Part 3 – The Tasmanian Prison System

Importantly, I reiterate that no final decision has been made with respect to the preferred prison site, but I do believe in full and proper consultation to ensure the community has adequate opportunity to discuss opportunities and concerns. We are listening, we are engaging, and I look forward to being in Westbury over the weeks ahead. Elise Archer, Press Release 27 November 2019. (our emphasis)

Site location – This site, located on Birralee Road in Valley Central, has been selected as it best meets the criteria from our selection process, which includes connectivity to major population centres in the north and north west, and location to services and transport routes. The Justice Department website updated on the 20th November 2019 therefore before the Ministers statement. (our emphasis)

The Department of Justice website therefore directly contradicts its own Minister regarding no final decision having been made with respect to the preferred prison site.

This is the final article in my three-part series that, together with the Introduction, gives an overview of the background to a possible Northern Regional Prison and its location. The Liberal Party politicians promoting this matter are not acting in the best interests of themselves or their Party and certainly not in the interests of those they are charged to represent.

I suggest that any thoughtful person would conclude that a Northern Prison should be at Longreach in the Bell Bay industrial precinct not at Westbury. Why this option is not being vigorously pursued is currently impossible to fathom.
My articles have solicited no interest from any Liberal, either State or Federal, suggesting they have nothing to add to the debate and therefore my statements and comments are accurate and irrefutable.

Minister Archer, Premier Hodgman, Shelton et al are therefore not according to their wordsmiths and spin doctors ‘listening or engaging’. Rather, they are just obfuscating and lying all in an effort to inflict a prison on Westbury.

Westbury Prison

John Tucker & Mark Shelton – image taken by John Hawkins at a public meeting in Westbury village hall to discuss the prison. 26 October 2019

The people of Lyons elected these two men to represent thems. Can we trust these two MHAs to act with integrity over the placement of a Northern Prison at Westbury? Shelton’s comment to a group of WRAP members that a positive was that it would bring a laundry into the village is typically crass and irresponsible.


Barbara Etter was Tasmania’s first Integrity Commissioner, an interstate appointment from Western Australia. Her efforts to implement an effective Commission saw her immediately opposed by the cliques and the mates that control this state. Etter claimed the state government failed to address the stress and anxiety caused by the role, failed to bring perceived performance issues to her attention in a timely fashion, undermined her ability to do her job, and encouraged Integrity Commission employees to reject her authority.

She sued after quitting in October 2011, one year into a five-year contract. The state matter was settled with a paymen of $198,000.
According to the Mercury in 2014, the Tasmanian Integrity Commission ‘hit perhaps its most ludicrous point when it looked into a complaint by former prisons chief Barry Greenberry about bullying and white-anting. Ms Merryfull wrote to Mr Greenberry saying he might never hear of the outcome of his complaint.’

Barry Greenberry

The appointment from Britain of Barry Greenberry as Director of the Tasmanian Prison Service also hit the public service rocks and he resigned as the Director of Prisons in March 2013, just months into a five-year contract. Unrest in the Tasmanian prison service was detailed by Greenberry in a heavily redacted letter of complaint regarding his efforts to reform the culture at Risdon against internal opposition and a complete lack of bureaucratic and political support.

The first page of a heavily redacted nine-page document of complaint written by Greenberry regarding his dealings with the Tasmanian Justice Department.

An unredacted version of this extremely important document should be made public by Archer in the interests of discovery regarding the internal workings of the Prison Service as they relate to the proposed new Northern Prison.

One of the principal players in the resignation of Greenberry was Simon Overland, the former Victorian Police Commissioner, a man obviously well suited to Tasmania and its way of doing business. Appointed Secretary, Department of Justice, Tasmania, on 4 July 2012, he resigned on 19 July 2017 having completed in full his five-year contract. Overland’s evidence before the Lawyer X, Royal Commission in Victoria regarding his handling of the police informer and gangland lawyer Nicola Gobbo is eagerly awaited.

Greenberry’s nine-page heavily-redacted complaint to the Integrity Commission survives. He explains in detail how corruption within the Tasmanian prison system works. It is too long to be published in this article but should be read by all those seriously interested in the matter of the Tasmanian Prison Service. The current Attorney General Archer should release the unredacted original version so that WRAP can discuss the problems inherent within a service soon to be centred at Westbury.

Greenberry was whitewashed by the Integrity Commission for, as Etter had previously discovered, this was set up as a toothless Tasmanian tiger to ensure the protection of the maaates by the Legislative Councillors Hall and Wilkinson. The cell doors in Tasmania were barely rattled.

David Obendorf writing in Tasmanian Times could smell the stench of corruption over the forced Greenberry resignation.
Greenberry never recovered from his treatment in Tasmania and died young, a broken man. His eulogy in England included the words:

It is evident that when employing Barry, the Tasmanian Government were seeking a servant who lacked moral fibre, principles and an unswerving determination to bring about improvements to their service.  Barry was exactly the opposite of who they sought because he had all those qualities in abundance.

Filling the Tasmanian prisons

As the hard right from within the Liberal party attempt to stamp their jackboots over dissent by honest and decent Tasmanians, the Hodgman so-called Liberal government has again driven its controversial anti-protest laws through the lower house using the turncoat Ogilvie after heated opposition from Labor and the Greens.

This is the second time the Government has attempted to legislate against protest action on work sites. The unspoken reason for the legislation is the forestry wars. The clearing of the plantations will have taken place by the next election and the logging of non-FSC accredited native forests in World Heritage listed areas will be back on the agenda. The locking up of protesters in a climate change world will cause Labour and the Liberals to back the same horse in order to get elected and thereby force the Greens further into retreat.

Hodgman’s first attempt at workplace protest mandatory detention laws was struck down by the High Court in 2017 as unconstitutional, with the Tasmanian Government spending $335,000 in legal fees defending the indefensible. One would hope that we might all have grown up a little by the next election and that the world has moved on, and most recognise that the protection and promotion of clear felling and the napalming of our remaining native forests is no longer a vote winner.

Court workload

A Tasmanian Liberal government in power, not on merit but, courtesy of funds donated by the gambling lobby are proving to be totally incompetent regarding the administration of this state. Even Tasmania’s Chief Justice has been forced to take the Hodgman Government to task for failing to address the surging workload of his Courts.

Chief Justice Alan Blow states that at the end of June this year there were 680 cases waiting to be dealt with and the average wait time from arrest to a result was nearly two years! He said the Government had an opportunity in May to address the situation when it introduced its Magistrates Court Bill because the legislation could have expanded the types of cases that a Magistrates Court could deal with.

Instead he said the Attorney-General (Archer) took “little advantage of that opportunity” … and the limited changes that were made, would make little difference. Chief Justice Blow called on the Government to do more to reduce the court’s workload through legislative means.

Mandatory Sentencing

Since the demise of Greenberry the Liberal government has introduced the concept of mandatory sentencing in a determined effort to drive a wedge between Labour and the Greens.

The Law Institute of Victoria opposes the introduction of mandatory minimum sentences. The overwhelming evidence from Australia and overseas demonstrates that mandatory sentencing does not reduce crime through deterrence. When the public is informed about what mandatory sentencing means, the system is not supported.

Such regimes exacerbate court delay, as offenders contest charges in order to avoid the mandatory minimum sentence and the motivation for an offender to assist the authorities with their investigations is removed. This legislation has a significant impact on the costs of judicial administration, policing and legal aid funding, as a far larger number of cases are contested. This results in burgeoning costs in relation to housing more prisoners, for longer, and is the key factor in the planning for a proposed Northern Prison.

If and when a Northern Prison is built this prison will require vastly improved resources and financial modelling which is more predictive and forward looking so as to accurately reflect the passing of mandatory detention into law.

Auditor-General’s Report on the Tasmanian Prison Service

Elise Archer must tell Tasmanians how soon she will implement the recommendations of a damning report into Tasmania’s prison system released by Tasmania’s Auditor-General:

The Tasmanian Prison Service (TPS) struggling to cope with changes in Tasmanian Government policy and sentencing, which significantly increased the numbers of inmates from 2013-14 to 2017-18. The average annual inmate numbers rose from 472 in 2013-14 to 613 in 2017-18, a rise of 30%. Justice did not initially recognise the increase in inmate numbers as a sustained increase until 2016-17. Instead, Justice assumed the rise in inmate numbers for 2015-16 would be limited to one year and would reduce again as it had done after the rise in 2011-12.

Over the last few years, the Justice Department has examined the drivers of the increase in inmate numbers and noted from 2015 the average rate of entries into prison increased from around 80 per month to 100 per month. Despite the increased numbers of inmates arriving, the number of long-term inmates (those in prison longer than two years) remained relatively stable at around 100.

The report reveals that during 2018-19:

  • an unprecedented increase occurred in numbers of those remanded into custody;
  • the Government’s reform agenda on family violence and mandatory sentencing increased the cell requirements by 30%;
  • lockdowns more than doubled with prisoners spending a combined 344,000 hours in lockdown;
  • overtime comprised 10% of the entire prison budget. 70% of overtime was due to vacancies not being filled. Almost 50% of correctional officers required more than their annual allocation of sick leave.

On the evidence provided by the Auditor General, the Minister Archer and her department cannot resource nor run the prison at Risdon which is in a virtually constant state of lockdown.

It could be politely suggested that the need for two high security prisons has been brought about by the introduction of mandatory sentencing and the closure of the Hayes Prison Farm.

Rehabilitation not Imprisonment

The concept of rehabilitation, and options other than incarceration, is most applicable to two categories of prison inmates. These are people who lose their money on poker machines then resort to theft, and those who are trapped by others into the drug cycle and hence are principally users not dealers.

The complete stupidity of our political masters, as encapsulated by the Justice Department’s decision to close the Hayes Prison Farm, has created an unsolvable problem. I quote from Wikipedia:
The original site of 2000 acres consisted of an orchard, grazing land and a small forest. The prison was opened in 1937 and consisted of single wooden huts for 20 persons, built by prisoners. Another 50 single huts were built as numbers increased. A 50-cell block was built in 1968 and an extra block of 20 cells was built in 1970.
Hayes had large market vegetable gardens, 1,000 pigs, 1,800 laying hens, 2,000 sheep, an award-winning dairy herd and a clay processing plant that sold clay to Salamanca potters. Three truckloads packed with vegetables left the prison farm each week. Their customers included the Royal Derwent Hospital, Lachlan Park, the Royal Hobart and St John’s hospitals, several nursing homes in the Hobart region, government departments and the prison itself. More than 300 cows were kept at Hayes. The farm was also responsible for a much smaller herd, which kept the grass short at Government House Hobart. Hayes sold 1.1 million litres of milk to dairy company National Foods each year. It grew about 7,000 kilograms (15,000 lb) of glasshouse, vine-ripened tomatoes and 1,700 bales of hay and silage.
The purpose of the farm was to assist inmates to develop skills to prepare them for exiting prison and to address recidivism.
In June 2011, it was announced that the Hayes Prison Farm would be decommissioned because of a A$4.5 million repair bill. The decision to close Hayes was condemned by the then state opposition, unions and prisoner advocates.

The Liberal Government, no longer in opposition in January 2015, then sold the Hayes Prison Farm for a reported $2.2 million. Now they expect us to agree to them spending $270 million dollars of our money to reinvent the wheel. If the serious criminals remained at Risdon, and those in need of treatment were assisted away from a prison setting such as Hayes, there would, I suggest, be no need to build another high security prison.

The Drug Trade and High Security Prisons

A major inroad into the drug trade in Tasmania took place in May of this year when a drug syndicate was disrupted, $2.7 million worth of drugs seized, and 31 arrests presumably of dealers rather than users were made. The 18-month investigation was assisted by NSW Police, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.
More than $186,000 in cash from Tasmania and NSW, and six firearms in Tasmania were seized as part of the operation. The importance of this case is that 31 arrests were made, currently 5% of the Tasmanian prison population.

Gambling and Poker Machines

The weak-kneed Tasmanian Labour Party under Rebecca White has backed off on the poker machine policy they took to the last election thereby trashing their credibility.

Poker machine licence holders have almost no commercial risk – the only serious threat to their profitable business model is policy reform. This reality has ensured that the industry has become an active participant in our democratic process. Recent elections in Victoria (where a special levy was collected from pokies licence holders to raise funds to combat the anti-gambling Greens), South Australia (where the target was anti-gambling politician Nick Xenophon and his new state party) and Tasmania (where gambling-industry donations ensured that the Liberals out-spent a reform-minded Labor by more than four to one) reveals the influence pokies money can buy.

MPs across the country understand that taking on the industry means massive donations will flow to their opponent.
Any federal government tempted to intervene has been warned off by a ferocious PR campaign against the modest reforms negotiated in 2010 between independent MP Andrew Wilkie and then prime minister Julia Gillard (which didn’t end until Labor voted with the new Abbott government to extinguish its own already watered-down policy achievements).

James Boyce in The Monthly

In Tasmania the anti-poker machine mantle has been taken up by Jacqui Lambie (JLN) who has the balance of power in the Senate from whose website I extract the following:

When the contract between The Federal Group and State expires in July 2022, it is the JLN’s intention to have removed all poker machines from pubs and clubs across Tasmania and only allow poker machines to operate in the two existing Tasmanian casinos. 
Three quarters of all pubs in Tasmania don’t operate poker machines. The Liberal Government falsely claims that 5000 jobs would be lost with the removal of poker machines, when in fact the number of full-time jobs linked to poker machines in pubs is only 317.
The same figures show that the number of Tasmanians with a gambling problem is seven times the number of people who are employed full-time for the gaming industry in pubs and clubs.
Poker machines increase the incidence of family violence. Australian National University Study)
Poker machines are the second biggest cause of crime in the community after the illegal drug trade (University of South Australia/Victorian Government study).

These bankrupt gamblers, stealing to feed their addiction, are a product of the donations provided by the gambling lobby to complicit politicians resulting in the proposed building of a Northern Regional Prison.

Jailing Protesters

As democracy around the world begins to unravel, chaos is beginning to reign – Hong Kong, UK, USA, France, Greece, Italy…. Before long we will see rampant inflation, the result of quantitative easing, and wars over water and clean air as the world’s population of 7 billion people commence the fight to eat, drink and survive under the bonds of climate change.

The words of Abbott should be prefixed: The outcome of climate change is crap. The change in weather conditions on our planet will destroy democracy as we know it as people endeavour to protect their self-indulgent lives. Those the democratic world has elected to govern are abusing the system to gain power. They are in the main men (and sometimes women) of little or no consequence with absolutely no standards and very little integrity.

They have perfected the art of wedge politics to the detriment of democracy. Those who protest over their behaviour and lies do so because we require of them certain standards, and beliefs, further we expect them to behave in an honourable way.

Murray Kellam QC, another Tasmanian Integrity Commissioner, stated that ‘powerful interests’ in the state’s government and public service have worked against the Commission from day one. Those interests have sought to limit the Commission’s work by reducing its budget, calling for removal of its investigative functions, not remedying its deficient legislation, and not supporting its work. He continued; in the future, I fear history will record that Tasmania’s major political parties tacitly ‘gave the green light’ to corruption.

No matter how many jails the Liberals build, people of strong will and integrity will fight back using the world wide web and outlets of truth such as Tasmanian Times. Our voices eventually will be heard even if the pages of the Mercury and the Examiner are closed to those who dare to protest.

It is into this maelstrom of the Tasmanian prison system that the Westbury farming community is about to be unwillingly pitched.

John Hawkins has lived in Tasmania for 17 years. He has recreated with his wife Robyn a 19th century landscape over the Bentley Estate at Chudleigh. He is interested in the Tasmanian way of doing business. John was commissioned into the Diehards from Sandhurst in 1962.

Postscript: statements by Minister Archer and WRAP are here. See also the WRAP protest action in Hobart.

See also the IntroductionPart 1 and Part 2 of this series about the Westbury Prison proposal.