Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 7 Hansard (19 October) . . Page.. 1891 ..
MR CONNOLLY (continuing):
The cost of the ACT Region of the AFP had been escalating very rapidly in the couple of years prior to self-government. The transfer of responsibility for policing to the ACT was fraught with considerable problems. Mr Moore might have something to say about that later on this afternoon. We had to impose some difficult budget decisions on the AFP to get them to a budget that Mr Humphries now says is the right budget, because he has not put a cent more in. Mr Humphries's budget this year is precisely our forward estimates figure. We said last year that we had completed the three years of trimming that we had to do.
At the same time we came good with our promise. It was not a cheap election stunt. You had the cheap election stunts which you have recanted on. You promised to put an extra $1m into the budget. You now say, "Sorry, none of that". As for the police station for Gungahlin, you now say, "Oh, nothing is happening on that". In respect of the police station for Tuggeranong, you now say, "Watch this space". But you did say, "I will crown myself Police Minister". During our three years we put a massive investment into police infrastructure in this Territory, which had run down under successive Federal governments over the previous 25 years. There had been very little investment. We built for the future of Canberra. We put the Winchester police complex up. We put the Civic police station up. Those fabulous state-of-the-art facilities were built and paid for by Labor. We brought the budget to a situation which has the imprimatur of Mr Humphries. He has ticked it and endorsed it as his budget. He has said that it is an appropriate budget for policing and recanted on his promise to put more money into the budget.
In the meantime we are seeing this extraordinary process of restructuring. I have been watching in amazement since February as senior officer after senior officer leaves the force, as officers of all levels of seniority publicly say that morale is at rock bottom. I was staggered by the slide show the police presented on the restructuring. They explained morale as a J-curve. They said, "Yes, morale is going down. It will dip a bit further yet, but eventually it will start to go up". Police management at the most senior level admits that there is a huge morale crisis in the ACT Region of the AFP. It is no wonder that these officers, who work in a very dedicated manner for the people of Canberra, do not know what is going on. They have been disturbed by changes which nobody seems to be in charge of. They have been trying to find out what is happening. There is still great uncertainty about the role of specialist units.
I have given Mr Humphries the benefit of the doubt in accepting at face value his press release of last week in which he says that a specialist capability for fraud, drug and accident investigation will be retained. I hope that that is correct. If it is correct, it occurred because of the hue and cry that people like Mr Osborne and I have raised over the past few months and the enormous attention the media have focused on the abolition of specialist units. According to the police presentation, these cluster task forces might be anywhere in the city. They will come into being and go out of being. It is not entirely clear whether we still have a permanent presence of specialised officers to serve the whole of Canberra in those areas, particularly drug and fraud investigation. I hope that Mr Humphries's press statement reflects the truth, but I am not entirely certain of that. I think it is something that we will have to watch. Mr Osborne adverted to that in his remarks.