Debates Day 6 - Thursday 19 October 2017
Parliamentary Record 8
Debates for 13th Assembly 2016 - 2018; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020
Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES Thursday 19 October 2017 2717 The resulting loss in GST funding could have a catastrophic effect on the health and wellbeing of Territorians, particularly our most vulnerable Territorians. It puts our ongoing ability to close that gap at risk. I implore the federal Treasurer to seriously consider the effects of his decision on the health and wellbeing of Territorians; to not treat Territorians as second-class citizens; and to acknowledge that the citizens from the most remote parts of Australia have the right to access healthcare services just like people in Sydney, in Melbourne and on the east coast. I have spoken about how any reduction in the GST will potentially be felt in my Health portfolio. In terms of the Department of Attorney-General and Justice, it is critical to note that any further budgetary pressures will almost significantly impact on Northern Territory Correctional Services. Our incarceration rates are far too high and, as a government, we are committed to reducing them. There were 923 prisoners per 100 000 people in 2016; that is 440% higher than the national average. The federal government must acknowledge that operating costs for correction centres and Community Corrections per head of population per year in the Northern Territory is more than 400% higher than the national average. I have stated numerous times in this House and publicly that Indigenous people are overrepresented in the Australian justice correction system, particularly in the Northern Territory, where approximately 84% of prisoners are Indigenous. This figure in conjunction with the incarceration rate are key contributors to what is widening the gap of Indigenous disadvantage. The Aboriginal Justice Unit was launched in July, with a key aim to examine the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in our justice system and develop potential measures to address that. It was an important step in the framing of an Aboriginal justice agreement, which will seek to: reduce the high levels of disadvantage address the high levels of Aboriginal incarceration and assist to reduce recidivism rates in the Northern Territory provide services that promote basic human rights and promote individual and community resilience reduce the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in the NT criminal justice system and deliver on the governments commitments to engage Aboriginal people on law and justice matters. This government made a commitment to reduce incarceration and break the cycle of reoffending in the Territory. Any cut to the GST would potentially undermine our ability to deve lop measures to reduce the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territorys justice system. It is important that we take the time to break down the current situation and what any change in the GST allocation could mean for correctional services in the Territory. In September we had 1640 prisoners in the Northern Territory; 84% were Aboriginal, 94% male and 6% female. Each of these prisoners are received by correctional centres and have a range of complex but very specific needs. There are many factors that have played a role in their offending behaviour. The Northern Territory Correctional Services work hard to address the risk factors of offenders and further assist prisoners, particularly Aboriginal prisoners, through cultural programs and support. The government has made a commitment to improve rehabilitation and break the cycle of reoffending to create safe, vibrant communities across the Northern Territory. Fundamental to this commitment is the provision of therapeutic education training and vocational programs that address the issues of offending behaviours and assist offenders to re -establish themselves in our communities. Since coming to government in August 2016, we have worked with the Department of AttorneyGeneral and Justice, particularly Northern Territory Correctional Services, to expand the support and opportunities available. We have done this through support for key programs and legislative changes including amending the Parole Act; bringing back the Banned Drinker Register; expanding electronic monitoring, which will provide greater supervision and accountability for communitive-based offenders; refunding the community support work program, something the CLP government left unfunded; investing in literacy and numeracy, as well as industry programs.