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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 1 Hansard (18 February) . . Page.. 299 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

Briefly, the situation is that Commonwealth legislation currently provides for a scheme for the transfer of prisoners between Australia and other countries. With the implementation of the scheme, Australia will be able to enter into bilateral and multilateral treaties with other countries for prison transfers. As the Attorney explained in his tabling speech, the Bill is based on draft model complementary legislation of the States and Territories and if enacted will allow the ACT to participate in the scheme.

Under the scheme, Australians held in foreign gaols will be able to return to Australia to serve their sentences. Foreigners gaoled in Australia will similarly be able to serve their sentences in their home countries. I note from the legislation that the term "prisoner" does include mentally impaired prisoners and parolees.

A prisoner returned to Australia under the legislation will be treated as if he or she is a Federal prisoner serving a sentence imposed under Commonwealth law. For return to the Territory, a prisoner will have to demonstrate community ties with the ACT, and the ACT Minister's consent will be required before a prisoner is transferred from or to the Territory. It is noted that until the ACT has its own prison an incoming prisoner would be held in New South Wales and the consent of a New South Wales Minister would be needed.

The Bill provides that the Commonwealth Attorney-General may give directions on the release of a prisoner transferred to the Territory. A prisoner might be released, for example, when granted a pardon under the law of Australia or the transfer country, or when the conviction is quashed in the transfer country. The Bill offers the prospect of more humanitarian treatment of prisoners. As I mentioned before, it is part of a complementary national scheme developed by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General.

In a previous existence as the chief of staff to the Federal Attorney-General, I was pleased to attend a significant number of meetings of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. I crossed paths with the ACT Attorney at some of those meetings when I was with Mr Lavarch. I recall the lengthy discussions that occurred at the standing committee meetings on the question of international transfer of prisoners. I recall that it was New Zealand that had some significant difficulty with some of the potentialities that might arise from the Prisoners (International Transfer) Bill. There is a significantly higher number of New Zealand prisoners in Australia than there are Australian prisoners in New Zealand, and the consequences for New Zealand of entering into these sorts of bilateral arrangements with Australia would have had a very significant impact on their gaols.

There are issues, too, for the ACT, or potential issues, in terms of financial imposts that might be visited on particular jurisdictions as a result of a significant number of prisoners.

I take the point that the Attorney makes in his tabling speech and the explanatory memorandum and note that there are some very significant reasons for embracing this sort of legislation. I doubt that it will impact greatly on the ACT, but the mechanism that is provided for prisoners to be detained in their own communities, close to family and

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