Coffs Harbour and Clarence Police Numbers

About this Item
SubjectsPolice: New South Wales; Electorates: Coffs Harbour
SpeakersFraser Mr Andrew; McLeay Mr Paul
BusinessPrivate Members Statements

Page: 1186

    Mr ANDREW FRASER (Coffs Harbour) [5.32 p.m.]: I draw attention to police numbers in the electorates of Coffs Harbour and Clarence, in the Coffs/Clarence Local Area Command. On 11 July 2006 I wrote to the Coffs/Clarence Local Area Commander, Superintendent Peter Barrie, stating:

    Following my telephone conversation with the Duty Officer at Coffs Harbour Police Station on Saturday morning, 16th June, when I advised of an intended beach party at Korora, a large amount of damage was caused in the Korora area. Car windscreens were smashed, letterboxes were torn out and garden ornaments were destroyed. I am unaware of any charges being laid as a result of these incidents, although I am aware that Police did attend that area on at least two occasions that night.

    A petition I have circulated calling for more police has received huge support, 120 petition sheets ...

    In fact, 133 petition sheets have now been received by my office, with in excess of 2,000 signatures. Every time I raise this issue the Minister says that we are over strength. Recently five probationary constables were appointed to the area. However, the Minister fails to acknowledge that at any given time in the Coffs/Clarence Local Area Command up to 30 officers are off duty, either on sick leave, stress leave, or had been hurt on duty, or whatever. As a result, the command is considerably under strength. I point out also that the overtime budget in the Coffs/Clarence Local Area Command is nowhere near good enough. Only a matter of weeks ago a constituent, Harry Atwal, was driving a taxi when there was an altercation with some louts in the cab about the fare. When Mr Atwal attempted to get the fare from the passengers, he was severely bashed.

    Mr Atwal called his base and the police and asked the police to attend. However, only one police car was on duty that night. The manager of the taxi base turned up to the incident before the police arrived. No charges were laid, because the juveniles gave false names and addresses. They claimed that Harry Atwal had threatened them, which was not true. Harry lost his fare, was severely beaten and required medical attention. My point is that the police on duty were unable to attend the incident because only one patrol car was on duty that night. Only one patrol car was on duty because the overtime budget is inadequate. Coffs Harbour has a 24-hour police station, but it does not have the resources to run it in the way that the public expect and deserve.

    When the House last sat I drew attention to an incident in which a BMW four-wheel drive was involved in a fatal accident just north of Macksville. The driver veered onto the wrong side of the road, went under a semitrailer and the two occupants of the BMW—who I think came from either Queensland or the far North Coast—were killed. When emergency services tried to get police to respond, not one highway patrol vehicle was on duty that night between Taree and Grafton. Only one patrol vehicle was on duty that night because there is no money. Although the Roads and Traffic Authority funds the police force to run highway patrol vehicles, the budgets are so tight that Superintendent Barrie and his fellow commanders on the North Coast do not have the resources to provide the required services.

    From one end of the electorate to the other beach parties have resulted in complaints of drug taking, vandalism, swearing, loutish behaviour and general lawlessness. In response to my letter of 11 July, Superintendent Barrie wrote to me informing of the Coffs Care Tent Program, the New Years Eve Booze Free/Ride Free Program, the How to Drug Proof Your Kids Program, the Your Choice Program and the Anger Management Program—all fine programs. Unfortunately, they are not assisting in the day-to-day management of lawlessness. Graffiti in Coffs Harbour is out of hand. In 1994 the late Joe Blanch visited Coffs Harbour and there was a blitz for four weekends, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. That sorted out the lawlessness and juvenile crime in our city. I appeal to the Minister and the Government to do the same again. Do not give us excuses: give us action and support the police officers who are valiantly trying to do the job. [Time expired.]

    Mr PAUL McLEAY (Heathcote—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.37 p.m.]: The New South Wales Government is committed to providing appropriate levels of policing to communities. We have record numbers of police in New South Wales. The good news is that more are to come. The current class of 750 police will graduate later this year and will certainly be welcome around the State. Isolated incidents of crime affect every community. The Government's knows that but believes in providing the tools that local communities want, such as party packs and advising people on how to prevent crime. The honourable member trivialised those efforts and said they do not work. He is wrong; they do work. Police say their efforts work as long as the community and the police work together. However, the primary function of policing is to respond to urgent need.

    Mr Andrew Fraser: Like assaults on taxi drivers?

    Mr PAUL McLEAY: Yes, that is right, that is what they are there for. That is why we have more active high profile policing. In past incidences that has not been available, but the new extra police will be of assistance across the State. I thank the honourable member for Coffs Harbour for bringing those matters to the attention of the House.