Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 7 Hansard (19 October) . . Page.. 1883 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
preacquisition declaration must be tabled before the Legislative Assembly within three sitting days after it is made. Mr Speaker, the instrument dated 27 September 1995 and the statement of reasons that I now table may be disallowed within three sitting days from today. At the end of that time, if the instrument has not been disallowed, of course it takes effect.
Discussion of Matter of Public Importance
MR SPEAKER: I have received a letter from Mr Osborne proposing that a matter of public importance be submitted to the Assembly for discussion, namely:
That the Chief Minister give serious consideration to the dissolution of the Police portfolio as it is clearly a mere "pop-gun" appointment until such time as the ACT has its own Police Commissioner.
MR OSBORNE (3.20): I did not mean "top gun" either, no matter what you think, Mr Humphries. Mr Speaker, the topic for today's matter of public importance debate is as you have just read. I would like to make some things very clear right from the outset of this debate today. In raising this matter for debate in the Assembly, and in establishing the basis for all of the arguments that I will be using to help prove my point, I am not in any way trying to get across the message that the present Minister, Mr Gary Humphries, is incapable and doing a poor job of being the Minister for Police in the ACT or, to go even further, that the Police Commissioner, Mick Palmer, is doing a bad job of being commissioner. I, for one, will not do that. What I am trying to highlight this afternoon is that the system of relationship this Assembly has with our police force is totally unacceptable, and I feel that it just has to go. In Canberra we are blessed with a very good police force. In light of recent goings-on in Sydney, where I came from, this has become even more obvious. Our police are very well trained, and the incidence of crime in Canberra is relatively low compared to most other cities and towns in Australia.
So what is the problem? Quite simply, the problem is that the ACT Legislative Assembly, this house, the elected governors of Canberra, have absolutely no say in what the police decide to do, and therefore the people of Canberra have no say either. I am aware that there are lines of communication in place and that up until today there has been only the occasional dispute. The incident at the Indonesian Embassy comes to mind. In that case it became blatantly obvious that we really have no say or rather that we do not have the final say in what the police do. We here are the ones who get the blame for the decisions that are made. We are the employers of the police. We are the ones who pay over $50m a year for their wages. Yet we have no real legal control over our police force, and that is a big problem.
Before I go any further, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am talking about having control over policy decisions only, not operational decisions. Operational decisions are definitely the business of the police, but the policy decisions are for this Assembly. Mr Speaker, earlier this year the ACT had a new Police Commissioner appointed.