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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (29 April) . . Page.. 144 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

You people have a mind-set that says that if it is public it must be good; that if it is private it must be bad. If you are defending the culture of the public prison system, you are defending one of the most iniquitous institutions this country has ever produced, because the public sector prison system in this country has been an absolute disgrace. Even today it remains an absolute disgrace. I do not know how many of you watched the series on the ABC recently. I forget now what it was called, but it ran for a number of weeks. It was about prisons in this country, all of them public prisons. If you want to defend that culture, then good on you. You go right ahead. I have no desire to do that.

I cannot guarantee that we can fully break away from that, but I have seen evidence in private institutions in this country that they can, and they have at least partly done so. Forget the financial bottom line, Mr Quinlan. Let us talk about the humane conditions provided in gaols.

Mr Quinlan: They are not mutually exclusive, Gary.

MR HUMPHRIES: In the public sector in this country they are, Mr Quinlan. That is why it is worth looking at the private sector in this way.

MR QUINLAN: I ask a supplementary question. I am trying to hark back to the limited factual material contained in Mr Humphries's answer. Will he accept, based on his answer, that in this decision he should separate capital funding from operating funding?

MR HUMPHRIES: Yes, we are quite happy to do that. We have not examined yet the way in which we might be able to make this particular project operate. It may well be possible to build the prison privately and operate it publicly, or even to build it publicly and operate it privately. But we have indicated our preference for being able to do this off-budget, because there simply are not the funds in the budget at the moment to be able to do it.

Mr Speaker, I think that we need to have a much more sophisticated analysis of these matters than would be suggested by the question Mr Quinlan has asked. That is why throughout recent years we have kept open both options. Unfortunately, the Labor Party has taken a different approach. It has said, "There is only one way of doing this, and that is within the public sector". If you believe we should examine these options, Mr Quinlan, why will you not rule in the option, the possibility, of the private sector?

Mr Quinlan: Do you want me to answer that?

MR HUMPHRIES: You do not have to answer it, because your former leader has already done that. You have ruled out a private sector option, either for construction or for operation. That is extremely foolish. Why should you do that? I would not be asking the Assembly to countenance this possibility if the option was untried, but it is not untried. It has been tested in this country and it does make a lot of sense. The total cost will be affected by items other than just the cost of borrowing the money. The tax effect of depreciation which accrues to the private sector but not to the public sector is another factor which Mr Quinlan might not have taken into account. Those things are matters which we need to weigh up. We will do so by examining both options, not by ruling either one of them out.

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