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Question: Youth Treatment Orders

2 November 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:47): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Attorney-General on the topic of youth treatment orders.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: On Tuesday, the Youth Treatment Order Visitor's annual report was tabled in parliament. The report states that, and I quote:

Australian research indicates that mandated drug treatment is ineffective for most young people.

In the conclusion of the report it is stated that it is entirely foreseeable and a likely reality that young people affected by this scheme will feel alone, unheard and traumatised. The report makes three clear recommendations:

1. To repeal part 7A of the Controlled Substances Act 1984.

2. To develop and resource adequate trauma-responsive, child-centred community and evidence-based drug and alcohol initiatives.

3. That the Kurlana Tapa Youth Justice Centre not be used as a secure holding facility for children and young people who primarily have therapeutic needs, for which it does not have a real and resourced capacity to address those needs.

My question to the Attorney-General is: has the Attorney-General read the report, and will the government commit to implementing all three recommendations from the youth treatment order report?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:48): I thank the honourable member for his questions. I will answer the last one first: yes, I have read the report. From memory, it's a 17 or 18-page report that has been completed. In relation to the three recommendations, the second two recommendations, if my memory serves me correctly, are made to the minister for the Department of Human Services in relation to Kurlana Tapa and the therapeutic programs. I certainly will be having discussions with my colleague the Hon. Nat Cook, the minister responsible.

In relation to the first one—the repeal of part 7A of the Controlled Substances Act—that rests with myself as Attorney-General. I think I outlined that, when the honourable member asked a question earlier this week about media reports particularly on that same report, pursuant to the legislation that passed there was a review to be conducted on the third anniversary of the commencement of the section.

That third anniversary comes up next year. I think November 2024 is the third anniversary. I am not going to pre-empt a review, but certainly what the honourable member asks can absolutely be a part of that review, and I would be very surprised if the honourable member doesn't actually make that suggestion when that review is being conducted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:49): Supplementary: given the severity of the claims made in the report, will the Attorney-General commit to fast-tracking that review and taking immediate action?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:50): I thank the honourable member for his question. I think the review will be conducted as it is legislatively required to be conducted. I do note also that, I think as I referred to yesterday, since part 7A came into operation there has not been one of these orders made.

It would probably be even more pressing, if these orders were being made regularly, to look at the review, but given that since this had passed, if my memory serves me correctly, there has been one application for an order to be made but that was withdrawn before any order was actually made. I completely appreciate the honourable member's views on this, but there hasn't been an order made under this regime and there is a legislative requirement for a review of its operation coming up next year.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:50): Supplementary: does anything in the legislative review requirement preclude the government from conducting its own review at an earlier date and fast-tracking action on this element?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:51): This house does as it pleases in terms of we are sovereign in what we do in our parliament, regardless of when departments and other things are required to conduct reviews, but we intend to conduct the review as per the legislation at this stage.