Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (27 May) . . Page.. 639 ..
MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, I thank Mr Osborne for this question. I am not sure how many people in the ACT read the Daily Telegraph. I hope there are very few - not because I am embarrassed by anything that is in there, but because they are not likely to be particularly well-informed people if they rely on the words that appear in this publication.
Mr Speaker, just to fill in the details that Mr Osborne has alluded to, Mr Emmanuel Viglatgis was sentenced by the ACT Magistrates Court to 15 months' imprisonment for theft, assault and some related offences. His sentence was due to expire on 19 August 1998. The court set an eight-month non-parole period, which was due to expire on 19 January 1998. I can confirm that the prisoner was released from Cooma Gaol on 20 January this year. I can also confirm that he was released without any lawful authority; that is, there was no parole order. In fact, the parole board did not even consider the prisoner's request for parole until after the prisoner was apprehended in the ACT on an outstanding warrant. Even then, they declined his parole, and the prisoner was returned to gaol on 5 February and subsequently released - legitimately on parole this time - on 26 February of this year.
Mr Speaker, that much is fact. Much of what else appears in the Daily Telegraph article is not. The most worrying part of the article is the bit Mr Osborne has referred to:
The mistake stemmed from a phone conversation between ACT and New South Wales Corrective Services officers.
Mr Speaker, let me, first of all, put on the record that, as far as I can ascertain, there was no such telephone call. Nobody in my department has any record of any such telephone call; no-one in my office has any recollection of any such telephone call; none to me were misdirected while I was in here, I hope. It is the time for true confessions, Mr Speaker. The article actually says that they released this person because they made the telephone call and "were not told release was not approved". They were not told that the release was approved; but they were not told that the release was not approved. So, Mr Speaker, let us assume for argument's sake that this phone call was made and that they are having a conversation about a particular prisoner and then they hang up and they say, "Hey, they did not mention that he could not be released. We will release him. Hey, why not?".
MR SPEAKER: Are we running a contract in or contract out, Mr Minister?
MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, mainly contract out in this particular case.
Mr Kaine: Truth is stranger than fiction sometimes, Mr Humphries.
MR HUMPHRIES: It is indeed, Mr Kaine. Mr Speaker, let us assume for one moment that New South Wales Corrective Services actually did make such a telephone call. As I say, I have not had any evidence that that was the case. I think what is more likely is that somebody in New South Wales Corrective Services was covering their backside by claiming that they had had such a telephone conversation. But let us assume that it was made. What sort of corrective services system lets people out on the basis of a telephone call, in any case?