Page 182 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 15 February 2006

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academic who was seeking to carry out some sort of sociological experiment. In the same way that this government shows strength of leadership and the courage of its convictions, he set about instituting reforms that he knew would transform the then prison system.

Maconochie learnt about prison life at first hand as a consequence of being a prisoner of war of the French from late 1811 until the abdication of Napoleon early in 1814. He knew at first hand what it was like to be a prisoner and it is a fair assumption that it was this experience that influenced his approach when he arrived at the penal settlement of Van Diemen’s Land in 1837.

The basis for Maconochie’s fundamental belief was that brutality and cruelty debased not only the person subjected to them but also the society that deliberately uses or tolerates the use of such brutality for the purposes of control. Further, prison should be designed to make a person fit to return to society, purged of the tendencies that led to his or her offence and strengthened in their ability to withstand temptation in the future. These are the kinds of principles upon which the proposed ACT correctional facility will be managed, as you know, Mr Speaker. I shall conclude with a quote from Alexander Maconochie, and excuse the reference to only “man” here and not to women:

My experience leads me to say there is no man utterly incorrigible. Treat him as a man, and not as a dog. You cannot recover a man except by doing justice to the manly qualities, which he may have about him, and giving him an interest in developing them. I conceive that none are incorrigible where there is sanity; there may be some proportion, but very small.

I am immensely proud to be a member of a government that is led by a Chief Minister who supports such a vision.


MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (6.13): As we speak here, the House of Representatives are debating the arrangements for considering applications to market the abortifacient drug RU486. I do not say that they are debating who should “approve” RU486, because I suspect this is a debate between those who think nobody should approve it and those who think that it does not matter who approves it so long as somebody does. But on the general question of who should decide such issues, we have to consider what RU486 is for. I am happy for technical experts to make decisions on the efficacy and safety of medicines. But RU486 is clearly not intended principally as a medicine. The vast majority of women who take it in countries where it is approved do not do so to cure any disease or to ease any symptoms. Pregnancy, as my obstetricians have loved to tell me, is not a disease.

Whether or not you are convinced by the arguments for allowing RU486 onto the market—and I am not one of those—it is clear that those arguments are not about health. The arguments, like those for abortion in general, are social and moral, and the process of weighing up these arguments against the social arguments, along with some health arguments on the other side, is emphatically not a process for technocrats and scientific analysis. In fact, the whole argument that the TGA should make this decision because they are the best at this kind of technical analysis is in my view an attempt to imply what

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