Page 1505 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 10 May 2006

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The Stanhope government has failed to increase police numbers to keep up with some of those things. While Mr Gentleman, in his speech, might argue that there is no crime wave, that crime is not out of control, he is quite right. That is not our argument. We do not argue that there is a crime wave or that crime is out of control. We do not argue that that is why we are standing up here today having this debate. We argue that we are standing up here today having this debate because of figures such as the ones for armed robbery, which is 40 per cent higher here than in any other jurisdiction.

We argue that, with a police strength which is the worst jurisdictionally and which is below the national per capita figure per 100,000, this is another reason why we are standing here pushing this debate. We also say that, when you look outside the town centres, the police presence diminishes dramatically. We say that is why we question what police capacity we currently have.

We know, from the feedback from our police services, that they are feeling overstretched. We know that our police services want to have a stronger police presence in group shopping centres. We know that they feel frustrated that they cannot. That is why we ask this government to table here, by 16 May, the internal reviews and the Costello functional review as it pertains to police capability. That is why we say that, given these deep concerns as illustrated by these factors I have just outlined, we must see here some progress report at least on where the hell this police agreement has got to—a police agreement which is 14 months late. If we cannot see a draft police agreement, then we want to see here tabled all documents pertaining to the review and assessment of where this negotiation on the police agreement is going. We do not see that.

The opposition feels that the police agreement is simply not concrete enough and is not strong enough. We suggest that a lot of work needs to be done to make that police agreement much more measurable and much more concrete in its tasking. The government has all the rights in the world, in paying for a police service, to negotiate for a police service and to know what they are getting for their dollars.

We do not want to see the government wasting money. We do not want to see the government agreeing to a police agreement which is loose and fast and which allows standards not to be so easily measured. That is why we will be, in the not too distant future, coming back to this place with stronger recommendations on what this government should be doing with the police agreement. But until we see where they have got with a 14-month late police agreement, we do not know what that standard is.

A couple of other points were raised. The minister talked about—shock-horror—why we are having this debate; why have the rules of debate changed in this place; we were supposedly politicising the issue of policing and community safety. That really is just obfuscation on the part of the minister. He is just throwing down dust and smoke. He is just throwing down dust and smoke to evade the serious issues that this motion that we are putting here today raises. He ought to be prepared to be more transparent. If he tables the documents that we are seeking, then the Assembly as a whole will be much more sympathetic to working with the government to define a way in which, in terms of budget limitations, this government is able to buy a better police service and assist that service to be able to function in a more clear cut way.

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