Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 3 August 2021) . . Page.. 2149 ..
MRS JONES (Murrumbidgee) (10.41): It is astounding that Minister Rattenbury would get up in this place and defend this portfolio when he was the minister who for many years created the mess we are in today. Unfortunately, nothing Minister Gentleman has done in the meantime has changed the game significantly. As a result, we have no confidence in Minister Gentleman.
At least Mr Barr has accepted that there is a problem. That is the first time in this place somebody has come in here in a debate and accepted that there is a problem. He defended Mr Gentleman’s ability to resolve the problem. Nonetheless, we at least are at the point now where there is acceptance from the government—begrudging acceptance finally—that there is a problem. There has been a problem for a number of years, and Mr Rattenbury, as he was the minister sitting in cabinet and oversaw this nonsense, has no right to defend this minister.
The people of the ACT do not need to be made to feel stupid by Minister Rattenbury when they come to us laughing and absolutely shocked that a Jeep ramming a Camry has become the biggest joke in this city over the last two weeks. That is the discussion in supermarkets; that is the discussion outside schools; that is the discussion in people’s kitchens. Can you believe it? We have become the mockery of the entire country, and rightly so. Because despite what the minister says about us having the greatest oversight of any government of our prisons, the things the inspector says are not implemented. That is the problem here.
We have known the Camry was not acceptable, and yet nothing has been done to change that. And nothing any minister has said today has made us believe anything is being done to resolve that problem before this escape occurred. Why was that Camry was still being used? Why is a database designed in 1985 that requires people to check multiple platforms still operating after 12 years? What changed after the last time a prisoner was accidentally let go home? Why was the prisoner then asked to please hand himself in? Someone had been denied bail. What took so long? It took a week for him to be finally escorted back to the prison.
There was a state of emergency last term in the prison, and nothing Minister Gentleman has done has genuinely changed the fear that officers have and have had for many years—that the prison is a tinder box ready to explode. The inmates have far too much power in that place and there is not an appropriate regime or order. There are too many opportunities for people to take illicit substances, harm each other and harm themselves.
There are things that can be done about it. I spent years in this place making suggestions to Minister Rattenbury about things that could be done to improve the situation with sharp implements, lighters, and guards feeling completely abandoned by this government in a very difficult workplace. I have met with more than one prison guard who, over the 12 years this government has been in charge of that prison, have actually started to break down mentally because of their experiences at work.
It is untenable that the Chief Minister, that Minister Rattenbury, that the whole cabinet as well and that the crossbench from the Greens will stand up and back in this