ELECTORAL (PRISONER VOTING) AMENDMENT BILL
Adjourned debate on second reading.
(Continued from 30 May 2018.)
Mr TRELOAR (Flinders) (12:17): Thank you very much, Mr Acting Deputy Speaker. You are fulfilling your role well there. I congratulate you on taking that seat. I, too, rise to speak to the Electoral (Prisoner Voting) Amendment Bill 2018. I also inform the house, as was the case with the member for Hammond, that I, too, have a major prison facility within the—
The Hon. V.A. Chapman: Did you visit with how-to-vote cards?
Mr TRELOAR: —I will come to that, Attorney—electorate of Flinders. It is a significant prison. It has capacity of in excess of 200 prisoners and, of course, it is also a great employer, but I will go back to the bill, as I know the opposition will be keen for us to talk to it. The bill fulfils an election commitment that the Marshall Liberal team had in the lead-up to the recent March 2018 election and that is to prevent prisoners who are serving a term of three years imprisonment or longer from voting in state elections. We need to understand why we are doing this.
In recognising that a prison term of three years or longer is a serious offence and the consequences ought to go beyond that of their imprisonment, it will actually bring us into line with other jurisdictions by having prisoners forfeit their voting rights for the duration of their sentences here in South Australia. This will bring us into line with other states and also the commonwealth. The anomaly is that prisoners, of course, in South Australia cannot vote in federal elections but are able to vote in state elections at the moment. With the exception of the ACT, we are now coming into line with other states.
The bill provides that any prisoner, including a person on home detention who is serving a sentence of three years or longer, is ineligible to vote at state elections. It is recognising that somebody who has incurred a sentence of home detention is also caught up in this. It does not change the enrolment status of prisoners. The prisoner remains enrolled and, of course, as soon as the prisoner is released then they are once again eligible to vote, and that is consistent with the principle that punishment should not extend beyond the original sentence.
It is a reasonable expectation amongst people we have spoken with in the broader community that this will have support. It is noted that as of April 2018 the bill would have affected the voting rights of approximately 1,400 out of just over 3,000 prisoners within the state. It is a significant cohort, but there will be many who will remain in the prison system who are able to continue to vote.
I have spoken about home detention and, of course, there are many people out there who are serving their sentences on home detention. This bill recognises that this, too, is a serious sentence from the court and will impact their right to vote just as any other type of custodial sentence would. The rationale for this is that home detention is, for the purposes of the Sentencing Act, treated as a form of custody.
It is also going to apply to a young person who is serving a sentence of three years or more in a training centre. I suspect that a majority of young people who are in a training centre are not of a majority age, not of the age of 18, and so are unlikely to be on the voting roll but there will be situations where that does occur. Importantly, the bill will not apply to people who are detained under the mental impairment provisions of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act.
Regardless of whether a person has committed multiple offences, the disqualification will apply to them for the total period of time for which they have been sentenced to imprisonment when it exceeds three years and they are in custody at the close of rolls. In other words, once a person has finished their custodial sentence their rights are restored, including the right to vote. They remain on the roll and once they are released they will be eligible to vote. South Australia is the only state that does not oppose restrictions upon prisoners voting and it is appropriate that we fall into line with other jurisdictions.
In the lead-up to the 2010 election, when I was first elected, I had the opportunity to visit Port Lincoln Prison. It is a substantial building just over Winters Hill on the outskirts of Port Lincoln. The prison was built first in 1966, and I am old enough to remember it being built. There was some apprehension on my part, particularly given that I was a five-year-old boy, and my grandfather had great delight in taking me on tours of the building site, knowing full well that was going to become a prison.
It has turned into a significant institution. It was recently expanded and the accommodation increased. Originally, it was built to house about 90 male prisoners, both medium and low-security prisoners, but recently, under the Yellowfin project in February 2015, with new accommodation and an expansion it is able now to house a maximum of 200 prisoners.
I visited there in the lead-up to the 2010 election with the then shadow minister, the Hon. Terry Stephens from the other place. It was my first opportunity to visit a prison and, once again, apprehension set in because you never know quite what the experience is going to be like. It was somewhat daunting, I do not doubt that. However, that said, it was a privilege to be able to tour the facility and see firsthand how the prison at Port Lincoln operates.
I also visited in 2016, it must have been, when the minister for police and corrections, as he was then, the Hon. Peter Malinauskas in the other place, visited the Port Lincoln Prison to celebrate its 50th year birthday. Of course, many of those who had been involved in the prison over the previous 50 years were present for that day, as were a lot of the security people, so it was quite an event.
The interesting thing about Port Lincoln Prison is that it is accommodated on and within some 200 hectares of farming property, so it is a working farm. Being on Eyre Peninsula, it grows wheat, barley, canola and all those things. It has a farm manager in place and prisoners are for the most part gainfully engaged on the farm production systems. The 200 hectares, about 500 acres, is a big area of land. It was stony country in the first instance—limestone and Lincoln weed. I remember in the early days, pre stone rollers, the prisoners spending a lot of time ripping and picking stones. There was certainly plenty of work for them to do.
There is also a commercial garden in place. It produces a wide range of vegetables, which are used within Port Lincoln Prison. They are also sold to the local community through contracts with local supermarkets, vegetable retail outlets, hotels and restaurants. The prison, the prisoners and those working at the prison are very much involved in the local community. It is a really important part of serving time and also of rehabilitation, I suspect.
Port Lincoln on the West Coast is famous for its aquaculture. There are aquaculture industry partnerships with Port Lincoln Prison, producing such things as oyster baskets, oyster cages and other custom-made products upon request. I think it is a really good example of how prisons can incorporate themselves into the local community. It is also a big employer, as I said earlier. In fact, a little ironically, the Labor candidate for Flinders at the last election was a security guard at Port Lincoln Prison. It is certainly a big employer, and those I talk to say that it is an excellent job and that they are pleased to be working there.
I have a friend who works on the prison campus in education. Of course, we are all aware, and it is no surprise, that prisoners often have quite low levels of literacy and numeracy. That is something that is being addressed through the provision of education on campus. An indicator of one’s success in life can be one’s level of numeracy and literacy. For prisoners to have the opportunity to improve their skills, their basic skills in literacy and numeracy, while they are incarcerated is a good thing. I understand that many of them take up the opportunity. I had an invitation recently to visit once again to look at the education facility at Port Lincoln Prison.
That is all well and good, but back to the bill. Of course, it is significant and will impact significantly on those who are serving sentences. It will mean that they will not be able to vote in state elections. It does have support in the broader community. It comes on the back of an election commitment the Marshall team made prior to the recent state election. I look forward to the passage of the bill.
ELECTORAL (PRISONER VOTING) AMENDMENT BILL