Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 5 Hansard (10 May) . . Page.. 1501..
MR SMYTH (Brindabella—Leader of the Opposition) (5.24): It is interesting that we cling to this notion of 60 extra police officers out on the street when inquiries, through estimates and annual reports, clearly show that the numbers have gone down. Yes, there might have been funding for an extra 60 police officers but what is the net outcome? That is the point that Mr Pratt makes. We do not know.
Why do we not know? The minister will not release the reports; the minister will not give us progress reports on the negotiation of the new agreement. The new police minister has form when it comes to not releasing information or shutting down consultation. As the planning minister, he shut down the LAPACs. He made a commitment to a new planning regime, a new consultation regime in planning, that never occurred.
Remember this place used to get a regular report, once a month, about the 21st of the month, on hospital numbers. There they were, once a month. We always published them; we were happy to publish them. What did the minister do? He got rid of them. Now he says—and it was there in the paper—he is determined to release this report but just not yet. You have to ask why. I think the reason is the numbers in the report.
The police minister tried to say that Mr Pratt had got his numbers wrong; it was not 130, it was only 110 that we were short. Okay, it is only 110. The notion in the argument that the minister mounts is that, somehow, what we are saying is not correct. He is willing to at least admit to 110. I would take as a rather more accurate account what Chief Police Commissioner Keelty said the other day. He said that, in Australia, the national police average is 224 officers per 100,000. In the ACT, it is 187. So we are 37 officers short per 100,000. Three point three times 37 per 100,000 it is at least 122 officers that we are short.
In the reports that the minister has, I am quite confident, there are larger numbers quoted. Commander Amanda Newton—I am not sure whether she was a superintendent or a commander at the time; I will call her commander—did a time and motion study for the government. I am sure that the figure that police minister will find, if he bothers to read the report, is that, on the internal assessment of the AFP, they are 186 officers short against modern need. The job has changed. As Mr Stefaniak and Mr Pratt have said, the job has changed.
It is well and good to quote all the reasons why Canberra should not have the national average of police officers—we do not have ports; we do not have a coastline; we do not have a large rural area—but what is it that we do have that makes us different? First and foremost, it is the complexity of the job. The complexity of the job is often dictated by the laws that we pass in this place and the way those laws are administered by the court system. The complexity, the need and the detail that now have to go into a brief to get a conviction grows exponentially every year and makes the job of the officers harder. No wonder there is an attitude that sometimes it is just too hard to do. The requirement of proof has gone through the roof; the job has changed.
What makes Canberra special? The fact that we have got the parliament here, we have got all the departments here, we have got the diplomatic corps here, we have got defence institutions here; and the sheer size of the city. The minister says, "We are a city/state."