Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 3336 ..
MS TUCKER (11.35): This is a complicated discussion, but the Greens are supporting these amendments. I do not think that we have heard a full discussion from Mr Humphries or from Mr Rugendyke. I would be happy for Mr Humphries to speak again if he wants to answer some questions for me. He said that the initial legislation would make savings of $70,000 in recovered fines. He then said that the cost of the CSOs would be $107,000. I do not understand who he thinks is going to be doing these CSOs. How was that $107,000 calculated? Was that determined on a projection of the number of people who once they saw that there was not a prison sentence would go to CSOs rather than pay their fines? I do not know how you could come up with that figure. I do not know how you could guess how many people would be persuaded by the threat of a prison sentence to pay their fines and how many would say, "If it is a CSO I will do the community service because it will just be gardening, and I like gardening anyway".
Mr Humphries: It is the estimate from Corrective Services.
MS TUCKER: Mr Humphries says it is the estimate from Corrective Services, but I am questioning that estimate. I think it would be very difficult to make an assumption on that. That figure has been introduced into the discussion, but I do not personally find it convincing. Even if it was correct, there are other sides to this debate. If you are telling me that community service work has no real value, I am interested to hear that, but I would have thought that with the cost of $107,000 for running CSOs there would be community benefits to people doing community service work, benefits which do not feature in the accounts. That has not been brought into the discussion.
Another issue raised by members is the real cost of putting someone in prison. Say imprisonment does not work as a disincentive. We have to look at the cost of putting a person in prison. We know about the young fine defaulter who was sent to prison, where he was bashed so badly that he got brain damage. There goes all the money that you thought you might have saved. Prisons are not hospitable places. They brutalise people. We are talking about imprisoning people who are not violent criminals. They are people who have not paid fines. There are genuine concerns about whether putting them in prison is a reasonable thing to do in the long term and what the cost to the community is in the long term. It may be much worse than the cost of running community service orders.
Mr Rugendyke said he thought he might be able to support Mr Stanhope's amendments regarding children but reconsidered because children drive motor vehicles and so on. I find that a very worrying point of view. Maybe young people can drive a car, but that is not the issue. The issue is: Do we want to put a young person in prison? For me, putting them in prison is a very abhorrent notion. If young people get themselves into a mess with fines, I do not see how anyone could possibly think it would be in their long-term interest or the community's interest to put them in prison.
We are talking about saving $70,000. I cannot see that it is justified. I know it is all predicated on the concept of having a disincentive that will make people respond differently. I do not think people like doing community service orders. That is my impression, having worked in a number of community organisations where there have