Appropriation Bill 2013 No. 2


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (17:12): I would like to use this budget reply speech grievance opportunity to focus on issues in corrections. As I mentioned yesterday in my main budget reply speech, this budget does include money going towards Correctional Services which is a very positive thing. It includes $2.9 million over four years for bail housing, 30 beds, $66 per bailee per day (which I think is an exceptionally low budget) and $6.3 million over four years for the operational costs of the 20 beds that are nearly completed at the Adelaide Women's Prison.

Of course, it is fair to ask, 'Well, that prison has been planned to be built for a very long time, so why wasn't that operational money put earlier into the budget?' There is $6.1 million per year for the operational costs of 108 new beds at Mount Gambier, which are also nearly complete. So one can ask the same question: why wasn't that money put into previous budgets? I suspect the answer is, so it would look like they might end up in surplus, which, of course, they haven't.

There is $25.4 million over four years to build 60 more beds at Mount Gambier, in addition to the 108, but no additional operating funding for those beds. So if they are actually to be built within the next four years, why isn't there some money in the budget explaining exactly how they are going to be funded and run? It also includes $6.2 million for operational costs of the 20 new beds at Port Lincoln prison, which are already operational. They are already up and running, but now we are just getting money into the budget for their operation and their running. Clearly, that is very poor financial management but, unfortunately, that is not the end of it. Probably even more important is the fact that, unfortunately, these beds will not be enough, based on current prisoner growth numbers.

According to FOIs that I have put in and received the information back, our prison system reached full capacity on 9 April this year when there were 2,267 prisoners in custody, and our prison system has the official capacity for 2,266 prisoners. The system is clearly under enormous stress and, of course, what has had to happen is that the hardworking people from the Department for Correctional Services have had to put in temporary beds at Mount Gambier and the City Watch House, and perhaps even other places that I am not aware of, so that they can manage this demand in excess of supply.

ABS figures tell us that this growth in prisoner numbers is all in secure prisoners, at the top end. These are the people who require being put into prisons and it would not be acceptable to put these people into bail housing situations, as has been proposed. I certainly hope that this oversupply—if that is the right word—of prisoners is not going to mean that some people who require secure incarceration are pushed down into low security or no-security facilities.

Growth in prisoner numbers over the last 10 years has been 3.9 per cent per annum, and in the last two years it has been 4.1 per cent per annum. Let's say that a very good indicative number is 4 per cent per annum which, based on current prisoner numbers, is 90 prisoners per year. The extra beds that I have just mentioned, which the government has announced the building of, are not going to keep up with that growth. The extra beds that are in the budget are made up of 60 additional beds at Mount Gambier, 108 additional beds at Mount Gambier, 30 bail beds—so even including those very low-security beds—and 20 at the Adelaide Women's Prison. That adds up to 218 beds.

At current growth rates of 90 prisoners per year we will reach that capacity, if all of those beds were built immediately, in two years and five months and all those beds would be full. The budget says that these extra beds will be built over four years, not two years and five months. However, even if they were all done straightaway, in two years and five months—which is a little bit over halfway through the budget forward estimates period—all the beds that are planned to be built, plus the existing ones, will all be full.

Our capacity will get to 2,484 beds, but that capacity will all be needed in two years and five months, which puts extraordinary pressure on the prison system and on the police. As I mentioned before, not only are many of these beds funded to be built but not funded to be run, they will not actually meet the demand that is necessary. They will not be sufficient to cater for the number of prisoners that are required.

What is the government going to do? Perhaps next year it could announce some more funding. If we are in government, perhaps we could announce some more funding, but the budget is going to be under extraordinary pressure. I challenge the government and the minister to come out and say how he thinks that what he has in this budget is going to be sufficient to meet the demand, because clearly it is not. The other thing the government could do, of course, is say, 'Well, we are actually just not going to grow our prisoner population by 90 per year.'

That 4 per cent seems to have been pretty steady for a decade or so, so let's assume that crime continues as it does and let's assume that police do what they have been doing for the last 10 years. How on earth is that going to be done? You obviously cannot tell the police, 'Look, don't go and catch as many crooks.' You obviously cannot have a system where the people who require medium to high-security imprisonment do not get that and go into low-security imprisonment. This is a problem that is very serious and very genuine, and I challenge the government to come out and explain exactly how it is going to deal with this issue.


No Very

Captcha Image