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Full transcript of media conference by Premier Denis Napthine – 21 January 2014

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Subjects: Fire in the Grampians and Northern Grampians, rehabilitation of the fire damaged area, prison beds, roads, Australia Post mail delivery

E&OE

 DENIS NAPTHINE:

I’d also just like to add that after I leave here I’ll be going to Halls Gap. As we know, the Grampians, and Northern Grampians area particularly, has been affected significantly by major fires during the extremely hot weather last week, with over 52,000 hectares affected, including the evacuation of Halls Gap and Pomonal. While the fires are still going, but they are now very much under control, and congratulations to all those involved.

But, the message from Halls Gap and Pomonal and the whole Northern Grampians region is that they are open for business. They’re a great place for tourism, great place to visit, and I’ll certainly at Halls Gap be encouraging people to come back to Halls Gap, come back to the Grampians for their holidays, or for a day visit, and certainly, that will be the best thing Victorians can do to show their support for these areas that are affected by fires and help rebuild the tourism industry in this area, and while I’m on that, it’s pleasing to note that the Minister of Corrections has advised me as we’ve walked around today that prisoners from the facility here will be involved on day-work programs to help restore some of the damaged areas by the fires, and this follows previous work by prisoners around Victoria on flood emergencies, on fire emergencies and rehabilitation, and again, I think it’s a great thing that prisoners are used in that way to assist the community. It’s good for the prisoners and it’s great for community.

REPORTER:

What did you think of the canton style cottage-living and the standard of amenity? Do you think it’ll work?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

I think this a good facility for those prisoners who’ve earned that right. Those prisoners, particularly older prisoners or prisoners towards the end of their sentence, who’ve earned the right to have a little bit more freedom, a little bit more opportunity. Particularly opportunity to be involved in cooking and self-management, so that they’re better prepared to re-enter the community.

REPORTER:

Is there a flow on effect to police cell overcrowding, everyone moves, sort of, up the chain, or across; is there an impact on what those cells will be like?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

What we’re seeing under this Government is an expansion of prison capacity. The previous Labor Government were advised three times to increase prison capacity with the increasing demand for prison beds. They refused to act. We inherited that problem, we’re fixing that problem. We’ve put on significant numbers of additional prison beds, we’re investing in major prison capacity, and this is having a significant effect as these prison beds open on reducing the demands on police cells and making sure that we can get prisoners who should be in a correctional facility in those facilities.

REPORTER:

What’s the level of police overcrowding at the moment?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

I’ll ask Ed to perhaps.

EDWARD O’DONOHUE:

As has been publicly reported, in November, the number of prisoners in police cells hit over 350. In recent weeks, we have been consistently below 200, in the mid-100s; well within the capacity of the system. That has taken significant pressure from the police cell system.

That has been as a result of the initiatives of this Government in adding capacity to the system, but also some new initiatives: weekend court sitting at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court - two dedicated Magistrates’ Courts sitting at the County Court; better co-operation between Victoria Police, Corrections Victoria and the court system to ensure a proper and smooth flow of prisoners through to the court system. As a result of those initiatives, we now see consistently the number of prisoners in police cells well below 200 and, at times, below 150.

REPORTER:

Minister, what’s the impact, what’s the cost to the State for each of these new canton beds per year?

EDWARD O’DONOHUE:

As I said previously, this project has been put back together by this Government. Importantly, the financiers of the project wear the construction and timing risk, but I’m very pleased that this project is on time and is on budget.

REPORTER:

The running costs for having the prisoners in the bed, in each of these new beds, what is that?

EDWARD O’DONOHUE:

It varies across the network. The lower security beds are the most cost effective. The maximum security beds are the most expensive. A bed such as this, in a medium security facility with a high degree of independence, is a moderate-cost bed; somewhere under $100,000 per annum.

REPORTER:

Minister, some people watching – and, of course, this is lower security – might say it actually looks pretty comfortable, particularly some seniors in our community. What do you think about the standard there?

EDWARD O’DONOHUE:

The standard is appropriate. It is basic and it is safe; important for the prison system. As the Premier said, the prisoners who are placed there are those who have behaved in an appropriate way within the system. If they misbehave, they’re back in a cell block, which is a part of this system. If they do something seriously inappropriate, they can find themselves in a management unit or back in a maximum security prison. So, they are there because of their proven behaviour, but if they misbehave, there is much more serious, much less pleasant accommodation they’ll find themselves in.

DENIS NAPTHINE:

Can I add, I think the accommodation is basic, it is safe, but I can assure you, I wouldn’t want to be there.

REPORTER:

Premier, just on the West Gate Bridge and related issues, do you think there is a greater need for a second crossing and what will you do about it long-term?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

VicRoads engineers have advised us and assured us that the bridge is functional, it is safe and can cater with the current and growing capacity. That’s because we as a government, over the last three years, have invested significantly in improving the structure and capacity and safety of the bridge.

In the medium to longer term, we do need a second crossing. Absolutely, we need a second crossing. That’s why this Government is committed to East West Link. We’re doing Stage One and we’re committed to getting on to doing Stage Two, and that’s where Labor have turned their back on the western suburbs and, indeed, on the whole of Victoria, by abandoning, abandoning the second crossing of the Maribyrnong River. That is an absolute folly, it is wrong and that’s what we as a Coalition will never do. We support East West Link, including a second crossing, to support the growth and development of our western part of the State.

REPORTER:

So, committed to stage two, but when will you start to let contracts, start to actually get the ball rolling?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

The Government has, in the last Budget, announced funding support for Stage One and the contractual arrangements and tending arrangements are currently underway, and what we’re looking to do is, as we move from that, then we’ll move towards Stage Two. The timing of those announcements will be into the future.

REPORTER:

So, before the November state election, you’ll announce ...?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

Well, the timing of those announcements will be in the future.

REPORTER:

In the next six months, or ... ?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

The timing of those announcements will be in the future.

REPORTER:

And just on Australia Post: there’s talk about them going three days, or even charging $30 per household for delivery, even though you haven’t asked for something to be delivered to you. What do you think of that idea of going to some sort of different charging system, or of less frequent service?

DENIS NAPTHINE:

I think most people in Victoria and Australia would prefer their daily, Monday to Friday, delivery of letters and standard post. I think that’s the expectation of the community and I would urge Australia Post to continue that daily delivery process.

 

[ends]

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