MURWILLUMBAH PROBATION AND PAROLE SERVICE OFFICE
Mr THOMAS GEORGE
(Lismore) [11.51 a.m.]: Today I again fight for the community of Murwillumbah. Yesterday I moved a motion in this House that sought to fight proposed cutbacks at Murwillumbah hospital. Today I am fighting to keep the Murwillumbah Probation and Parole Service Office open. Staff have been advised that it is going to close. I understand the office provides services to some 190 parolees who are being supervised, approximately 60 of whom are on parole. These people are from south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales. Members may ask why they are from south-east Queensland. They are being supervised for offences that were committed in New South Wales while they were living in Murwillumbah. This office services Byron Bay, Mullumbimby, Murwillumbah, Tweed Heads and all areas in between.
Recently in the other place I had a question asked of the Attorney General about how he would support this area with services. The answer was that it would be done with outreach services. Some concerns were then expressed to me that some low-risk parolees might not have to report, which would drop the numbers dramatically. This question was also asked of the Attorney General but he bypassed that part of the question and gave the same answer that he had given to the previous question I asked.
I was very concerned when I saw in the local press that the local magistrate said it "would not disadvantage the local court". I find this difficult to understand and accept and it is disappointing. I place on record that I will be writing to the magistrate to seek advice as to how the closing of this office will not affect the operations of courts in the area.
This decision is typical of an ignorant and arrogant Sydney-based Government. Staff at the parole office have been told that it will close on 11 July. All people employed in this office who live at Murwillumbah, Kingscliff, Tweed Heads and in areas in between have been told that to provide these outreach services they will have to drive to the office at Lismore, which takes about an hour and 20 minutes, pick up a government car and drive back to the Tweed and provide the service. That is okay, but when they have finished they have to drive all the way back to Lismore, pick up their car and drive home. That will simply force more people onto the highway and result in them having to travel more kilometres in the course of doing their work. They will have to drive for an hour or an hour and a half to pick up a car, drive back to the same area to do an outreach service, drive back to the Lismore office and pick up their own car and drive home again. It is a slap in the face for the local community. More than that, it shows the arrogance and ignorance of this Government, which is based in Sydney and which is making decisions for country and regional areas. It shows how ignorant it is of the problems people are facing in trying to provide these outreach services.
One of the major events at Murwillumbah is the Speed on Tweed festival. According to an article on the front page of the local paper, Murwillumbah looks like losing that event as well. I will be working with Phil Villiers and Tweed Tourism Inc. to look for funding to assure the viability and long-term continuation of the Speed on Tweed festival. Roger Ealand founded the event and has been a great organiser, but he has had enough and is looking for support.The Murwillumbah community will suffer if it loses an event such as this. I will make every effort to work with the community to raise funds for future events.
Ms VIRGINIA JUDGE
(Strathfield—Parliamentary Secretary) [11.56 a.m.]: The member for Lismore raised a few issues in his comments today and I will shed some light on this matter. I am advised that the Lismore District Office of the Probation and Parole Service has assumed responsibility for the area. I understand that all staff have been told that the Murwillumbah office will be transferred to the Lismore office. I am further advised that arrangements have been made with the Murwillumbah courthouse to provide services for offenders to make immediate contact with their probation and parole officer, as required. The member might like to take that information back to the people he has been speaking with to show that the Government cares and that it does listen. Similar arrangements to this already exist at Murwillumbah, Tweed Heads and Byron Bay. Furthermore, I am advised that a deputy commissioner of the Department of Corrective Services has met with the Public Service Association and Murwillumbah staff and that there was agreement to work together to amalgamate the two district offices. In addition, I am advised that the Minister for Justice has directed that certain matters that apply to the previous operation at Murwillumbah office be referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, and as such it would not be appropriate to comment further.