Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 5114 ..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
how prisoners are going once they are released, to be there to assist them when they need that assistance and to tailor what needs to happen.
This bill is predicated to a large extent on a prison in the ACT. That is very important. I've always thought that we need a prison. A lot of people are walking around free who probably shouldn't be, and they would benefit-as would society-if they were put in prison. We have to ensure that once they're put in prison proper steps are taken. We cannot do that at the moment as we have absolutely no say over what occurs in New South Wales. An ACT prison needs to have facilities to treat people with mental illness so the chances of their re-offending when they get out are lessened. It needs drug rehabilitation facilities, again to wean prisoners off any habit they might have so when they get out they're not going to be a menace and commit more offences. Proper training activities and skills development are needed for prisoners so they are better equipped to lead productive, honest lives when they get out. Those things are also very important.
It's good to see that this bill is going to be accepted in principle. It is most unfortunate that the government wants to knock it on the head, as it has everything else. Even if the government doesn't agree with a lot of it, the least it could do is vote for it in principle and then seek to amend the things it doesn't like. That would be far more positive. If that means those things have to be consolidated in just two acts, so be it. It means we are making improvements now rather than waiting months or even going years down the track. Sensible proposals are put forward, and it is not good enough to just knock them off because we're going to have some magic sort of consolidated bill down the track. Good proposals should be put in now and they can be incorporated into any consolidation of bills.
As I said, I wonder how detailed the Chief Minister's review is. If it's anything like he suggested about six weeks ago, there are some huge gaps in it, especially in what happens prior to someone being convicted and sentenced by a court. It is disappointing that while the government seems to accept a lot of this bill, it wants us to wait months, maybe years, for what it's going to bring down-and I'm sure there will be some gaps in that.
MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (4.11), in reply: I thank members for their support and for their constructive suggestions and comments. This bill is an attempt to set up a framework and an attitude that says that the community no longer accepts the revolving door of current prison systems around this country-and, indeed, around the world. If we are to build a prison in the ACT, and get it right, we need a framework that allows for rehabilitation. If we don't do that, we shouldn't bother building a prison, but continue to pack our prisoners off to Goulburn, Long Bay, Junee, and other places in New South Wales because we won't have made a difference. All of us in this place would say that we need to break the cycle of crime. We need to get people out of the criminal justice system and back into society, where they can reach their own personal fulfilment, find some level of contentment and contribute to society. That's what this bill seeks to do.
The government, through the Attorney, seems to suggest that it can do it bigger and better and we just have to wait for the government. I don't think we can wait. The government's had two years to get its bill into this place, and it's not here yet. The Chief Minister assures us it will arrive some time next year following the review. So, I put