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Questions Without Notice: Youth Justice System

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Sam Hibbins MP
Member for Prahran
1 December 2016

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — My question is to the Premier. Amongst the children your government has placed in the Barwon maximum security prison are children who are living with a disability, under child protection orders, Indigenous, had no role in the youth justice centre riot or are on remand and yet to be sentenced. You have said adult prison is where they belong. Premier, how will placing disadvantaged children in Victoria's highest security prison, reducing their chances of rehabilitation and increasing their chances of reoffending, make Victoria any safer? Or is this just a short-term political fix?

Mr ANDREWS (Premier) — I thank the member for Prahran for his question. As I indicated in an earlier answer, there are some in our community that have criticised the government for making the decision that it has made. I do not think it would be fair on staff or on any of those inmates to remain in Parkville. They need to be in a secure facility. They need to be in a facility that guarantees their safety and the safety of the community — a facility that they cannot compromise and potentially get out of.

Honourable members interjecting.

The SPEAKER — Order! The member for Hawthorn has been warned and will not be warned again.

Mr ANDREWS — Those opposite have but a passing interest in these matters. It is perhaps why they let the Ombudsman's review gather dust on the shelf for four years.

But back to the question asked by the member for Prahran, some have criticised our decision to have these inmates at Barwon Prison. I make no such apology. We will not compromise the safety of staff. We will not compromise the safety of some of those inmates who had nothing to do with the appalling behaviour, nor will we compromise the safety of the Victorian community.

Restoring some order is not incompatible with rehabilitation, where that is possible. Bringing safety to that environment is not incompatible with providing rehabilitation opportunities, where that is appropriate. This is a government that is prepared to take a tough stand when that is required, but we are also there to invest in further child protection workers and reform.

We are also there to invest in TAFE. Is that silence from those opposite, perhaps? Because no community was ever safer by cutting TAFE, and no community was ever safer — —

Honourable members interjecting.

The SPEAKER — Order! The Chair is unable to hear the Premier. Government members and opposition members will allow the Premier to continue in silence.

Mr ANDREWS — No community was ever made safer by cutting TAFE, and might I be so bold as to suggest that no community was ever made safer when the youth minister of the day did not know the youth unemployment rate. So these balances can be struck: invest where it is required but be resolute where that is required. Despite the criticisms of the Greens political party, we will not compromise the safety of staff, the safety of the community or the safety of anyone in our custody. That is the government's position. So I said to the member for Prahran: criticise away knowing that you will never be burdened with having to make anything like a government decision.

Honourable members interjecting.

The SPEAKER — Order! The member for Warrandyte is warned. The member for Prahran is entitled to silence when putting a supplementary question to the Premier.

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — My supplementary question to the Premier is: the government recently applied to transfer seven children permanently to the adult prison system, but a 2013 Ombudsman investigation into children transferred from the youth justice system to the adult prison system found that it was not appropriate to transfer children to the adult correctional system. The Ombudsman also found that:

… the youth justice system is limited in its capacity to deal with a small, but increasing, cohort of young people exhibiting violent behaviours. It is important that the youth justice system respond appropriately to these children rather than abrogate its responsibility by transferring them to the adult system.

Premier, why are you absolving your responsibility to create a youth justice system that works and adopting the failed policies of the Leader of the Opposition and the Liberal Party?

Mr ANDREWS (Premier) — With the greatest of respect, might I suggest to the member for Prahran that he is in no position to be lecturing anybody about proximity to the Liberal Party. I do thank you for that and for your membership of a very broad coalition when it suits your purposes. As I said earlier, in our democratic system the member for Prahran and his Greens political party are free to criticise the government, and that freedom of course is based on the fact that they will never, ever be anything more perhaps than a commentator sitting on the sidelines with a view on everything and a record on nothing.

I would simply say to the member for Prahran: we do not abrogate our responsibilities. We will discharge our responsibilities. Again, with the greatest of respect, that is something that the member for Prahran, sadly for him, would know very little about.

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Sam Hibbins MP
Member for Prahran
1 December 2016
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