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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 1 Hansard (10 February) . . Page.. 51..


MS TUCKER: I seek leave to respond to the minister's statement.

Leave granted.

MS TUCKER: Basically, the minister's response is encouraging in lots of ways, but I want to make the point that I am concerned about the government's response to the recommendations of the committee, particularly in regard to people who are incarcerated. The committee did quite a bit of work on that and made recommendations that were applicable to all correctional settings, and that included the Quamby youth detention centre, the Belconnen Remand Centre, the periodic detention centre and the planned prison.

The evidence that came from the government to the committee on that seems to me to be pretty much what it is still saying, which is disappointing because the committee had a lot of evidence that one would have hoped or thought would have given the government a slightly different approach to the issue. I note that it is noting the recommendations, which is not satisfactory. It deserves a much stronger response than that. Basically, through the committee work we made it quite clear that no-one is going to deny that people are injecting drugs in correctional settings. No-one is pretending that it is not happening here.

The Australian Hepatitis Council submitted to the committee that the ACT has the opportunity to ensure that an ACT prison is not regarded as an incubator of hepatitis C infection, as prisons in other jurisdictions are rightly described. There is also the question of HIV/AIDS, and the United Nations program on HIV/AIDS made the point that prisoners are the community-they come from the community and they return to it. Protection of prisoners is protection of our community.

Another point that was made quite clearly to the committee was that there are ways that we can bring injecting equipment exchange into corrections settings. A number of models are already working in other jurisdictions. We acknowledge the need to work with the officers and the duty of care issues, but the submission that we got from the officer representing the industry was that he was open-minded, they were open to having that discussion. In his response the minister said the government is happy to work with the officers and the union, I guess, on that issue.

That is good, but I really was hoping to see commitment from the government to doing that because basic public health issues really have to be taken on. I know it takes a certain amount of courage because there is a bit of a dilemma that it has to admit that it cannot keep drugs out of a prison or a remand centre, or the Quamby juvenile justice facility, but that is the reality and no-one is denying that. So the government should get over the embarrassment it might feel about that and work with the issue to deal with the spread of blood-borne diseases.

I remind the minister that we made it clear that it is really quite probable that the ACT will be forced to do so anyway. We could ask them to do that before the legality of refusing to provide the duty of care that allows prisoners and detainees the same level of protection from blood-borne viruses as the wider community is challenged in the courts. That happened with condoms, when the government's preventing incarcerated people


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