Page 288 - Week 01 - Thursday, 14 February 2008

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issues. We are all in the media far more than is probably the case in any other state or jurisdiction in the country; therefore we have a great deal of influence on public perception of community safety issues. I believe that we have a duty to ensure that we provide sober analysis of problems and calculated solutions where possible. That means that we need to keep things in context.

I know that there are hotspots around the town where people have been distressed. A couple of years ago, Mr Pratt and I held a news conference in Manuka. Some shop owners there were legitimately disturbed and distressed by some things that had happened late at night. I think that the publicity that attracted to those concerns led to a toughening of attitude or a combination of that and the culprits going elsewhere or going into cover. These things do flare up from time to time.

I regularly hear complaints from electors about the reluctance of police to go and deal with what might be deemed lesser crimes—for example, house break-ins that, I understand and am told, people have reported to their insurance company. Car accidents seem to be less a matter of examination even if there is significant fault on the part of one party. It creates a perception where people start to despair. Things are not being managed at a level that is appropriate.

I emphasise that I do not think we are in an environment of lawlessness. You get a small percentage of people who cause trouble on occasions, particularly at late night venues. There is another subset of people who seem to delight in engaging in vandalism. I get regular complaints from Narrabundah, Griffith, the Manuka area and Kingston. I suspect that the police have got a pretty fair idea of the culprits in this case. It is not a widespread problem, but it was appropriate for Mr Pratt to put this up for discussion today, and I commend him for it because it is an issue that we need to watch very closely.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (4.31): While this is important, it feels a little like the conversation that we started yesterday. The topic of community safety has very broad significance and broad application for Canberra. I suppose that we have all chosen the way we interpret that; I am more or less continuing where I left off yesterday.

There is no doubt that the safety of the Canberra community is very important. One of the prime tasks of government is to ensure that our city is safe. Even the most minimalist government—what we call a nightwatchman government—would make that its great priority. We are also all aware of the political usefulness of crime statistics and engendering a fear of crime. I would always be very wary of stepping over that mark.

As Mr Mulcahy pointed out, we know that comparatively Canberra is a safe community. There is not any reason to not be concerned; this is something that makes it an extremely attractive city to live in and is an amenity that we really need to safeguard. However, the topic is a really broad issue and it requires efforts on a number of fronts.

As was noted yesterday in amendments to Mr Seselja’s motion, the government believes that it has made inroads into improving safety in the ACT and is continuing to work on possible solutions. We have to go back to the statistics to check that, but very clearly efforts are being made: it is a question of whether they are the right ones.

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