Correction Amendment (smoke free prison) 2014

 Ms Garrett  (Brunswick)  —  With  great  pleasure I rise  to  speak  on  the Corrections Amendment  (Smoke-Free Prisons) Bill  2014. As do many other members of this house, I support action that goes to ensuring that there is less smoking in  our community. We clearly understand that smoke is  damaging  both  for  the person who  is inhaling the cigarette smoke directly and also for those who  are subjected to second-hand smoke.

It becomes an occupational health and safety issue for people who  work in smoky environments.

I will comment briefly on  what  the  relevant  union’s  view  is regarding this matter. The Community and Public Sector Union is supportive of these measures to eradicate smoking from our  prisons. Again I reiterate that the opposition  will not be opposing this bill and that we support all measures that are designed to reduce the instances of smoking-related  harm in our community,  in our prison population, among those who support our  prison population and among those who work with our prison population. There are some issues surrounding how  this legislation and  the scheme will be implemented, and I highlight that once again this government  has failed in a significant way to comprehensively provide an answer or a blueprint for the way this radical departure — and it will be a radical departure — will be orchestrated.

There will be  issues  that  arise,  there  will  be  health  and  safety issues regarding staff, and there will be concerns regarding withdrawal amongst members of the prison population.

We  know, and we have  seen  time and again, that  this government has failed to deal with  the issue  of contraband.  I know that in particular  the member  for Ballarat West is very interested in this issue. This  government  has  failed to stem the  flow of contraband into  our prisons. The  shadow Attorney-General and shadow Minister for  Corrections  has repeatedly raised this as an issue both in this house and in the  public arena. I believe there has been an increase in the volume of unlawful products flowing into our jails. The member for Williamstown, who is the shadow minister for  police  and  the  shadow  minister for emergency services, is  in  the chamber. He has  done a power of  work  around many issues relating to this government’s  failed  law  and order agenda. Year on year crime has been increasing.

Contrast that with the 11 years of the Bracks and Brumby governments which saw a reduction in crime every year. We have a government that is building more prison beds than hospital beds but  is failing to stem the growth of  crime.  We have a government  that regularly and without shame introduces  legislation  like  this bill, which is strong on rhetoric but very, very weak on detail.

We in the opposition want to see, and the Victorian community wants  to see, how this proposal is going to be implemented.  We have a lot of front-end stuff from the conservative Liberals in this state.  We are  assuming they  are still  in a coalition with  The Nationals,  but we are not sure. However, at  the moment  we have a Liberal-Nationals  coalition  government  of  sorts.  The  government was having trouble commanding a majority on the floor of this house, and there are a range of issues surrounding that, but  we  assume  there  is still a functioning coalition.

  Mr Brooks interjected.

  Ms GARRETT  — We should talk about Euroa, because I imagine  people in  Euroa are interested in this bill.

  The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Morris) — Order! Unless there is a prison in Euroa, we will not be talking about it.

  Ms GARRETT — Every section of our  community is discussing this  legislation, but I will come back to the  bill because the Acting Speaker has a very good way of bringing me back to the issues at hand.

  Mr Trezise interjected.

  Ms GARRETT — I think he did. We can see the tension now.

Government members are trying to hide the tension  — ‘Back to the bill! Back to the bill!’.

This Liberal-Nationals  coalition  of  sorts  has repeatedly sought to introduce legislation in this house, usually through  the Attorney-General, who  gets very excited, very stern and very dour about the legislation he introduces,  and fair enough, because he has  done a lot of work.  We have said many times  that it is the back end  of  the justice system that  fails  time and again to  support the Attorney-General and his very ideological work. I do  not  think  anyone in this house would assume that his work is not ideological — he has held up his end of the bargain there. He is very clear on what he seeks to prosecute.

 Once  again  we have a bill before  us  that  is long on rhetoric and  short  on implementation. We  will be holding this  shambolic government to account, as we do day in and day out. We are hoping for the sake of coalition members that when they return to this place after the winter  break they will be all still sitting here, but we note that there is a special spot that a  Nationals member may seek to occupy. Who knows?  We just do not know, and that  is the beauty of politics; you  never know what might happen  in the next week. A week  is a long time, and every day is a diamond according to the Leader of the House.

  Ms Wooldridge — That was you!

  Ms  GARRETT — The Leader of the House said she would forgo a diamond bracelet — —

  The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Morris) — Order!

I think there is a question of relevance.

  Ms GARRETT  — Relevance. The way  the coalition government  is functioning is highly relevant to the people of Victoria, and it is highly relevant to those in the prison population to whom this smoking  ban will apply. I understand members on the coalition backbench are very excited, and  they  should  be very excited, because once again we have been served up a piece of legislation that is long on rhetoric and very short on detail.

What we on this  side of the house want to  see is a comprehensive plan  for the way prisoners  will be  supported to  quit, how staff will be looked after  when there is an increase in  agitation  amongst  the prison population when they are unable to access cigarettes, how this government proposes to deal with the issue of contraband  getting into prisons — which it has failed to do up until now — and how people will be dealt with when contraband  is  found, particularly given that tobacco is currently a legal product. We have no faith that this government is going to be able to do that. Based on the history of this government, we have no faith that these issues will be addressed.

We  do  not  oppose this  bill,  but  we oppose  this  government’s  ramshackle, ideological approach to law and order in this state.

We oppose the fact  that there is increasing crime in this state, and  we oppose flimsy  pieces of legislation  being served up without  the resources, policy or backing of a serious system  that will  make these  policies and these pieces of legislation a reality in our community.

Hansard, 25 June 2014