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MELBOURNE, July 2, 2015:

A prison riot in Melbourne which injured eight people is estimated to have caused more than US$7.7 million worth of damage, with taxpayers to foot the bill, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.

The protest, which turned violent over a new law which bans smoking in Victorian prisons, has on Thursday been described as causing the biggest damage bill from a jail outbreak in Australia. The multi-million dollar damage bill will take up valuable room in the state’s budget for this year, while the formation of an independent inquiry into the riot will also cost the public. Former Deputy Police Commissioner Kieran Walshe has been asked to head up the task force, which will determine the exact cause of the riot and will seek out the perpetrators. Police Minister Wade Noonan said the findings from the inquiry will come out in November and will be made available to the public unless they compromise jail security. A prison source told News Corp on Thursday that damage to the prison was extensive and well planned. “Everything in there is destroyed, including prisoner files over 20 years old,” the source said. “From what I understand, there is not one thing in that prison that didn’t get broken. I think it was well thought out.” Prison guards have called for changes to procedure, following a claim that they were sent in to calm the situation without being armed. Those thought to have played a major role in the riots have been moved to other prisons, while the Metropolitan Remand Centre will remain in a state of lockdown for up to five weeks. The public sector union’s Catherine Davies said repairing the damage was not going to be “easy or cheap”. She said that prison officers had not voiced any concerns about a potential riot in the lead up to Tuesday and Wednesday’s events. “We had no warning of it,” she told News Corp on Thursday. “The practical reality of running a prison system is, things like this can happen at any time.”

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