Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (27 November) . . Page.. 4835 ..
MR WOOD (continuing):
So the claim that we were somehow wrongly motivated in dispensing with the mounted police team is simply nonsense. It was never a goer. If we were a very large community, if we had lots of money and a very large police force, there certainly may be circumstances in which you have horses for ceremonial or for promotional occasions. But in this relatively small police force, two horses-even six horses-simply is not a goer. And the police always knew that. But Mr Humphries insisted; he absolutely insisted.
Mr Pratt also mentioned police numbers. I suppose he will stick his chin out. I would not know why he would mention police numbers. Police numbers in this territory were never so stressed as when the Liberals were in power and police went off to Timor. That was a time of the lowest numbers of police in this territory and the greatest stress on the police force. The ACT has maintained its commitment to increase the police force. We added 13 in our first two years and we are on target to add an extra seven this year. We indicated we would go to 20 extra police over three years and we are doing that. The police numbers are high. They do fluctuate. I might say that the way police numbers are recorded have been a source of debate between me and ACT Policing. I do express my great interest in the numbers and in how they are calculated and how they are dispersed.
I have indicated that I have had a meeting with the federal minister, Senator Ellison, on this issue and on the issue of whether our police forces should go to the Solomons, with which I agreed, or should go to PNG if, in the future, there is a requirement from the federal government for that to happen. My claim at this time has been that we could cope with the deployment to the Solomons but there is not a circumstance where we could allow police to go to PNG, at least until we get the Solomons contingent back and are able to have a bit more flexibility. That is my strong position. I do not simply accept every claim that is made from the AFP nationally.
Our numbers are high. In fact, we have taken in a new recruitment and before the end of the year there will be further numbers into the AFP. Our numbers are more than at any time under the Liberals' administration. I will say that again: they are more than they were at any time under your administration, especially at that time when they were very severely depleted. But, of course, Mr Pratt was not in the Assembly at that time; so he would not know about that.
Mr Pratt: Per capita less.
MR WOOD: No, that does not change it. That is trying to move away from it. The population base has not changed so much in that short period of time. There is a further issue and that is the experience of the police officers that remain. I do argue that we need to be careful in future moves to maintain-indeed, to build up-the level of experience of the officers we currently have.
We have had good recruitments in recent times, but the balance has moved towards less experience. They are very good officers. I am asserting that we need to be sure that we maintain that level of experience that we need. It is one advantage in the way that AFP recruits, that they recruit more senior people, people with much experience in the community, people with high skills in other employment or in academic qualifications; so we're not sending out, as was the case in earlier years, young recruits perhaps not long out of school.