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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 8 Hansard (24 October) . . Page.. 1924 ..

MR CONNOLLY (continuing):

As I said, on reflection, we have not gone ahead with those amendments because it would just, in a sense, add another layer of paperwork. We would be concerned, as I hope the Government would be, if these commonsense provisions appeared to be being overutilised. We are prepared to support these amendments as commonsense amendments to the procedures of the Remand Centre, on the assumption, as Mr Humphries gave the impression, that these are to deal with more isolated cases and that we will not have the Remand Centre becoming, de facto, a permanent place of imprisonment. With that caveat, the Opposition indicates that it will be supporting these Bills right through the detail stage today.

MR MOORE (11.18): I rise to support this Bill and congratulate the Government on introducing a more flexible system. Whenever we are dealing with people on remand, and in some ways I echo the sentiments Terry Connolly has expressed, I think it is incumbent upon us to remember that these are people who are charged with a crime but have not yet been found guilty and there is some reason why it is appropriate to detain them in custody. For that reason, we must always be conscious of the most flexible and most humane way to deal with those people. We have a restriction on us because, where people are found guilty, they go to prison in New South Wales. We should be dealing with them in the most humane way possible.

I would urge any member who has not visited a prison, particularly Goulburn prison, where a lot of our detainees go, to do so. It is one of the things I did after about nine months in the Assembly, and it had a profound effect on me. It is something we all ought to do, so that when we have legislation before us that says, "Six months' gaol" or "Two years' gaol", we understand the ramifications of what that means to somebody going there. After I had returned, somebody said to me, "Perhaps we should get all our kids in the high schools and colleges to visit a gaol. Then they would realise the consequences of what they might be doing". Whilst I know that this point extends beyond the Bill before us, it does still have to do with people in custody.

We need to look at expanding options for our judiciary and our magistracy, to ensure that the option of prison, the deprivation of liberty, is the last option that is considered. It is necessary for some people; there is no question about that. I do not question it as a final solution, but we should do so very reluctantly, and I know that that is generally the approach taken by the various courts in the ACT. This is a step forward in terms of flexibility, and I encourage the Minister to look at other ways to step forward, as did his predecessor, Terry Connolly, in looking at how we can deal with people other than by sending them to gaols, dealing with them with as much flexibility as possible. We have made appropriate strides in that area, but I think we should continue testing new systems, a bit at a time, in this jurisdiction.

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General) (11.21), in reply: I thank members for their support for this Bill and its sister Bill. As Mr Moore indicated, the Bills allow for a greater range of options to be available to people in particular categories. Indeed, the hallmark of this legislation is flexibility in the approach we take towards the housing of people with particular problems who come in contact with the criminal justice system. We have a very limited number of weapons in our armoury in this area.

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