Union urges government not to accept ERA recommendations

The WA Prison Officers’ Union has urged the State Government to reject the recommendations of the Economic Regulation Authority report into the efficiency of the WA prison system.

One of the report’s main recommendations is that WA should introduce a commissioning model for WA prisons, which would be based on the failed model in the UK.

Under a commissioning model, the private sector, public sector and not-for-profit organisations would compete for the contracts to deliver prison services.

“This is a very poor report, which is both confusing and contradictory,” said WAPOU Secretary John Welch.

“On the one hand, the ERA says it’s not advocating privatisation, but on the other, it’s saying it should be opened up to competition. Well, competition is privatisation, and privatisation is at the core of the commissioning model.

“Introducing a commissioning model would require a costly bureaucratic overhaul of the Department of Corrective Services, which in our view would serve very little purpose since the move has been a complete failure in the UK.”

Mr Welch said another of the report’s main recommendations was benchmarking, which was the requirement to set a number of standards by which all prisons would be judged.

“Benchmarking would simply not work in the WA prison system, where the prisons are vastly different from one another and spread over an enormous geographical area which presents immense and unique challenges,” he said.

“WA’s prisons are like comparing apples with oranges, which makes it immensely difficult to introduce benchmarks that should be applied across the board.

“Again the ERA is contradicting itself by saying on the one hand that benchmarking is a way of driving standards and efficiency, but on the other insisting it doesn’t advocate cuts to services or changes to the way staff do their jobs.

“If you’re going to measure everything to the nth degree, yet not make any changes, then why do all the measuring in the first place?”

“We hope the government realises this report is full of holes and doesn’t commit to implementing its recommendations.”