Page 4097 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 15 November 2005

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Fundamentally, my concerns revolve around the fact that our police are simply not being well supported by the government’s bill. Mr Stefaniak’s bill and his amendments do go a long way to providing better measures of support for ACT Policing. I refer to pages 6 and 7 of Mr Stefaniak’s bill and the clause there about assault and stalking of police officers. I want to talk about that. I think it is very important that we increase penalties in the ACT to send a very strong message to our community that we will see here the same standards applied to those who assault police as are exercised in other states. That is a good example of how we ought to be conforming with New South Wales in this regard, not only because we share the same landscape as the state of New South Wales, but also because in this case New South Wales has set a benchmark as to at least a minimum standard that we should be aspiring to achieve.

I think it is very important that the community in general and the government in particular send a very strong message to our police that we do damn well support them. It is important that police, as they go about their everyday duties, have the certainty and the confidence to be able to do their job as safely as possible. Police are at the front line of a government’s desire to ensure that appropriate community standards apply, that community safety is paramount and that, for want of a better term, there is a reasonable law and order regime in place to ensure that members of the community can go about their jobs and lives daily feeling quite confident that they can do so safely and without disorder. Therefore, the community needs to have an effective police force, the police force needs to know that it is backed by government, and our policemen must know when they do wade into trouble that they are going to be backed up.

I would put it to you, Mr Speaker, that, particularly of a Friday night in Manuka or Civic, when a couple of our younger policemen have to make a decision as to whether they should wade into a brouhaha of some proportion they need to have confidence that the people that they are about to confront know that if they do assault police officers there will be serious repercussions. I would also put it to you that right now lots of people in our community have no idea that there are serious repercussions if they assault police officers. People are less likely to assault police officers if they know that there are serious consequences for doing so. That is why we must put in place in our legislation stronger penalties for those who do so.

I would also point out that there has been an increasing propensity for people to assault police officers. We are seeing in our schools growing disrespect amongst a minority of students for teachers, authority and schools. We are seeing a similar pattern of police abuse emerge amongst a small minority of people in the ACT community. If the police are going to exercise their authority to question, detain, arrest, break up or move on people who are causing some trouble, they must know that their authority is backed up by strong laws. Policemen must know that if somebody spits in their face, laughs at them, pushes them over or assaults them, members of the community consider that to be a very serious issue. It is important that police have those powers and have the confidence not to hold back when they are confronted with issues which seriously affect the community’s safety.

I will now talk about Mr Stefaniak’s proposal concerning the stalking of police, proposed new section 35A. The amendment about the stalking of police is incredibly important to our legal system. It is so important for policemen to know that if they are going to put

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