Justice Action Rally
The Hon. Dr A. CHESTERFIELD-EVANS [10.28 p.m.]: Last Friday, 1 September, Justice Action held a rally on the footpath outside Parliament House. I went to speak at that rally after being delayed at an important luncheon engagement. The purpose of the rally was to bring to attention the plight of prisoners and the fact that the justice system does not really solve the problem of crime in society. In my address to the rally I pointed out that the Premier had complained that the Director of Public Prosecutions [DPP] had not appealed against a sentence given to the people who had dropped the stone onto a truck driver from a bridge at Campbelltown; that he felt the sentence was not long enough and that the DPP should have appealed.
The House only the day before had debated Mrs Chikarovski's bill that sought to prevent Baker appealing against his sentence. The two old parties are demanding higher sentences yet two reports dealing with a more humane approach to prisoners have been ignored, that is, the second and final report on crime prevention through social support by the Standing Committee on Law and Justice and the report by the Select Committee on the Increase in Prisoner Population, which suggested revisiting the proposal for a new women's prison at Windsor. As I was speaking the policeman more or less told me to shut up. He was a very high-ranking officer, and he said, "The permit for this rally was from one o'clock to two o'clock. It is now after three. This rally cannot go on because we have had complaints about the noise from across the street." I said, "How about we just turn the microphone down and I be allowed to continue to speak as I am in a public place." I was more or less told that it was all over and anyone who continued would be arrested. And this was outside Parliament House! I pointed out that for months people had starved themselves in protest and had never been troubled. I also said that the demonstration was very small, but it was obvious that the policeman was extremely hostile to Justice Action.
I was shocked and very angry that as a parliamentarian I was spoken to in that way outside Parliament House. Interestingly, Justice Action also held a rally and had a barbecue on Father's Day outside Long Bay gaol, and the Peace Bus, which had been travelling throughout New South Wales gaining publicity for prisoners' rights, was also there. The car park outside Long Bay gaol was cordoned off and a "Trespassers will be prosecuted" notice had been put up. Most people parked their cars in the usual manner and visited the gaol but if anyone from the Justice Action group tried to cross the cordon, people in T-shirts but wearing no identification, who obviously were plainclothes police, told them that if they went any further they would be arrested. Groups of police with telephoto lenses were taking pictures of the people making speeches using a megaphone.
I believe that the group was kept away from the walls of the gaol so that even with the megaphone they would not be heard within the gaol. It was clearly a stand-off, with great hostility between Justice Action and the plainclothes police. I then went in to visit a prisoner, an experience I had not had before. He was in the Metropolitan Medical Transient Centre at Long Bay prison. The people were courteous if somewhat officious. It was like getting a driver's licence. I had to empty my pockets and goods into a locker and a lady told me that sometimes stuff was pinched. I was fingerprinted and photographed. The chap I was visiting had been in gaol for 27 years for murder. He had psychological problems and had never been charged. He was still on anti-psychotic drugs, which gave him a slightly different look that I, being a medical practitioner, could recognise.
This prisoner was seeking parole but he said parole conditions were difficult to meet. Eight years ago he had tried to get parole but had been unable to meet his parole conditions and therefore he remained in prison, largely because he had not had the necessary support to meet his conditions, given that he had some residual psychiatric problems. Taxpayers have paid for him to spend those extra eight years in gaol. I was shocked to read in today's Sydney Morning Herald that a 15-month suspended sentence was given to John Laws because, as the judge is quoted as saying, "He was too wealthy to fine and too famous to go to gaol." Someone who has committed a crime is not sent to gaol because he is too wealthy and too famous yet another person has spent an extra eight years in gaol because he cannot meet his parole conditions. We need a more enlightened approach to gaol. I was shocked by the authoritarian way in which an effective protest group was handled in Australia today. [Time expired.]