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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (27 November) . . Page.. 4829 ..

Law and order

Discussion of matter of public importance

MR SPEAKER: I have received a letter from Mr Pratt proposing that a matter of public importance be submitted to the Assembly, namely:

The state of law and order in the ACT.

MR PRATT (3.25): Mr Speaker, firstly let me say that the ACT has an excellent police force but we have some questions about it and about the state of law and order in the ACT. Clearly the police force, I would say, is one of the best in the country. We know that the force is well trained and does not carry the baggage of corruption carried by other forces in this country and elsewhere. As I said recently when speaking to a motion in this place when I put forward a new policy proposing a new community policing program, the force has a good number of overseas experienced officers.

The performance of ACT Policing during the January 2003 bushfires exemplified their selfless behaviour, Mr Speaker. In plain terms, they risked their lives to save others. Incidentally, for their troubles they seem to get the cold shoulder and way less recognition for the excellent job that they had done in that disaster.

Indeed, we wonder whether this reflects an attitude that the force has to confront among some elements of society-certainly amongst some elements of the professional and administrative leadership here in the ACT. I think that this goes deeply to the issue of morale and, therefore, their performance as a police force. It is this concern about their performance and perhaps the lack of support that they do get that goes to the heart of the issue of this matter of public importance.

Mr Speaker, the men and women of ACT Policing do the best job they possibly can under the current structure and funding that is imposed on them by the Labor government. However, there are many elements of ACT Policing that can be greatly improved and which are no fault of the police force. We outlined this in some detail recently at our community policing policy launch.

The profile, integrity and trust in ACT Policing over the past few years seem to have declined to the point that my office received a call only today from an elderly gentleman who discovered that his car had been broken into overnight. He preferred to call my office to complain rather than to call the police. He stated, "They wouldn't do anything for me anyway."

I don't quite agree with that view. I know that the police do try hard and I don't think the problem is so much attitudinal as it is the fact that they are simply overstretched. But the problem is that we have this community perception developing and something needs to be done to turn it around.

Mr Speaker, unlike the Labor government, the Liberal opposition is greatly concerned about the safety of the Canberra community. I do not mean that in terms of what is in the Labor government's heart. I'm sure the Labor government is just as concerned as anybody else in this place is about safety in the community. However, Mr Speaker, by not taking the actions needed to ensure that our police are properly equipped and

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