WELLINGTON POLICE NUMBERS
Mr R. W. TURNER
(Orange) [5.48 p.m.]: I bring to the attention of the House the perceived lack of police, and their perceived lack of ability to carry out their duties in the town of Wellington in my electorate. I will specifically mention a small business holder who, unfortunately, has been forced to sell her business and move away from Wellington. Cheryl Hay of the South End Store in Arthur Street, Wellington, believes that as a result of reporting a crime to the police some time ago she has been a victim of harassment ever since by a small section of the community.
Mrs Hay has been in business in Wellington for 6½ years. She is now hoping to sell that business - someone is interested in buying it - but she will lose $100,000 in the process. However that $100,000 is not all that she will lose. In the past few months Mrs Hay’s daughter has been harassed at school. She has been taken out of Wellington Public School and has been put into a private school at a cost that Mrs Hay could not afford. Mrs Hay has also been the subject of harassment in the form of small, petty offences which the police say are not worth prosecuting in court, even if they could establish who was committing them. Mrs Hay has had rocks thrown on the roof of her shop, signs broken, filthy statements and mud put on the windows and she has been subjected to abusive language in the shop. As a result she has given up. This week it was reported in the local press that some people in Dubbo were doing the same thing. They had bought a home for $70,000 and spent about $20,000 upgrading it. They have now sold it for $35,000. They cannot afford to sell their home at such a loss.
I acknowledge the presence in the Chamber of the Minister for Police. I thank him for coming into the Chamber to listen to what I have to say. He is aware of what is happening in the Wellington area. For years people have been referring to the lack of police in Wellington; they have wondered about the authorised number of police in the area. One can talk about police numbers as much as one wants, but one really needs to know the authorised number of police. People in the Wellington area are concerned about the authorised number of available police and the number of police who live in Wellington as opposed to those who live in Dubbo and travel to Wellington each day. The Minister has been asked about subsidising the rents paid by police officers. Builders in Wellington are prepared to build homes and rent them out for $160 dollars a week.
The mayor of Wellington and the general manager of the council are calling on the Minister to give serious consideration to subsidising the rents of police officers. Police who are off duty should be able to be called to emergencies. We should not have to rely on officers from small outlying stations or officers from Dubbo being called to a scene long after the felons have disappeared and the possibility of them being taken into custody has been eliminated. Approximately 6,000 people reside in Wellington and many of them are on social security benefits or are unemployed. The real tragedy is that Wellington is losing fine citizens who have given up and have moved out. Businesses are being asked to subsidise police as the patrols in these areas cannot afford to pay police overtime. I quote briefly from the Daily Liberal
of 13 October, which stated:
But Cr Ian Wray and Chris Muir, manager of Dubbo City Centre, both condemned the proposal.
If more police are required to do the job, it’s the responsibility of government to provide them and government must get it right . . .
It’s not the responsibility of citizens to take policing into their own hands.
What a shame that businesses have to subsidise a police presence! The police are there to do a job. Often they are restricted in what they can do
because of the court system, but we must come up with an answer to the problems that are being experienced in towns like Wellington. [Time expired.
(Ashfield - Minister for Police) [5.53 p.m.]: I thank the honourable member for Orange for advising me that he would make a speech about Wellington. May I say at the outset that people should not take the law into their own hands. The council is talking about private police and security officers for the Orana area, but I confirm the announcement that I made recently that, as a result of the latest allocation of 100 police, three additional police officers will be based in the Orana region, an area which has about nine towns, including Dubbo and towns like Wellington.
I make another point about Wellington. Wellington has never had, under any government, a 24-hour police station. Wellington has dedicated police officers, including the regional commander, Doug Ryan, and the local area commander, Ron Bender, who are involved in crime reduction strategies throughout the region and their local command area. They are doing a fantastic job. A robbery occurred at Wellington the other day. I do not know whether that is the robbery to which the honourable member for Orange referred. The lady who was robbed was quoted in the Daily Liberal
as saying that the police arrived on time, they did a fantastic job and they had the forensic people there on time. Members of the New South Wales Opposition fail to understand and refuse to acknowledge New South Wales now has a record number of police. There are 550 more police in regional New South Wales than there were when I became Minister for Police in 1995.
Mr R. W. Turner:
They are not living in Wellington.
Four police officers live permanently in Wellington. I do not believe that a government should dictate where police officers and their families should live. [Time expired.