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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 8 Hansard (24 October) . . Page.. 1925 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

In the ACT we have the Remand Centre, we have the periodic detention centre, as of a few weeks ago, we have police cells, and we have a paddy-wagon that travels to Goulburn and other places to take prisoners off to New South Wales. For a community as large and as sophisticated as ours, with problems of a kind being experienced elsewhere in the country and a range of issues that need to be addressed, particularly with respect to the housing of mentally ill people or people with behavioural problems, there really are serious issues about how we begin to create further options for people in those unfortunate circumstances. I hope that the flexibility inherent in the approach behind these Bills will be an approach we can take further in the future.

Obviously, the ultimate option for the housing of prisoners in the ACT is the establishment of a permanent full-time prison in the ACT. The Government has indicated its desire to look very hard at that option and, indeed, it has begun work on that very concept. Cost is a very important question in that regard, as are arrangements with New South Wales. I am confident that, if we put the issue on the table now and put it on the community's agenda for debate, it will produce at the end of the day a satisfactory outcome, just as putting a rescue helicopter on the agenda two or three years ago has produced, I think, a satisfactory outcome.

Mr Connolly raised the problems with this approach, and I fully accept those. It is not the intention of the Government to make this a de facto permanent place of imprisonment. It is only in very limited circumstances that people ought to be housed in the Remand Centre. Unfortunately, the limited range of options available in the Territory force us to use it in that way from time to time. I was horrified a few weeks ago, for example, to learn that a young Aboriginal prisoner - that is, a person under the age of 18 - had been transferred to the Remand Centre on the orders of the Magistrates Court. I was relieved to be able to see that person returned to Quamby at the earliest available opportunity. Occasionally, options such as that are the only options available, and we need to be aware that at the present time there are some prisoners who are simply not accommodated in an appropriate fashion with our present range of facilities.

I will certainly accept the injunction from Mr Moore to look further at other ways of housing people with certain problems, and I expect that that will be a process that will continue throughout the life of this Government. I do, at the same time, urge members to be prepared to take part in that community debate. It will not be easy to persuade people to build more prisons, more detention facilities of whatever kind, in the Territory. In some ways we got off fairly lightly with the periodic detention centre, as some people may well have been more alarmist about even that modest institution. I believe that we will see further debate on this, and I hope that members of the Assembly will take part in that debate in a constructive fashion. I thank members for their support for these Bills.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Leave granted to dispense with the detail stage.

Bill agreed to.

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