Wednesday 28 March 2012

Hansard of the Legislative Council


In Committee


Mr FINCH - Mr Chairman, I have heard what the Leader has said, and also I am in agreement with what the member for Nelson has contributed as well. But I just think that at this crucial time in Tasmania, where we are under such pressure, it comes back to us members to carry out that scrutiny of what is going on in this State. As we know, people are more focused now on what is happening politically. I have never known a time when we have had this solid focus on political activity. Everybody has an opinion, mostly disagreeing with the way things are going at this stage.

I think that if we do not do our work here, if we do not scrutinise, if we take this and just say, 'Yes, here we go; away we go; give that a tick off because we have always done that in the past; that is the way the system works' - well, I think we are sailing in different times. People are more interested in what money is being spent where, as they are in their own household budgets, as I referred to the last time we were sitting here. It is about household budgets and how you run them and how you do your budgeting for the future. We have not done that very well, and that is why we find ourselves in the situation where we are travelling through times that are requiring more scrutiny by the community, the Tasmanian community. The member for Murchison has mentioned before our role in respect to the Tasmanian community. I realise that I am making a speech here rather than asking a question, so I will not go on.

The member for Windermere has already mentioned overtime. And I know that we have focused solidly for certainly the last three or four years on this situation in the Prison Service and our concern for it. Now, you may have the figure there, but I do not know if it shocks people here to know that I am sure that we were questioning overtime in the Prison Service of $3 million. And the previous year it was up around $2.5 million. And we had given the signal then of our concern. And look, I am not suggesting that nothing was done, but I do not think that we have got a clear explanation of how and why that is occurring, and that situation surely now, as we look at our budgeting situation, is untenable.

Ms Forrest - Through you, Mr Chairman - we are talking about an extra $2 million in overtime. There is a budget estimate which is talking about the last year's over-budget in overtime. So if it was $3 million last year, what was it this year? We need another $2 million on top of that; that's the way it seems to coming across here.

Mr FINCH - So this is where our concern is focused at the budget Estimates, and here is the service that we have been focusing on and talking about. And I think for me - and it may be for other members too - this is scant evidence for us to make our decisions on. It is all right to say we have the second reading speech, but it is very much glossed over and it is very much big-picture stuff without explaining to us why this is required. That is why I was interested to hear what the member for Murchison had to contribute and the member for Nelson. But perhaps there is another way of having a little bit more scrutiny in this circumstance before we come to make our decision here with these appropriation bills.

Mr PARKINSON - Again the honourable member for Rosevears is getting into the area of micromanaging the prison system. He talks about a few years ago and the overtime problem. Soon after I came into this place I was asked to be on a committee that investigated the prison system in Tasmania, the Corrective Services Committee which was chaired by Don Wing - a very appropriate name because most of their premises are named after him, A Wing, B Wing, C Wing, and D Wing.

Ms Forrest - Particularly D Wing. That was the wing of his own.

Mr PARKINSON - They all had a D Wing but back then - and when was it - it was a long time ago, the committee noted a problem in the prison system which was the rorting of overtime - r-o-r-t.

Mr Finch - R-i-t-e, Leader.

Mr PARKINSON - Opinions differ in this day and age as to the reason for the overtime and I cannot stand here having been on that committee and say that the rorting continues to this day but it is clear from the steps that the Government has taken through the Palmer investigation and his report and setting up of the - what do you call it?

Dr Goodwin - The change manager.

Mr PARKINSON - The change manager. It is clear that all involved know that there is still some sort of problem over there - you hear people talking about the time it is going to take to change the culture. We only have one prison in Tasmania and we cannot see it shut down. What do we do - run it by the police? We do not have the police numbers to run the prison.

Mr Mulder - They run everything else.

Mr PARKINSON - They would probably do a better job, for all I know. I am not a prison manager and I do not know what it takes but it is clear from all the investigations that have taken place. The honourable member for Rosevears says that they must have got the message by now; I think they probably have, but how do you change the culture? You change it by recruiting new people; you change it by having a changed manager, we hope. It has always been my private view that had the recommendation of the Legislative Council select committee been put in place at the time, a private prison would have been built in the north of the State and a public prison in the south of the State and we always thought, based on mainland experience, that we would have achieved efficiencies by having that sort of structure because if one failed, you would then draw on the other as a stand-by in the meantime while you were implementing changes. And it was recognised by that committee that drastic changes needed to be implemented but that recommendation was never taken up for a whole host of reasons and we are stuck with one prison and there is still criticism of that.

We are stuck with what we have. We are there. The Government is working on the solution. The honourable member wants more information. If you want us to report progress then we can have a more detailed briefing that may achieve something. I would be happy to do that. I am not stuck on getting it through today; we still have tomorrow and before we go to the Legislative Council elections; we are sitting for another three days.

Ms Forrest - We could do it on your last day here. That would be nice.