Risdon Prison protest drives Question Time discussion

Wednesday’s Risdon Prison protest cast a shadow over proceedings in Question Time on Thursday.

Tasmania Prison Service director designate Ian Thomas said the protest, which saw a number of prisoners in the medium security unit refuse to go back to their cells, was caused by the phasing out of nicotine patches in the prison.

But Opposition Leader Rebecca White said it was really overcrowding that had sparked the revolt.

Greens Franklin MHA Rosalie Woodruff agreed, saying the nicotine patch phase-out was merely “the match that lit the powder keg”.

Ms White asked acting Corrections Minister Guy Barnett what the capacity at Risdon Prison currently was.

Mr Barnett replied that it was at 93 per cent, which was “not unusual”.

He stressed to the house that yesterday’s “bad behaviour” at Risdon Prison was unacceptable.

“The Tasmania Prison Service is not Club Med,” Mr Barnett said.

“We will not, as a government, compromise community safety.”

Mr Barnett informed the chamber that a full investigation of the incident would be conducted, and that the government would provide an “appropriate” response to it in due course.

“The plan is in place to increase capacity [at Risdon] by 81 per cent by July next year,” he said.

Ms White continued to put pressure on Health Minister Michael Ferguson over the Royal Hobart Hospital’s loss of mental health accreditation.

Mr Ferguson said he had been “very transparent” about the matter.

“What’s your plan?” he asked Ms White regarding Labor’s health policy.

Primary Industries Minister Jeremy Rockliff took to the floor to announce that he would release the draft Sustainable Salmon Industry Growth Plan on Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Dr Woodruff suggested to acting Attorney-General Matthew Groom that the government’s “disastrous” tough on crime policies were “blowing out” the state’s prison population.

Mr Groom said the Tasmanian community was "concerned" about sentencing outcomes for “heinous" crimes and that the government “made no apologies” for attempting to address this.

Labor education spokeswoman Michelle O’Byrne then asked Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff why he had not yet released KPMG’s report on lowering the school starting age in Tasmania, which he received in June.

Mr Rockliff said he had until September 1 to release the report and make a “formal” response to it.