Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 08 Hansard (Thursday, 30 June 2005) . . Page.. 2615 ..
rights, it would not do much. What the Attorney-General has done is confirm that. He said, “That is all well and good, but we are not offending a law. There are no penalties there.”
The question that then needs to be raised is: what is the point of it? If it is a piece of legislation, the government should be complying with it; it should be complying with its legislation. If it was meant as guidance material, then that should have been said. The Chief Minister and Attorney-General could have put out guidance material for the ACT government in dealing with human rights. Everyone would have said, “What a wonderful thing; human rights guidance material protecting people’s human rights.” He put it in legislation. Then we put to him that it is not being complied with and he says, “We are not offending a law; there are no penalties.” It makes a mockery of what the Human Rights Act is; it is either a law to be complied with or it is not.
This is the concern that we in the opposition have: despite being a champion of human rights, the Attorney-General does not seem too concerned when his own Human Rights Act is not complied with and when other pieces of legislation are not complied with by his ministers and by government agencies. This was one of the real, serious concerns that came out of the estimates process in relation to, certainly, this part of the budget.
I think the only other thing I would add is that not only do citizens have to comply with the law—and the rule of law says citizens and governments have to comply with the law—but governments have an extra responsibility to lead the way in complying with the law. Even if there are no penalties and no-one can be sued or sent to jail for the breach of the law, it still sends a message that you are serious about it; you are serious about your legislation; you are serious about what you say; you are serious about being a champion of human rights. And that is not always seen from this government. We are not seeing leadership; we are seeing lip service on this issue. That was the clearest thing that came out of these parts of the estimates hearings.
MR PRATT (Brindabella) (9.20): The 2005-06 budget appropriation for expenses on behalf of the territory to provide an ACT policing service within the JACS portfolio is set at $94.39 million, according to BP4 at page 341. The total cost of ACT policing in 2005-06 is $95.781 million in total but only $94.39 million is actually expended by the territory. I do not have a problem with this appropriation; I am not standing up to deny this line item, but there are some issues that need to be addressed.
This appropriation again reflects an inadequate commitment by the government to policing in general. The Labor government is obviously not concerned about hiding the fact that it is soft on crime. Quoting from page 341 of the budget, it states that this payment “covers the protection of persons and property, crime prevention and detection, and maintaining peace and good order and the enforcement of ACT laws”. Clearly this payment only partially covers the aforesaid areas.
The reality is that ACT police numbers are still worryingly below the national average and the police force are therefore unable to carry out the full functions of their duties as described in the quote above. This is of serious concern to the community, the opposition and the police themselves, who are stretched to the limit. The police minister recently made a bold announcement that the 2005-06 budget provided for an additional 40 police officers over five years. The minister even had the gall to boast that this increase in