The ACT's Corrections Minister has defended the use of a Toyota Camry sedan, described as "unfit for purpose", to transport Canberra prisoners saying it has a five-star safety rating.
Mick Gentleman made the comments after a fiery debate in the ACT Legislative Assembly on Tuesday morning, in which he survived a no-confidence motion.
But Mr Gentleman said he had the confidence of corrections staff and the union representing them, and that the Alexander Maconochie Centre had the best oversight of any prison in the country.
Both Labor and the Greens voted against the no-confidence motion, with Chief Minister Andrew Barr labelling it as an opportunity for the opposition to "grandstand" and "seek political points".
Mrs Kikkert brought the motion on after what she labelled a "multitude of failures" from Mr Gentlemen since he took on the Corrections portfolio last year.
"Over the past nine months, we have seen short staffing in the prison cause excessive lock-ins and overtime hours, we have seen two riots, a detainee mistakenly released and at large for close to a week," Mrs Kikkert said.
This reached atipping point last month after the dramatic escape of a prisoner, who was being transported to Canberra Hospital. The prisoner escaped after the Toyota Camry corrections car was rammed by a Jeep multiple times last month.
The ACT's Inspector of Correctional Services found in a report last year there were "anomalies" in the decision-making process that resulted in the purchase of the Toyota Camry. The report said one officer described it as "unfit for purpose".
But Mr Gentleman said that report did not provide any recommendations about the Camry. He defended the safety of the Camry, saying corrections do a risk assessment prior to any use of the vehicle.
"That's a matter for the corrections crew to determine at the time when they look at a risk assessment," he said.
"Camrys have a five-star ANCAP safety rating, which means they are a safe car for city street. If it's appropriately used I could imagine it's a safe car."
Following the prisoner's escape, Mr Gentleman asked for use of the Camry to be ceased.
The incident is being investigated by the ACT's Inspector of Correctional Services and the escaped prisoner is before the courts, and Mr Gentleman has not spoken publicly about the incident.
"Given the inspector's review and court proceedings, I have refrained from commenting, I'm extremely conscious of the power that our words in this place can have and I don't want to jeopardise our legal processes," Mr Gentleman said.
In the debate for the no-confidence motion, Mr Gentleman acknowledged the issues at the Alexander Maconochie Centre and said he was committed to improvements.
"Managing prisons in any jurisdiction in Australia is challenging, ours is no different and this was the clear message I received when I became minister," he said.
"During my short time in the portfolio, I've met with corrections officers and staff across the entirety of ACT Corrective Services, the clear message from them to me has been one of hope."
Mr Gentleman said staff had hope in the oversight committee, which was formed by the government earlier this year to address problems at the jail. It came after a scathing report into corrections court transport unit, which included the findings of the Toyota Camry.
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But Mrs Kikkert accused the government of shirking its responsibility.
"It's part of being an inadequate, incompetent government that they can't decide for themselves how to implement recommendations," she said.
"When they can't decide how to implement recommendations, they pass it onto a committee. That's a true sign of a weak government."
Opposition leader Elizabeth Lee said it was "inconceivable" for the Chief Minister to stand by Mr Gentlemen.
"We see this government running a protection racket around one of the ministers who has a woeful record when it comes to protecting our corrections officers, our detainees and our community," Ms Lee said.
ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury said his party did not believe the motion was warranted.
"I have confidence that Minister Gentleman is taking the right steps to continue to drive the improvement we need to see in our correction system," Mr Rattenbury said.
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