Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 972 ..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
The facts speak for themselves, Mr Speaker. The people of Canberra have spoken out, too, in a number of surveys in relation to this issue. It is absolute ideological, head-in-the-sand stuff for the Opposition or, indeed, anyone else to deny the citizens of this Territory restoration of this most sensible power. I have every confidence that it will continue now that it is being restored. I can read the numbers as well as Mr Moore, and the numbers are here for this power. I think that is being very sensible. I commend the members who will be voting for it for their stance. I have every confidence in our fine police force being able to exercise this power well. They exercised it very well for the four years that they had it. I am sure that, when this legislation is promulgated in several days' time and they get this commonsense power back again, they will exercise it to the benefit of the many people in our city who are very keen to have it restored.
MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (10.31): Mr Speaker, I, too, have read all the Hansards on this issue, which has been debated often in this place. I recall many of the members who first debated it in 1989 talking about the fact that this was a short-term response to a specific problem. I think it indicates a lot that Mr Stefaniak has not moved at all on it in 10 years. A power was introduced in 1989, with a sunset clause, to address a specific problem in the short term. Members of the Assembly actually indicated that this perceived problem of youth disruption or youth rowdiness in our streets needed to be addressed by giving police arbitrary powers to move on people who were not committing a crime but who were behaving in a way that actually offended the sensibilities of police, who made an arbitrary, subjective judgment to move them on.
Part of the debate then and part of the community debate was that this particular approach to law enforcement or to law and order simply allows politicians, parliaments and, particularly, communities to ignore the real problems of lawlessness. That is the trouble with the debate tonight. We are actually talking about the powers that police must have to protect us in the streets from - and let us not be mistaken about this - rowdy young people, young people that intimidate us, young people that threaten us, young people that make us feel unsafe. That is underlying this debate. That is the subset of this debate.
Of course, there is no discussion from Mr Stefaniak or others who support this sort of legislation about what we need to do to address the causes of that alleged or perceived lawlessness. That is a really serious issue. It is something that we brush under the carpet all the time. In giving the police arbitrary powers to move people on, to interfere with the liberties and the rights of people that are not committing an offence, we are actually pushing those people around, shoving them around, presenting an interface between the people of our community and the police force and accepting that as an appropriate response to those people within our community that are feeling alienated, that feel that they are on the edge of society, that feel that they are not wanted, that feel that there is no place for them.
Perhaps they are those people in our community that actually have nowhere to live, that do not have jobs, that have a very low self-esteem. But let us not talk about that. Let us not talk about what we as a community need to do to address the needs of those people. Let us empower our police force basically to bully them, to push them around,