Page 2198 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 22 June 2005

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Mr Hargreaves’s performance is of significant concern. It is good, though, that we now have some figures on the table that we can deal with, instead of dealing with the bluff and bluster that we tend to get in question time. Every time a question is asked on police numbers he says that it is police numbers at 50 paces, or it is a policeman at every letterbox. Maybe now we can debate some of the facts.

We have the facts on the table and Mr Hargreaves can defend the fact that he has reduced police numbers, and that his government has reduced police numbers since it came to office. I thank Mr Pratt for his motion and commend him for it. I will not be supporting the amendment. I would call on Mr Hargreaves to enter into a sensible debate, now that we have some facts on the table, rather than the usual rhetoric that we get from him which we have seen backed up by Mr Gentleman.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (5.41): I have to rise to speak on this because I need to pay tribute to Mr Pratt’s capacity to finally get the figure. As you would know, Mr Speaker, I have worked in this place since 1996. I have worked for police ministers and for chief ministers; I have been a member and I have sat on the estimates committee for three years in a row. I do not know the number of times I have asked officials—both when I worked in government and across the estimates table—“How many police do we have?”—and I have never had a candid answer. I have worked for ministers who have never had a candid answer from the AFP. There was always prevarication; there were always caveats and bits and pieces. I was always uncomfortable about my bosses using the figures for police numbers because they were always hedged about with so much verbiage that you were never sure what was actually going on.

If you read the transcript, we had a spectacular victory by Mr Pratt. After some official, whose name escapes me, sort of hedged about and hedged about, the answer came. He was asked, “Well, really what is the number?” He dropped it. He just opened up and dropped it in a way that no-one has ever done before in the 10-odd years that I have worked in this place. He said, in a completely uncandid way, that the number is 583. We have known; we have suspected; but we could never tell. Somebody, in a flash of candour before the estimates committee, finally told the truth. Mr Hargreaves was standing out there having said, “We’ve got more police than you fellows ever had” et cetera. “We’re fantastic; we’re doing a great thing.”

He was left out there like a shag on a rock with 583 police. Everything he has said in this place was turned around—turned on its head—because he was shown that the things that have been said in this place have been completely inaccurate. This inaccuracy is even perpetuated in this amendment today. It is a disgrace. It cannot possibly be supported by this place because it purports to contain information which, as Mr Smyth has pointed out, is incorrect. The amount of money spent on policing in 2001-02 was not $68 million, it was in fact $76 million. We cannot possibly pass this amendment because of that gross error in it. Mr Hargreaves should withdraw the amendment, in order not to put a misleading figure on the record of the Assembly. We will not be supporting the amendment but will be glad to support Mr Pratt’s fine motion.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella—Leader of the Opposition) (5.44): Mr Speaker, I would like to follow on from what Mrs Dunne was saying. I queried this with the Clerk while you were not in the chair. If we pass this amendment as Mr Hargreaves has put it to the Assembly today, we will be accepting an inaccuracy; and the minister should know

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