Mark Mitchell on a roll:
Hon Mark Mitchell: Does the Minister agree with the Prime Minister’s comments that we are filling our prisons with low-level criminals?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Yes.
Hon Mark Mitchell: What is a low-level criminal?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: As we know, with the rapid rise in the prison population under that Government—that member’s Government; a party that did absolutely nothing to address the problem—we know that the growth in the—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Answer the question!
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am going to interrupt the member. I actually agree with the interjection, but we should give the member a chance to do so, all right?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Sorry, Mr Speaker; do you want me to start again?
Mr SPEAKER: Well, you haven’t really started answering, so you might as well.
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I thought the preface was important, Mr Speaker. We know that our prisons more recently have been filled with those not committing violent crimes but with those committing what I would describe as “street crimes”, and, in particular, with younger offenders, young male offenders, those with mental health issues, those with addiction issues, those with literacy problems—all people who have problems that, with a little bit of effort and a little bit of political will, could be fixed, and we could make them productive citizens again. That’s what this Government will do.
Hon Mark Mitchell: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very direct question. I don’t know if the House does, or if you do, but I still have no clear idea around what a low-level of criminal is.
Mr SPEAKER: I think I heard quite a long list of groups which fell into that category.
Hon Mark Mitchell: So, taking just part of the criteria that he’s just laid out for the House, does he realise that only 2 percent of the current prison population will fit inside his own criteria that he’s just given us?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: That is complete nonsense, and that member would have to provide some evidence or some back-up to that assertion. The reality is that the bulk of the growth of the prison population are those who are not committing violent offences but those who are committing offences, often consecutive convictions, but who have a bunch of problems, and a prison system that is doing its job of correcting people—because we call it a corrections system—can actually turn those people out to lower reoffending and, therefore, reduce the number of victims of crime; something that Government failed to do anything about.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Mr Speaker, I’ll provide that evidence to the Minister. Supplementary?
And he has another question set down today.
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