Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (3 September) . . Page.. 1918 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, with great respect, it is a bit rich of members of the Opposition to rise in this place and say, "We need more police on the streets of Canberra". That being the case, I think we should ask them why they cut police numbers over that period. This is the number of police dedicated solely to the ACT policing effort. There were, over that time, some increases in the Commonwealth policing effort for the ACT, but that would hardly improve significantly the needs of the ACT community.
Those reductions were matched by reductions in outlays by the ACT for the AFP. During the last year of the Alliance Government they were at a high point of $54.6m. In the first year of the Labor Government, 1991-92, they dropped to $53.6m - a drop of $1m. In 1992-93, they dropped to $51.5m. They rose again in 1993-94 but dropped back, again, to the lowest ever figure of $51.3m. Today, the figure is back up - at least for 1997-98 - to $54.5m, and it rises again in this budget, as members can see in the budget papers. We are acutely conscious of the fact that we have not outlaid, as Mr Hargreaves has indicated, enough for policing in the ACT. But our struggle over the last three years has been to reverse the effect of four years of Labor government by increasing resourcing to the police, increasing police numbers, and dealing with problems of organisation and morale and so on which were very much a feature of Labor's period in office.
Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, I want to make one brief comment about what Mr Hargreaves referred to as the "Keystone Cops incident", where officers at Gungahlin JESC watched during a recent car chase. As to the car chase passing them by and their lack of any capacity to get in their car and join the chase inhibiting the operation of that JESC, I think members should know that, at the time the car in question was passing the Gungahlin JESC, or coming somewhere near it, there were, as I recall, 11 police cars in pursuit of that law-breaking vehicle - 11 police cars.
Ms Tucker: Well, it sounded like Keystone Cops.
MR HUMPHRIES: Indeed. Ms Tucker has put her finger on it. I think we have too many cops if that is the case. I have to say I have real doubts about whether we should not have been letting some of those cops drop off and go and do other things. I do not think there is any way that you could argue that the officers at Gungahlin should have jumped in their car, joined in and made 12 cars. I think 11 was quite enough.
Mr Corbell: I do not think that was the point. I think the point was that they could be ahead of the chase rather than behind it because it was heading their way.
MR HUMPHRIES: There was no problem being ahead of the chase. The police were able on several occasions, as I understand it, during that chase to actually overtake the vehicle concerned. But the difficulty was in actually stopping them. You can swing your car in front of them and try to block the road, but there is a great danger in those circumstances to the officers concerned in the car. There are all sorts of problems in being able to identify the routes that might be taken. There are issues about other techniques. I am advised that the best technique for stopping a car that is speeding is to use a special device which is laid across the road where some sort of device rises up and punctures the tyres of the car that is speeding over it. We are looking, at this stage, to provide that equipment to ACT officers.