By ERWIN CHLANDA
The debate about prison industries – essentially their value for rehabilitation and the public purse as against undesirable competition for private enterprise – seems to be getting a new lease of life.
Independent MLA for Araluen Robyn Lambley (pictured) is taking issue with the range of goods and services the Alice prison – with 648 inmates yet built for around 350 – is currently providing for sale.
Chairing this morning’s hearing of the Public Accounts Committee, Ms Lambley was told by Tim Cross, Director of Correctional Industries, that the only example of possible competition were 150 hot dog rolls provided on Fridays to the Desert Dogs Food Truck.
He offered to have a look at the issue but said it may well be that that the turnover of $240 a month has slipped under the radar of the Correctional Industries Advisory Council, which is keeping a sharp eye on issues of unfair competition against local businesses and has representatives from community and commerce.
Ms Lambley disagreed, citing from a surprisingly long list (published here) of manufactured items provided by Corrections, claiming that a lot of things the jail makes are also available from local industry.
Above all, Ms Lambley asked what does “local” mean? Alice Springs? Darwin? The Territory?
There are “big gaping holes” in that definition, according the “many people” she has spoken to.
While she “applauds” the training provided to inmates, the government should not be “moving into the private space, taking away jobs in our community”.
The policy is mostly driven by complaints, admitted the Corrections officers quizzed by the committee.
In October 2013 the Andy McNeill room was bursting with angry local entrepreneurs over an issue of bread being baked for sale in the prison.
But when the correctional chiefs called the next six-monthly scheduled meeting, a mere 12 people turned up, and none of them dissented from what the prison was doing.
No-one at all turned up for the meeting after that.
That isn’t a reliable indicator of the public mood, countered Ms Lambley.
She said people are afraid to “compromise” themselves in the government tender system. It’s not unusual for constituents to be “slinking through the back door” to complain to her.
On the other hand, Mr Cross (at right in the photo, with Commissioner Mark Payne) says a press used for making roof trusses was installed in the prison, saving home builders an average of $7000 in freight from Adelaide.
A local businessman complained, the press was sold to him, he went broke, the press finished up at Sitzler Brothers who donated it back to the prison.
Ms Lambley gave us the following list of Corrections clients, and of the goods and services they are buying from the prison. [We encourage readers to give us their views in the comment box below.]
B&S Home Timber and Hardware: Manufacture and supply of engineered timber roof trusses (under licence with Pryda Australia).
Centre Landscaping Supplies: Manufacture of concrete products including large range of various colours and sizes of pavers, headstones, sundries (tree rings / kerning).
Alcohol Mandatory Treatment Services: Provide laundry services since July 2013.
Alice Springs Police Watch House: Provide laundry services since 2009.
Double Tree Hilton (Alice Springs): Design and manufacture of new laser etched acrylic signage.
The Street Machine Summer Nationals (January 2016 in Canberra): Research and designs for coffee mugs (completed).
The Butterfly Connection: Provide promotional products and products for charitable events.
Salvation Army: Contract to recycle and remove the clothing and to bag the buttons, cutting up of clothes, washing, weighing and compressing to produce 10kg bags of mechanical rags.
Alice Springs Correctional Centre (ASCC): Recycling items from ASCC, community donations and clean out of Government buildings.
Desert Dogs Food Truck: Supply about 150 hot dog rolls each Friday from the ASCC Bakery.
Hardy Fencing: Manufacture fencing products and assist in projects as required.
Centre Landscaping Supplies: Manufacture and supply products as required e.g. plasma art, fire drums, furniture.
Manufactured daybed and catalogue products by NTCI Furniture Division.
Women’s Hall of Fame: Manufacture and supply furniture as required, e.g. plasma art and furniture. Project still in development phase. Ongoing project for 2016.
Centre Trailer Hire: Manufacture and supply box trailers.
Taps, Tubs, Tiles: Supply sink brackets as required.
Central Land Council: Construct and supply stock equipment.
Haasts Bluff Station, Tanami Station, Mt Riddock Station, Troy Coe Camel Company (SA), Landmark, Territory Stock Feed and Territory Rural: Supply stock equipment including portable cattle yard panels.
MacDonnell Shire: Construction of grandstands and tables.
J J Richards: Quoted on construction of skip bins.
Beantree Café: 20 chairs and 5 tables.
Territory Housing: Refurbished two houses which included building and fitting joinery for kitchen and laundry cupboards.
Territory Lettuce: ASCC provides Bok Choy to sell onto Coles, Woolworths and IGA Supermarkets.
Rockmelon, lemon grass, watermelon, sweet potato and white potato production: In trial phase for internal supply.
240 citrus trees: Second year orchard for internal supply.
By ERWIN CHLANDA