Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Sittings . . . . PDF . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 21 September 1995) . . Page.. 1615 ..


had to serve two masters. Under their legislative arrangements they are responsible to the Minister for Justice. The Minister for Justice may direct the Federal Police on matters of policy but not operational matters. There could well arise situations where there was a difference of view between the Federal Government, which has the legal responsibility for police, and the ACT Government, which spends some $50m a year on policing and which properly has the political responsibility for policing in this Territory.

Some situations in the period that we were in government came close to testing that responsibility. One notable example was the protests outside the Indonesian Embassy. I would hasten to add that they were peaceful protests, but the protesters had some fairly unflattering things to say about the Federal Government. There were statements from Federal Ministers that those protesters should be moved from that site, although they were occupying Territory land and not engaging in any violent act. The view of the ACT Government at the time was that so long as no violence was committed the right to peaceful protest was the fundamental issue. Fortunately, that matter was resolved through negotiation, but one could well imagine a situation arising where the Commonwealth Government, which has the final say-so, and the Territory Government, which should have, are at odds over policing arrangements. A good example occurred recently in relation to a decision to disband the Major Crime Squad. Mr Humphries says that that was a sound decision, and indeed supports it. Mr Osborne and I would beg to differ. But I think the issue that we would all agree on is that that is a policy decision and it should be a matter for the government of the day.

In the report we make the point that the committee is very concerned about media reports that the fraud and drug squads may be abolished. I note that that was the subject of a question asked yesterday by Mr Osborne of Mr Humphries. Mr Humphries gave some assurances. He said that he would not want to see that happen unless certain things were in place. Our committee has said that that is a major policy matter. Policing operations in the ACT at the moment are in a state of transition. The appointment of the commissioner, Mr Palmer, as Chief Police Officer, with operational decisions actually being controlled by Mr Allen, has been described as a transitional arrangement.

A matter of fundamental policy, like the abolition of fraud and drug squads, should be a matter that awaits proper accountability arrangements between the ACT Government and the Australian Federal Police. The committee unanimously recommends that proper accountability arrangements be put in place. That would involve legislation of this Assembly to create a statutory position of Police Commissioner for the Australian Capital Territory. The Australian Federal Police, ACT Region, would report to that officer and that officer would have a relationship with the Minister of the day that was directly comparable in position and status with that between a Minister and a police commissioner in a State.

The committee makes the point that in these matters one needs to be careful to ensure that the proper caution that Ministers should not involve themselves in operational policing matters is respected. From my observations of current arrangements, all Ministers have understood that. There has not been a situation in the ACT, nor would we hope there ever would be under any government, where Ministers have involved


Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Sittings . . . . PDF . . . .