A former drug dealer turned escapee has been returned to WA to face trial but unions say a public service hiring freeze has impacted on already overstretched prison staff in that state.
Former fugitive Bernd Neumann is scheduled to appear in a Perth court charged with escaping lawful custody.
Neumann was serving a 15-year jail term for drug trafficking offences when police allege he took a dog for a walk and strolled away during a prisoners’ soccer match in the Perth suburb of Wilson on February 8 last year.
The 60-year-old was arrested in Reedy Creek in Queensland on October 8.
Neumann was flown back to Perth earlier this month and is scheduled to make his second appearance in the Perth Magistrates Court later on Tuesday.
The WA Prison Officers’ Union says a public service hiring freeze in the state could have further serious consequences for the prison system,.
The WA government announced a six-month freeze on public sector recruitment, except for teachers and police, as part of a $1.3 billion savings package in its mid-year review on Monday.
Union secretary John Welch says the freeze has come out of the club with no chance to discuss potential effects on prisons.
‘WA’s prisons are already overflowing, and the prisoner population is increasing at an alarming rate,’ he said in a statement.
‘As it stands, we believe we are significantly understaffed, and we understand the department was intending to run more training courses early next year.’
The review showed the state government heading for a massive $3.1 billion budget deficit this year, compared with a $2.7 billion deficit forecast in the May budget.
Treasurer Mike Nahan and Premier Colin Barnett blamed the ballooning deficit forecast on a plummeting iron ore price, ‘sluggish’ economy and the state’s ‘outrageous’ share of the national GST revenue pie.