Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 2 March 1994
Parliamentary Record 25
Debates for 6th Assembly 1990 - 1994; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 6th Assembly 1990 - 1994
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Wednesday 2 March 1994 The minister referred to Alice Springs Prison, and this was a doozey. This government deserves no credit whatsoever for implementing a promise that was so long overdue. In delivering his statement, the minister stated with great fanfare: 'The new Alice Springs Prison will be commissioned in early 1995. replacing the 56-year-old facility in the centre of the township'. If I have spoken once, I have spoken a dozen times in the 12 or 13 years that I have been in this Assembly about the failure of this government to honour its promises to replace the corrections facility in Alice Springs. You would know, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the corrections minister in 1983. Mr Robertson, the then member for Araluen, gave public undertakings that were given substantial press coverage. I suggest that the present minister should note those undertakings and realise that the government can take no credit for fulfilling this long overdue promise. The facilities at Alice Springs have been condemned universally. As the minister would be well aware, they have been condemned in international forums. I was pleased to be present at the turning of the first sod for the new facility, but we should never allow this government to take one iota of credit from that particular arrangement. I indicated previously that there are some dramatic discontinuities between the rabid law and order campaign run by the Attorney-General, with some help from the former Minister for Correctional Services, and the approach taken by the present minister in this statement. I note that the minister referred to the over-representation of Aboriginals in detention centres and prisons as 'one of the most pressing problems facing governments today'. At page 12 of his written statement, he commented: 'There has been a slight increase in numbers of inmates within the Northern Territory prison system in recent times'. At page 24, he stated that a 'review of sentencing in conjunction with law is on track' . That was in the context of reducing the numbers of prisoners. We did not hear this from the minister in yesterday's debate on the Bail Act amendments and we did not obtain any undertaking from the Attorney-General in regard it. I repeat the question that I asked of the minister yesterday: has there been any assessment of the increased numbers of people who will be in Territory jails as a result of the amendments passed yesterday? That is a crucial issue that the minister has to address when summing up in this debate. The Attorney-General gave notice this morning of a sentencing bill. What assessment has there been of the impact on prison numbers that the new sentencing regime may have? If this government intends to go down the path taken by the conservative government in New South Wales, we will need to build more jails. When the minister produces purportedly comprehensive statements of this kind, he should have the honesty to discuss the impact that those legislative changes will have. The minister referred also to promises of dollars from the Commonwealth, and that was the context of the over-representation of Aboriginals in detention centres and prisons. Mr Poole: Deaths in custody money. Mr BELL: Yes. I inform the Minister for Correctional Services that I keep an open mind on those issues. He would be well aware that, on numerous occasions, I have been prepared to go in to bat against our federal colleagues in respect of funding arrangements. My understanding is that, if there is a breach of some agreement, instead of saying simply that dollars were promised, the minister is under an obligation to give chapter and verse relating to those promises. If we are talking about breached federal government/Territory promises, I would like to put on the agenda the one relating to local road funding that this government has reneged on. That has left bush roads in my electorate in a scandalous disarray. 11 362
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