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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (29 April) . . Page.. 143 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

I have suggested in the past that a decent prison, a contemporary prison, will cost the Territory in the order of $25m, or perhaps somewhat more than that. I frankly do not believe I can go to the Treasurer and seek a commitment from her for a project which would consume well over a quarter of the entire capital works budget in any one year, particularly when there are very acceptable options available elsewhere. I have particular regard to the experience of Victoria in this matter. Victoria, I understand, was able to contract with the private sector for the construction in that State of new prison facilities to house prisoners, with a recurrent cost to the taxpayer lower than the cost of housing prisoners in government facilities prior to that time. With the private sector, they were able to get a cost per prisoner lower than the cost of housing them previously in publicly-operated and publicly-owned facilities. Clearly, whether the borrowing costs met by the private sector to do that were higher or lower than the public sector costs did not matter. Obviously, the recurrent costs of the private sector in operating the gaol were so significantly lower than the public sector costs that they were able to provide the State of Victoria with a better deal than was available through the public sector.

That is where Mr Quinlan's question falls down. He has not taken into account the lower recurrent costs. He might ask why a private prison should have lower recurrent costs than a public facility. The answer is very simple. The profit motive in a private facility works in favour of lower security costs and produces a prison where security is less emphasised. The idea of there being a brick wall between prisoner and warder is broken down somewhat, and the atmosphere of such facilities is very different to the atmosphere of public facilities, in my experience. I have visited a number of these facilities, both public and private. Some members of the former Legal Affairs Committee, I understand, have done the same thing. I think they would all have appreciated the very significant gains that have been made in this country by private facilities. As recently as a couple of weeks ago, Professor Harding from the University of Western Australia pointed out that private prisons in this country have significantly changed the culture of corrections for the better and that private facilities, if properly run and properly regulated, can contribute very significantly to improving standards in that sector.

Mr Speaker, that is why the Government is looking at a private facility. Those across the way who are dogmatically saying that anything private must be bad compared with anything public would be very well advised to go and look at what is happening in this country at the moment with private facilities. Even a number of Labor States have been prepared to look at and to use private facilities in order to produce lower costs.

Mr Berry: Where else is it 100 per cent?

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Berry says, "Where else is it 100 per cent?". We will only ever have the need, I hope, to use one gaol. We have to choose between the public and private sectors. Your party has stated the dogmatic view that it is the responsibility of government to run the prison system within the public sector. The fact is that the private sector has proven in this country that the public sector is not the only sector that is capable of delivering better quality corrections in this country.

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