Hansard and Journals

Hansard (debates)

Corrections Amendment Bill (No 2) — Second Reading

[Volume:651;Page:997]

Corrections Amendment Bill (No 2)

Second Reading

Hon SIMON POWER (Minister of Justice) : I move, That the Corrections Amendment Bill (No 2) be now read a second time. This bill was introduced by the previous Government and the Hon Phil Goff—if I am right, the previous Minister of Corrections.

Hon Phil Goff: A very good Minister.

Hon SIMON POWER: He was an adequate Minister. The Corrections Amendment Bill (No 2) enjoyed support from the National Party when it was in Opposition and will continue to enjoy that support from the National Party in Government. I trust that the Labour Party, which introduced the bill when in Government, will continue to support the bill while in Opposition.

At the end of the last Parliament this bill was caught up in a rather disappointing way. I know that the honourable Leader of the Opposition will not comment on this, and he will not necessarily agree with it outright. The point is that the bill had large cross-party support between the major political parties prior to the last election, but, unfortunately, due to matters that are beyond the realm of my understanding—

Hon Darren Hughes: That doesn’t limit it.

Hon SIMON POWER: Touché! It was unable to be advanced because of arrangements the then Government clearly had with some of the smaller confidence and supply partners. They did not agree to include this bill in the rush of legislation that went through the House prior to its rising for the general election. That was a shame. This Government considers the bill to be a priority and that it is worthwhile advancing it, and that is why we have included it in today’s items of business.

Crucially, the bill does some things that in my previous role as Opposition spokesperson on justice and corrections I had taken a personal interest in. I take some credit, I guess, for highlighting some of those issues in a way that may have assisted this bill’s coming forward. I hope the bill will help to reduce contraband in prisons and increase control of prisoners’ communications with the outside world. It rightly includes changes that will make it harder for people to bring prohibited items into prison, and make it easier to detect prohibited items and punish prisoners and others for using them. The bill complements security and surveillance improvements within prisons, which is to be encouraged. Expanded drug-dog teams and checkpoints to screen visitors and staff are to be welcomed.

Over the last 9 years, prior to the change of Government, members of the National Party highlighted the unacceptable levels of contraband within our prisons. In particular we raised issues like the prostitute who was found in the grounds of Rimutaka Prison in 2006, having been procured by an inmate using his cellphone; two inmates at Christchurch Prison who were sending obscene text messages to women, also in that year; and, of course, other contraband such as KFC, and the like, being consumed in an inappropriate manner. After 8 years of denial, head-shaking, and counter-accusations, the previous Government—to give it its due—introduced the bill under the guidance of the Hon Phil Goff. Despite Mr Goff’s believing that he has been in the justice area for 9 full years, he actually had a small period off the job when a couple of his former colleagues entered into the fray. That provided ample opportunity for the then Opposition. I have to say that from the moment Mr Goff introduced this legislation, I was certainly keen to see National support it. We will continue to do so.

Since the previous Labour Government took office at the end of 1999, we have raised issues covered by this bill with all six Ministers of Corrections. When those matters were drawn to the public’s attention the then Minister of Corrections, now the honourable Leader of the Opposition, determined that action had to be taken. The new Government places public safety above all other issues when it comes to the law and order and justice debate. This bill will enhance those policy settings, and although because of relationships with confidence and supply partners the last Government found this legislation difficult to progress, that will not be an issue for this Government. In June 2007 the then Minister of Corrections, Damien O’Connor, promised to clamp down on contraband: “I will use every tool at my disposal to remove the scourge of drugs from prisons and to keep cellphones and weapons out of prisoners’ hands.” It took some time before the legislation arrived, but it got here in the end.

I have to say in respect of jamming and detecting cellphone communications that this work is not a straightforward area. As the former Minister will know, I questioned how this particular technology would operate in different prisons with different geographic contortions and topography surrounding those prisons. I am looking back to my old geography days; I came first in the seventh form. The key to this is to use a range of tools within the prison system and to use cellphone towers. It has taken far too long, in many respects, for agreement to be reached with the telecommunications providers for that technology to be utilised. Frankly, it is well beyond the time that we should have introduced legislation to specifically authorise the Department of Corrections to jam, detect, and monitor cellphone and other radio-based communications within prison boundaries, obviously providing that those activities do not interfere with devices outside prison boundaries—for example, in the case of prisons that are located in the centre, or near the centre, of large cities and small towns. I visited New Plymouth Prison and, from memory, it had in the vicinity of 60 to 80 beds, which Mr Goff will know. That prison is very close to the city, so this technology has to be carefully monitored to make sure it does not have wider implications for cellphone users in places near the prison. Also like New Plymouth is central Auckland, with Mount Eden Prison nearby and the Auckland women’s prison.

Hon Phil Goff: And Auckland prison.

Hon SIMON POWER: Mr Goff is quite right.

We were able to pluck this bill—which we consider to be a crucial part of the tools that need to be made available to any Government—from an Order Paper where, unfortunately, the previous Government had been unable to advance it. We believe that it is worth spending the time of the House today to advance a measure that we hope will enhance the safety of the public and send a clear message to inmates who reside in our prison system that, once sent to prison, we expect certain liberties to be removed. The ability to bring in contraband should be removed, and the ability to use cellphones to connect with the outside world in an unauthorised way should be removed. Of course, the most important thing is to ensure that Department of Corrections prison officials themselves have the necessary powers and procedures to deal with contraband and cellphone use in prisons. This bill will go some way to ensuring that happens.

The Government considers this bill an important part of its law and order programme, and that is why the bill comes to its second reading today, under this Government’s watch and with this Government’s full support.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) : Firstly, I congratulate the Government on advancing the Corrections Amendment Bill (No 2). The bill was partially dealt with by the previous Government. I have to say that it is nice, after almost 2 weeks of urgency, to have a bill from the Government that has some substance—

Hon Phil Goff: And went to a select committee.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: —and went to a select committee.

Chester Borrows: Keep voting for them, Clayton.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Absolutely we will be voting for it; we wrote it. It is nice that we finally have a bill that has been appropriately scrutinised by a select committee, that has gone out for public consultation, that is a bill of substance, and that, as the Minister of Justice said—and I agree with him—will have a huge and positive impact in terms of keeping New Zealanders safe. It is the first bill of substance to come through this Parliament in the last 2 weeks, and that is because it was written by the previous Government. It is the first legislation that will take some huge, concrete, and positive steps in terms of public safety and law and order. We have seen two other bills that, as we know, were fictitious. They were a hoax.

Hon Phil Goff: Window dressing!

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: They were window dressing, as Professor Geoff Hall noted about the sentencing legislation and as others have noted about the bail legislation. It has taken legislation written by the previous Government to be brought into the House for us to have a bill of substance. Over the summer break National members will go out and take the credit for it and say they are being tough on law and order. They will try to convince people that it was all their idea and that it was in their great 100-day plan.

Mr Power cited a number of issues that have occurred in our prisons. It is interesting to look at the record of the previous Government and to talk about facts rather than just dredging up a salacious example—because we can all do that. I remember well the example that occurred under Dr Nick Smith’s reign as Minister of Corrections. It involved a prisoner who was elderly or in his retirement years. He was receiving medical treatment and he was hooked up to an intravenous drip. He was temporarily disabled because of the medical treatment he was receiving, but he managed to escape from, I think, Middlemore Hospital. Hobbling, crawling, limping, intravenous drip in hand—with stand—he managed to outrun the prison officials, guards, private sector folk, or whoever they were, who were attempting to secure him. We could go for little salacious examples, but if we look at history—

Chester Borrows: That’s the word for the day.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: —we see that under the previous Government—I will come to Mr Borrows in a moment; I read his contribution to the first reading, which I thought was interesting. Maybe I should deal with it now. I noted in the first reading debate that Mr Borrows, quite rightly I think, drew on his experience as a young lawyer, as he put it, and, quite interestingly, said that he wanted further funding for the very good non-governmental organisations that provide prisoner rehabilitation and prisoner counselling in an attempt to rehabilitate prisoners. I think that was a good point that the member made in his speech, and I look forward to holding him, his Minister, and his Government to account to see whether they do it. I see that the Minister is here, and he may wish to contribute. I say to him that I was just saying that Mr Borrows had made an excellent contribution in his first reading speech when he noted there should be more funding for the non-governmental organisations and others that deal with the rehabilitation and counselling of prisoners. I look forward—

Hon Simon Power: Help is on its way.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: That is excellent. We would like to know when, how much, and who will deliver it.

If we look at the history of this matter in respect of the previous Government, we see that substantial advances were made in this area. Prison escapes per 100 prisoners were just one-sixth of the escape number 10 years ago under the last National Government. That means that the escape rate fell by 84 percent under the previous Government, despite the little examples, the salacious items and news clippings, that members opposite tend to read out. Drug taking in prisons was less than half what it was when National left office in 1999. Fewer inmates were returning positive drug tests. The last Government made it significantly more difficult for people to escape. It put in 17 kilometres of perimeter fencing and introduced single points of entry.

Hon Simon Power: If I’ve heard that once I’ve heard it a million times.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Well, those are the facts. The Minister should go back to his officials and check. There were not enough fences under the National Government pre-1999, nor were there enough resources or personnel. That is why we had people on intravenous drips limping out of hospitals and outrunning prison guards and others. That happened when Nick Smith was the Minister of Corrections. He may have been at the hospital at the time—I do not know—visiting the prisoner, but that was the loose kind of arrangement we had under the National Government.

Mr Goff, as the Minister of Justice, introduced this bill and partly put it through the House, and it deals with some significant matters. Some may ask why we would want to amend the Corrections Act 2004, given that it is pretty recent in the scheme of things, and what the drivers behind doing that are. Firstly, the drivers are technology. As a person who was formerly employed in the telecommunications industry, I know that telecommunications technology advances by the day. In respect of contraband, I am sure that Mr Borrows will concede that although it will always be exceptionally difficult to stop all items of contraband from entering a prison, the technology has advanced to the point where, as the Minister said, we can now jam telecommunications. It is interesting to note that the full implementation of the jamming technology will be completed by February next year. It was started under the last Government, which put it through. So one of the drivers for amending the Act is technology.

Also, because it is almost impossible in every instance to prevent contraband from entering a prison, it is necessary to incrementally and regularly amend legislation like this. Prisoners have one objective in life—well, maybe a couple. Generally, while they are incarcerated many of them sit there all day thinking about how they can beat the system and, often, how they can get out, and inventing new and innovative ways to do that.

The bill also deals with letters containing threats. The current legislation permits prison staff to read prisoners’ mail only if a test of reasonable grounds is met. That will now be bolstered. The bill provides that all prisoners’ mail may be read by an authorised officer, except, of course, correspondence with members of Parliament and official agencies like the courts and others. We know that there have been communications with victims where threats have been made, and that victims’ lives have been made a misery by those who continue to peddle their views, misguided as they are, from behind bars.

The cellphone issue is an interesting one. I think Mr Power is right. One of the difficulties with the jamming technology is attempting also to allow legitimate cellphone use by non-prisoners, and ensuring that, where a prison is in a suburban area, the technology does not interfere with the legitimate work of businesses and other entities external to the prison. Some have asked why it has taken some time to implement the technology, but obviously we want to get it right.

I think this legislation is sound. It deals with cracking down on drug use, eliminating cellphones, and enhancing powers of search in relation to inmates, and, for those working in prisons, it adopts a policy of zero tolerance towards staff who pass contraband to prisoners. The penalties in that area are increased. The current term of 3 months in prison is increased to up a year, and the maximum fine is doubled to $5,000. The bill authorises electronic detection and jamming, as we have spoken about. It extends prison officials’ powers to screen inmates’ mail, as I have said, and it creates a penalty for publishing unauthorised communications from inmates that prejudice the interests of victims. I think that is particularly important because we have had high-profile cases where inmates have acted grossly inappropriately, and communications have been published to the detriment of victims.

This is sound legislation. Of course this side of the House, and, I think, most, if not all, parties, will support it. It will make a real difference to the security of our communities, to the integrity of our prisons, and also to the professionalism of the corrections service. As with all Government agencies, 99.9 percent of prison officials are honourable, professional human beings. They have an incredibly difficult job and they often are under stress. We have seen occasions where prison staff have been victimised and threatened. They have an incredibly difficult job, and I think this bill will enhance the integrity and professionalism of the corrections service and the staff within it.

I come back to where I began and simply say that this is the first time in 2 weeks of urgency that we have had a bill of substance that will make a real difference to the lives of New Zealanders. Of course, the bill was authored by the previous Government, and is now being supported and put through the House by this Government.

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Attorney-General) : Can I begin by saying that I have not spoken in the House since you became Assistant Speaker, Mr Barker, and I am delighted you are Assistant Speaker, wish you all the best, and congratulate you on your appointment.

As other members have said, the Corrections Amendment Bill (No 2) amends the Corrections Act 2004 to create new search, detection, drug-testing, and offence provisions to help control contraband. The bill will make it harder for people to bring prohibited items into prison and make it easier to detect prohibited items and punish prisoners and others for using them. The bill will increase controls over prisoners’ communications with the outside world, enable the screening of mail, and—most important—adopt a zero tolerance approach to those staff who pass contraband to prisoners. The previous Government, notwithstanding what Mr Cosgrove said, has failed to deliver on numerous important pieces of legislation on law and order, and the failure to pass this bill represents one of them. It was too slow to introduce this bill and, indeed, it introduced it only after the then National Opposition shamed it into it, and then Labour allowed it to languish for almost a year. In doing so it unnecessarily put the safety of prison staff and the public at risk. But fortunately for New Zealanders we now have a Government with a comprehensive law and order policy, and we support this bill because it attempts to deal with issues that have been very important for a number of years.

The Government supports the bill because it will enable us to crack down on crime being committed from behind bars. It significantly enhances the ability of the Department of Corrections to control contraband and to suppress unlawful communications in prisons. We believe it will improve safety and security within the prison system and it will give guards more powers to search cells. The bill also contributes to the effectiveness of drug and alcohol programmes in prisons because such programmes simply will not be successful if prisoners have ready access to drugs. The bill means it will be harder for anyone to bring prohibited items into our prisons and easier to detect such items and punish prisoners and others for using them. This will help curb the intimidation and stand-over tactics that are associated with the presence of contraband in prisons. Specifically, the bill is going to do a number of things. It enhances existing powers and procedures for strip searching prisoners, it provides for random searches of areas such as staff lockers, it supports the integrity of drug testing in prisons by strengthening the measures against tampering with samples, and it tightens offence provisions relating to contraband. It will be an imprisonable offence for a prisoner to possess or use an electronic communication device such as a cellphone, and for anyone to possess an unauthorised item without reasonable excuse while visiting or working in a prison.

The bill also contains important measures to control prisoners’ communications. It is clear that letters containing threats, plans for further offending, and other prohibited communications are, in fact, leaving prisons. Current legislation permits prison staff to read prisoners’ mail only if a reasonable grounds test is met. In most cases there are, on the face of it, no reasonable grounds to suspect that a particular letter may need to be examined, so the bill provides that all prisoners’ mail may be read by an authorised officer, except correspondence with official agencies, members of Parliament, or legal advisers. Cellphones are not permitted in prisons and have been used for such harmful purposes as organising crimes—

Hon Phil Goff: I notice that the member on his feet is reading word for word the speech that I wrote as Minister of Corrections, and I wondered whether I could seek leave of the House to have him table the speech, which is not his speech, and save the time of the House.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: You are asking for the member to—

Hon Phil Goff: I am seeking leave for a copy of the speech that I wrote and that the member is now reading to be tabled.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: You cannot ask another member to table.

Hon Phil Goff: I am seeking leave to table the speech that the member is reading. It is plagiarism, because I wrote it and he is reading it.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you help me out? Are there rules against plagiarism in this House when a member reads, word for word, a speech written by another member without acknowledging that he is doing so by admission?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: These are debating points, and I am sure the member, when he takes his call, will change a few words if he feels that way inclined.

Hon Phil Goff: Do you wish to be corrections Minister, Chris?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Oh no. I am a sort of a stand-in for the Minister who is visiting a prison at the moment, but I must say that in so far as there is some overlap between the contribution of the former Minister of Corrections and this speech, at least the member will acknowledge that I can read the speech properly, unlike that member when he was trying to read questions from the sheet, like his colleague the member for Te Atatū earlier in the week, and he could not read—

Hon Darren Hughes: I thought he was Minister of Education.

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: No, but he was. I have learnt that. He is no longer the Minister or Education or is likely ever to be the Minister of Education again.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: What about the law of copyright?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: No, I can tell the member that there is no Crown copyright here, and if the member would like to try to sue me for what I am saying I suggest he will need a better lawyer than me to get me.

Hon Phil Goff: I think the proof is very obvious, actually. It would be an easy case to prove.

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: The danger will, of course, be quantum of damages and matters such as that, but if the member wants to go ahead and try to do that, good luck to him.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I would be happy to write all your speeches, Chris!

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Well, not that member because I notice that the member for Waimakariri gave a spirited speech today, but apparently he must have a “Reader’s Digest Guide to the English Language”, because his word for the day is “salacious”. He must have repeated it like a litany about 15 times.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I knew you were getting excited. You were sweating.

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I was. I was looking forward to some salacious details from the member and I certainly did not get any. The point is that cellphones are going to be properly monitored within prisons and, as I think everyone would admit, the implementation of these solutions is now well advanced, and it is accepted that legislation is required to deal with these issues, and I am sure, as the Leader of the Opposition would acknowledge, and would probably say in a speech that he would give in the House, communication with a prisoner may, indeed, cause grave distress to victims, particularly if it results in publication—

Hon Phil Goff: “the publication of details of the offence, or the victim” the member was going to say!

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: That is exactly correct.

There are a number of important issues that are raised with this bill, and I am delighted that the Opposition is adopting such a constructive approach, and by a process of ESP is apparently not only picking up the essential themes of the bill and parroting them, but also anticipating exactly the kind of contribution I am going to make.

Hon Darren Hughes: We are in Opposition; we are here to help!

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Of course, the boy wonder from Ōtaki is here to help, and I look forward to having my by-election campaign with him in that highly marginal seat of Rongotai when the deputy leader of the Labour Party leaves in the not too distant future.

I think the Law and Order Committee did a very good job dealing with this legislation. It has recommended a number of amendments that I am sure the Leader of the Opposition has not had the opportunity to speak on in the first reading contribution. For example, and this will not be covered by any copyright, it strengthens forfeiture provisions in the bill and it has improved the provision prohibiting possession of unauthorised items while in prison by changing the test from “knowingly” to “without reasonable excuse”. I am sure the member for Waimakariri would immediately pick up the slight change in the test. It is a salacious change and a very important one. So there we are, these are important first steps in this legislation to improving what has been an unsatisfactory situation, and I take the opportunity to signal that this law and order Government will be introducing further measures to improve the safe, secure, humane, and effective management of the prison system.

Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) : Opposition members, unlike Government members, do not have to read their speeches. It was a particularly inauspicious start for the new Attorney-General, Christopher Finlayson. In his very first speech to the House as Attorney-General—the man responsible for upholding the laws of this land—he breached copyright law, not acknowledging that he plagiarised what he read from the Leader of the Opposition’s speech, and he was unable to be innovative enough to change even one word in it, which might have given him some ground for defence.

Hon Darren Hughes: Resign! Resign!

Hon PHIL GOFF: Well, the Attorney-General pleads guilty and should resign forthwith.

I want to straighten that member out. He started off by talking about the failure of the Labour Government to deliver on law and order. The new Minister should take account of a few facts. The first is that the escape rate from prisons under the Labour Government was one-sixth of that under the preceding National Government. We reduced the number of escapes by 84 percent.

The Minister of Justice’s electorate contains a prison called Manawatū Prison. When I became the Minister of Justice in 1999 I got a transcript from the current Minister of Justice’s local paper that stated that there was an enormous rate of drug taking in Manawatū Prison. It was over 30 or 40 percent. The transcript said that one of the problems was that all one had to do to smuggle drugs into Manawatū Prison was to climb over a six-wire farm fence, walk up to the window, and pass the drugs through. This was a nightly event at Manawatū Prison.

When it comes to credibility, I have to say that the track record of National on the corrections system in its previous times in Government was absolutely zilch—absolutely zilch. Do members know what the drug-taking rate in our prison system was in 1999, when I became Minister of Justice? It was 34 percent. I say to Mr Borrows that it was one in three—one in three inmates was taking drugs under the previous National Government. I say with some degree of pride that a succession of very capable Labour Ministers actually reduced that figure by two-thirds. I expect that the National Government should now be able to build on the groundwork that we have laid.

I have to say too that the briefing to the incoming Minister of Corrections notes that under a Labour Government we were able to build four new prisons—commission them—without any significant teething problems. That was an enormous achievement, because there has been a very large increase in the number of people going into prisons. That is because the law has been tougher and because we did not take away police numbers, which is what the National Government did when Chester Borrows was a constable. It had something called the INCIS system, which it spent $100 million on. But how was it going to pay for that? By cutting police numbers by 500. The former constable knows that.

Hon Darren Hughes: It was his idea.

Hon PHIL GOFF: It was his idea? Well, nothing would surprise me.

But I have to say that some really good things have happened in our corrections system. Mr Finlayson is quite wrong. We have vastly increased the number of jobs in prisons. Two-thirds of sentenced inmates are now working, which is a huge increase. Under the previous Labour Government we increased the number of beds for drug and alcohol rehabilitation from a mere 40 to 500. The National Government has promised to build on that, and I will support it in that respect if I see evidence that it is actually doing it.

This Corrections Amendment Bill (No 2), as my colleague Clayton Cosgrove has said, is the first positive and substantive piece of legislation we have seen in 2 weeks of urgency. The reason that it is positive and substantive is that a Labour Government introduced it and a Labour-dominated select committee got it right. I emphasise that fact about the select committee. This bill is, I think, the first bill that we are dealing with that has gone before a select committee. The public out there would expect every piece of legislation to be subject to select committee scrutiny, and for us to give New Zealanders the democratic right to participate in the process by making submissions to a select committee.

I say to Mr Borrows that it is a matter of shame that this new, arrogant Government has come into the House ramming through legislation, some of which—as Professor Hall, the foremost expert on sentencing, says—is mere window dressing. Some of it is hugely damaging to New Zealanders: taking away people’s right to redress for unfair dismissal, and robbing low and middle income earners of $730 million. That exposed the National Government. The financial veto set that figure out; the Government was not going to own up to it. It told the country that that legislation would benefit all New Zealanders, but, finally, here is decent legislation that will make a difference.

The bill does a number of things. First of all, it strengthens the reduction of contraband. It does that partly through creating a legislative framework for jamming cellphones. My gift to Ms Collins, as Minister of Corrections—and I give it to her gladly—has been to create a cellphone jamming system. It means that by February next year, just 2 months away, in every prison in New Zealand—all 20 prisons—inmates will not be able to misuse cellphones, because they will be jammed. That is great. I will tell members why it is great. When I went with the chief executive of the Department of Corrections to the Australian Corrective Services Ministers’ Conference earlier this year, they said to me that they had not even started to do this and that we had created a role model, and they asked whether they could borrow it. That is how far ahead New Zealand is in terms of its corrections system.

This bill also enhances search powers. That includes giving the right to search staff lockers. Unlike the Minister of Justice, who slagged off corrections staff for 6 years, I say that the vast majority of people working in our corrections system do a difficult job and they do it well. They are dedicated, they are decent people, and they do the right thing. But a minority of people behave corruptly—sometimes out of greed, sometimes out of threats to their family from gangs, and so on. But there is no justification or excuse for a staff member to smuggle drugs into a prison. This bill quadruples the penalty in terms of imprisonment for staff members behaving corruptly in that way, and it is important that we do that.

This legislation also gives prison management the ability to scrutinise any written correspondence sent by inmates to people on the outside. We know that some inmates were abusing the privilege of correspondence: they were threatening people—often their previous victims. This bill makes it absolutely clear that every piece of written correspondence can be monitored and, if necessary, blocked by prison authorities. We have already done that on electronic communication. During the term of my predecessor, Damien O’Connor, who did a fine job as Minister of Corrections, we set up a system whereby every payphone call from prisons can now be monitored. It is all recorded. I have sat in and listened to the recording, and I have heard gang members try to plan crime outside the prison. That system is now a vital part of police intelligence that the corrections system can work with.

I will finish on this point. I have watched with some amazement as a number of new National MPs and ACT MPs have got up and given their campaign speeches on law and order, and I want to see them deliver on that. I will hold them to account on that. They have promised things that I know they will not deliver. The briefing to the incoming Minister makes the point that I have made to Simon Power: that there will be a big increase in prison population anyway—some 2,200—and four new prisons are needed. Those new members come into this House with a claim that they will toughen up and put more people in prison. Firstly, I say to them that I want to know what that will be at the cost of. Will it be at the cost of health spending or education spending? I also say to those members that although we already have the tough laws that I have put on the Order Paper and got through this House—and I make no apology for that—they must know that in the end we have to address the causes of crime in order to make New Zealand safer.

I want to know how much money the new National Government will put into early intervention to stop the wee kiddies who are abused sexually and physically from growing up to be dysfunctional teenagers and then growing up to be the criminals and the parents of a new generation of criminals. Labour started that. It started it with some really positive interventions. I want to know whether this National Government will do anything at all to address those causes.

  • Debate interrupted.