Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (3 September) . . Page.. 1920 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
Some members have spoken already about the number of people using abused substances who are found in our prisons - in the Belconnen Remand Centre, Quamby or Goulburn - and that is not news; it is not surprising. I have to ask why on earth it is still the case when we know that most of the young people that go through our courts have a problem with drugs. We know that many people in prisons have a mental illness. We know that people threatening to take their lives represent a major problem as well in prisons because why would they not want to, half the time? We heard Mr Rugendyke describe the horrific place that is Goulburn Gaol. We all know well enough how terribly inappropriate Belconnen Remand Centre is, and Quamby as well, I would suggest.
The question of supporting people in our society at a young age who are in trouble is one that has always to be raised in this debate. It starts right at the beginning when we look at getting support for families. That came out clearly in our report on services for children at risk in the ACT. Those points have been made in that report and in many other reports. I am really concerned when I see the main response coming from this type of department in governments around Australia, in the legal, justice and community safety departments. That is where we still see the main response to this. That is where we see the resources.
Mr Rugendyke says the situation is looking quite good for police now. I am glad if it is. Police also need to be well supported. But I do not think equal attention is being given to these issues in the other departments. That is because, once again, it often ends up that we do not see action until a matter is at crisis point, then the community demands it, it becomes an election issue and an issue about votes. You do not hear such a strong voice from the community for those other prevention and intervention services because the results of those services and the expenditure are not as clear as what some in the community think would be the case from a response which is about clamping down, getting tough and all those sorts of things that people say.
I have always raised the issue of an appropriate mental health facility within the prison as well as appropriate support for people who are addicted to any kind of drug. Legal aid, of course, has come up again, as it always does, as well as the Commonwealth cuts and how they are impacting. We asked a number of questions on this issue in estimates and Mr Humphries said it would be a very serious precedent if we actually stepped in in any way and started funding what should be seen as a Commonwealth function. I believe we have done that with dental care. The precedent has been set and, once again, it is a matter of priorities and what you think is in the interests of the community in the long term, not just the short term. I would suggest, once again, that if our children and families are the ones suffering from these Commonwealth cuts we have a very strong responsibility to act. It is as important an issue as dental health, I would suggest. We have also talked about the children's magistrate. A committee of the Assembly is looking at that now. That is another legal issue that I am glad to see being progressed.
Criminal injuries compensation came up as well. I have had quite a number of letters about that from constituents and there is definitely a concern in the community about what is going to happen. I think there were some quite unfortunate examples used in the Minister's press release which have alarmed people in the community. A burnt doormat was one of them. There are subtleties in that. Depicting someone burning a doormat might be indicative of very serious harassment, and using it as an example of