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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (27 May) . . Page.. 674 ..


Debate resumed.

MR HARGREAVES: The Emergency Management Bill says that the chief officer will be an officer who is responsible to the Commissioner of Police. We have it in other pieces of legislation that we are putting services like the emergency management services and the evacuation committee in the hands of someone who does not even live here or has no responsibility to the place. I think it is a more serious issue than just whether we should have our own chief of police. There are other ramifications. I would urge the house to support the motion.

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (5.01): Mr Osborne says, "Let us make war, not love". He wants us to stand our ground and to ensure that no concessions are made in the battle for recognition from the Commonwealth. I do not disagree with anything that Mr Osborne has said when it comes to the need for a position of the kind that he has described. I have considered this issue from many perspectives in the last three years, and I firmly have come to the view, as I said when this was last debated in this place, that the ACT does need to exercise control over the police force which it fully funds to the tune of $53m each year.

We - that is, the taxpayers of the ACT - provide that money. We ought to have the power, through the mechanisms of government, to direct, in general terms, the AFP and the work that it does. The problems of the AFP serving two masters are sometimes subtle problems not easily manifested or easy to demonstrate or to see, but they are there nonetheless. The illustration that Mr Osborne gave about the crosses outside the Indonesian Embassy is probably an illustration of those problems, but it is certainly not the only one in the last few years that could be pointed to.

I do not necessarily believe that we need to separate the commissioner, which Mr Osborne's motion refers to, from the structure of the AFP. It may be that we can do something within the structure. It may be that, as Mr Hargreaves has suggested, other solutions are possible. I think we need to explore all of those. But one prerequisite for that to take place is a willingness on the part of the Commonwealth to accept that we are deservedly not happy with an arrangement under which we fork out $53m and for that we do not get full control over the provision that we create.

It is worth noting in passing that there are probably some in the community who might argue that keeping distance between the police and politicians is not necessarily a bad thing. Having disinterested or detached control of the police force in a way that does not allow the local politicians access to the real levers of control might be seen by some people as a good thing. People who think that, I believe, are mistaken. There are important goals that we need to meet as a community - goals in making our community safer, goals in raising the standard of service, particularly goals in terms of the accountability of the service that we have provided in this Territory, which can be fully and satisfactorily met only by the ACT running its own police force in the fullest sense of that term.

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