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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (28 April) . . Page.. 30 ..

MR RUGENDYKE (continuing):

I am concerned about a reduction of community services across the board and also in the police service. Usually the first casualties are those that are seen as the fringe services, which, in reality, are of major importance to the community. Such services include community policing initiatives, juvenile aid bureaus and beat-policing duties, all of which the community rely upon. While I hold strong views on law and order issues, I have a greater interest in social welfare issues. There is a greater need to provide police with the appropriate resources to take care of the disadvantaged groups in our community - the young, the disabled, the elderly. These groups are least able to take care of themselves, and it is our social duty to provide them with support and protection.

I applaud the initiatives of police who make a concerted effort, often in their own time, to achieve these objectives. One such initiative is the Project Saul scheme, devised by Senior Constable Steve Neuhaus of Search and Rescue. Project Saul identifies young people from difficult backgrounds and takes them on rugged and gruelling camps, involving activities like caving, abseiling, bushcraft, team building and horsemanship. They are offered a chance to change a lifestyle, a chance to achieve personal goals and the opportunity to break down barriers between police and themselves. The AFP must recognise the value of such activities, not just in statistical terms but also in character-building exercises.

Another example is Sergeant Ron MacFarlane, who was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for his amazing capacity to recover stolen motor vehicles and to prosecute offenders. He continued this work tirelessly, until recently transferred to a desk job, which has severely restricted the focus on his specialised skills. His car has been taken off him, I believe. Then there is the city patrol special project team, which received an Australian violence prevention award in 1997. The team was commended by the Attorney-General in this house but was disbanded shortly after due to budgetary constraints. It disturbs me greatly that the arrogance of AFP management prevents it from supporting, applauding or marketing positive initiatives such as these.

I care exceedingly for the welfare of children, which also comes from my time in the police service. I have seen first-hand the damage done to children as a result of family breakdown, drug and alcohol abuse, violence and a range of other factors. Supports must be in place and sufficient resources provided to prevent children from falling through the cracks in service provision. As a foster carer, I have become acutely aware of the need for compassion, dedication and properly resourced support for the welfare of families and children. To this end, I look forward to taking part in the review of the Children's Services Act. It is my belief that the basis for this review must be that the best interests of the children are of paramount consideration. I hold the view that the legal system has nothing to do with justice in this area. The legal profession must not lose sight of the fact that children caught in the system are more than just bits of paper to be shuffled about willy-nilly; they must always be mindful that they are dealing with human beings.

There are other issues on the horizon which have the potential to impact dramatically on the future of Canberra. I refer specifically to the mooted sale of ACTEW and ACTTAB. I believe that the sale of Territory assets is not acceptable, without exploring the long-term ramifications and weighing up all reasonable alternatives.

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