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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 12 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 3864 ..

MR OSBORNE (continuing):

(b) attend a meeting between himself and the Chief Minister, the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, and the Chair of the Standing Committee on Legal Affairs so that the position of the Commonwealth can be discussed, as well as issues of relevance to the ACT Budget.

On paragraph 5(b), Mr Speaker, I am quite happy for any other member of the Assembly to attend. Perhaps Ms Follett, as the Labor Party spokesman on the police, would like to attend. I am quite happy for an amendment to be made to that.

Mr Speaker, I have taken this step because I have been extremely disappointed with the recent decision of the Commonwealth Attorney-General, Mr Williams, not to support the Assembly's request. As members will be aware, the Legal Affairs Committee last year held an inquiry into the future of policing for the ACT. The report was tabled in September of last year, 14 months ago. One of the four recommendations of that committee was that the ACT Government consult with the Commonwealth Government in order to change legislation to provide for the statutory appointment of an ACT police commissioner by the middle of this year. As Mr Williams recently announced, he is not willing to participate in discussions or agree to this proposal. I note Mr Humphries's comment on this decision when he said:

This is a very disappointing development. The Commonwealth Government has demonstrated a lack of serious commitment to accountable police management for the people of Canberra.

The Australian Federal Police provide services under contract to the ACT Government, but all parties in the Assembly wanted to see a more accountable mechanism created for policing activities in the territory.

Mr Speaker, I wrote to the Estimates Committee to see whether it would call Mr Williams to appear before it both to explain and to clarify his position and also in his capacity as the Minister responsible for the AFP and therefore the police in the Territory. The chair of the committee, Ms McRae, wrote back to me stating that the formal procedure required this matter to be referred to the Assembly via the committee's report. However, the committee's recommendation on this issue is not quite as strong as I would have liked, so I have come up with this motion to see whether we can get some action.

As has been well publicised, the people of the ACT pay $53m a year for its police. That these police have a commissioner who is not legally accountable to our Minister or to this Assembly is a ludicrous and unacceptable situation. I am aware that there are lines of communication in place and that up until today there has only ever been the occasional dispute. A notable exception was the incident at the Indonesian Embassy a number of years ago which turned into a bit of a shambles. Mr Speaker, we are the people who get the blame for the decisions that are made, we are the employers of the police and we are the ones who pay $53m a year for their wages; yet we have no legal control over our own police force. Quite frankly, Mr Speaker, I think that is a joke.

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