Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 11 Hansard (Thursday, 22 September 2005) . . Page.. 3590 ..
passing, with fewer and fewer police officers available to respond. Therein lies the problem.
This is not an attack on the police force. Our sworn officers, male and female, in uniform, plain clothes or undercover do a great job to the best of their ability. But they are sick of the pressure that they are put under by a government that just does not care. I want to highlight the lack of care and the lack of support that eats constantly at the morale of AFP officers in the ACT.
Next Thursday, 29 September, is Police Remembrance Day. It is the day each year that we remember those officers who were killed in the line of duty. I remind the minister that it is next Thursday. I hope to see the minister at the remembrance ceremony at St Christopher’s. The record of appearance of ACT Labor police ministers at this ceremony has been abysmal. At the 2003 ceremony, there was not anybody to actually take the wreath up and lay it on the altar at St Christopher’s on behalf of the ACT government.
The federal minister was present, as well as various other police commissioners, but when the time came for the ACT government’s wreath to be laid on the altar at St Christopher’s, there was no movement at all. Not one member of the Labor government had turned up. The police minister certainly was not there. Not one of them had turned up to put the wreath on the altar. The then chief police officer, John Murray, had to scurry back, scoop up the wreath and lay it on behalf of the government. They did not bother to come and they did not bother to arrange a replacement. That is what Mr Pratt is talking about.
There is a lack of police numbers. This morning Magistrate Somes outlined a case that took four years to solve, and the Labor Party has been in office for four years. We have seen a reduction in numbers. It is the lack of leadership from successive Labor police ministers that has led to this deterioration in morale and safety in the ACT.
In planning terms, activity brings safety; people attract people. So, in planning a plaza or a streetscape, ideally the goal is to get people on the street. Activity attracts more people and that results in increased safety, particularly at night. The point that Mr Pratt has made time after time is that seeing police officers on the street leads to a community perception of safety. It has a calming effect. I think it also has a deterring effect. Mr Pratt makes the point that we need patrols in the suburbs and on the street and random breath testing at the level that should be going on, not at half the level that should be going on, as is happening. If the police are targeting, that is good, but they are doing it at half the rate they used to. When we were in office they used to achieve it. They do not achieve it now. This government lacks commitment to our AFP officers. It fails to give them the encouragement and assistance they need to make things happen.
It has been reported to me—and perhaps the minister can answer this at some stage—that the police no longer assist with the community liaison and advisory safety program, CLASP. CLASP helps older people secure their homes, and officers from the fire brigade or the ambulance or the police force go along and give practical advice on how they can make things better. My understanding is that the AFP no longer participates in that because they do not have the resources. Mr Pratt has had several calls from people who have been told that officers cannot attend because they do not have the resources.