Tuesday 21 September, 2021

Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 24 August 2021.)

The Hon. V.A. TARZIA (Hartley—Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Correctional Services) (16:18): I rise to offer just a brief contribution to the OPCAT Implementation Bill. Obviously, the federal government ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) on 21 December 2017. As a result of ratifying the treaty, we know that our country is required to have implemented OPCAT, including the establishment of, as we have heard, National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) by 20 January next year.

The OPCAT Implementation Bill seeks to give effect to South Australia's international obligations under OPCAT and will make related amendments to the Mental Health Act, Youth Justice Administration Act and, of course, the Police Act. The primary function of an NPM under OPCAT is to undertake regular and unannounced inspections of places of detention, including their installations, beds, etc., and also facilities.

The bill also provides for the specific powers and functions of the NPMs, including to carry out regular and unannounced inspections of places of detention, to conduct interviews with detainees, to make inquiries about the detention of detainees, to require persons to answer relevant questions or produce documents relevant to the NPM's functions and to make reports and recommendations relating to the detention of people and for those reports to be tabled in parliament.

OPCAT obligations are particularly critical for South Australia Police and Correctional Services. As minister, my agencies have undertaken a significant body of work to meet their independent national preventive mechanism requirements. NPMs will conduct regular and unannounced inspections of places of detention and closed environments where people are deprived of their certain liberties. OPCAT requirements will also see states facilitate visits to domestic places of detention from the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The Australian government has taken the view that the implementation of OPCAT will initially focus on a number of primary places of detention, including but not limited to adult prisons and police lockups or police station cells where people are held for 24 hours or more. Accordingly, the bill designates an NPM or NPMs for each primary place of detention. The NPMs for correctional institutions will be the official visitors, as provided for in the Correctional Services (Accountability and Other Measures) Amendment Bill 2021. There will also be an official visitor appointed as the NPM for prescribed custodial police stations.

Importantly, and as has been traditionally the case in Corrections, the bill ensures the independence of the NPM, requiring them to be provided with resources as reasonably required to exercise their functions effectively under OPCAT. For correctional institutions, the bill provides that the powers and functions of the NPM are as set out in the Correctional Services (Accountability and Other Measures) Amendment Bill 2021. The government has taken this approach in recognition of the fact that the official visitor scheme is a new scheme that has been specifically developed with the intention that it would be designated as an NPM under OPCAT.

A significant body of work has been undertaken to establish the official visitor scheme and extensive consultation occurred as part of the passage of the Correctional Services (Accountability and Other Measures) Amendment Bill earlier this year. Steps have already been taken to establish the scheme, and I look forward to having visits and inspections occurring across our prisons and our police cells. I commend the bill to the house.