Youth justice system
Ms MIKAKOS (Minister for Families and Children) (09:42:21) — I rise to inform the house on how the Andrews Labor government is getting on with the job of rebuilding a strong and stable youth justice system. This year’s state budget invests $145 million to further strengthen the youth justice system, support rehabilitation and ensure the safety of our staff, young people and the community. This funding builds on the unprecedented investment our government has made in youth justice of over $1 billion and continues to address recommendations in the landmark Armytage‑Ogloff review — the first independent review of the youth justice system in more than 17 years — that saw a parliamentary committee borrow very heavily from it.
This year’s budget commits $73 million to operate new secure units at Parkville and Malmsbury youth justice precincts to meet rising demand as a result of our tough bail and sentencing reforms. This also includes funding to operate a new and more secure perimeter fence and gatehouse at Malmsbury, something the previous government should have built in the first place rather than their gingerbread house. To ensure the wellbeing of young people we are investing $18.7 million to provide additional health and mental health services to young offenders in custody to support their health and rehabilitation.
The budget invests nearly $11 million to reduce and divert Aboriginal young people from a custodial sentence and support and rehabilitate those who are admitted to custody. This is the single biggest investment by a government targeting the over‑representation of Aboriginal young people in the youth justice system.
We are also expanding structured day programs such as life skills and employment assistance programs outside of school hours to ensure a more secure custodial environment and assist in the rehabilitation of young offenders. This $2.5 million investment will also reinstate program coordinator positions that ceased under the previous government.
Mr Ondarchie — On a point of order, President, the purpose of ministers statements is to provide the house with new information. I put it to you that they have already tabled the budget in this chamber, so in fact this statement is a result of documents that have already been tabled. It is not new information.
Ms MIKAKOS — On the point of order, President, I am informing the house about our government’s investment in our youth justice system as delivered by this budget, and I am providing further details on this budget investment that may not be readily apparent from just examining the budget papers. If those opposite are not interested in what we are doing for youth justice, that shows that they are continuing on their failures of four long years.
Honourable members interjecting.
The PRESIDENT — Order! One of the problems, Minister, is you had me and then you almost lost me. And I would warn that it is not a good idea, if you want to have your position established, to lose me by debating rather than sticking to what is a point of order. I have got to say the minister is doing better today than yesterday in terms of introducing something that is new. I was more troubled yesterday because yesterday’s statement referred to a program that had been established for two previous years and was therefore hardly a new program, despite the fact that, as I said yesterday, the minister’s view was that, having provided additional funding, that became the new initiative.
In respect of today, I was sitting here thinking, ‘We’re having an excursion through part of the budget that has been tabled previously’, and therefore I was thinking, ‘Is this really new material?’. I would prefer that ministers stick with the convention of ministers statements as we established in the early days of this Parliament to ensure that we do focus on new initiatives rather than simply go back on programs that are already there. I do not regard additional funding provided in the budget as effectively meeting a new initiative requirement. It is augmenting, obviously, a program. If that additional money relates to a change in the service or expansion of the service perhaps or a new service, then obviously that qualifies because that is a new initiative, and I am sure the house would be most interested in hearing of enhancements to a program or indeed about new elements of a program, and that would certainly fit within a ministers statement. I will allow the minister to complete now but perhaps ministers might take that as some guidance in ministers statements in days to come.
Ms MIKAKOS — Thank you, President. There are many new elements that I can add in the time that is remaining. As part of our government’s record investment in the youth justice system we have actually created and funded 286 new youth justice positions. This contrasts with the previous government that in fact got rid of 20 youth justice staff.
The PRESIDENT — Minister, thank you. Now I have heard enough. I have said on a number of occasions, including as recently as yesterday and even just now in my comments on Mr Ondarchie’s point of order, that this is not an opportunity to actually reflect on other members of the Parliament or other parties within the Parliament. Essentially the purpose of a ministers statement is to provide information on a new initiative of the government. Referring to what might have happened in the past has nothing to do with a government’s new initiative. I have had enough; we will move on to members statements