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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 7 Hansard (19 October) . . Page.. 1892 ..

MR CONNOLLY (continuing):

There is still great uncertainty as to what is actually happening. You hear different views as to how this task force concept is going to operate, depending on whom you talk to. Mr Speaker, it is very sad that this organisation has been put through this chaos and has a morale problem. It causes me no pleasure at all to see this. Mr Humphries, having taken the title of Police Minister - we heard from Mr Stefaniak what a wonderful job Mr Humphries is doing and how totally in control of things he is - must bear some of the responsibility. (Quorum formed)

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General and Minister for Police) (3.54): Mr Speaker, I am a bit confused as to what I am being attacked for. Mr Osborne says that the ACT Government and its Minister do not have enough control over policing and therefore I am just a popgun; I do not have any real control. Presumably, if I do not have any control I do not have any responsibility either. Mr Connolly, on the other hand, says that I am responsible because I am the Police Minister and I must accept responsibility for the low morale among police in the ACT. So it is a bit hard to work out how I can be without responsibility or power and have to bear responsibility at the same time. It is a bit confusing.

Mr Speaker, I deal, first of all, with a number of simple errors in Mr Osborne's remarks about policing in the ACT. He suggested that Mr Palmer appointed himself as Chief Police Officer of the Territory. That is not the case. Whatever his theoretical power may have been, he came to see both me and the Chief Minister to discuss the proposal that he be appointed to the position after the resignation of Assistant Commissioner Dawson. That suggestion was well received by the Chief Minister and me, and Mr Palmer became Chief Police Officer in those circumstances. I have no doubt that the reason that he was asking us for our views was that, if we had said, "No, we do not like the idea", he would not have appointed himself. I think that is a fair assumption.

Mr Osborne also made the fairly egregious suggestion that I as Police Minister and presumably the Government as a whole have had no say in how the police money is spent. Mr Speaker, that is a quite bizarre suggestion. The ACT spends about $50m a year on policing in this Territory, and we have total control over how that money is spent. Mr Osborne's analysis of the situation was a good theoretical one if the legal principle that we could not actually dictate what we wanted was applied to the extent that the AFP did not actually ask us for our views, but that is not the case. I have never yet given an instruction to the Australian Federal Police which they have not complied with. On each occasion when I have sought information or to be consulted or to ask that certain things be done, my views have been respected, without exception. I think it is a gross exaggeration and very misleading to suggest that the ACT - this applied during Mr Connolly's day as well - does not have a real say in policy-making in the AFP. Of course, I do not direct where police cars will go, who will be arrested or things of that kind. They are operational matters. But we do have total say in policy matters.

Mr Osborne said that he hopes that we will have our new commissioner very soon. I have to disappoint him. It is most unlikely that we will have a new commissioner in the near future, because it almost certainly would involve Federal legislation to achieve that. I have asked the Federal Police how long they expect that that will take to organise.

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