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Question Time: Data About Children in Watch Houses

On Wednesday 13 September 2023 during Question Time I asked the Minister for Youth Justice whether she will release real-time data on where children are being held in remand, along with other key details. 

You can read the question and her (very brief) answer below or in the official Parliamentary Transcript (Hansard) here.

Mr BERKMAN: My question is to the Minister for Youth Justice. The government’s youth justice amendments that were rushed through last sitting week will see more children remanded in police watch houses and potentially even adult prisons. Will the minister commit to publicly releasing real-time daily data on where children are being remanded in watch houses or adult prisons, how long these children are being held in remand, and other details like their age, gender and Indigenous status?

Mrs D’ATH: Mr Speaker, I rise to a point of order. I believe the member should have to authenticate his preamble to that question. He makes definitive statements that I believe are incorrect and hypothetical.

Mr SPEAKER: I believe the question has more challenges in its complexity in terms of the information being sought. I certainly would invite the minister to respond to the question. Equally, if there is too much detail in that question I would allow you to go through that.

Ms FARMER: Because the member’s statement was extremely misleading, as was the previous occasion on which he asked a question about the amendments that went through in the last sitting, can I just clarify. These were amendments that nobody wanted to have to do. If we had not put these amendments in place, based on advice from the Solicitor-General there was a high risk that young offenders would be immediately taken from the watch house to youth detention centres, placing young people and staff at the detention centres at serious risk.

The custom and practice that has been in place in relation to transferring young people from the custody of the Police Commissioner to the chief executive of youth justice, which has been undertaken for over 30 years, was being challenged. Custom and practice allowed the chief executive of youth justice to make decisions about which young people he was able to take from police custody safely into youth detention. We cannot allow young youth offenders to be placed in the same units as older youth offenders. We cannot allow girls to be placed in the same units as boys. We cannot allow serious violent offenders to be placed with other youth offenders. The chief executive must have the ability to make 2608 Questions Without Notice 13 Sep 2023 decisions that are in the best interests of the young people and staff at those centres. Over 300 young people on average at any one time are in youth detention and the amendments—

Mr BERKMAN: Mr Speaker, I rise to a point of order on 118(b), relevance. The question was—

Mr SPEAKER: I am not asking you to repeat the question. What is your point of order?

Mr BERKMAN: The question went specifically to whether the minister will agree to real-time reporting and public release of data.

Ms Grace interjected.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Member for McConnel, you are warned under the standing orders. I have allowed the question on the basis that it was quite complex and was asking for an awful lot from the minister. The minister is answering the question and is being responsive. There is no point of order.

Ms FARMER: As I said, this decision was based on the advice of the Solicitor-General. No-one on this side of the House wanted to have to make that decision but we were faced with the potential risk of serious injury, if not worse, if a challenge had been made. That is why we made that decision—because of the safety of young people and staff in our detention centres. We are committed to young people staying in watch houses for a minimum time.

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