Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 20 April 2021) . . Page.. 860 ..
PLEASE help our community to restore a sense of peace. What can we do? What will it take? If the law cannot take action, there is a risk of the community taking matters into their own hands—due to fear, a sense of powerlessness, and a complete lack of support from law enforcement.
That is an email that went to, if not all, certainly the majority of MLAs in this place. It echoes a lot of comments I hear from members in the community. Often people are not prepared to put their names to it, for understandable reasons, but in this case Donna has. The problem stems from a growing population. We know that the ACT is growing significantly. It has a fast growth rate—particularly in areas like Gungahlin and Molonglo Valley—and an increase in the complexity of crime. We have seen the issue with bikies that required the establishment of Taskforce Nemesis, the increased response to domestic and family violence, and drug crime. There is a significant increase in the complexity of many of the issues, not just an increase in the number of issues.
When you go to the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services, RoGS, it shows you that, in terms of frontline operational staff, police on the beat—sworn officers—we actually have fewer now than we did back in 2012. So despite the fact that we have this increase in population and an increase in complexity, we have got fewer police now than almost a decade ago. In terms of per head of population that number is decreasing as well. Not only have we got fewer than other jurisdictions but we have fewer than we did previously. If we look at the need to improve this as a jurisdiction and keep pace with a growing demand and population, it is evident that we are falling behind.
There are some comments made by the Australian Federal Police Association in response to these numbers, which I will quote. The association says:
This concerns us greatly, especially on the welfare front, as it is the members on the ground that suffer as a result. It is their physical and mental wellbeing that is impacted by having to do more work with less resources and colleagues. Police officers are constantly asked to do more with less, and police officers are breaking as a result.
In terms of dollar amounts, we have the lowest amount spent per capita in Australia. And, again, that is falling behind. In the latest RoGS report it was $433 per capita, but back in 2012 it was $459 per capita. So we are spending less now than we were back in 2012 in percentage terms. Mr Gentleman takes great delight in saying, “You voted against the budget.” Mr Gentleman voted for those police cuts. Back in the 2013-14 budget, when there was $15.36 million ripped out of ACT Policing, who was voting for it? Mr Gentleman. So if we want to get into debates about who voted for what, I can tell you that Mr Gentleman voted for the police cuts that were made in 2013-14.
The fact is that, as a result of successive budgets in this place, we now have the lowest spending. It is less than it used to be and has been supported every step of the way by this minister, Mr Gentleman. He continues to defend the lowest spending, the lowest