Correctional Services Amendment Bill
Adjourned debate on second reading.
(Continued from 1 July 2020.)
Mr TRELOAR (Flinders) (16:03): I rise to make a contribution to the Correctional Services (Accountability and Other Measures) Amendment Bill 2020. Of course, it is creating quite a bit of interest. It is a significant bill, and it has been arrived at after much discussion, much consultation and much agreement across the chamber. I know that the shadow minister has an amendment or two he wishes to bring to committee, but essentially there is support from both sides.
This particular bill is closely based on the Correctional Services (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2017, which was introduced by the former government in October of that year but not assented to due to parliament’s prorogation for the 2018 election. It is important to recognise the work that has gone into this particular bill. I have a special interest in this bill, given that on the outskirts of Port Lincoln is one of the state’s prisons.
Not too many years ago, the Hon. Peter Malinauskas was the minister responsible for prisons at that time and he visited Port Lincoln Prison. It must have been in 2016 because we were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the building of that prison in 1966. It is one of a number of times that I have had the opportunity to visit the prison in Port Lincoln. It is a bit daunting the first time you go into a prison because it is an environment like no other. Port Lincoln is a medium and low-security prison with 178 male inmates, and not too long ago it had an increase in the occupancy rate with the addition of some extra accommodation.
Another interesting thing about the Port Lincoln gaol is that it sits within about 200 hectares (or 500 acres) of farming country on the outskirts of Port Lincoln, just over Winter Hill. It is not great country, but it does have good rainfall. The prison population over the last 50 years has licked the property into shape, and it now grows annually crops of barley and canola, and I assume wheat, although I am not sure about that, as it is more barley country. They certainly run some livestock, including cattle, and there is an extensive garden within the grounds of the prison. I know much of the produce from that garden not only supplies the kitchen and the servery at the prison itself but also goes to shops and outlets in Port Lincoln.
Anther significant industry that occurs there is the manufacture of oyster baskets and, as everyone knows, aquaculture is a significant industry around the coastline of Eyre Peninsula. More than 90 per cent of the state’s oysters are grown around that coastline, and the oyster baskets manufactured by the prisoners in Port Lincoln Prison find their way to many of the oyster farms around Eyre Peninsula. All in all, it makes a significant contribution to the broader community, which is exactly what we want from our prisons and our prisoner population.
I will make special mention of Grant Shepperd, who is the farm manager and whom I have known for a long time. His background is in agriculture and he supervises and oversees the operation of the farm. His knowledge and understanding of the property, and the requirements of agriculture and growing crops with good rainfall but harsh soil, are not to be sneezed at.
Port Lincoln Prison is a significant building that dominates the entrance of the western approach to Port Lincoln; there is no doubt that, and there is no way you would ever miss the building. I recall being a young boy when it was first built and my grandparents retired to Port Lincoln from their farm. My grandfather was often described as ‘having more front than John Martins’. That is a very South Australian term, isn’t it? I do not think you could use it anywhere else. He was not at all intimidated by the fact that there was a prison there, and he would often drive the Valiant, with us kids in the back, up to the prison gates and around it. We were petrified, of course, but my grandfather had no qualms about doing that. My memory of Port Lincoln Prison goes back a long way.
The most recent time I visited Port Lincoln Prison was when both my wife and I and some other, dare I say it, dignitaries from the town, including the mayor and others, were invited to dinner in the dining room there. The prison had offered some TAFE courses and TAFE certificates were achievable in catering. That night, we were the guests of some prisoners who prepared our meal, served us and undertook conversations. I must say that it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening: the food was brilliant and the service was fantastic. Those prisoners, men in this case, will go on to achieve their TAFE certificate in catering. I think it was catering, but I stand to be corrected. That was my most recent opportunity to visit that prison.
Going back to the bill itself, it will address the priorities of our government, including the introduction of provisions to support the Better Prisons Program, and strengthen the safety and security of our correctional system. There are some highlights of this bill. The first I want to talk about is the disclosure of information relating to criminal history. Amendments have been made to the criminal intelligence provisions within the bill, which now allows the chief executive to obtain certain information from the Commissioner of Police. DCS have consulted with SAPOL to ensure these provisions were operationally feasible for both agencies. As I mentioned earlier, there was extensive consultation in relation to the drafting of the bill.
Drones have been talked about by previous members, or remotely piloted aircraft (RPA); most of us know them as drones. The use of RPAs being flown over prisons is a security issue for all correctional jurisdictions, even more so now with the remotely piloted aircraft becoming increasingly advanced in technology and more accessible to the general public. The bill now makes it an offence to operate an unmanned aircraft within 100 metres of a correctional institution without the permission of the chief executive.
Drones can also be seized if found in a prison environment. Buffer zones will be established, and the bill will introduce those prison buffer zones, for the purpose of possession of drugs under the Controlled Substances Act 1984. The intention is for these zones to be similar to school zones in many ways, in which the sale, supply or administration of a controlled drug is prohibited.
The official visitors scheme will establish a group of independent appropriately skilled visitors who meet OPCAT requirements, otherwise known as the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, while also meeting the contemporary needs of a prisoner population, including specialists in mental health and wellbeing and Aboriginal representatives.
The Parole Administrative Review Commissioner (PARC) also provides for an amendment. This amendment will provide greater protection to victims and the community by providing a further level of review in regard to decisions to release on parole offenders who have been sentenced in relation to serious offending relating to the offence of murder.
The bill also covers off on restraints to be used on prisoners in certain circumstances, obviously. There are currently no provisions for the use of restraints on prisoners during their transfer and/or movement within or outside of the prison system to ensure their own safety, the safety of staff and the safety of the public. The bill provides for the circumstances in which restraints may be applied to prisoners, and this inclusion allows DCS to use restraints in some circumstances without constituting a use of force. Of course, this will allow restraints to be used during the transportation of prisoners or if they are temporarily detained in a non-secure location, for example, during hospital treatment or while attending a funeral, in addition to internal movement.
It is a really important bill. I am pleased to be able to speak to it and I look forward to it going into committee. In closing, I will acknowledge, as have other members, the work of those who work within Correctional Services. As the member for Stuart said, I know quite a number of the prison officers, for want of a better term, who work within Port Lincoln Prison, and they do a wonderful job. They take their job very responsibly and, almost to a person, they enjoy their work and are pleased to have the opportunity to undertake that as a career. I admire their dedication also.
I also have a friend who works within the education area of Port Lincoln Prison. A lot of that is about literacy and numeracy. I think the member for Florey mentioned the high percentage of prisoners who have a low level of numeracy and literacy competency. That makes it all the more difficult for prisoners, once they are released, to integrate back into normal life if those skills are not there. Once again, my friend is very dedicated to the task. She enjoys her work and has undertaken to build skills within the Port Lincoln Prison population around literacy and numeracy. I very much congratulate her on that effort and admire her work.
In summary, Port Lincoln Prison is a significant building. It is a significant employer within the Port Lincoln community. It engages a good number of prison workers and others associated with the farm, the garden and the oyster fabrication industry. It is not just prisoners, of course, as they have to be overseen. The produce from that farm makes a significant contribution to the broader community of Port Lincoln. Well done to all those involved in that institution. I commend the bill.