Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 05 Hansard (Wednesday, 6 April 2005 2005) . . Page.. 1466 ..
weeks. And these are the only ones that have been reported in the media; I think these are the tip of the iceberg. In addition to that, the Chief Minister even admitted on 15 March a 55 per cent increase in robbery offences in the December quarter 2004, which also reflected, or was part of, a mosaic of stats which showed a 16 per cent increase over the 12 months of the 2003-04 period. Interestingly, today Mr Hargreaves, in his press release selectively reporting on criminal activity, clearly forgot to mention those factors raised by the Chief Minister—deeply concerning figures on major crime.
In annual report hearings the minister talked about intelligence-based policing. But this alone is insufficient. It is a very good strategy but, no matter how well organised, it is not going to make up for a serious lack of police numbers, both to act as a deterrent to criminal behaviour and to make for an established front line community policing presence. Only by covering both bases, intelligence-based policing and a strong police presence in the community where the community gets to know our police and our police get to interact with our community, will we solve the policing crisis we currently have in the ACT.
Also in the annual report hearings the minister did not instil confidence in those at the hearings that the community is effectively any better off. The fact is that the government promised in 2001 that it would “implement a policy to restore the number of police officers available to at least the national average”. This they have failed to do and, disturbingly, they continue to be vague about the real strength of policing in the ACT. Turning to another point, the minister talked about police visibility not being the most important thing. Let us not talk about smart policing as value adding to the point that low visibility of police does not matter. Either you have visibility to deter crime or you do not—and we do not.
Let us look at a couple of comments that the Greens made. Dr Foskey was quite right to point out that we must address the social issues as a way of preventing crime. Of course she is right: we cannot just deal with the symptoms of what we see in the community every day. But I would say to the Greens that addressing the social issues alone and concentrating our resources there and there alone is not good enough. This must be done in partnership with effective policing—the two together—and preferably with policing working as part of that strategy. Addressing the social issues is the way that we must go.
Dr Foskey talked about the predictable so-called conservative “tough on crime” call across the country. My response to that would be that we would also like to see from the Greens a more realistic and a more responsible approach to dealing with criminality and making sure that we do serve the community. All of us here serve the community. The Greens have a duty of care to take a realistic approach to these issues regarding community safety, and I call upon them to do just that.
I finish by saying that the government has a duty of care to support and to resource our police. The government has a duty of care to protect the community. Community safety is a major priority in the greater scheme of good governance, and at this point it is clear to me and it is clear to the community that the government is failing in that regard. Our police force is overstretched. Even within the front line makeup of our police deployment, it is losing experience. Young police teams are being turned out which do not have the same confidence as others had some years ago to tackle some of the complex problems that the ACT is facing more and more.