Page 1458 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 6 April 2005

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MRS BURKE (Molonglo) (4.56): The ACT can be very proud of its police force and the job they do under the circumstances. However, it is clear to all of us in this Assembly that police in the ACT simply do not have sufficient resources to deal with the number of incidents they are called upon to attend to as part of their duties. We have heard much evidence about that today, and people cannot be making these stories up. The minister and the government just say, “Give us examples,” but we have given them dozens and dozens of examples—and this is not to knock the police force in any way at all.

It would seem again that the government, rather than fixing the problem of inadequate police numbers, is fine with almost blaming the community and putting the onus back on them. The matter being debated today is one that we should all be contributing to as it affects us all if we live our lives personally and professionally in the ACT. It is a pity that the minister, and therefore the government, in the minister’s words “will be supporting not one word of the motion”. I think those were the minister’s words. I am sure that ACT Policing will be disappointed, minister. We are here trying to support them—and you are obviously not, and that is sad.

I would like to raise some issues in relation to the plight of public housing tenants, who often are left frightened and with a feeling of no protection from, overall, very well-trained police officers in the service who, as I have said, are simply stretched to the limit. I must here commend ACT Policing, though, for their tremendous efforts during Operation Halite, and the minister and the minister before him.

Written feedback and discussions with a broad cross-section of public housing tenants in the community—not just in my electorate but also right across Canberra—show that people are feeling less and less safe in their homes and that their personal safety is being threatened. I have many instances here of which the minister will be well aware: the recent alleged firebombing of a public housing tenant in Latham; the drug use at public housing flats in Woden, Fraser Court and just about everywhere else that we can imagine; the bullying of older people at public housing complexes by nearby public housing tenants; and suspected gun manufacturing at Fraser Court, which I know the minister is aware of but about which nothing seems to be done. The remnant of people left at Fraser Court live in fear for their lives. This is just simply not acceptable. People are feeling threatened and intimidated in public housing complexes in general.

The government has basically lost control and there is no deterrence factor due to a lack of community or beat police. I did like what Dr Foskey said on the matter. She talked about the social problems having to be addressed, and I agree in part, but we also must ensure that our society does not continue down a growing path of lawlessness in the absence of the enforcement of law and order by an underresourced police force. It simply is not fair to them. The minister can sit there, laid back, almost trying to ignore the problem, but it is a real problem and he needs to get a handle on it.

The police minister has failed to increase police numbers in line with the national average and in line, let us not forget, with the Stanhope government’s election promise. Do not promise something if you are not going to be able to fulfil that promise. From all the reports we hear, community confidence in the police to manage crime is certainly falling.

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