Tasmania’s Human Services Minister has said he would send his own child to a Northern Territory “tough love” camp for at-risk children if he were advised it was the right place for them.
- Roger Jaensch has again faced Labor attacks over children being sent to the Brahminy camp, in light of recent allegations
- The Minister said he would send his own children to the program for at-risk kids if it were recommended
- A no-confidence motion in Mr Jaensch failed, with Premier Peter Gutwein saying he had his “full support”
Roger Jaensch has continued to face pressure in Parliament over allegations about the program, including reports the man running it, Allan Brahminy, fabricated his identity.
A number of Tasmanian children who had attended the program alleged when they misbehaved they were made to sit in isolation on a milk crate for hours and the power to their room was cut.
Mr Brahminy has said he has not done anything illegal.
Mr Jaensch told reporters on Thursday that the program was being used by the Tasmanian Government because it had been shown to be effective.
“It’s providing a service and it’s getting results that we haven’t been able to achieve here in the past, and until we build something as good or better closer to home for kids like these we’re going to maintain it unless we find that there’s other reasons not to,” he said.
Mr Jaensch was asked whether he would send his own children there.
“If my child needed the sort of supports that this program provides and the advice was this was the best place for them, yes I would,” he said.
The Minister said he was not aware of why the Northern Territory police referred an investigation into allegations of mistreatment at the youth camp to the Director of Public Prosecutions in 2012.
A later investigation found no evidence of criminality.
On Wednesday Mr Jaensch conceded the Government may need to build its own program to replace the Northern Territory “tough love” camp.
The Minister’s fitness to handle the Human Services portfolio was challenged by the Labor Opposition in a no-confidence debate on Wednesday, just a day after Mr Jaensch survived a no-confidence motion over whether he misled Parliament in his capacity as Housing Minister.
Mr Jaensch told State Parliament the children in the program were not sent there to be moved 3,000km away from home, but rather because it was the solution that fitted their needs.
“I’d send them to the Moon if that was the only place where there was the right solution for those kids,” Mr Jaensch said.
Mr Jaensch told Parliament he agreed Tasmania needed to work towards having a suitable program inside the state, but the Government had so far experienced difficulty securing a private provider.
“In the absence of an off-the-shelf model available through a procurement process, we may need to build something of our own,” he said.
“We’ll get the best ideas from wherever they are, as before, because the goal has to be the best outcome for children and young people in whatever form it comes.”
Labor leader Rebecca White moved a no-confidence motion in Mr Jaensch after telling the House of Assembly a “shocking” video had emerged of one of the children at the Northern Territory camp allegedly stealing a vehicle and speeding through a community area at 100kph.
Ms White told the Chamber the child was clearly putting themselves and others at risk.
“Premier, how can you say the children in the program are safe and well when there is clear evidence that is a lie?” Ms White asked.
“Why haven’t you acted immediately and decisively to bring these children home?
The video was filmed last month.
Mr Jaensch said rather than stealing the car, the child was joyriding, no charges had been laid, and actions such as those captured in the video were why the child was in the program.
Labor’s no-confidence motion centred around Mr Jaensch’s comments the children in the program were safe, comments which were made on Tuesday after he first viewed the footage on October 7.
Ms White said Mr Jaensch had actively played down concerns about the safety of children in the program, and had not informed the Premier of the incident until nearly a week after he first saw the footage.
Premier Peter Gutwein accused Labor of weaponising the issue for political purposes, and reiterated his “full support” for Mr Jaensch.
The motion failed, with Independent Madeleine Ogilvie siding with the Government.
A Greens push to get the House of Assembly to call for the six children remaining in the program to be brought home also failed to pass.
Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said “tough love” programs were not evidence based, and she was concerned Tasmania’s Commissioner for Children had no jurisdiction over the Northern Territory program.
Mr Jaensch said the repeated calls to bring the children home from the Northern Territory were damaging.
Labor, the Greens, Ms Ogilvie and Speaker Sue Hickey were given a private briefing on the program by the Department of Communities at lunchtime on Wednesday.