Most of the details I don't really know enough about to comment. For example, targeting organised crime and "well-known criminal families" certainly sounds like a good idea, but I haven't a clue whether National's policies there are likely to improve things or not. Though the move to make greater use of DNA fingerprinting is surely a good one. Helen Clark even said she was open to the idea (I can't remember where I saw that - The Press, perhaps?).
But looking at the big picture, Brash's main focus seems to be on putting more people in prison, for longer. So let's look at that:
To operate the prison service now costs around $600 million annually. If the prison population increased by 50% as a result of the abolition of parole (which is possible if offending rates do not reduce), the increase in annual operating cost could rise by around $300 million after about five years. Additional prisons will also involve significant one-off capital costs, possibly of up to $1 billion, though to keep taxpayer costs as low as possible we would contract the running of these to the private sector. [Footnote:] The country's only privately managed prison, the Auckland Central Remand Prison, beats the state operated prisons on almost every measure, including cost, education and health programmes.
I heard a while ago that even the Greens concede that private prisons are run much better, but they nevertheless are opposed to all privatisation as a matter of principle. In other words, they're opposed to what's best for the country if it clashes with their ideology. Disgraceful. (Assuming my information there is accurate. Let me know if you have evidence to the contrary - a link would be good!)
But back to Brash, one must ask whether those massive costs are really worth it. As far as I'm concerned, the only people who should be imprisoned are those who pose a significant threat to society. If there is good evidence to suggest that a crime was a one-off event (a crime of passion, say), and the offender poses little future risk to society, then he should not go to jail. There simply isn't any point. Of course, a serious crime will require a proportionally serious punishment for the sake of deterrence, but we can surely come up with alternatives to prison which would benefit, rather than cost, society at large. Perhaps a huge (and I mean huge) fine and several years (hell, decades!) of community service, for a start. [Update: Perhaps corporal punishment is worth considering too.]
'Rehabilitation' seems to be a dirty word these days. The major parties are both emphasising how 'tough on crime' they are, but seem more interested in punishing offenders than protecting the rest of us. Imprisoning now-harmless people does nothing to protect the rest of us, it just wastes our money. A prisoner should be released the moment we have sufficient evidence (if ever we do) that he is successfully rehabilitated and no longer poses a significant risk.
Since the purpose of prisons is to protect society from threats, they should aim to neutralise that threat while they can. That is, they should try to rehabilitate prisoners so that they no longer pose a threat to society. If this can be done (and I don't know enough to say whether it can - realistically - or not), then it is surely preferable to releasing a criminal just as dangerous as when he went in.
On the other hand, if we have good reason to think that a dangerous criminal is beyond all hope, then he should probably never be released. I guess the difficulty is in accurately judging whether an individual is 'safe' or not. I don't know whether there is any reliable (or even semi-reliable) way of doing this.
Brash suggested careful monitoring of released criminals to prevent re-offending. This sounds like a very sensible idea. What makes less sense is suggesting this as a replacement for parole. We should be aiming to keep our prisons as empty as possible, and releasing offenders as soon as it is safe to do so. Post-release monitoring is a method which (presumably) increases our margin of safety here. As such, its implementation would give us reason to consider releasing offenders earlier, rather than later. (Admittedly, this reasoning assumes current practices to be tolerably safe, a premise Brash et al might not accept.)
Prison should be a last resort, only to be utilized when it is necessary for the safety of society. I imagine various lobby groups for victims of crime would disagree with this, due to their desire for retribution. However, despite being natural and understandable, this drive for revenge is not one which ought to influence policy. I would hope that our political leaders base their position on more rational grounds, seeking what is truly best for our society. Although there were some good points in Brash's speech, I'm concerned by his apparent focus on filling up prisons. He is appealing to the worst in people, and I can't help but wonder whether the effects of this will spill over, preventing us from realising what is best for society.