Page 1452 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 6 April 2005
Another thing I hear of quite frequently from police is that there is a huge burnout factor. There is the paperwork the police have to do after they have finished their shift. There was a time when police did not mind coming in and doing a bit of overtime; it was good stuff. They even quite liked going to court to do overtime. The situation now is very different. I am told by officers that there is so much burnout that it is often very difficult for them to get police to come in and do additional shifts when they are needed, which puts additional strain on our police force.
I have had a lot to do with our police force. I was a crown prosecutor for many years and I dealt regularly with the police force. I have high regard for the professionalism of the men and women in our police force. Lots of things have changed. It is a younger police force. A lot of the experience has left. That is all the more reason, I think, for proper resourcing to occur to assist the members of our police force to do their job properly. It greatly concerns me to hear about things such as the Belconnen station being closed for about 3½ hours because the police there needed to go out to attend to an offence. That is simply just not good enough. The government is really abrogating its responsibility to the community when it allows that.
The government, in opposition, promised that it would keep us up to the national average. It criticised the previous government. It might have been right in criticising some things then, although I cannot remember the situation being this bad under any previous government, Labor or Liberal. It promised to have the level of police at the national average. The association tells us we are about 124 short of what we should be. It might be more. Perhaps Mr Pratt can give us the latest figures.
The police presence in Queanbeyan and along the roads of New South Wales that I travel quite frequently when going down to the South Coast—the far South Coast in my case—is very visible indeed. I have travelled on the roads of the ACT for many years. In the past, there was a not insignificant police presence. Also, there was a not insignificant police presence in some of the more popular nightspots. I do not see quite the same presence in those nightspots these days and I certainly do not see the same presence on the roads.
I am a big fan of targeting certain crime areas and of some of the great teams that the police get together. That is fine. Maybe they are doing a bit of that on the roads. The speed vans that we all seem to hate have taken some of the load off police, but still there is a distinct lack of a visible presence. I do get very annoyed on hearing lots of complaints from constituents that they report things to the police, sometimes call the police about a dangerous problem, and the police simply are unable to attend because of a lack of resourcing. I think that that is a very sad situation and the government has a fundamental duty to attend to that.
Mr Pratt makes a very telling point in paragraph (d) when he asks us to note the lack of ability and confidence of the police to tackle a number of complex situations because they are poorly resourced and because the ACT government lacks the political will to be tough on crime. I have spoken, Mr Pratt has spoken and, no doubt, other speakers will speak about the lack of confidence of the police because of the poor resourcing and the fact that they do not have the backup which is crucially important in policing. If you are in a dangerous situation and you know that there are very few people back at the station