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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 5 Hansard (9 May) . . Page.. 1385..


MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

very good, efficient things being done by the profession itself, with no thanks to the government.

Last month we learned from the Director of Public Prosecutions, Richard Refshauge SC, that a lack of resources is hurting his office's ability to perform its functions. He wanted some more prosecutors. It is an office that has been underresourced. During recent hearings of my committee into annual reports he indicated that having about three extra prosecutors would be very much appreciated and were needed. He told the public accounts committee inquiry into the audit report that his officers' ability to deliver the services the community expected was being affected adversely. He told the committee that the most pressing issue relating to resources was staff numbers, closely followed by their level of experience and quality, and that a third issue was the need to outsource work. He stated:

We can service all the courts, but not necessarily with the degree of preparation that is necessary, because preparation is the elastic part of the process.

The director described what happened as a result of a lack of financial resources in the courts by stating:

... what happens sometimes is that cases fall into traps in the courts which we would like to think we should have been able to avoid, and so the prosecution does not succeed because we have not necessarily been as prepared as we would like to have been.

He also said that the police force was "perhaps less experienced"than it used to be. I will briefly touch on that, although no doubt Mr Pratt will have more to say on it. Yet the ACT government spent close on $1 million, $953,000, on external counsel, the third highest in Australia. On a per capita basis, it was in fact the highest. New South Wales spent only $414,000. The Northern Territory spent $53,000 and Tasmania did not spend a cent.

Julian Burnside QC received $250,000 for his role in the appeal against the coroner's inquest. The unprecedented step taken by the Stanhope government of appealing against its own coroner has cost the community dearly, having financial implications running into millions of dollars. David Buchanan SC, well known indeed to Mr Stanhope and me as a colleague from university, received $178,000 for appearing in the Eastman case. So there has been a lot of use of external counsel there.

As to the police, we have heard regularly from my colleague Mr Pratt and from the AFP that their numbers are well below the national standard. Commissioner Keelty has even indicated that we need at least another 100 of them. How is that going to be funded? Is that going to happen? We do have lots of old-timers in the police force who are retiring, people around 55 years of age. They have a huge amount of experience. The younger ones simply do not have the same expertise and, because of demands and lack of resources, it is harder and harder for them to do their job of effectively protecting our community, despite the magnificent job they do. The lack of resourcing there and the continual refusal of this government to adequately support that section of the justice area are telling and, indeed, are appalling, given the magnificent job that they do under such trying circumstances.


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