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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 1 Hansard (11 February) . . Page.. 248..


MS DUNDAS (5.54): I will speak to both the substantive motion and the amendment to move things along. I start by saying that I will be supporting the motion as put by Mr Hargreaves and I am quite happy with the amendment as proposed by Ms Tucker.

I think that it is quite obvious that there is a need for the ACT to build its own prison. Everyone in this Assembly appears to recognise that there is a fundamental need for the ACT to have control over and to look after its own prisoners. In particular, the Democrats have long been concerned that ACT prisoners have been sent interstate to serve their terms and have not been able to be in proximity of their families and that the ACT has not been able to manage its prison population or govern the programs available due to not having its own facility.

That means that we have been subject to the imposition of New South Wales rules and decisions about the treatment of the people that we decide need to be incarcerated and we have very few avenues to remedy that situation. Both issues reduce the potential for successful rehabilitation and reducing recidivism among our prison population. That, in a vicious cycle, leads to more prisoners reoffending on release, which means more crime and then more imprisonment.

However, despite that appearing to be accepted as a fact by all sides of the political spectrum, there has been much community debate on where this prison should be put. The previous government believed that Symonston was a suitable site. That site was then shifted to Majura. When there were problems with obtaining land at Majura, more options were then considered, including one near Gungahlin, and most recently we have had a site in Hume targeted.

This process is quickly generating into a farce and the people of Canberra will soon tire of this prison merry-go-round. Both major parties promised a prison at the last election, but it appears as we approach the next election that no final decision has been made on a location, let alone design or construction work having been commenced and the major issues that relate to a prison being worked through, such as what programs will go there, how it will be established and the handling of female prisoners, those on remand and those in high security.

I will say that I believe that it is true that the actions of the federal government in regard to its land management program have not helped. This is clearly a continuation of a poor land release policy. The example of the Tuggeranong town centre has already been raised in the debate. It is unfortunate that the federal government has developed such a haphazard and unhelpful approach to land release. That is why I will be supporting the motion today.

I think that Ms Tucker's amendment clears up the situation, so that we are not so much talking about the guidelines being breached but about the guidelines being vague and unclear. I will say that this does not absolve the ACT government of all responsibility. We must accept as a fact that there will not be consensus on the location of such a facility within the ACT. There will always be people who want it to be somewhere else.

It is interesting that when people talk about which sites are the most suitable, they are not talking about any specific features of the sites; they are talking about their proximity to


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