Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (17:04): I rise to speak to the Correctional Services (Accountability and Other Measures) Amendment Bill. It makes quite a range of amendments in regard to correctional services in this state. I note that in my electorate in Murray Bridge we host Mobilong Prison, which has been there since 1987, and I will discuss that a little later in my contribution.
The first of the matters that have been dealt with in this Correctional Services (Accountability and Other Measures) Bill is the disclosure of information relating to criminal history. Amendments have been made to the criminal intelligence provisions in section 7 of the Correctional Services Act 1982 in connection with new section 85CB which now allows the chief executive to obtain certain information which may include information in the nature of criminal intelligence from the Commissioner of Police. The Department for Correctional Services consulted with South Australia Police to ensure these provisions were operationally feasible for both agencies.
The use of remotely piloted aircraft, or drones, being flown over prisons is obviously a security issue for all correctional jurisdictions, even more so now with remotely piloted aircraft becoming increasingly advanced in technology and more accessible to the general public. While the commonwealth regulates airspace, it is a matter for each state to decide how to deal with remotely piloted aircraft in relation to prison security. This 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. The remotely piloted aircraft can also be seized if found in a prison environment.
The bill will introduce prison buffer zones for the purpose of possession of drugs under the Controlled Substances Act 1984. Buffer zones will prove to further prevent the introduction of contraband into prisons. Currently, the point where a person becomes guilty of an offence is when the contraband is already inside the prison. The penalties in this section have been determined based on the seriousness of the offence of bringing drugs and contraband into a prison. These offences in the community are serious offences but the intent and action required to introduce these items into a prison is a clear and deliberate decision by a person to introduce dangerous and prohibited items.
This type of calculated and conscious decision deserves the increased penalty. The amendment is specifically worded to ensure that people who have a legitimate excuse to possess or introduce an item are not captured in this section. The introduction of buffer zones in this section has been carefully considered to ensure the protection of those people who are lawfully conducting their business while specifically targeting those with the intent to introduce dangerous items and substances into our prisons.
Penalties will also be increased for possession of unauthorised mobile telephones within a prison buffer zone. The intention is for these zones to be similar to school zones in which the sale, supply or administration of a controlled drug is prohibited. In regard to official visitors, significant amendments have been made to provisions relating to the inspection of prisons. Section 20(1) of the current act provides very basic provisions enabling the appointment and visiting functions of independent inspectors to visit prisons.
The changes will mean that the Department for Correctional Services will continue to be supported by an independent contemporary and transparent scheme. Current inspectors, known as visiting inspectors, are volunteers who carry out independent regular inspections across all South Australian prisons. Whilst a critical program in its current format, the bill will now ensure that South Australia complies with the inspection requirements of places of detention under the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment 1984 and the associated optional protocol to the Convention against Torture, which the commonwealth government ratified on 21 December 2017.
The official visitors scheme will establish a group of independent, appropriately skilled visitors who meet the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture requirements, which will also meet the contemporary needs of a prisoner population, including specialists in mental health and wellbeing and Aboriginal representatives. In regard to the Parole Administrative Review Commissioner and the prescribed class, currently a decision of the Parole Board in relation to the release of a prisoner serving a sentence of life imprisonment is subject to review by the Parole Administrative Review Commissioner (PARC) on application by the Attorney-General, the Commissioner of Police or the Commissioner for Victims' Rights.
The bill introduces an important change that will expand the definition of a reviewable decision of the board by introducing a prescribed class of prisoner, which in addition to including prisoners serving a sentence of life imprisonment for an offence will also include prisoners sentenced to offences including conspiring, assisting or soliciting to commit murder (section 12 of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935), as well as offences of impeding investigation of offences or assisting offenders as an accessory (section 241(1) of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act) if the offence established by the principal offender is the offence of murder.
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. Restraints are to be used on prisoners in certain circumstances. 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.
This bill provides for the circumstances in which restraints may be applied to prisoners. This inclusion allows the Department for Correctional Services to use restraints in some circumstances without constituting a use of force. This will allow restraints to be used during the transporting 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 an internal movement.
In relation to management of officers, employees of the department, the provisions for the additional powers of the chief executive are aligned with those found in other legislation. In regard to the obligation to provide an honest account of an incident, this does not remove the right for an individual to remain silent if incriminated, nor does it diminish an individual's rights as a public servant. The bill does, however, provide protection against staff and the 'blue code of silence' for officers not reporting on a colleague's errors, misconduct or a potential criminal offence. The bill gives power to the chief executive, where he has been previously unable to act, to remove and reassign an officer if he has lost confidence in the suitability of the employee to continue working in the correctional institution.
That is essentially the substance of the bill, and I just want to make a few comments about some of the history of Mobilong Prison in my electorate. Mobilong opened way back in 1987. It is a male prison with low to medium security prisoners. It has a capacity now of 472, with quite a few independent-style living units, and you must be drug free to have the ability to live in these units. My understanding is that, when it opened, the prison had a capacity of 150, so it has increased significantly. Some of this increase was through the former treasurer and former member for Port Adelaide, Kevin Foley, and his 'rack 'em, pack 'em and stack 'em' days, and so obviously the capacity has gone up significantly.
There was a recent build in the last few years of some more of these independent units. A group of prisoners lives in this accommodation. They have allowances paid to them on a weekly or fortnightly basis and they manage their own budgetary affairs in regard to purchases of food supplies, etc., and manage their own catering. It is teaching them life skills along the way. The accommodation-type, cottage-style independent living units can accommodate up to eight prisoners, and I know a lot of these were built with I think five separate rooms all in the one caged-off unit. There has been more capacity created by doubling up some of the individual rooms in these cottages. The prison is now smoke free, and that is no mean feat in the modern age with prisoners.
A range of programs is delivered at Mobilong, which includes case management services, education and vocational training, the Making Changes Program, the Alcohol and Other Drugs: Medium Intensity Program, and the Violence Prevention Program. It has been interesting on visits there as a local member and on a voluntary basis (I have always been let out) to see the prisoners attending these programs. Some of them have been quite happy to discuss how these programs are going and helping with their rehabilitation.
The prison also provides for up to 16 greyhounds to be trained for reintegration as domestic pets through the South Australian Greyhound Adoption Program.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Excuse me, member for Hammond. Minister for Correctional Services, I have to inform you that there are not to be any staff members in the gallery at the moment because that is reserved for speakers during this time. So could your staff member go around to the attendants and work it out that way. Thank you for that. Member for Hammond.
Mr PEDERICK: This Greyhound Adoption Program is a fantastic program that is not only instituted in prisons but across South Australia at various venues. The greyhound track in Adelaide works with this, and Greyhound South Australia, and obviously the new facilities at Murray Bridge. Great work is done to rehome the greyhounds, and I have witnessed it myself in Mobilong Prison.
Also, in regard to industry, the prison has a large workshop and assembly area, a kitchen, a bakery, electrical component assembly, building products, metal fabrication, workshop products, e-waste recycling, plastic component assembly and firewood and kindling packaging. Back in the day, the prison used to do external catering for Murray Bridge and Districts. I remember, although it is quite a few years ago now, my sister was an entrant in the Miss South Australia Quest and we ran an event in Murray Bridge. The prison did the catering, and it was very good catering, for that event. My sister organised a fashion parade that night I think at the community club in Murray Bridge and I was one of the so-called male models for the evening—
The Hon. D.C. van Holst Pellekaan: If she didn't win it was your fault.
Mr PEDERICK: The minister indicates that if she didn't win it was my fault, so I will wear that. I think you are correct. It was quite a funny night from memory. It was a long time ago—decades ago—and it was quite amusing, as we had friends lined up to be models, whether female or male, and no-one had any airs or graces. We had to get changed in the same room and everyone just roared in, got changed and got back out there with whatever they had to wear. Sadly, I was probably the reason she did not win. It just goes to show what used to happen inside the prison. They used to have basketball games there with the local community—obviously, they played all home matches—but that has not happened for quite a long time.
It has been a place that has also supplied massive employment for Murray Bridge and surrounding districts. People are obviously concerned about the impact a prison can have on a community and people had those concerns pre-1987, with the prison being built. I think a lot of concerns are exemplified in what happened in 2006, the year I was elected. I am pretty sure the budget that year was laid down in September. It was interesting that the former member for Croydon, Michael Atkinson of blessed memory—
Mr Odenwalder: May he rest in peace.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: He is not dead yet, as far as I know.
Mr PEDERICK: Well, of blessed memory to this place; I know he is alive and well. The announcement that the new men's and women's prisons were to be built on land at Mobilong turned up in The Advertiser, and that land is still there. It created a lot of controversy and it was quite disgraceful actually.
This was the 'announce and defend' policy of the former Labor government and these projects were worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The mayor of the Rural City of Murray Bridge at the time, Allan Arbon, contacted me and he said, 'What the hell?' I said, 'I know as much as you do.' Even as a new member, I think I got to ask three questions that afternoon in question time on what was going on.
We know what happened in the running of this. This was supposed to be a public-private partnership and a big reason it failed was the lack of consultation. In fact, I remember going to council meetings in Murray Bridge. This was supposed to be the replacement for Yatala Labour Prison, so a lot of the prison guards came down and certainly voiced their disapproval. These were guards who worked here in Adelaide at Yatala and they were not amused either, that they had not been informed of what was going on and they were not happy about moving. I am sure, over time, we could have found plenty of prison guards in the area, but it just showed the angst.
What happened in the longer term was that tens of millions in compensation had to be paid out to bidders because the whole show fell over. It was a complete disaster. I note that, in more recent times, many millions of dollars have been spent on upgrades across the state and part of that is the internal upgrades to Mobilong. There have been upgrades right across facilities, whether they be at Port Lincoln, Mount Gambier, Port Augusta, and probably Cadell—I am not so sure about Cadell, but I am sure there have been upgrades there.
There may have been—and I say 'may have been'—the opportunity, if it was done properly, to build these facilities out at Mobilong but it would have taken a far better discussion with my community, my constituents, on this proposal because a women's prison would have been built there as well as the so-called Yatala Labour Prison replacement.
It did create a lot of reaction and a lot of angst, and it certainly shows you how not to make a policy announcement and think it is not going to come back to bite you just because it is not in a seat held by your party. I think that is a good lesson for people on how things should be managed.
As I explained, Mobilong does provide a lot of work opportunities and a lot of people gained good employment there. I know the perennial candidate for Labor, Mat O'Brien, works there and it does provide that surety of employment for a lot of people in the Murray Bridge community. I must say that when I have been there for functions—I have not been there for a while—I always try to make time to talk to the lads in green, the prisoners, and just have general conversations about life. I think they take on board that someone in our position takes the time to talk to them. I commend the bill. It will make our prisons safer and more secure into the future.