Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (27 November) . . Page.. 4831 ..
MR PRATT (continuing):
So the mounted police was clearly a mechanism for breaking down barriers. Mr Speaker, community policing was active when these mounted police officers were also active. The Labor Government has simply removed the Canberra community's mounted police force instead of solving the problem through positive solutions such as more police officers available to serve the community in the mounted police.
What we know is that the two mounted police who had been available to ride earlier were transferred to other duties. We know from feedback from the community that these policemen were transferred not because they were not needed to ride horses, but because there simply were not enough police to do the administration that they had to do get back on their horses and get back out there and community patrol.
Mr Speaker, I have a number of questions I do want to ask the minister right now. They go to the heart of what has happened to the mounted police force. What funding and/or equipment was provided for the mounted team through sponsorship and donations? What sponsorship funding and/or equipment were rejected by ACT Policing? How much did ActewAGL donate under their community sponsorship program? How much and when was funding drawn down on that sponsorship by ACT Policing?
I have it on fairly good authority that there was a strong arrangement of funding available from perhaps more than one source which should have been utilised to keep the mounted police force viable, but it would seem that that funding simply was not taken up. That is what I am led to believe. I cannot be absolutely sure about that but it is a reasonable question to ask. We want to know, Minister, what actually happened. Did this contribute to the demise of the force?
We have heard the minister say that two horses and two riders were simply not a viable, capable force. The opposition would beg to differ and certainly seasoned, experienced policemen currently serving and retired would also beg to differ. For example, if the mounted police unit of two riders and two horses was deployed to a large community event, such as something happening at Canberra Stadium, the deployment of the horse float could double as a local command post or a mobile police station, for want of a better term. One policeman could man that, and two policemen could be out riding-undertaking surveillance of the 2,000 cars parked in the area. This was a significant way of combating the sorts of crimes that occur around large events. Yes, there are two horses and two policemen, but what is being missed here is that the way they were able to extrapolate their presence and their force meant that they were doing the work of many other police.
Mr Speaker, by simply building on that existing capability, and it wouldn't have cost too much more to actually do that-by getting a force of around four to six horses and riders-a significant capability would have been developed that would go to the heart of community policing. I think the government has missed an opportunity. They have simply and lazily wiped that capability away, taking the easy bureaucratic option and negated what should have been a very important capability.
Let us go to police numbers, Mr Speaker. The Australian Federal Police Association's assessment of current police numbers is as follows: close personal protection personnel, 290; ACT Policing personnel, 720 including 579 sworn officers and 141 unsworn officers; ACT Policing personnel seconded overseas, 52-42 to the Solomons, five to