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