Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 6 October 2021) . . Page.. 2758 ..
the actions taken by officers were lawful under the Corrections Management Act, but then finds that the ACT, being a human rights jurisdiction, also needs to consider the Human Rights Act. And that is where the inspector has particularly identified areas where further work is needed.
As a government, we need to respect the human rights of everybody at the AMC. There needs to be a human rights focused culture in our corrections system, from the corrections officers through to the support staff and all the way to the Minister for Corrections. I look forward to further work in response, as part of the normal government process in order to improve the operations of the AMC.
While some of these changes are simple and straightforward, like the procurement of body scanners already highlighted by the minister, others require ongoing, deliberate focus to help foster a culture of human rights in the corrections service. This involves the alignment of policy and procedures, developing staff human rights understanding and appreciation, consideration of human rights in decision-making, and building staff capability to better consider human rights. I think these are the questions and the issues that the inspector has placed a particular emphasis on in his report.
I welcome Mrs Kikkert’s research and history of human rights development when it comes to the corrections system. I did particularly note her references to the OPCAT, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. I add to her history lesson. I brought legislation to this chamber in 2017 and early in 2018 to implement that bill here in the ACT, ahead of federal government ratification, because ACT is striving to set a higher standard. I brought that bill because I wanted to ensure that that optional protocol applied fully here in the ACT and that we continue with the implementation of that and be ready for the date on which that treaty comes into force in the ACT. But of course Mrs Kikkert forgot that the Canberra Liberals actually opposed the bill to implement OPCAT when it was brought to this chamber.
Mrs Jones spoke on behalf of the Canberra Liberals then. She gave a two-paragraph speech—two paragraphs—in which she dismissed the need for this. She said—and I could probably read the whole thing in the time I have available but I will cut to the highlights:
However, the Canberra Liberals do not agree that the ACT Assembly should open itself up to an international body making requests of us at any point in time that we are to comply with it.
The people of the ACT vote for a government here. If anybody sits above us, it is the federal parliament, and I think we even resist that to a large extent.
She goes on to basically say, “Why should we subject ourselves to the oversight of the United Nations body, striving to ensure these higher standards are implemented on the ground?” I disagreed with that then, and I disagree with it now. I hope, in light of Mrs Kikkert's speech this morning, the Canberra Liberals have reconsidered their position. It certainly sounds like it, and I think that is a welcome position, because there is no doubt that having external scrutiny is incredibly important.