Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 4 May 2006) . . Page.. 1214 ..
Commissioner Keelty to a question which invited him to address his satisfaction with the level of resourcing he was receiving from his federal minister.
Mr Pratt: John Howard running ABC?
MR SPEAKER: Mr Pratt, I warn you.
MR STEFANIAK: My question is to the police minister. Minister, on ABC radio this morning, you were asked whether or not the AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty had compromised you by going public with his call for additional police. Your answer was: yes, he has. We also know from ACT Policing annual reports that, in the 4½ years you have now been in government, you have run down the force from 571.7 sworn police, and that is 25 fewer sworn police than we had in 2000-01.
Minister, what exactly do you think has been compromised by Commissioner Keelty, especially when it is well known, through the Productivity Commission’s figures, that we have the lowest police numbers per head of population of any state and territory in the country?
MR CORBELL: I thank Mr Stefaniak for the question. First of all, my understanding, Mr Stefaniak, is that the number of sworn police officers in the ACT is over 600. So the figure that you assert is incorrect.
Secondly, and I think the Chief Minister has elaborated on this point already but I am happy to follow it up, all I would say is this: would you seriously expect that the head of ACT Health, the head of a budget process, would publicly in an interview come out and say, “Well, I’ve told the minister that we need 600 more nurses and I really hope that we get them”? Would you seriously expect that the head of the ACT department of education would come out and say, “Well, I’ve told the minister I don’t like this idea about closing schools”? Would you seriously expect a senior public servant to behave in such a way? Did you when you were in government? Was that the approach that you adopted?
The Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police is the head of both the national police force serving the interests of the commonwealth, and therefore the nation as a whole, but he is also the head of the second element of the AFP in that he is responsible for community policing. I am the minister responsible for the provision of community policing here in the ACT. The commissioner, in my view, and I have said this publicly, cannot be both inside the tent and outside the tent. You cannot be outside the tent when you are dissatisfied with government decisions and then inside the tent when you are working for the government.
Commissioner Keelty, by his own admission, is a public servant. Senior public servants do not go out and publicly advocate a policy position ahead of the government making a decision. That is what Commissioner Keelty did. It is wrong. It is inconsistent with the approach that senior public servants take nationally and locally. Yes, it puts me, as police minister, in a very difficult position, because any decision that is announced that is not