Mr ARMSTRONG (Lachlan) [6.10 p.m.]: Today I had intended to speak about the problem of Hazelton and Kendell air services to country and rural areas, which remain largely unresolved. Although I have found it difficult to learn the details, it appears that there is a dispute as to who will pay out redundancies to staff who will lose their jobs. Tragically, staff numbers will be reduced from 900 to 600, with many loyal employees having been left in suspension for some five months. I hope that the principals, the administrators—whose management of the process should be examined—and both governments can resolve the matter expeditiously, because it is a critical problem.
However, as I will not have the opportunity to make a private member's statement for almost nine weeks, I would be tardy if I did not raise the problem of police numbers and the concern people feel about their personal security and that of their property. No police station in my electorate has a full strength of more than two officers. Most stations are running from 50 per cent to 40 per cent. Senior police are constantly under pressure to assure people that their communities are safe. However, the bottom line is that few people believe this. The system is not working. Only a few weeks ago the Condobolin Bowling Club was broken into on six occasions. On each occasion the offenders were apprehended. In most instances, the offences were committed by repeat offenders who had been released on bail. Not only are police understaffed, but they are not being supported. If police arrest offenders they are let out on bail.
I refer to the logistics of policing in country electorates. In particular, I refer to Lake Cargelligo. A person taken into custody in Lake Cargelligo must be taken to Parkes to be charged, which is a two-hour drive each way. Two police must accompany the prisoner to Parkes. The paperwork takes about an hour, so all up this involves five hours and two police officers. Condobolin has a complement of seven officers, with only four officers available in the town—and only three available for duty at any one time. Therefore, if two officers take a prisoner to Parkes the station is manned by only one officer. Understandably, there is an element of fear and suspicion in towns such as Grenfell, Lake Cargelligo, Condobolin, Cootamundra, Young, Ardlethan and Temora, which have suffered from repeated break-ins, assaults and a plethora of apprehended violence orders to which police must attend. The situation is serious.
I am delighted that the Minister for Police has accepted my invitation to visit my electorate in the first week of September and I look forward to hosting him. I assure him that he will be made welcome and will be told the facts. I assure him also that this will be done in a proper, professional manner. I hope he is in a position to respond, because the present position is most unsatisfactory. Older people, women and those involved in local government feel that these communities do not have the necessary support to be viable, sociable, communicable and vibrant towns.