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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (27 October) . . Page.. 2275 ..

MR HUMPHRIES: I thank Mr Osborne for that question. Mr Speaker, I did speak to the Justice Committee, I think last week, about, among other issues, the prison project. I indicated to the committee a proposed timetable for the implementation of such a project and a number of other issues related to the process whereby we would deal with that issue. I indicated I would write to the committee to put those issues on the table in a formal written sense. That letter is still being prepared, as I understand it, and should reach the committee soon.

Mr Speaker, I did not understand that in doing so I precluded the Government from also advising the community as a whole what it had already told the committee - that is, what its proposals were for the future of this project. If the committee took it that I was saying to it that in writing to the committee I would not otherwise disclose the Government's proposals - and if that was my fault - I regret having put the committee in that position. But it was certainly not my intention, Mr Speaker, to indicate that the information I was putting to the committee would remain confidential in some way. It was the intention, and always has been the intention, of the Government to involve the community in this debate as well.

The Government has made it clear - and I am not sure what media release Mr Osborne has seen - that all of these issues are effectively before the Justice and Community Safety Committee. The Government's decision on those issues will depend very largely on what the committee finds. If the committee, for example, recommends a certain site for the prison, the Government will put that site at the top of its list of sites for consideration. If the committee recommends that the prison be a public prison, rather than a private prison, the Government will seriously consider whether it can conduct a prison on a public basis rather than a private basis.

I am not saying that the Government will simply leave all those issues for the committee to determine on its behalf - I cannot do that; it would not be reasonable - but I have indicated, Mr Speaker, that all those issues are very much for the committee to resolve and recommend to government. If members of the committee believe that that precludes any discussion involving the community, I am sorry. That was not my intention. When I write to the committee I will clarify what it was I was proposing. I certainly hope to involve the community in this debate as well, because it will be a very major decision and we need to have a public debate as well as having a debate within the processes of the Assembly.

MR OSBORNE: Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. I accept what you have said, Mr Humphries, but I still cannot understand, and you might need to clarify it for me again - I am reading through the terms of reference for the inquiry that the committee has - why you would make such an announcement given that nowhere in there does it say that the proposal is conditional on the report of the committee. I cannot understand, Mr Humphries, why you would make such an announcement given that the first issue in the terms of reference is the justification for the prison. It seems that in the last couple of weeks Ministers in this Government have been attempting to pre-empt things, and I see

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