LISMORE ELECTORATE POLICING
Mr THOMAS GEORGE
(Lismore) [7.28 p.m.]: I again highlight the concerns I have about police numbers throughout my electorate. The electorate of Lismore takes in a big part of the Richmond Local Area Command and part of the Byron Local Area Command. Long-term sick and stress leave at both commands has been a major issue for some time—it was brought to my attention when I was first elected to represent the seat of Lismore. At the time the police briefed me about their concerns and about the need for a new police station at Lismore.
Long-term sick and stress leave is still an ongoing problem, and an ongoing problem for most areas in the northern region. The police have been working on this issue and trying to address the problems. Sadly, people succumb to the pressure of their work and go off on long-term sick and stress leave. The NSW Wales Police Force is not like the area health services or the Department of Education and Training. When Inspector Jones or Senior Constable Jones goes off crook no-one replaces them. This is where the pressure is felt. The pressure is felt not only by the person who is sick but also by the other police who work at the station or in that command. They have to do their work and also try to cover the work of the person who is on leave. That is a major issue and not just for the Richmond Local Area Command. I am sure similar concerns have been expressed to every member of the House. However, it is a problem of particular significance in the northern region where the percentage of long-term sick leave and stress leave seems to be greater in comparison with other parts of the State.
Even putting long-term leave to one side, the Richmond Local Area Command has been able to demonstrate a need for additional police officers. Estimates I have been given to address the need range between 10 and 15 additional police officers, but the most commonly mentioned estimate is 10. Having said that, I hasten to add that I appreciate that the Minister for Police probably receives requests for additional police officers from every local area command in the State, as the Acting-Speaker, the Hon. David Campbell, could confirm from his experience with the Police portfolio.
I was disappointed earlier this year when Deputy Commissioner Dave Owens visited the Tweed-Byron Local Area Command and the Richmond Local Area Command and suggested that they both had sufficient resources. I assure the Minister for Police and the House that the need for additional police officers in the Richmond Local Area Command exists. It is my responsibility to continue representations for more police officers because my constituents and communities in my electorate are continually confronted with problems that arise as a result of insufficient numbers of police in their areas.
Rural crime is emerging as a big problem. As cattle, fuel, and machinery prices increase, rural crime rates keep pace. At Casino a rural crime officer has been appointed, which is greatly appreciated. He is certainly doing a tremendous job, but as he is just one person trying to cover the whole Richmond Local Area Command as a rural crime officer he certainly has his work cut out to him. I congratulate and thank all police officers attached to both local area commands in the Lismore electorate for their contribution to policing in the northern region. I will continue to make representations on their behalf to obtain additional police officers for the region. Cross-border issues are a major problem, especially in country areas such as Legume, Woodenbong and Liston that are close to the State border. I will continue to highlight issues associated with policing in the Lismore electorate and make representations to have needs addressed.