Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (27 November) . . Page.. 4840 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
The main point that I am making in the debate on this matter of public importance this afternoon is that we do have to look at the complexity of crime as a social phenomenon in our society; we do, as I said yesterday in more detail, need to look at the causes; and we do need to be prepared to look at the individual human stories and respond appropriately.
MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Environment and Minister for Community Affairs) (4.10): Mr Speaker, I am pleased to respond to this matter of public importance. The impact of crime on an individual person and the ripple effects of it into the rest of the community strike at the heart of what we understand it is to be a community and of what we aspire to be in Canberra.
I think that the issue of how we respond to crime, how we debate law and order, is integral to the wellbeing of the community. Because of that I would hope that none of us, particularly those of us in this place, would use the issue to debate these matters opportunistically, that none of us would promote scare campaigns, and that we would underpin proposed approaches in relation to law and order with some sound data and research. That is my hope and the hope of those within the government. We are continually disappointed by the opposition, with their cries of wolf and attempts to beat up a law and order campaign in the ACT.
I do not think that the opposition have yet realised that the people of Canberra view Canberra differently. It is not like many other places in Australia. Sydney and Canberra are significantly different and attempts to suggest that we need to incorporate into the law of the ACT all of those provisions that pertain in Sydney as a result of issues the people face there, particularly in relation to drugs, the drive by shootings they experience, and the heinous gang rapes that have been a feature in the immediate past of law and order issues in Sydney.
They are not, thankfully, issues that we have faced in Canberra. We do have an opportunity to seek to deal with issues that affect us in Canberra on the basis of the evidence that we have to hand and we, as a result of that, have an opportunity to find some evidence-based solutions, not just the knee jerk, hard on crime, lock them up solutions that are often propounded or put forward within the Assembly by our opponents as real solutions to issues in relation to community safety.
When we look at the reported rates of crime for Australia-that is, the rates of crime per head of population-we see that in the most recently reported year, which was 2002, the ACT was well below the Australian average for all categories of recorded crime collated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In that last ABS report we recorded 924 offences per 100,000 of population, compared to an Australian average rate of just over 1,000; that is, 100 fewer offences per 100,000 of population in the ACT than in other places.
When we look at the rates for the last eight years we see that the picture has been the same except for two years, 1999 and 2000. For two years in the last eight, Canberra did have offences or recorded crime rates above the Australian average. Of course, we do know that in 1999 and 2000 Mr Pratt's colleagues were in charge of the ACT. Indeed, during those two years, Mr Humphries and Mr Smyth were, respectively, the Attorney-General and the minister for police.