Suspension of certain standing and sessional orders agreed to.
Motion by the Hon. E. P. Pickering agreed to:
Debate resumed from 26th October.
The Hon. D. J. GAY [2.39]: I again speak in the take-note debate on the report of the Joint Select Committee upon Police Administration. Some time has elapsed since I last spoke to the House, and during that time a great deal has been said. I do not resile from the comments that I made during my previous contribution. I have heard nothing that has changed my mind about the detailed recommendations of the committee in the majority report. In addition, I am aware that today the Attorney General, the Leader of the Government in this House, will move amendments to the motion. Although I could not and still cannot support the motion moved by the Hon. E. P. Pickering, I support the amendments of which the Attorney General has made me aware and which the Minister for Police was detailing in the Legislative Assembly 10 minutes ago. The amendments were drafted in consultation with the Minister for Police, the full Cabinet and the Hon. E. P. Pickering. So far as I am concerned, what I have seen goes a long way towards addressing the recommendations of the select committee. In conclusion, I once again congratulate the members of the committee from all parties on the excellent job they have done. So far as I am concerned, the work they have done will be a benchmark for the reform of police administration in this State. Now that we have reached this point, it is time to forget about personalities and to get on with the main job.
The Hon. J. P. HANNAFORD (Attorney General, Minister for Justice, and Vice President of the Executive Council) [2.42]: On behalf of the Government I move:
That General Business Order of the Day No. 18 relating to Police Administration be called on forthwith.
That the question be amended by the omission of paragraphs 2 to 6, with a view to inserting instead:
(2) Notes the principles and legitimate problems raised by the Hon. E. P. Pickering, M.L.C., relating to the role, responsibilities and relationships between the Minister for Police and the Commissioner of Police and the accountability of the Police Minister to Parliament and recommends that the Justice Sub-committee of Cabinet examine these issues;
(3) Notes the establishment of a Committee chaired by His Honour Mr Justice Roden to:
(a) examine the procedure and legislation currently in place in New South Wales to regulate the custody, analysis and destruction of illegal substances seized by law enforcement agencies;
(b) make recommendations to the Attorney General as to practices and procedures that may be applied to improving the handling of drug exhibits so as to:
(i) ensure the absolute security and accountability for the handling of seized illegal substances from the time of seizure to the time of destruction;
(ii) provide sufficient methods of analysis and sampling of seized exhibits to ensure adequate evidence is available for the purpose of criminal proceedings;
(iii) afford a reasonable opportunity, where that is practicable, for any person charged or likely to be charged in connection with the seized substances to obtain an independent analysis; and
(iv) subject to the above, to permit the destruction of seized illegal substances at the earliest possible time;
(c) make recommendations for such amendments to the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act and/or other legislation as may be necessary for the better control, management, security and destruction of illegal substances seized by law enforcement agencies,
and notes the Government's intention to ensure an appropriate overview of security of drugs held in police custody.
(4) Notes that the Government recognises the need to enhance the effectiveness of the Police Internal Affairs Unit and the integrity of the internal investigation process, and that the Justice Sub-committee of Cabinet is to pursue a proposal to establish an independent Police Internal Affairs Unit under the control of the State Crime Commission.
The Hon E. P. Pickering, in his speech in support of his motion, identified a number of enduring problems in police administration. The most important of these were drug security and effectiveness of police internal investigations. Throughout the term of this Government, both the Hon. E. P. Pickering and the current Minister for Police and Emergency Services have concentrated on the need to maintain public confidence in our police. The key to that confidence is certainly the effectiveness of drug security and the internal investigation of complaints against police. To their credit, both Ministers have put in place a range of initiatives designed to make real improvements in these areas. However, legitimate structural and legislative problems remain which, until addressed, will continue to erode public confidence.
The Government is committed to ensuring that further reform will be realised. The amendment identifies the direction the Government will be taking and I will shortly return to detailed argument in support of the amendment. Firstly, I wish to pay tribute to my friend and colleague the Hon. E. P. Pickering. All members of this Chamber will attest that the Hon. E. P. Pickering is a passionate and dynamic man. As the longest serving Minister for Police and Emergency Services in the history of New South Wales he presided over major reforms of his portfolio. As Minister, the Hon. E. P. Pickering was a fearless fighter against police corruption and drugs. He sought to drag a reluctant Police Service from the nineteenth century into the late twentieth century in a revolutionary five years.
I will not dwell on the honourable member's achievements other than to say that he achieved lasting legislative, structural and policy reform in policing and set a direction that this Government and the current Minister are pursuing with equal vigour. I think I speak for all in the Government when I say that the manner of the honourable member's passing from the police portfolio and the then ministry saddened me. His decision to resign his commission last year was an indication of his commitment to the principles of the Westminster tradition. He has shown through his uses of the parliamentary processes in this Chamber that he has acted as a true Liberal. His courage in the pursuit of issues relating to community justice has been inspirational.
During his 17 years in this Chamber he has made a name as a campaigner against corruption. This has always been at considerable risk to himself and his family, but he has never faltered from that course. The Hon. E. P. Pickering has sought to ensure that the people of this State can have faith in their Police Service, and the Government is equally committed to that objective. The circumstances of the former Minister's departure were covered in minute detail by the joint select committee and do not need to be covered again today. The committee produced three major reports. The Government has accepted the committee's findings. It is reasonable that the Hon. E. P. Pickering sought to put his perspective about the committee's findings.
The issues raised by the Hon. E. P. Pickering were responded to by the Minister for Police and Emergency Services in another place in his ministerial statement on 11th November. I do not propose to comment further on these allegations. Earlier, on 26th October, the Minister had on behalf of the Government accepted the third and final report of the Joint Select Committee upon Police Administration. The Minister, in his response, outlined the extensive police reform program which the Government has embarked upon following the departure from office of the Hon. E. P. Pickering. The amendment which I have just moved represents the formal confirmation of the fifth stage of the Government's police reform program. There is no doubt that the police portfolio is one of the most important and complex areas of public administration. It is a constant challenge to the Government of the day to ensure that all elements of this large and often controversial portfolio are as effective as they should be. The motion, as amended, which was moved today gives me the opportunity to inform the House of the fifth stage of the Government's police reform agenda.
My colleague the Minister for Police and Minister for Emergency Services has informed the Parliament of the four stages of the extensive reform and review program undertaken within the police portfolio since he became Minister. Some of those changes have required legislation which received
bipartisan support in this Parliament. This brought about major changes to the roles of and relations between the Minister, the Police Board and the commissioner, and reform of the system for dealing with complaints against police. Other major changes have been put in place to support the legislative changes. Those reforms include a restructure of the senior command of the Police Service, the introduction of the concept of operational readiness audits, and a major review of the allocation of resources across the Police Service directed by the inspector general, Mr Don Wilson. The process of reform is continuing. The fifth stage will pick up a number of issues raised before the Joint Select Committee upon Police Administration and elsewhere.
Following recent Cabinet discussion it was decided the justice subcommittee of Cabinet would examine and report to Cabinet on a number of issues. The first of those matters involves the relationship between the Minister and police commissioner. The joint select committee examined this issue extensively and, among other things, expressed a strong view on the capacity of the Minister to direct the commissioner on operational matters. The committee also examined other aspects of this most significant relationship in light of the difficulties which occurred prior to the appointment of the present Minister to the portfolio. The justice subcommittee will examine the way in which those past difficulties have been addressed, as well as any other issues related to the Government's primary objective of ensuring accountability of the Police Service, through the Minister, to the Parliament.
The justice subcommittee will also examine whether the internal affairs branch of the Police Service is able to operate effectively within the present structure. This branch bears the onerous and critically important responsibility of investigation of complaints against police officers. This branch undertakes the most important corruption investigations, including most of the significant allegations of corruption. There have been suggestions that this unit, or the responsibilities given to it, should be placed outside the Police Service. Models exist in other jurisdictions which differ from the arrangements which prevail in New South Wales. New South Wales also has other bodies whose role in this area could be expanded, for example, the Crime Commission. The need for additional scrutiny of the operations of internal affairs operations will also be examined.
Matters dealt with by internal affairs are all notified to the Ombudsman, who oversights investigations and can even take them over. The Independent Commission Against Corruption is also informed of most internal affairs investigations because the original complaint falls within the definition of corrupt conduct in the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act. Consideration will be given by the justice subcommittee to formalising the extensive formal and informal interaction on these matters between the Police Service, the ICAC, the Ombudsman and the Crime Commission. This might be achieved through the establishment of a permanent monitoring committee, or through some other means.
The justice subcommittee will examine these various alternatives and report its conclusions to the full Cabinet. There are other matters to be attended to. The third report of the joint select committee emphasised problems arising from the Police Service having to maintain custody of seized, illegal drugs. I have established a committee to examine and report on how security of drugs in police custody can be improved. As Attorney General I have ministerial responsibility for the Drugs (Misuse and Trafficking) Act and it is likely that changes to that Act will be recommended. The committee will be chaired by Adrian Roden, Q.C, a former judge of the Supreme Court who has also served as a part-time commissioner with the ICAC. The Minister for Police and Minister for Emergency Services will also be seeking the involvement of the ICAC in a review of current practices and procedures applying to discipline within the Police Service.
Some preliminary work to identify problems in this area has already commenced within the ministries of police and emergency services. For example, it is obvious that the Police Service regulation requires extensive rewriting to remove anomalies and to reflect recent changes to the primary legislation. I understand that various problems have also been identified by the Ombudsman, the Police Service, the Police Board and even the Police Association. Now that the changes to the system for dealing with complaints are operating, it is timely that this much overdue review should now proceed. My colleague the Minister for Police and Minster for Emergency Services advises me that the review will benefit from the overseas experience of the Inspector General, and that he looks forward to the assistance of the ICAC, with whom the Police Service is now forming a productive relationship on anti-corruption projects.
Frequent mention has been made of the Frenchs Forest matter, and various aspects were examined by the joint select committee in considerable detail. The ICAC has been fully informed of that matter and has been given a copy of the Crime Commission's report, which resulted in criminal and disciplinary proceedings being taken against a number of officers. The ICAC will also be provided with all the transcripts of evidence taken from the witnesses who appeared before the Crime Commission in the course of its investigation. Finally, the role of the joint technical services group of the Police Service will be reviewed. I understand that this group provides essential surveillance and technical support for police and joint police and Crime Commission operations.
Its capacities have been substantially upgraded in recent years and it is appropriate to examine whether it should remain where it is within the Police Service or whether, for example, it should be administratively closer to the Crime Commission, which comprises a group of specialists. The purpose of this review is to ensure that high priority investigations receive
effective technical support, and that administrative arrangements are conducive to continual improvement of the joint technical services group's expertise and equipment. This year, 1993, has been a difficult year for the New South Wales Police Service. But the Government is determined that 1994 will be a period of solid achievement.
The reviews I have just described will build on the program of four stages of reform which is already in place to improve the quality and efficiency of police services to the community. Today's announcement shows there will be no slackening in the Government's drive to construct a truly effective and accountable Police Service. With the Minister for Police firmly in control of implementing the reform process, I know the Government's objectives will be pursued with vigour. In striving to achieve these reforms, the Minister will be building on the Hon. E. P. Pickering's legacy. The achievement of these goals will be assisted by this House supporting the amended motion which I have moved on behalf of the Government. I commend the amended motion to the House.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW [2.57]: The Opposition supports the amended motion moved by the Leader of the Government, which shows a distinct lack of confidence in the present Minister for Police and indicates the need for a series of mechanisms that will lead to real change in the New South Wales Police Service. The text of the motion moved by the Leader of the Government clearly shows that there is a need to resolve the relationship between the Minister, the police and this Parliament, and that there is a real and ongoing problem in that respect. It also evidences, of course, a recognition of the continuing problem about the handling of drug exhibits that the former Minister, the Hon. E. P. Pickering, has rightly highlighted in recent times, and, indeed, was active about during his term as Minister.
In those particular respects the amended motion of the Attorney General indicates the need for change - the need for real reform within the Police Service. There are other aspects of the motion, including the spotlight being put on the effectiveness or lack thereof of the police internal affairs unit and the reference to the ICAC of the Frenchs Forest incident. Members of the joint committee, I think it is right to say, were all concerned about a number of critical aspects of police administration in New South Wales, and none of them would have come away from their deliberations with a comfortable feeling that things were going well in the New South Wales Police Service. The committee was disturbed by the stories of the frequent disappearance of documents and computer records in its analysis of the facts and circumstances of the matters before it. The integrity of internal disciplinary proceedings came under question. The startling revelations about the protection of paedophiles is absolutely appalling. Any suggestion of collusion between police and people guilty of such crimes is an obvious ground for dismay. It seems that there has been a lack of accountability.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: There have been pretty strong actions.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: There should have been very strong actions. There is an absence of police accountability to the Parliament and to the community. That is a cause for concern. I have already mentioned the problems with respect to drug exhibits. The amended motion will focus specifically on that. Having regard to these matters, one would have to say that a concerned citizen could see the possibility of continuing corruption in the police force of a systemic kind. Obviously, the defenders of the police force are right to say that there are many good men and women in the force. All of us would acknowledge that.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I ask the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti to contain himself.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: It is quite obvious that decent citizens are doing a conscientious job in the police force. However, everyone would acknowledge also that there are quite unsatisfactory people in the police force. The Police Association would acknowledge that. It is a statement of the obvious. The real issue is the depth and extent of the problem. In view of all the matters that have come to our attention in recent times, there is at least the possibility of corruption, which could be properly labelled systemic.
The Opposition was not willing to vote for a motion of no confidence in the current Commissioner of Police, Mr Lauer, and it is still not willing to do so. The Opposition supported Mr Lauer's appointment, but in a qualified way. We have been concerned about the observations of the royal commission into the Blackburn affair. There remains a concern about that. We have taken the view that the evidence produced is simply not sufficiently cogent or compelling to justify the extreme step of this House expressing a lack of confidence in the commissioner, Mr Lauer. Of course, if further evidence comes to light, we would be willing, as we are on any issue, to reconsider that position. At the moment we simply do not believe that evidence of a sufficiently compelling or cogent nature has been produced to warrant that extreme step being taken in this House. Clearly, that is the view taken by the majority of members on the joint committee. Even in reviewing the subsequent information, the Opposition has not thought it appropriate to change its view in that respect.
The Government has been pushed a reasonable distance. The Opposition is not privy to the discussions that have taken place. Clearly some factors have emerged which have pushed the Government into taking some positive or tangible steps to make some changes within the Police Service. I have indicated the Opposition's support for those steps embodied in the amended motion of the Attorney General. It is obvious that this Parliament should keep a very close watch on developments in the police force and review them carefully as time goes on. I
believe that the Government and the Opposition should do that. All members should continue to take a close interest in developments in the police force. The Police Service is absolutely critical to the administration of justice in this society. To have an honest and decent police force is an attribute of a democratic society. There have been significant problems in the past. We ought to be addressing them in the future.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN [3.4]: I support the Government's amendments to the motion moved by the Hon. E. P. Pickering. I do so with enormous pride. I have taken a great deal of interest in this subject, even though I was not a member of the Joint Select Committee upon Police Administration. All honourable members would know that for a period of time, prior to my becoming a member, I worked in the office of the Hon. E. P. Pickering. I assisted him with research and policy advice as he sought to administer the police portfolio. Whilst I was in that position I not only had an opportunity to observe the manner in which the Hon. E. P. Pickering performed his task, but I also had some ability to get on top of how the Police Service worked as an organisation, particularly in terms of its relationship with the Minister's office and police headquarters.
I remember when the Hon. E. P. Pickering told this House that in response to a matter which had been raised on television - that is, the attempted suicide of Mr Angus Rigg - he had been told by the Police Service that he would be given a two-line explanation as to why there had been a 14-month delay in dealing with that matter. From that time onwards I felt that there was a serious lack of accountability of the Police Service to the Parliament. My concern about that lack of accountability has driven my interest in this matter, even though I was not a member of the Joint Select Committee upon Police Administration.
It was an affront to this Parliament, when the Minister asked for a briefing on a matter that had been within the Police Service for 14 months and had been canvassed on television, that he was told to tell the House that he would have to wait a number of days before he would be able to be briefed. That was and remains an outrageous proposition. Frankly, I do not believe that enough has been done to explain that 14-month delay in bringing about that explanation to this House or in finalising the investigation.
I expressed within the Government, as is my right, reservations based on the information which the Hon. E. P. Pickering had brought to this House. Not unreasonably, that resulted in some fairly high-powered telephone messages to me from senior members of the Government, who were severely concerned about how I felt on this matter. It was their right to ring me and ask me how I felt, and that is all they did - they asked me how I felt about those matters and I passed on my concerns. Arising out of those concerns I am thankful that the current Minister for Police, the Hon. Terry Griffiths, gave me an opportunity to visit the Commissioner of Police and put my concerns directly to him.
I asked the Commissioner of Police why he went to the public straight away, without consulting his Minister on the issue of Angus Rigg. He said that he was concerned that a public perception was abroad when the Angus Rigg matter was raised that because the police had not investigated the matter quickly they had participated in the attempted murder of Mr Angus Rigg. I share the commissioner's concern. That is an excellent reason why the matter should have been investigated quickly, promptly and efficiently - so that there could never have been any suggestion of that nature. I reject totally and out of hand any suggestion that my colleague the Hon. E. P. Pickering in any way brought that suggestion to the fore in the public's mind. He asked the legitimate question: why have police not investigated that matter and investigated it promptly?
I am particularly concerned that the explanation given by the Commissioner of Police to a parliamentary select committee about why that investigation did not proceed quickly, as it should have done, included the accusation that he was not able to proceed because the investigators had been prevented from employing contractors for specialist scientific advice outside of the service without the Minister's express permission, and that that direction was given by way of a memorandum from the former police Minister to the service. As it turned out, that explanation - which was given by the most senior police officer to a joint parliamentary select committee of this Parliament - proved to be untrue. It was found not to be a factor in the delay. I am concerned that that statement by the person who holds the office of Commissioner of Police was seriously canvassed as an explanation for that delay.
All members are concerned that despite the serious pressure which the former Minister for Police had put on the Police Service to deal with drug security the matter had been stuffed around - if I may use the vernacular that I used last night - rather than pursued seriously by the New South Wales Police Service, as it should have been. The Hon. E. P. Pickering raised serious concerns, chillingly real to every member of this House, that there was too great an opportunity for drugs to be misappropriated while in the care of police. I wish to illustrate the difficulty that police had with drug security. Commissioner Lauer said that to achieve drug security it was necessary to ensure efficient destruction of the drugs following their being tested by the drug analysis laboratory operated by the Department of Health. But even that will not be sufficient.
Charges were laid by Penrith police after the seizure of 32 kilograms of amphetamine powder in the Dunheved area. It was white powder in buckets. It was conveyed to the police station and placed under lock and key. That police station had been the subject of a proved complaint of police misappropriation of drugs, even though there were upgraded levels of security. The powder was conveyed in buckets to the analytical laboratory even though it was worth millions of dollars. It was proved before a court that the necessary paperwork which should have
surrounded the transfer of the drugs to the drug analysis laboratories was not in order. Appropriate receipts had not been properly acknowledged when the drugs were conveyed to the laboratories and proper entries had not been made on police records once the drugs were returned. The defence attempted to destroy the police case by alleging lack of effective auditing of the transfer of the drugs. The court believed the police and found that they had effectively looked after the drugs.
If the equivalent amount of cash had been seized and taken from a police station to another site, would it not have been placed in an armoured vehicle with armed guards and been thoroughly accounted for? Yet, because it was drugs, it was accompanied by a single police officer to the drug analysis laboratories. It was not accounted for properly. Under cross-examination the police officer had enormous trouble convincing the court that the drugs had been properly looked after during their transfer from the police station to the drug analysis laboratory and back. Simply destroying the drugs after they have been tested will not solve that problem. Drug security is an extremely serious issue which warrants the suggested amendment to Mr Pickering's motion moved by the Leader of the Government. This will assist in ensuring that the police are corruption free in relation to handling drugs and will significantly enhance the briefs that police present before the court to prosecute the rotten individuals who peddle this rubbish to the community of New South Wales.
I was also concerned that the Commissioner of Police was said to have threatened the police Minister in the course of events surrounding the Angus Rigg matter. Two senior men went to the police committee and gave two completely different explanations of a conversation. They are so completely different that the only explanation is that one was telling the truth and one was not. No other explanation is possible. Mr Pickering's version was that Mr Lauer said he had a briefing that he could prove had been given to Mr Pickering on a previous occasion. Mr Pickering said that he refused to have anything to do with a cover-up of the issue. Mr Pickering then reported that Mr Lauer said, "You put shit on my department and I will put shit on you". That was Mr Pickering's version of the story. Mr Lauer's version of the story was that a gentle warning was given to the Minister for Police which went something along the lines, "If you tip buckets of mud on us beware lest some of it splash back at you", or words to that effect. I wonder who would believe that version of the story. I am not sure that anybody being confronted with those facts would seriously believe the version presented by the Commissioner of Police under oath to the Joint Select Committee on Police Administration.
There are serious reasons to question the level of accountability to this Parliament by senior level police. This should chill every member. Mr Steketee, in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday, said, "If members of Parliament were not concerned about these matters and not seriously disturbed by them, they were not doing their job". No level of political expediency should stop us from asking serious questions and ensuring their thorough investigation. I welcome the Government putting in place measures to ensure the issues are thoroughly investigated and that police, when they investigate complaints against themselves, will do so independently, particularly when the matters involved are extremely serious.
I commend the efforts of the Hon. E. P. Pickering in bringing the matter to the House responsibly and courageously, in the robust speech for which he is well known. I have been proud to support him, personally not publicly, during his efforts because I have shared his concerns. I have not been convinced of every part of his case but I have been convinced of a substantial part of it. I look forward to investigation of the matters, particularly those involving the commissioner and the Frenchs Forest matter, by the Independent Commission Against Corruption. Matters are outstanding on the issue. Although I believe that the commissioner's explanation that he had never heard of the Frenchs Forest affair until nine months after its occurrence and after report to senior members of the police is supported by the available evidence, its plausibility is questionable.
However, it is not plausible that a senior officer, an assistant commissioner of police, on almost a monthly basis over a period of four months received a brief containing serious matters and never once kept the brief or reported it to a senior officer with whom he had substantial contact. Questions remain to be resolved. I sincerely hope the ICAC is able to resolve them to the satisfaction of all members of the community and all members of this House. I commend the amended motion and sincerely look forward to seeing the New South Wales Police Service become better. The issue of accountability does not reflect on all serving police. Like all members of this House I am grateful for the efforts of the New South Wales police to protect our lives and our property. Every one of them should be commended for the effort made.
Undoubtedly, the New South Wales Police Service, particularly under the Greiner and Fahey administrations, has made remarkable progress in dealing with domestic violence and responding to complaints by women about sexual assault and similar matters. Police have been stringently and trenchantly criticised in that regard but should be commended for improving their act. The motion has nothing to do with criticising the spectacularly brilliant efforts of police. The motion is about ensuring that police are thoroughly accountable to this Parliament - without political interference - in the exercise of the awesome powers they are rightly given by the Parliament to carry out their tasks. Members need to act without fear or favour in ensuring that occurs. That has been my reason for expressing concern. I support the motion.
The Hon. ELAINE NILE [3.21]: The Call to Australia group does not wish to prolong this debate. However, we wish to put on record our position concerning the Hon. E. P. Pickering's motion - which we oppose, as we do not believe there is justification - relating to the Commissioner of Police, Mr Lauer; Mr Thorley and the New South Wales Police Service. It is not a time to be considering radical reform of the New South Wales Police Service when there is an atmosphere of allegation and counter-allegation, poisoned by a total breakdown in relationships between Mr Pickering whilst Minister for Police and Mr Lauer, the New South Wales Commissioner of Police. That has had an affect on society and a detrimental effect upon the Police Service itself. We support the Government's proposed amendments.
It is obvious that the Hon. E. P. Pickering is still hurting from his fall from grace and his removal from a position of power and influence in New South Wales politics. It is clear that his motions reflect a bitter desire for revenge and pay-back, as press reports have noted. It is also clear that certain persons are prepared to provide the Hon. E. P. Pickering with confidential information. Could they perhaps also have certain vested interests? It has even been suggested that certain corrupt and organised crime figures would be happy to set up Mr Lauer, and even Mr Griffiths, and have them removed from office and replaced by persons of their choosing, for more co-operation. No doubt this would not be the Hon. E. P. Pickering's intention, but that suggestion has been spreading throughout many areas and circles concerned with the police.
In the eyes of the public the Hon. E. P. Pickering's allegations and their heavy television coverage have done serious damage to the New South Wales Police Service in the eyes of the public. It was a serious injustice for television news to present his allegations and repeated charges made under parliamentary privilege, that Mr Lauer was a liar, with no hope of a rebuttal from the floor of this Chamber. Therefore, we cannot support the Hon. E. P. Pickering's original motion, but will support the amended motion of the Government. It should be noted that the glaring headlines and sensational television news coverage was based largely on allegations by a junior police officer facing charges, a man who is known to be a liar. Perhaps his lies were a diversion to draw attention from the real culprits. Perhaps, to make his story more convincing, his wound was even self-inflicted. We are not the only ones who believe this. The Call to Australia group especially supports this amendment.
Unproved allegations have been made in this House. The Call to Australia group supports this amendment to the motion of the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, especially paragraphs two and three. Paragraph two notes the principles and legitimate problems raised by the Hon. E. P. Pickering, M.L.C., relating to the role, responsibilities and relationships between the Minister for Police and Commissioner of Police and the accountability of the police Minister to Parliament and recommends that the justice subcommittee of Cabinet examine these issues. The paragraph notes, among other things, the establishment of a committee chaired by Mr Adrian Roden, Q.C., to examine the procedures and legislation currently in place in New South Wales to regulate the custody, analysis and destruction of illegal substances seized by law enforcement agencies.
The paragraph notes that the Government recognises the need to enhance the effectiveness of the police internal affairs unit and the integrity of the investigation process and that the justice subcommittee of Cabinet is to pursue a proposal to establish an independent police internal affairs unit under the control of the State Crime Commission. Paragraph five notes that the Government has referred the Frenchs Forest incident to the Independent Commission Against Corruption for appropriate consideration. Call to Australia supports the Government's amendment.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [3.25]: I support the Government's amendment. I wish to place on record my admiration for the Hon. E. P. Pickering and the persistence and determination with which he has pursued this matter, not for any personal benefit but for the benefit of all the citizens of New South Wales, so they can truly have confidence in and respect for the Police Service of this State. It has not been easy for him. He has been criticised. All kinds of allegations have been made against him, including an extraordinary statement made a few moments ago by the Hon. Elaine Nile, which I shall not waste the time of the House in rebutting. However, in another place about a week ago a similar statement was made by the current Minister for Police in his reply to debate in that Chamber.
The Government, at last, has made a very important and most courageous decision, implicit in the proposed amendment. Of more importance are the matters to be considered by Cabinet on reference to the Attorney General, as mentioned in his second reading speech, including, as part of paragraph five, that the State Crime Commission release to the Independent Commission Against Corruption the transcript of its inquiry into the Frenchs Forest incident. I, other committee members, and members of the public have seen the State Crime Commission report. A reading of that report makes it obvious that nothing the Hon. E. P. Pickering has ever said was merely an unsubstantiated allegation. That is implicit within the report of the State Crime Commission, after an investigation.
It cannot ever be suggested that this incident is merely a wild allegation that has no basis in fact. The Cabinet will undertake to review the penalties imposed on Assistant Commissioner Maroney and Chief Superintendent Myatt following the Attorney General's advice on powers in that regard. That is a most important consideration. The State Crime Commission report indicates what happened and how
those two officers behaved. It would appear they were counselled by the Commissioner of Police. On becoming aware of serious problems and serious misconduct within the force, they had disregarded their sworn duty under the Police Regulation (Allegations of Misconduct) Act to report that to both the Ombudsman and the Independent Commission Against Corruption. They did neither. They were senior officers, not junior officers who might not be fully aware of their real responsibility, so that they had a duty to ensure that assistant commissioners knew about the matters they had uncovered. They did not do so. They were counselled. They were not reduced in rank. They did not suffer any penalty except to be counselled. I do not think that it is proper for any officer, particularly one of that rank, to behave like that. They should receive what I believe - and what I am sure the public would believe - would be a more appropriate penalty.
In another place the Minister talked about the bipartisan acceptance of the committee's report and about people being unwilling to accept the umpire's verdict. The Minister very carefully refused to acknowledge that there was a dissenting report. That dissenting report was by myself and the honourable member for South Coast, for many of the reasons that I have outlined to the House tonight. The Minister also went on to say that a letter that had been brought to the attention of the Government by the Hon. E. P. Pickering from a person who was at one time with the National Crime Authority had been taken up by Government as soon as it had seen the letter. The Minister then castigated the writer, Mr Cusack, by saying that it is quite apparent that Mr Cusack had been caught in something of an embarrassing predicament. He has made claims that he has been unable to substantiate other than in the vaguest terms. Mr Griffiths tabled that letter in the other place. For the benefit of all honourable members I advise that Mr Cusack is a Queen's Counsel. He is a lawyer of stature and is very well aware of what he is doing. Mr Cusack made it crystal clear when he said:
(5) Notes that the Government has referred the Frenchs Forest incident to the Independent Commission Against Corruption for appropriate consideration.
Perfectly proper. He continued:
. . . through my position as a member of the N.C.A., I became aware of a number of corruption allegations re N.S.W. Police which was passed onto I.C.A.C.
The only reason that Mr Cusack could take no other course was because he was bound by an oath of official secrecy. That is a very different thing to what has been suggested by the Minister in another place, which is that Mr Cusack made claims that he was unable to substantiate. Mr Hatton and I were in exactly the same position about some of the in camera evidence given to us in committee. We could not make that public for two reasons: some of it was made in camera, and there is an implicit understanding that members of the community giving evidence before a parliamentary committee in camera know that their confidence will be respected; equally, there was material in the possession of the committee that constrained us under the secrecy provisions of the State Crime Commission Act. Later in his speech the Minister stated:
I would not have been able to give these to the Committee as I would be constrained by s.51 of the N.C.A. Act.
This has nothing to do with the integrity of that parliamentary committee, of which I was a member. It is simply that the committee members did not reach full agreement. Certain things concerned everyone but committee members were constrained by in camera evidence and the fact that we had to abide by the secrecy provisions of the State Crimes Commission Act. The Minister later said that there were major legislative changes to both the Police Service Act and the police complaints legislation, and that no opposition was expressed in the upper House. People may remember what was contained in the report - the unanimous decision of the committee - it was not a dissenting report by the honourable member for South Coast and me. The Minister requested that a committee to oversight the Police Service be established in exactly the same way that there is a parliamentary committee of oversight on the Ombudsman and a parliamentary committee of oversight on the ICAC. Hopefully, after the two inquiries that will now take place, one by Mr Roden and the other by ICAC, the Government itself will see that for the future it will be reasonable to have a standing committee of the Parliament to oversight the Police Service.
Later the Minister admitted - and this was about the only detrimental thing he said about his own service - that record keeping and attention to detail still need considerable consideration. That was well discussed by the committee in both their reports, and the Hon. J. F. Ryan referred to it a short time ago. It was quite remarkable when those committees were sitting to realise how difficult it was to get any documents at all, how information had been wiped from police computers, and how senior officers had lost their diaries and had no statements or records of meetings that had been held. It was quite obvious that record keeping was quite abysmal. The Minister later said:
Unless the Parliament wishes to accept the attacks on the integrity of its own committee . . .
I simply refer the honourable Minister to the State Crime Commission report into the Frenchs Forest affair. That can hardly be described as a shadowy spectre of corruption or an attempt to cast a pall of corruption. It is a report of the State Crime Commission. Surely, after they had done a full investigation using their powers of investigation and found that things were wrong, there was far more of a shadow. The Minister spoke also about the "dangers of blindly chasing the ghosts of the past and tilting at windmills. The target has moved; so must the attack". I do not know whether the Minister would have made that statement if he had read, before the speech was written, the revelations in the press about the paedophile racket concerning the police.
The target most certainly has now moved. I hope the investigation being put in train will make certain that anyone who had been involved in that trade against children - particularly if they happen to be members of the Police Service - will be revealed and that the proper legal and criminal procedures will follow. The Minister said that there have been a number of shameful episodes with the police betraying the trust of the community, even in the past year. The Minister said that these incidents have been exposed and the culprits pursued through the appropriate mechanisms of the ICAC and the criminal courts. That may be the case as far as one junior officer was concerned but I have absolutely no reason to believe that more senior officers involved in the Frenchs Forest affair have been pursued through the appropriate mechanisms of the ICAC and the criminal courts. In his statement the Minister also spoke about the new strategy now in place in the Police Service. The Minister referred all honourable members to the Police Service corruption prevention plan summary dated September 1993. I read this with some interest. It is, of course, like many of these plans, a list of pious hopes; it has goals.
The Hon. Dr. B. P. V. Pezzutti: It is a motherhood statement.
The Hon Elisabeth KIRKBY: Yes, it is a motherhood statement. There is a statement of value and of course no one would disagree with a statement of value. Everyone would accept that each member of the Police Service is to act in a manner which places integrity above all, upholds the rule of law, preserves the rights and freedoms of the individual, capitalises on the wealth of human resources, and assures that authority is exercised publicly. These are all wonderful statements, but how does one ensure that they are put into practice? However eloquent a statement of values may be, it will be absolutely without value unless the control and oversight of the service is strong and definite, and unless a true sense of discipline is exercised from the top. Later in his speech the Minister talked about tapes that were allegedly in the possession of a criminal and fell into the hands of the Australian Federal Police after a police raid.
The Minister tried to dismiss that and suggest that the tapes were of little import. He totally and absolutely disregarded the fact that a State intelligence document fell into the hands of this criminal. The public deserves to know how and why. It was a sensitive document, which showed the names of police officers who were investigating certain criminals and gave the code names of certain police operations. No one could claim that that document could have been manufactured by a criminal. The tape may certainly have been doctored by a criminal, but that could not have happened so far as that State intelligence document is concerned. The fact that such a sensitive document fell into the hands of a known criminal and was found in his possession after a raid by the Australian Federal Police leads me to ask again, how did that happen? The public deserves to know.
When dealing with the problems of the holding and security of drugs - matters in relation to which the Hon. E. P. Pickering worked for four years to put appropriate measures in place - the Minister talked about the seizure and storage of drugs. He talked about introducing new procedures, dual keys, security drug bags and so forth. However, it is even more important to ensure - and this was discussed at length by the committee - that all drugs seized are secured, rather than just, possibly, a proportion of them. The public needs to feel confident that all the drugs seized go into these specially provided drug bags and that some have not been siphoned off and a lesser quantity then declared as the amount seized.
I cannot see how there is any possibility of total security and of introducing new procedures and dual-keyed drug safes if both keys to the drug safe are living in the same drawer, so that any officer who goes to the draw to obtain one key finds both keys. Two keys are then in his possession and he is able to get into the safe without any further difficulty. That is what happened at Frenchs Forest. It was a dual-keyed safe, but for some reason that has never been explained both keys were kept in the same drawer. As I said a few moments ago, drug bags will be of absolutely no value unless the public can feel confident that all the drugs seized will be placed in such bags.
With regard to the documents tabled by the Minister in another place, which are available to all members of Parliament, I refer to one entitled "Schedule of Responses to Crime Commission Recommendations". The document refers to a recommendation that more emphasis should be given to the obligation to report by way of explicit commissioner's instructions under the Police Regulation (Allegations of Misconduct) Act. The response is, "Work has commenced on a new commissioner's instruction to draw together all elements of policy, practice and procedure affecting police misconduct". But the PRAM Act clearly states what action should be taken, so any officer who has had the PRAM Act brought to his attention does not need a new set of commissioner's instructions. It is implicit in the Act.
Later in the State Crime Commission's report reference is made to the suggestion that a caller had telephoned the Government and alleged that the commissioner had been fully briefed on the drug-related allegations in the first weeks following the shooting of former Constable Bourke on 22nd June, 1991. The Crime Commission immediately interrogated the officers named in the former Minister's note about the substance of the allegations. That was done without the knowledge of the commissioner. I find it strange that when this matter was the subject of comment in the press, the Minister himself said that there was absolutely no truth in these allegations and that the State Crime Commission had interviewed two senior sergeants and accepted their sworn evidence.
That is extremely strange, because the report of the State Crime Commission contains a chronology, which was repeated in the report made by the committee to the Parliament. That chronology lists
the dates on which the officers in the Police Service knew of the allegations. That list goes up to assistant commissioner level and extends over a period of weeks. Yet the only people who have been interviewed and have given sworn evidence are the two most junior officers. That demonstrates to me that at that time there should have been a much more thorough investigation into the other officers who, by their own report, were known to have had the information about the events at Frenchs Forest passed on to them. Later in his speech the Minister said:
It is necessary for me to address this as the shadowy spectre of corruption has been darkly hinted at recently, both inside and outside this place. The attempt to cast the pall of corruption over every aspect of this matter cannot be sustained.
However, that was only after some weeks had elapsed. The situation reports are referred to on page 68 of the document from Assistant Commissioner Cole. He talks about compliance with the PRAM Act. As he knew about compliance with the PRAM Act, why were these allegations not reported to senior officers, as the PRAM Act demands? The passage to which I have referred is a selective quote by Minister Griffiths, and I cannot understand why. Honourable members ought to take the trouble to read other parts of this document, because I am quite certain that it was as a result of reading it that the Government decided that the amended motion before the House was the only solution to the problems that were raised. Paragraphs 8.5, 8.5.1 to 8.5.3, 8.5.4 and 8.5.5 on page 4 show clearly how the information was being passed along the chain of command but still stopped short of the commissioner. In his speech the Minister referred to Assistant Commissioner Cole and, explaining why Assistant Commissioner Cole had never been called upon to give evidence to the parliamentary select committee, the State Crime Commission or the Independent Commission Against Corruption, said:
These allegations were recorded in an official report. Their source is yet another former officer. Both the Crime Commission and the ICAC have found the allegations to be devoid of credit. These allegations, no matter how fanciful or unreliable on their face, have been notified to the Ombudsman as required by law.
In my view that is not the fact. I am quite unaware why the ICAC and the State Crime Commission did not, earlier this year, call Assistant Commissioner Cole; and why they did not ask for a further doctor's certificate and further independent medical advice. The committee discussed at length whether a new medical assessment was needed in October 1993, because that was six months after the original letters came from the two psychiatrists who had been examining Assistant Commissioner Cole, and he had been on sick leave and receiving treatment. It seemed, both to Mr Hatton and myself - and there was considerable discussion about this in the committee - that after six months' treatment, when he had had the opportunity of being on sick leave, it was quite possible that Assistant Commissioner Cole might be well enough to give evidence before the committee.
However, that was not finally agreed to and the committee did not, as it had a right to do, request that a further medical certificate be obtained to make quite certain that, regrettable as it might be, Assistant Commissioner Cole was still ill and unable to appear before the committee. I assume that this matter will be looked at more closely when the new inquiry is set up and Mr Adrian Roden and the ICAC look at this matter again on reference from the Government. A document was signed by Assistant Commissioner Cole in his capacity as Commander of Professional Responsibility, just before he was taken ill. The letter, which is signed by him and dated 1st March, 1993, is a report to a higher authority, and says:
The fact is, of course, that each of those bodies decided, in the face of considerable independent medical advice, not to do so at this time. The umpire's verdict is in.
I believe the question that should be asked of Assistant Commissioner Cole is, if he believed that he should have ensured that the reporting to police internal affairs had taken place, why did he not so inform himself? Why did he not make certain that that was done? The final matter I raise deals with problems adverted to by the Minister in another place in light of the action taken by the Police Board. The Minister talked about having discussions with the Chairman of the Police Board, Mr Thorley. The Minister spoke of discussions between Mr Thorley and the previous Minister - who was, of course, the Hon. E. P. Pickering. Apparently, Mr Thorley was of the opinion that the Police Board had a primary obligation to be very protective of the integrity of the Police Service, but it also had the responsibility to be fair to officers who are often subject to smear and innuendo. In Mr Thorley's opinion, the board cannot surrender its statutory obligations by simply adopting the opinions of others or relying on the opinions of other agencies, without examining carefully the basis of those opinions.
I quite agree. Obviously, the board has the responsibility of making certain that it is protective of the integrity of the Police Service; but, quite frankly, I do not see how the Police Board is in the position of investigating the actions of officers who may have been the subject of smear and innuendo. How would the Police Board ever be able to investigate any such allegation? It has no investigative powers. Where is its investigative staff? How is it going to challenge what may be totally false allegations about serving officers unless it has the investigative capacity? It certainly did not, and still does not, have that investigative capacity. I believe that this is one of the most important things honourable members will see in the future, and I congratulate the Government - if it is now true that it has recognised the need to enhance the effectiveness of the police internal affairs unit and the integrity of the internal investigation process, and therefore, the justice subcommittee of Cabinet will now consider whether to establish an independent police internal affairs unit under the control of the State Crime Commission.
I believe that if that occurs, in future it will be possible for any such, possibly unfounded, allegations to be referred to a body that has investigative powers
and the proper authority and ability to investigate such complaints as may occur; and would also be able to satisfy the Minister of the day, the Cabinet, the Government of the day, as well as the public of New South Wales, that there was the ability to have an independent investigation of any allegations - however well or badly founded - about members of the force. With those remarks I again congratulate the Government on the action it has taken to work on these very substantial amendments to the motion of the Hon. E. P. Pickering. I hope that it will now be realised by the New South Wales public and voters in this State that the Hon. E. P. Pickering at all times was acting in their best interests, and was determined - however many obstacles he met; however often his actions and words were being disregarded - that he had a duty to pursue matters further.
I believe that the outcome is the best that could possibly have been achieved and I trust that the inquiry by Mr Roden will take place expeditiously, and that a further inquiry into the Frenchs Forest matter and the officers involved in that episode will be concluded by the Independent Commission Against Corruption as expeditiously as possible so that this matter may be laid to rest. In conclusion, I want to say, as Mr Hatton and I said previously, that we do not believe and have never believed that the whole of the New South Wales Police Service is corrupt. We know that it is not. I join with the Hon. J. F. Ryan in what he said about the many dedicated, hard working officers and the work they do, particularly with domestic violence and expeditiously clearing up crime; and a whole variety of other things including the introduction of community policing. But the obviously serious shortcomings in administration and the continuing number of cases where officers have behaved in a less than honourable manner have to be laid to rest once and for all, for the benefit of those decent, honest, hard working officers in the force who may be tarred with the brush of the less honest officers who need weeding out so that the Police Service can become the best in Australia, if not in the world.
The PRESIDENT: Order! Pursuant to sessional orders, business is interrupted for the taking of questions.
My failure to do so was not deliberate but was in the belief that one or both areas would have done so. I say this in consideration of the fact I was in receipt of a copy of a briefing, the original of which had flowed through the Command line. However, I should have ensured the reporting to Internal Affairs had taken place.