned. He is called to order, I'm sorry.

The Hon. A. PICCOLO: I thank the honourable member for his question. I will get that exact figure. I assume you want me to compare the average cost of a surge bed with standard bed in prison. I am happy to obtain that figure for you.

Mr GARDNER: Supplementary, sir: the minister has previously advised, or his advisors have in the estimates procedure, that when prisoners are kept in surge capacity accommodation that that is, in fact, extra to the announced budget. So, what is that entire cost? The minister's previous advice would suggest that it is in addition to the announced budget.

The Hon. A. PICCOLO: Nothing I said in my previous answer contradicts that.

Mr Gardner: In estimates?

The Hon. A. PICCOLO: As I said, I will get the exact figure for him, which you asked in estimates. I am happy to get the figure for him.

Ms Chapman interjecting:

The SPEAKER: The member for Bragg is suspended for the rest of question time.

The honourable member for Bragg having withdrawn from the chamber:

Mr GARDNER: Can I ask my question while that is taking place, sir, without defying you? My supplementary to the minister is: has the government used police cells at any time to hold sentenced prisoners?

The Hon. A. PICCOL: I am aware that we move prisoners from location to location for a whole range of reasons. I will have to confirm that with the department.