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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 7 Hansard (23 August) . . Page.. 1959..


Alexander Maconochie Centre

MS PORTER: My question is to the Attorney-General in relation to the development of the Alexander Maconochie Centre. Minister, can you please outline how planning for the operation of the AMC is having regard to the issues raised by the Human Rights Commission in its audit of the ACT correctional facilities?

MR CORBELL: I thank Ms Porter for the question. Yesterday, I was very pleased to attend the formal launch of the Human Rights Commission's audit into correctional facilities here in the ACT. I said at that launch, and I am very happy to say it again today, that with these types of reports it is always easy to get defensive about some of the difficult issues that will inevitably be encountered when it comes to corrections management and the operation of corrections facilities. But what that report says to us very clearly is something that those opposite are going to need to face up to: the provision of the existing remand facilities at Belconnen Remand Centre and the existing temporary facilities at Symonston are simply out of date and need to be replaced.

The first and very clear message that comes out of this audit report is that Belconnen is antiquated, overcrowded and out of date and must be replaced. Another very clear message that comes out of the Human Rights Commissioner's report is that the provision of facilities at the Belconnen Remand Centre is very much contingent on space and design. The fact that remandees do not have access to open-air areas and do not have access to an exercise area any larger than, say, half the size of a tennis court is down to the physical design of the facility. The fact that at times remandees face excessive periods of lockdown—that is, confinement to cells—in that facility is down to the fact that the number of staff needed to manage such a relatively modest facility is large because of the inadequate design. That means that we see those excessive hours of lockdown.

All of these issues are directly attributable to physical design. The development of the new AMC provides us with a way to address these very key issues about excessive lockdown, lack of recreational facilities and lack of open space for prisoners to have some form of physical exercise and recreation.

The report is a strong endorsement of the need for a new corrections facility. Those opposite need to make a decision. With the facility now underway and halfway towards completion, and with yesterday's damning report by the Human Rights Commissioner about the physical environment of BRC, what are those opposite going to do? Are they going to finally accept that, as a community, we are taking responsibility for the management of our own prisoners, our own remandees? What approach are they going to adopt for the management of the new correctional facility?

What is their philosophy? Are they committed to a human rights agenda? Are they committed to a healthy prison concept? That is the key policy challenge for the Liberals now. They can no longer simply criticise the development of the prison. They can no longer critique the fact that money is being spent on the prison. It is going to be finished. It is going to be finished before the next election. It is going to be occupied before the next election.


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