Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (27 November) . . Page.. 4832 ..
MR PRATT (continuing):
Cyprus and five to Timor. We have been questioning the government for some months now on what is the actual strength situation of front-line police in the ACT. It has been our view since May 2003, when we began to examine budgetary aspects of policing, that the effective strength of policing has actually dropped. I repeat that the effective strength has actually dropped. Yes, the bureaucratic analysis of numbers is probably close to what the contractual requirements are supposed to be, but a picture is gradually emerging that indicates an actual decline in effective strength.
Let me also talk about experience. In addition to these grim figures, the AFPA has said that 70 to 80 per cent of ACT Policing comprises junior constables. Mr Speaker, I would like to ask the Labor government where the experience is in ACT Policing. And don't tell me that they are all in the Solomon Islands because we know that we should still have sufficient numbers, once you take those 52 out, to have a balance of experience. If we do not it is because we have allowed good experienced policemen to leave the force. Retention, retention, retention; it is so important. Why are we not retaining good experienced police?
In addition, I would like to cite the results of a recent poll that I have used previously as an example of the general feeling of the Canberran community on law and order. Mr Speaker, we have talked about the 47 per cent of people surveyed in the Canberra Times poll of September 2003 who do not feel safe in shopping centres after 9 pm. We have talked about before the 80 per cent of people who believe that Canberra's police forces are simply not visible enough. They are not visible; there is no police presence out there in our community.
The Labor government has said previously in the chamber that they do not consider this poll to be accurate. What can be more accurate than the feelings of the Canberra community? Let us see the government, or the Greens or the Democrats who have also raised this issue with me, table their surveys debunking the one that I have just detailed above.
Let us see the surveys or empirical evidence which would deny that there is a problem. Let us see the surveys which say we have got too many police, and we have got too many police harassing the community. Increasingly, Mr Speaker, a puzzled public is asking the question why general bad behaviour, vandalism, violent crime, and home invasions are on the increase, and why cannot the MLAs in this place take appropriate action to protect the community.
MR WOOD (Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services, Minister for Urban Services, Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Minister for Arts and Heritage) (3.40): The Liberals are, if nothing else, quite blatant. In raising the topic for this matter of public importance, they are right up in front. It is the state of law and order. So they are very blatant about this campaign. They are going to beat up this law and order campaign-soft on crime-and hope they can convince the community that black is white or white is black. So there is no subtlety about it. In fact, the MPI really is about the state of the Liberal opposition. That is what it is about as they stagger around looking for some issue that they might make some impact with in this community. And I do not think this will do anything.