CORRECTIVE SERVICES REFORMS
The Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ:
My question is directed to the Minister for Corrective Services. Will the Minister update the House on reforms to New South Wales Corrective Services?
The Hon. JOHN ROBERTSON:
The State Government is implementing important reforms in Corrective Services. These reforms include a variety of changes that will save taxpayers over $60 million a year. One of these reforms is the private sector operation of Parklea Correctional Centre. As the upper House inquiry into prison-related services noted in its recent report:
The committee believes that there is a sound argument for introducing competition to the public prison sector, and we agree that a combination of public and private operators can be beneficial.
The Government believes that the outsourcing of the operations of Parklea Correctional Centre will allow Corrective Services New South Wales to effectively benchmark the remaining publicly run correctional centres across the State. This is a view shared by Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, which said:
Global and Australian experience of competition in services markets—especially corrections—has shown that contestability delivers better outcomes for taxpayers and more humane corrective services for prisoners
NSW is no different. Reform must continue in spite of noisy opposition.
There has been significant public interest in the Government's reforms at Parklea, and now is an appropriate time to update the House regarding employment protections that have been put in place for those staff. I can advise the House that current employees who apply to work at the privately operated Parklea Correctional Centre will be given a three-year recruit support payment and, upon transfer, will receive up to a 30-week transitional payment. Officers also have the option of transferring to another publicly run correctional centre, of which there are eight within a 25-kilometre radius of Parklea.
Parklea Correctional Centre, once outsourced, will continue to be accountable to an extensive array of oversight bodies, as currently occurs at Junee Correctional Centre. These include the Ombudsman, the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the Corrective Services "Parklea Monitor", the Investigations Branch of Corrective Services New South Wales, the Corrections Inspectorate of Corrective Services, Parklea Correctional Centre's own internal compliance officer, and the Commissioner for Corrective Services. The Government's position is clear. I also point out that, thanks to Ms Sylvia Hale, the Greens' position on this is clear as well. For six months Greg Smith, the so-called Opposition spokesperson on this issue, has steadfastly refused to utter a word about his position in relation to the outsourcing of Parklea Correctional Centre. Through strikes, inquiries, parliamentary debates and mass meetings, he would not tell the people of New South Wales what his position was. Then when he went on holidays, Chris Hartcher announced on 23 July, for the first time, that the Opposition was opposed to the outsourcing of Parklea because it was—and I quote him on 2SM—"a bad idea".
That was in complete contrast to the Leader of the Opposition, who made it clear on 28 October that this issue must be explored. Barry O'Farrell accused the Labor Party of ignoring prison reform. The House is owed an explanation as to the position of the Coalition on the private sector operation of prisons in New South Wales. The shadow Cabinet must make a decision. No more weasel words and no more half-truths. What is its position?