Page 2614 - Week 08 - Thursday, 30 June 2005

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not going to answer your trick questions.” But then he has gone on to say, “We have got more police than you ever had,” and all this sort of thing.

But of course what came out—and the figures show—is that that is not true. What we have now—and this is what the senior police officer confirmed—is 583 sworn police officers in the ACT. We see that, in 2000-01, it was 597. So that assertion by the minister, which he has been making for a long time now, is untrue. There are not more police now than there were in 2000-01. In fact, there are fewer in both real and absolute terms. What has been happening is that it has gone backwards under this minister.

We had this argument the other day when he talked about a policeman at every letterbox and in every driveway. He is the only person who has ever said that. I have never heard anyone else but the minister say that. It must be his invention. It seems like, under this minister, a police car for every district is more like it. It is going backwards. It was edifying, though, to find out the true number so that we now can have a reasoned debate about this very serious issue of police numbers.

No matter how much this minister wants to dismiss it, it is an issue of concern to people in the community. Every time we raise it, he says, “You are just making this up. There is no concern. You are scaremongering.” Every time Mr Pratt raises a question in the Assembly, he says, “You are scaring the people out there.” Big, bad, scary Mr Pratt, every time he asks a question of the minister, is somehow putting fear into the hearts of Canberrans.

This ridiculous argument should now be put to bed. We have real figures. Hopefully on other issues we will not have this kind of ridiculous answer for long. But what we have is real figures that show that, in real terms, in absolute terms, the numbers have gone down under this government. What we want to see is the government honouring their promise to increase police numbers. We look forward to the funding for that coming, obviously not in this budget but some time in the next budget.

The other thing that came out of this area of note was—and Mr Stefaniak has touched on it—that it was put to the Attorney-General that the Human Rights Act was being breached at Quamby and that the Education Act was not being complied with. When we put that to the Attorney-General he said, “I don’t believe the Education Act is; it’s your word.” It is true; it came out in the estimates process; it was undisputed. There is a clear obligation on the minister under subsection 76 (1) of the Education Act to consult with the non-government schools council before the budget, and that was not done. It was a breach of the law. No matter what the Attorney-General wanted to say about it, it was.

Of course he has admitted, and his minister has admitted, the breaches of the Human Rights Act at Quamby and at Belconnen Remand Centre. That is not disputed now, but it is an important point because the Attorney-General tried to dismiss it and say, “It doesn’t matter. It was happening before and it is happening now,” and all that sort of thing. Before, there was not a Human Rights Act. The Human Rights Act was only passed in 2004. This government champions itself as fighting for human rights.

There was always a question, when the Human Rights Act went through the parliament, put on the other side that it would not do much. There was a concern that it might have some unintended consequences but, in real terms, in terms of protecting people’s human

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