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Wednesday, 3 October 1984
Page: 1106


Senator PRIMMER —My question is directed to the Attorney-General. Is the Minister aware of the serious disability caused to Canberra people imprisoned in New South Wales corrective services institutions? Will the Minister ensure that only criminals, not honest people fighting injustice, are sentenced to gaol? Can he provide an assurance that in future adequate transport and legal aid facilities will be provided to Canberra citizens unfortunate enough to interface with the New South Wales legal and prison systems?


Senator GARETH EVANS —I as Attorney-General cannot ensure who goes to gaol and who does not. That is of course a matter for the courts in their sentencing processes. I have some considerable role in determining how long Federal prisoners stay in gaol and that is a matter of continuing anguish in the conduct of my portfolio as to how to apply the criteria and standards of imprisonment, particularly given the absence in the Australian Capital Territory of a gaol to house in this Territory Federal or Territory offenders. It has been a long- standing matter for public debate as to whether the Australian Capital Territory should have its own gaol, given the enormous cost that would be involved to the community for what one could expect to go on being a small prison population. It is the subject of investigation and report at the moment, I believe by the Human Rights Commission or some review body somewhere whose report I am awaiting in due course. In the meantime I will ensure that all steps that can be taken are being taken to follow up the particular matters to which Senator Primmer also referred about costs of transport and legal aid. The problem to which he adverts is not a new one but it is one that deserves the most serious attention and it is getting it.