Page 2342 - Week 06 - Friday, 27 June 2008
This is the second-most expensive per bed facility in the country so in terms of the government’s ability to manage we see them producing less and less for more money. This is another example of where they have done it, another example of something that has blown out significantly. This government tell us they are going to deliver on a $1.4 billion infrastructure program over the next few years and we have seen the blow-outs all over the place.
We have for a long time spoken about our concerns about the government’s ability to manage the recurrent costs for this prison. The figures we are getting are a little bit patchy but from what I can tell the cost is certainly well above the $20 million we were told it would cost; we were told it would not cost any more to have remandees and others here in the ACT than it does now for them to be in New South Wales. So we are looking at at least $23 million or $24 million, but of course those are only estimates—and we have seen those kinds of estimates before from this government. We have seen the estimates on what it would cost to build the prison, and those costs have blown out, and we have seen many other estimates.
So we have concerns about this government’s ability to manage it. We do not know how much this will cost us now. We do not believe that it will be kept to the $23 million or $24 million per year; it may well be substantially more than that. So what we were told by the government—that it would be no more than what they were paying before—was wrong. We knew it was wrong at the time and it has now been confirmed in this budget as being totally incorrect.
We want to see this prison work and this minister is going to have to prove that he is able to manage it. We want to see recidivism come down as a result of it. That will be the test now that we have the prison, now that we will be spending at least $24 million a year to run a prison here in the ACT. The test will be that we keep the community safe, that we rehabilitate those prisoners who go into the prison and that we see better outcomes for our prisoners than we are seeing at the moment. That will be the test and there will be some significant challenges.
Within this facility—this not very large facility if you look in terms of the whole prison system—we will have remandees and minimum security, medium security and maximum security prisoners. We will have prisoners with all sorts of differing needs. We will have Indigenous prisoners. We will have a small number of female prisoners, it would seem, at this point. It will be interesting to see what kind of specific programs are able to be run, and how much they will cost given the small numbers of particular prisoners. We will have prisoners with different religious backgrounds and we will have prisoners, no doubt, with varying degrees of drug addiction when they come into the prison. So there will be a whole raft of challenges.
Ordinarily in the New South Wales system, which we have tapped into to date, there is the ability to split prisoners up across prisons and there is the ability to specialise. But we have to bring all of that together; all of what we have been buying from the New South Wales prison system will have to be brought together in the Alexander Maconochie Centre. So we will be watching it very closely. I had the opportunity to take a look at the prison with the standing committee and certainly there are aspects of