Page 2604 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 7 August 2013

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Certainly, I was pleased at the time of the negotiations that the Chief Minister was personally committed to this facility being designed and built, and that there is a shared understanding amongst all members of the Assembly, and across the parties, that this is an essential component of our overall mental health system. So the recognition that this is a facility that is needed in the ACT is in the parliamentary agreement. There was a shared agreement there between the ALP and the Greens that it needed to go ahead. With the debate in the Assembly today, again there is that shared recognition that this is a facility that Canberra needs and that the vulnerable members of our city need.

I do not believe I need to spend too much time on outlining the case for the facility. As Ms Berry’s motion indicates, there have been a number of reviews undertaken in relation to the proposed secure mental health facility. While there may have been some early discussion around the exact scope and make-up of the security rating, to my knowledge there have not been any dissenting views about the actual need for such a facility.

Stakeholders and advocates from the justice system, mental health consumer groups, medical practitioners and carers of those with mental health concerns have all supported the need for such a facility. So today we are really being asked to consider not the need, but the where and when of its development.

Let us look at the “where”. The location of such a facility will always be open to some debate and criticism, and that is true in all jurisdictions. I know that there has already been some consternation expressed by a business that operates in the area of the proposed facility, and I understand that senior ACT Health Directorate officials are actively engaged in ongoing discussion with them about the design and the specific concerns they may have.

Suffice to say, the government must always have a sophisticated discussion on the costs, the needs of staff, the local community, the issues of security and proximity to allied health or justice institutions, and environmental impacts, in line with a triple bottom line philosophy.

It is my understanding that, for many of the reasons outlined above, the former Quamby site in Symonston best suits the needs of the day and the needs of the government. As a former secure facility located in proximity to the Canberra Hospital, and alongside another operational secure facility in the periodic detention centre, you can see why it makes sense that that location is considered suitable. With minimal residences in the immediate area, this site provides the best option for adaptive reuse and value for money.

Let me turn to the “when”. The motion calls on the Assembly to agree that the secure mental health facility project should be fast-tracked to allow for delivery ahead of the early 2017 timetable currently being proposed. For all the reasons I have already outlined, I do genuinely believe that the need is apparent enough to convince us all that it should be built without delay.

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