Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
The Hon. ROBYN PARKER [2.47 p.m.]: The Coalition and the community are not the only ones hugely concerned about the number of police in the Lower Hunter command, which covers the areas of Maitland and Port Stephens. The Police Association has raised similar concerns. Members of the association have been writing to their local members to get a response and they have been active in the newspapers because they are extremely frustrated with the lack of support from the Government and the lack of attention they are receiving from their local members—the honourable member for Maitland and the honourable member for Port Stephens.
It should be noted that the Lower Hunter command consistently rates in the top three of the 80 local area commands that deal with the five major crime categories. Policing numbers are so poor that general duties police are being directed only to "priority one" and "priority two" jobs, which are the really urgent jobs. The other jobs are placed in a queue, and we all hear about people waiting for hours to get a response from the police. This also means that police cannot be proactive in preventing crime; they can only respond to crime, and even then only to urgent crime. Why is that? Because there are insufficient police numbers, and general duties police have to make up for the gaps in those two electorates.
The populations of the Maitland and Port Stephens electorates are increasing, and one would think there would be an increase in the number of police in the local area command to meet the increased need. But that is not a priority for the Government. The Coalition, along with the Police Association, will continue to expose the Government's lack of responsibility regarding police numbers. In the past few years the Government responded to the lack of police numbers only when there was an issue of great significance, such as the Macquarie Fields riots or the Redfern riots. They seem to be the only things that focus the Government on policing issues. Of course, other areas then miss out on the attention they need. It makes people wonder whether a major riot is needed before the Government pays attention to policing resources. Police in Port Stephens are working in appalling conditions. The Port Stephens Examiner of 23 March stated:
Police branch spokesman Colin McCarthy said officers at Raymond Terrace are working in a "brothel"—
he did not mean an actual brothel; he meant poor conditions—
while car crews were stretched to the limit responding to calls for assistance from as far away as Clarence Town and Tea Gardens.
The Police Association said it had written to the local member, Mr Bartlett, on many occasions but he had dismissed the association's concerns when he met with its representatives and there was a lack of concern overall from the Government. Mr McCarthy went on to say that in his view—and I assume in the view of the association—there is a need for another car crew to operate in Port Stephens. At night only two cars operate. In the view of Mr McCarthy that would require an extra 12 officers.
The Raymond Terrace police station is disgraceful. I have been to look at it a couple of times. Police have to work with filing boxes stacked up around them. It is an occupational health and safety nightmare. Conditions are very cramped. Alleged perpetrators walk past witnesses and victims in the hallways. Indeed, staff have to change in hallways to which the public has access. We support the comments by the Police Association in regard to the lack of attention by local members. I repeat that the Government ought to focus on increasing police numbers in these two electorates. The Liberal-Nationals Coalition will deliver a result for these electorates. The voters of Port Stephens know this and will show it at the ballot box in March 2007. There will be no need for a public disturbance. The people of Port Stephens have already made up their mind. They know they will not get an increase in police numbers from the Carr-Iemma Government; it will take a change of government. We will respond to the needs of the people in the area.
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE [2.56 p.m.]: The Leader of the Opposition, the mover of the motion, is very knowledgeable on police matters as he is a former experienced police officer. It is obviously important that there be sufficient police to carry out the appropriate duties. Emphasis should be on police being able to carry out their duties. Doubling the number of police will not achieve anything if obstacles prevent the police from carrying out their duties.
Whenever we debate issues concerning the New South Wales police force it should be clear that we are not criticising individual police officers carrying out their duties. We very much appreciate the faithfulness and loyalty of the 15,000 or so police officers in New South Wales who serve and protect the people of this State. Opposition members may legitimately criticise government policies but this can give the impression that there is criticism of individual police officers, and that cannot be justified. People should be clear about where the problems lie. In many cases they lie with the government of the day—at present we have a Labor government—and its legislation and policies. Police officers have to obey and enforce the laws enacted by the Government.
We need to do all we can to restore the powers of the police. I believe we should restore the name New South Wales Police Force to indicate that police officers of this State do have muscle and are supported by the Government in carrying out their duties on behalf of the community. In no way is that meant to intimidate law-abiding citizens, who respect the police in the main; but it is meant to put the fear of God into criminals who are intent on breaking the law. The impression we get now is that those involved with crime treat the police with disrespect. They laugh at them, give them the finger, use four-letter words to describe police carrying out their duties, and even physically attack police. In some cases police have been murdered.
Let us ensure that we have an appropriate number of police. The Government must decide how many police to have within its overall budget strategy. The same applies to fire officers and ambulance officers. We will soon be debating the budget after it is presented by the Treasurer. When there is a call for 3,000 more police officers from the NSW Police Association, serious consideration should be given to how much that will cost and where the funding will come from to meet that need. I am not questioning the need to increase the numbers, but the Government—irrespective of whether it is a Labor Government or a Coalition Government—will have to work out how it can pay for them. Governments have many other budget demands to consider, such as hospitals, education and so on.
I am very concerned about the attitude of some sections of the community towards the police, particularly when charges are laid against citizens who have been engaged in offensive actions against a police officer or police officers. When the cases go before the court, usually before magistrates, in many cases not only are the charges dismissed but costs are awarded against the police, so NSW Police must pay for the court case. On occasion it is even required to pay damages or compensation to the person who made the complaint. That is often not justified and the charges laid by the police should have been upheld and a verdict handed down in their favour.
We all know that one of the main culprits in this area is Magistrate Pat O'Shane, who seems to have a strong negative attitude towards the police and is usually consistent in rejecting police charges brought before her. I wish they did not come before her because when they do she seems to automatically dismiss them and to turn the case into an attack on the police officers and their credibility. She dismisses the charges and often awards costs against the police. That is not only my personal opinion: in recent days strong criticisms have been voiced in appeals that have been lodged against her decisions by other magistrates or judges. That could be a strong case for the Government to consider whether she should be relieved of her responsibilities. They may be too heavy at this time given the reports that her health is not the best. Perhaps she should be encouraged to retire so that other magistrates can handle these cases.
It is also important for the Government to continue to review the powers of NSW Police, particularly under the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act, to ensure that the police have sufficient powers. Because I have been in this place for 25 years I remember the debate we had in the days when Mr Walker was the Attorney General and he repealed the Summary Offences Act and made other changes. There was a tendency in those actions deliberately to downgrade police powers, and I do not believe it was accidental. It was a Government policy, but I do not know whether the entire Government at the time endorsed and understood it. I know that Mr Walker came from the libertarian side of the debate about politics and values. I remember the debate that occurred when he set up a summit involving about 600 people to justify his very serious amendments to the law to decriminalise street prostitution, vagrancy, drunkenness, and even drug offences. In a philosophical fashion, he referred to them as "victimless crimes", and said that, as such, there should be no laws against them. Overnight he removed the police power to deal with petty crime or street crime. There are some areas in which that type of crime must be controlled or it will escalate the breakdown of law and order in our society. I blame Mr Walker for the impact of those amendments.
It is also important that police officers have the power to act against people carrying knives and, in particular, pistols. We had many problems with people using knives in robberies and attacking people, but knives now seem to have been replaced by pistols, and criminals seem to have easy access to them. Security premises have been broken into and 30-odd modern Glock pistols—the same as those issued to police officers—have been stolen, and individual security officers have been robbed. That is one obvious source of these weapons, but apparently they are also being smuggled into Australia and are readily available on the black market.
Only this week we witnessed the climax of the shooting of a bikie gang leader. According to a media report, in an attempt to apprehend the person suspected of committing the murder, police conducted a raid on the premises of a bikie gang. The raid was designed to prevent a continuation of the war between the Hell's Angels and Nomad gangs and other gangs involved in this warfare. Apparently at one house the police seized a total of 12 illegally-held guns, a bullet-proof vest, two assault rifles and a Chinese-made SKS with a shortened stock. They also found 10 pistols, including two Barrettas, a nine-millimetre Luger, two Glocks, a nine-millimetre Browning, two Smith and Wesson handguns, a Colt and another handgun. I am concerned that the police took action because of the fear of a bikie shootout.
Why were these premises not raided as a matter of course by the police? Why were they not being searched, given that there was clear evidence that guns were being stored by gang members? In other words, the police should keep the pressure on gang members so that they are afraid to leave their homes with a gun. One gang member was charged with 39 weapons offences. These police operations are reactive. I want proactive operations to prevent these guns being used by criminals. Pressure should be applied to potential criminals. In fact, I am happy to suggest that they should even be harassed by the police; that is, rather than waiting for a shootout, police should constantly search them or their homes so that these guns are taken off the street. It is very important to encourage the police and to change the law so that police officers feel confident in being proactive.
The police officers I talk to appear to feel that if they initiate action and questions are asked, they will be criticised; they will be questioned about why they did something rather than praised for being proactive. The police say that the safest thing for them to do is to wait for something to happen—a shooting, a bashing or some other crime—and then investigate it and hopefully apprehend the perpetrator. Before all these changes were made by former Attorney General Walker to deal with victimless crimes, the police were proactive. The civil libertarians did not appreciate that and criticism was levelled at the specialised police units that had responsibility for the city area and so on and they were accused of brutality.
I do not believe that was justified. But certainly they were physically strong police officers selected for that role and they kept the gangs under control; the gangs were frightened of the police. They are no longer frightened of them; there has been a complete change. I believe we have to restore that. I do not suggest that decent citizens should be frightened of police, but it is important that criminals and those considering criminal activity fear police and therefore are deterred from going out with a gun or knife in their pocket.
We need to strengthen those police powers, especially with regard to offensive language and conduct. We also need to look at the number of warnings given to young offenders. Perhaps it is time to reduce unlimited warnings for young offenders to one caution. Unlimited warnings cause police to give up taking further action because the offender simply repeats his or her offensive behaviour. Police have told me that in some cases they have charged a person, say for a drug offence, and by the time the police get back to the station the person is on the street again selling drugs. The police think, "What's the point? We charge them, we arrest them, they go in, and they are back out again. It's just a merry-go-round." It is another way of demoralising police officers. It is important not only to have sufficient police numbers but to give police officers the ability to carry out their duties.
I have raised in this House questions about whether the 12-hour shift that police now work has helped them to carry out their duties. Some people argue that it gives them more time at home. But the primary question the Government has to ask is: What is the most efficient method of achieving the aim of police carrying out their duties? If at the end of a 12-hour shift police officers are not functioning efficiently because they are tired and they are not concentrating well, they have a tendency to make errors in completing paperwork and getting search warrants prepared. As a result, clever lawyers see these errors and get their clients' cases thrown out. I do not suggest that the 12-hour shift is the reason for all those mistakes, but I believe it is a factor if police are not sharp enough in carrying out their duties.
When the Leader of the Opposition moved this motion on 7 June 2005 he quoted figures compiled as at 30 April 2005. I do not question those figures—obviously they are accurate—but I believe we should look at the current figures. I was encouraged by the figures, which have been supplied to me by NSW Police. They show that the police establishment for field operations is 12,420 and that currently the police strength in that area is 12,516, which is above the establishment. The establishment for specialist operations is 1,463 and currently the police strength in that category is 1,448, which indicates a very small number of vacancies in that area. The establishment for the other non-region commands is 573 and the current police strength is 615, which is above the establishment. The establishment for total strength of the New South Wales Police Service at present is 14,456, and the actual police strength is 14,575. In other words, the total police strength is almost 100 above the establishment.
The position outlined by the Leader of the Opposition when moving the motion was correct at that time. I assume that his moving the motion has helped to concentrate the Government's mind on ensuring that the establishment figures are now being met, as reflected by the numbers of police who are now serving the people of this State. I note that the New South Wales Police Association still asks for an additional 3,000 police officers. I do not question that because obviously the association has a lot of background knowledge to make such a recommendation. However, as I said, the Government must take into account its overall budget and its priorities in many important areas. I certainly support the Police Service being one of the top priority areas for the Government, so we can all live in a society that ensures peace and safety for all citizens, particularly families, women and children so they can live their lives in a satisfying way.
The Hon. MELINDA PAVEY [3.15 p.m.]: I support the motion moved by the shadow Minister for Police and the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council, the Hon. Michael Gallacher. It certainly is of concern to the people of New South Wales that police numbers have fallen in 85 of the area commands around New South Wales. It is ironic that the time frame we are using to show the reduction in police strength in those area commands is 2003. As the people New South Wales are aware, they had to go to the polling booths in March 2003, and they elected a Labor Government to continue the premiership of Bob Carr.
Bob Carr ran really hard on law and order in the election campaign. As can be seen from the statistics and data compiled by the Leader of the Opposition, it was just a front, it was just spin, it was just a stunt on the part of the Government to pretend that it had increased police strength. We can now see from the figures the end result of the Government's poor management. In 2003 the Government engaged in spin to create a situation where people felt that their areas were being well policed. Record police numbers was the Government's mantra. Three years later, 85 police command areas have had their police strength dramatically reduced. It is one of the significant telling points of the incompetence and spin of Bob Carr.
But the Bob Carr era continues. Now Morris Iemma plays the same spin and the same game as the former Premier, Bob Carr. I agree with my colleague the Hon. Jennifer Gardiner, who has often said that the Carr-Iemma era must end. The figures we have before us are evidence of why that era must end. Police strength in my duty electorates of Monaro and Port Macquarie has decreased significantly, and I will refer to the figures shortly. The motion also points out that because of incompetence at the very top, from the Ministers we have had in the police portfolio over a relatively short number of years, we have had upgrading bungles with respect to the capital works program for the police department. During 2004-05, for example, police underspent $18.77 million on their budget for the police station upgrading replacement program. That fact is galling, particularly for my home town of Coffs Harbour. Coffs Harbour police station is nothing more than a rabbit warren. The Coffs Harbour police do an amazing job trying to perform their duties in cramped conditions and under very difficult circumstances. Probably the most frustrating thing for the local police is that many of them are located in different buildings outside of the station area itself.
Parkes, in the seat of Dubbo, is another area that the Government has neglected. It is clear that Parkes police station also is in urgent need of an upgrade. Moree is number 21 of the 27 priority police stations that have a refurbishment or replacement program on the books, but it has failed to receive any funding. In 2005-06 Tenterfield police station was included in the list of priority police stations for the replacement program. But in 2004-05, somehow—with the Minister at the helm—the Government was unable to spend $18.77 million in that upgrading program, even though there were many police stations right throughout regional and metropolitan New South Wales calling out for that money.
The crime statistics we are faced with at the moment reflect the fact that police strength is down. In 2003 the 85 local area commands had a total of 13,434 operational police and now they are 1,000 or so below that number. As at April 2005, the total number of operational police was 12,774. The statistics are travelling in the wrong direction. In the past 11 years, for example, assaults are up 82.6 per cent, sexual assaults are up 88.5 per cent, indecent assaults, acts of indecency or other sexual offences are up 32.6 per cent, offences of robbery without a weapon are up 13.9 per cent, and offences of robbery with a weapon not a firearm are up 82.4 per cent. I am speaking of numbers, but behind those statistics is a lot of pain, a lot of difficulty and a lot of suffering for the victims of those crimes. The Government stands condemned for failing to keep police operational strength to a level that it committed to in the 2003 State election.
As at December last year, Monaro had lost five officers. In the same period New South Wales had lost 674 officers out of 1,078 front-line police officers, meaning fewer officers patrolling the streets. The figures are getting worse. Between December 2005 and March this year a further five police have left the Monaro command. At its peak in 2003, operational strength was 144 police; it is now down to 134—10 fewer police doing work in the Monaro electorate. I have spoken to many people throughout the community and they are concerned. People in the Jindabyne area are particularly concerned. As many members would know, Jindabyne has an incredible influx of people during the winter season and there were some real issues this past winter concerning policing resources and police management. At night graffiti offences increased and there were increased problems in the streets late at night.
The local community have been very sensible about their approach to this and held a public meeting on the issue late last year. But they have not been, for want of a better expression, too hysterical about it because they understand that Jindabyne is still a relatively safe place and a good place to be during the winter months. They are working diligently behind the scenes with the local, on-the-ground police and police officials to try to rectify the situation for this winter to ensure that some of the problems that occurred last year do not occur again. There is not a full-time police allocation to Jindabyne and most officers come from Cooma, but there is a full-time resourcing issue there during the winter period. Let us hope that this winter the good locals on the ground raise this issue. The issue has been raised with me by The Nationals candidate in Monaro, David Madew. He is also incredibly concerned at the loss of 10 officers in the electorate in 2003. He will be working with the local community to raise those concerns and rectify the situation.
My other duty electorate, Port Macquarie, is serviced by the mid North Coast local area command. That area has had a reduction in operational strength going from 172 in 2003 down to 169. This region of New South Wales—which encompasses the towns of Kempsey, Wauchope and Port Macquarie—has some very considerable policing issues and there should be an increase in policing there, not a decrease. The Government stands condemned for allowing that to happen.
It is a shame that we have to put a motion like this before the House, but I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Minister for Police on doing so and on allowing us, as duty members of the Legislative Council, to put on the record problems faced by constituents in our key seats—our duty electorates—that need to be addressed, because, quite simply, the people elected in the Legislative Assembly to do that on their behalf are failing miserably.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN [3.27 p.m.]: I support the motion by the Leader of the Opposition. I looked at the police numbers for south-western Sydney and there is a decrease of 279 police from the peak number in 2003. It is ironic because this area encompasses Lakemba and Cabramatta where there have been major policing issues over recent years. In fact, the gangs in that area are so strong now that they intimidate the police. This is of real concern. We saw this happen in the Cronulla riots where the police simply were not game to go in there. I support Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile's comment that we are not talking about the police per se. The police are only as good as the political support and the political will they have to solve crime, but because of the lack of political support and because of the regulations and the system the police have to operate under, they are seriously intimidated when going into these areas.
However, I find it ironic that the other day the Deputy Leader of the Opposition told the House about a 70-year-old widow who lives alone on a property in the Western Division and how a couple of the native vegetation Gestapo thought they should turn up and inspect her property. They were obviously so concerned about this 70-year-old widow—who has never had any criminal record, not even a parking fine, in her life—that they turned up at her property, supported by three or four police cars. But if you are in trouble in south-western Sydney you cannot get police assistance because they are not game to go there.
This is typical of the Government's priority on policing. The Government is not fair dinkum. Police numbers have fallen dramatically across the State, and of particular concern is the decrease of 279 in south-western Sydney. Camden and Goulburn are down 15 police, Campbelltown is down 16, and Green Valley is down 5. Even Macquarie Fields, where all the difficulties have occurred, has suffered a loss; it is down 14.
The Hon. Greg Pearce: That would be the Mark Latham squad.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN: Yes. If it took three or four police cars to go to the property of a 70-year-old widow, it would need the entire force of south-western Sydney to visit Mark because he does have form.
Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile: And they don't take cameras.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN: That is right, they don't take cameras. I do not really come from a political background but I pride myself on my great political vision back in the early 1990s when I ran against Mark Latham. The Hon. Peter Primrose would remember that campaign.
The Hon. Duncan Gay: The Hon. Peter Primrose probably voted for you!
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN: Indeed. It was the first time in Werriwa that a Liberal was actually getting ahead in the polls. But I had vision. I knew that Mark Latham would be better for the Liberal Party in the longer term, so I took a dive and allowed Latham to get in! And it is a matter of record what has happened since.
The Hon. Duncan Gay: Charlie Lynn saved the day!
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN: Yes. And if John Howard had the time he would ring me more often than he does. But he knows what happened, and I am sure this event will be reflected in his memoirs. A lack of numbers is not the only issue with policing. It is also about the quality of the recruits. At the moment we have a very inexperienced police force. All the seasoned veterans, the old blokes who operated with gut instinct and experience, have left, and we are left with a very young and inexperienced police force. Obviously, the Government will do the old smoke and mirrors trick to boost numbers in the lead-up to next year's election. Sure, there will be a lot more people in uniform but they will not have the necessary experience.
To produce a quality police force we must provide quality training. Police must be given long-term career prospects in their chosen profession. People become police officers because they want to make a contribution to the safety of their community and provide a service. When they take the pledge they go about their duties, but if they are not given even adequate political support, leadership or will, they become disillusioned and morale suffers. A decrease in morale can result in an increase in sick leave. People who are motivated do not generally get sick or require time off on stress leave. Many police with genuine compensation claims feel betrayed by a government and police hierarchy intent on preventing police from receiving just compensation. Their fellow police officers are aware of this also and ask themselves why they should continue to put their lives at risk if support is not there when they need it. So they play the game.
As politicians we have a duty to ensure that police have the necessary community, political and judicial support. Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile referred to magistrate Pat O'Shane. Police do the right thing, investigate a matter, arrest an offender, do the required paperwork, and bring the offender before the court, only to be ridiculed by a magistrate and have their matters thrown out of court. This has a collective negative impact on the morale of police. It is not just about police numbers; it is also about the perception of policing and the role of police. To reassure our citizens about safety in their communities we need high police visibility. We do not see police on the streets any longer in our communities.
The Hon. Henry Tsang: You see them on their bikes.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN: Do you? You must travel in different places to me. Police now have to comply with so many rules and regulations that all their time is spent in the office confronted with red tape. They need support to assist with that. We have clayton's stations. I instance the Warragamba station, which has a "Police" sign out the front but there is no-one there to answer any knocks at the door—and the community and the crooks know it! The people of Silverdale and the surrounding areas are vulnerable. Ram-raids are conducted on businesses in the area because the offenders know that by the time the offence is reported—with calls being transferred from one station to another—and the police respond, they can have the stolen goods sold and celebrate yet another victory against society. There is no deterrent, and they know that even if they are caught they have a good chance of getting off.
I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on moving the motion, which will expose the Government's smoke and mirrors. Hopefully, the Government will do something to provide more experienced police on the beat and review policing laws to enable police to do the job of a police force and not just a police service. After the next election the Liberal-Nationals Coalition will provide a safe environment for the people of New South Wales.
The Hon. Dr ARTHUR CHESTERFIELD-EVANS [3.37 p.m.]: I am concerned that members of this House always look at issues in such an incredibly simplistic way. In health we look at what the intensive care units are doing. With social policy we look at what the police are doing. We always consider the most acute end, when really all it amounts to is efficiency of resources.
The Hon. Duncan Gay: What they need is an intellectual, Ace, to save them.
The Hon. Dr ARTHUR CHESTERFIELD-EVANS: Thank you, Duncan—as opposed to a lunkhead to not fix them. The universal point is that prevention is better than cure. If something is prevented it never happens, and therefore there is never any pressure for prevention. It requires people to analyse a situation and decide where to spend the money.
It may be true that police numbers are down. But it is also true that prison populations have increased and, according to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, crime rates have fallen. Those who study crime say that the crime rates relate very much to the indices of poverty, social equity, school truancy and illiteracy. Tony Vinson stated that with respect to crime prevention, one should consider social indices, such as factors leading to crime, and address them. He emphasised that this was the cheapest way to prevent crime.
If we want the best society in terms of a safe and stable place to live for minimum taxes paid, we must look at the opportunity costs of the professions on which we spend money. Will we provide better education so that there is less illiteracy and school truancy, and therefore alienate fewer youths? Will we ensure that the drug problems of mothers are well treated so that their kids have a decent chance? We must remember that people are required to do such tasks, and their resources come out of the same bucket of money that funds police resources.
An interesting observation of the Macquarie Fields inquiry was that kids in that area do not believe they will ever get a drivers licence because they will never be able to read with sufficient skill to enable them to learn the rules. They have learnt to drive in a practical context; and they consider, somewhat fatalistically, that driving without a licence and being caught doing so is an occupational hazard. The hazard of them going to gaol, to the universities of crime, and then graduating to a life of crime is extremely great. The members of the committee that conducted that inquiry saw how vulnerable were these kids who come from disturbed backgrounds, who play truant from school and cannot read and write and who are now falling into a life of crime through this mechanism.
Earlier I was reading the Auditor-General's report on the State Debt Recovery Office's improved apprehension of, and money recovery from, train fare evaders. The point was made by the people from Mission Australia who were looking after the people of Macquarie Fields that those who do not have jobs do not have sufficient money. If they have to travel a long distance for a job interview, they will jump on a train without paying, and will get fined large sums of money as a result. Even if Mission Australia finds them a job, the State Debt Recovery Office will say, "No, you can't have a licence for your job until you've paid off your fines." Some of these people have fines totalling hundreds of dollars. The State Debt Recovery Office will then say, "If you do six lots of Centrelink payments to the maximum for your fines, after six weeks and an agreement to pay more you can have a licence. Then when you get a job you can continue to pay off this huge backlog of fines." Of course, that is difficult to do. Many people have jumped on trains on a number of occasions without paying and they owe huge amounts of money. Now Mission Australia intercedes so that they can get a licence, which means they can get a job and rebuild their lives.
So what starts as a simple proposition of catching more fare evaders—and indeed, the object of an Auditor-General's report in 2000 and a follow-up report released on 26 April this year was to improve money recovery from train fare defaulters—becomes a social welfare problem. If these people cannot get a drivers licence because they have defaulted on fine payments, and if they are arrested for driving without a licence and are sent to gaol, we will pay much more in terms of human misery and the provision of additional resources than we would have lost in train fares. We must keep a balance on this. Of course, travelling on our trains without a ticket is an offence.
Essentially, my point is that police shortages alone are not the cause of crime. My argument is that more police means more arrests, more court work, more prisons, more education in crime and more alienated people, and that may not necessarily be a great step forward. However, no-one wants their house broken into and no-one wants to be mugged by someone attempting to get money. One would like the police to be stronger than the gangs, be they motorcycle or ethnic gangs. I am of the view that ethnically based gangs of young men are a response to a feeling of alienation, as sociologists might tell us. Better integration of racial groups into mainstream Australian society, which might result from adult education or an integration project—at the moment attention seems to be on the most recent arrivals, Muslims—would reduce the large pool of youth who are conscious of their physical strength and alienation. I suppose physical strength and alienation are elements that make it more likely for people to form fairly destructive gangs and challenge the police.
In a sense, I am asking for an improved social policy rather than more police. Police have said that they spend a great deal of time transporting mentally ill people after apprehending them for committing offences to survive. When mentally ill people become dysfunctional, they are unable to pay their rent, they get evicted from their properties and they become homeless. They cannot fulfil John Howard's mutual responsibilities in terms of applying for a job in order to get welfare benefits, and if they cannot get welfare benefits they either go to soup kitchens or steal food. If they steal food, they are arrested and sent to prison. We spend much more money on housing the mentally ill in prisons—$60,000 a year—than it would cost to subsidise some sort of systematic boarding house accommodation arrangement and to subsidise carers to assist the mentally ill with their medications. We have a serious mis-allocation of resources.
The police have put it to me that they have too many jobs to do—and I mean by that all police, not just those who deal with welfare-dependent people. They have perhaps six or eight jobs to do per shift, and only some of the jobs—for example, house break-ins and car accidents—are allocated during a shift. Of course, if a job is not done properly or detectives are not available, they cannot get sufficient evidence for a conviction, and that is unsatisfactory from their viewpoint. If someone is burgled, the police want the burglar arrested and locked up to ensure he does not reoffend. It is important that burglars know that they cannot continue to get away with breaking into houses. Certainly, police have argued to me that an injection of resources would result in fewer jobs being allocated to each officer, and that in turn would result in more burglars being caught. There would be fewer burglars getting away with breaking into houses, and thus a pattern of behaviour would develop; the crime cycle would be broken.
Under police protocols, when someone is being charged with, for example, four offences, before each charge is read the police must caution the person by saying, "Anything you say will be taken down and used in evidence against you", and that is recorded. If it is not recorded correctly in the record of interview, the charges cannot proceed. The police say that in such a situation the charge procedure can take up to four hours. There is a large amount of paperwork; the red tape is a problem. Obviously if more people are policing full time, those full-time police often end up doing the paperwork. Naturally, defence lawyers take advantage of any loophole, including a caution not being given correctly.
There is a genuine case for encouraging police and helping them to do their jobs more efficiently, but I am not an expert on the technology that might assist them. Certainly, I am not an expert on police numbers, but if we looked at other areas of social support—such as carers for the mentally ill; integrating gangs and dealing with problems that lead to youth alienation; illiteracy and school truancy; reasonable transport, even if it must be subsidised in areas of poverty—that would make a difference to levels of crime. A friend of mine who used to live at Bundeena, which is an isolated area in the Royal National Park about 10 kilometres from Sutherland, told me that many cars were stolen in that area on Saturday nights so that kids could get into town; if they did not steal a car they simply could not get into town on Saturday night.
The stolen cars would usually be found undamaged in Sutherland, or they would be returned the next morning. It may be a simple problem of lack of transport but the kids would say, "We don't want to be alienated. We'll get away with this crime if we can in order to have a night out." If we were to approach the problem in terms of likely behaviour, rather than the behaviour we would like to see—that is, kids either making another arrangement to get into town or staying home and playing cribbage—we would have a better society. To simply say we need more police and intensive care people is all very well, but we could also say that we need more doctors, social workers, educationalists and roads. The demands on resources are limitless, and rather than simply move motions to condemn the Government for lack of police numbers or lack of something else we should implement prevention strategies and try to do these things better.
I have said for many years that the Government is most negligent with regard to health strategies—especially with tobacco control and combating obesity. The same can be said of the Government's social policy, as we try to get resources for kids with literacy problems, those suffering dyslexia and other difficulties that lead to their alienation and a likely involvement in criminal activity. As the proverb states: If you think education is expensive, try seeing how expensive ignorance is. Certainly, the Taiwanese believe that if you leave a young person unable to get a job, you condemn him or her to welfare for life and you condemn society to pay for that person's inability to work for life.
While the motion is well intentioned, I cannot support it. To criticise merely on the basis of numbers is not the best way to go. The Opposition should be urging the Government to optimise the allocation of resources to detect the causes of crime to make society safer.
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER [3.51 p.m.]: Unlike the Hon. Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans, I have pleasure in supporting the motion of the Leader of the Opposition, which calls on the House to note that at their highest point in 2003 the 85 police local area commands in New South Wales had a total of 13,434 operational police and NSW Police had a total strength of 15,168. It is worth the House noting also that on 30 April 2005 the total operational police numbers in this State were 12,774 and NSW Police had a total strength of 14,739. It is interesting to note also that on 30 April 2005, 68 of the 85 local area commands had fewer police officers than at their highest point in 2003.
It is appropriate that we note that during 2004-05 NSW Police underspent on the budgeted police station upgrading and replacement program by $18.77 million and that in the 2005-06 State budget the Minister for Police did not provide any funding at all for 21 of the 27 priority police station and replacement or refurbishment projects, including those at Coffs Harbour, Moree, Parkes and Tenterfield. It is proper for this House to call on the Minister for Police to fully resource police officers and police stations throughout New South Wales.
Like other members on this side of the House, I support the excellent work of our much-valued New South Wales police. But under the Carr and Iemma governments it has become increasingly apparent that NSW Police is underresourced and understaffed. Recent statistics show the underresourcing is in various parts of country and coastal New South Wales, as well as in the metropolitan area. For example, in recent weeks there has been considerable concern amongst the Tweed-Byron community about the number of police in the local area command on stress leave. We understand that policing is a very stressful occupation but it is made all the more so when insufficient resources are provided to police to carry out their duties in the way citizens expect of them.
There is an increasing tendency for police not to attend callouts that are categorised as civil matters. While some matters that involve people with grievances might be better left for the people involved to sort out themselves, it is highly unsatisfactory that criminal matters are regarded as being of insufficient seriousness to warrant police attendance. It would be interesting to know what proportion of requests to police these days are being deflected to aggrieved and sometimes fearful citizens rather than being the subject of proper police investigation and follow-up.
Statistics show the change in police numbers for each local area command from a peak in 2003 to the most recent figures, which are to march 2006. It is interesting to note the decline in the number of police available to communities and local area commands right across the board. The Botany Bay Local Area Command has declined in numbers by 39. In City Central there is a large decline. In the local area command of the Eastern Beaches there is a decline. There is a decline in the Eastern Suburbs and in Harbourside in the city, as well as in Hurstville, Kings Cross, Leichhardt, Miranda and Newtown. Interestingly, one place where there has been an increase is the riotous Redfern, but the number of police in the Surry Hills Local Area Command has gone down by 42.
Clearly, there has been a shifting of personnel from one police station to the next, but there is still an overall decline. There is a decline in Rose Bay as there is in Sutherland, where obviously the Government is still waiting for the impact of recent riots to take effect. In Sydney there is a decline, as there is in the local area commands of Blacktown, Blue Mountains, Eastwood, Gladesville, Holroyd, Ku-ring-gai, Manly, Mount Druitt and the North Shore. Numbers are down on the Northern Beaches as they are in Parramatta, Penrith, Quakers Hill, St Marys, Brisbane Water, the Hunter Valley and in the Manning-Great Lakes. Some growing areas on the mid North Coast, in the Manning-Great Lakes region, do not have any police. The lack of a police presence in Forster and Tuncurry is of great concern. Numbers are down in the mid North Coast local area command as they are in Newcastle, Richmond and Tuggerah Lakes.
I mentioned earlier the number of police on stress leave in the Tweed-Byron local area command. Of course, the numbers in that area are down as well. They are also down in Waratah, Ashfield, Bankstown, Burwood, Cabramatta, Camden, Campbelltown, Campsie, Fairfield, Flemington, Green Valley, Liverpool, Macquarie Fields, Marrickville and Rosehill. Police numbers are down across the board. The numbers are down in practically every non-metropolitan area—in fact, all but one. The numbers in Albury are down, as they are in Cootamundra, Deniliquin, the far South Coast, Goulburn—
The Hon. Henry Tsang: Can you table the document you are reading from?
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: No, it is important information, and everybody wants to know about it. The numbers in Monaro are down, as they are in the Shoalhaven, Wagga Wagga, Wollongong, Berry, Barwon, Canobolas and in Chifley, which is out at Bathurst. Good old Ben Chifley would be rolling in his grave! The Darling River is down in numbers; Lachlan is down; Mudgee is down; New England is down; Orana is down—
The Hon. Duncan Gay: Orana is down.
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: It is very down—in more ways than one. Oxley local area command is down in numbers. In that local area command—for example at Tamworth—despite at any given time only one mobile police patrol being available, police are still diverted to provide a constant police presence outside West Tamworth Leagues Club on speed camera duty to help fill the ever-increasing black hole of the Carr-Iemma-Costa consortium. It is an absolute disgrace. Statewide the police are deserving of more support because practically all across the State, local area commands are increasingly underresourced and understaffed. One might ask where all the police have gone. They have just disappeared.
The Hon. Duncan Gay: They are chasing little old ladies in the Western Division.
The Hon. Christine Robertson: A lady's sons chopped a tree.
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: I hope they did not divert all the police out there. How many did they divert?
The Hon. Duncan Gay: At least three carloads.
The Hon. JENNIFER GARDINER: Were all those police resources needed to find out whether they chopped down a tree? There are obviously more important things for the police to be doing. The police who went to that so-called incident were probably sitting in their police vehicles outside the lady's gate asking, "What on earth are we doing here?" They should have been doing something of greater import to the local area command and the citizens who live therein. It is very instructive that this debate has been conducted in this House. The statewide position is extraordinary.
When the Carr-Iemma Government announces that it will increase the number of recruits to the police academy, the people who run the academy are usually not told in advance; they hear in a media release about an influx of students. No planning goes into it. They are supposed to just cop it, just as the local area commands are meant to cop it when there is a decline in numbers across the board. I join the Leader of the Opposition and other colleagues in supporting the motion and drawing attention to the scandalous state of affairs affecting New South Wales Police under the Carr-Iemma Government.
The Hon. GREG PEARCE [4.03 p.m.]: I support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition noting that at the highest point in 2003 the 85 police local area commands had a total of 13,434 operational police and the whole service had a total strength of 15,168. As honourable members would realise, that was a result of the extraordinary effort made by former police Minister, Uncle Fester Costa, who was given the job of ensuring that before the 2003 election the Labor Party was able to at least notionally meet its promise to increase police numbers by the planned 1,000 police.
Honourable members will remember the scandalous way in which the Labor Party went about meeting that number. In the end it had to reduce the training period for police officers to enable the numbers to be rolled through. We heard the disgraceful mantra of "record numbers, record numbers", but, as a number of speakers have mentioned, that was only achieved at the expense of the structure of the police force. Essentially, most senior and more experienced police have been lost and the service now has a disproportionate number of very junior police.
Honourable members will also remember that within a few months after the election it was revealed that the police budget was over budget by, I think, $40 million. That was a direct result of the extra numbers that had not been budgeted for and the extra salaries and employment costs involved. Now, less than a year before the next election, the Labor Party, as usual, is rolling out its promises and all the spin. The Redfern riot—I know a great deal about it because I was a member of the committee that inquired into it—the Macquarie Fields riot, the Cronulla riots and their aftermath have occurred while police numbers have been allowed to plummet under this Government. As the motion says, as at 30 April 2005 total operational police numbers were 12,774 out of the total strength of 14,739. At that date 68 of the 85 local area commands had fewer police officers than at their highest point in 2003.
Other members have already stated the current police numbers. I will refer to a couple of examples of interest to me. In 2003 the Manly local area command had 119 officers but the number is now down to 96 officers, a reduction of 23. That demonstrates this Government's response to the concerns of the people of Manly about their safety and crime in their area. I understand that the authorised strength as at 31 March this year, the date on which the figure of 96 was reported, was 102. So even on authorised strength the number of police in Manly is down by 17 from the cynical, electioneering high of 119 that the Government achieved in 2003. Further north, in the Northern Beaches, which covers Pittwater, Davidson and Wakehurst, there were 208 police in 2003. There are now 190, a decline of 18. This is another disgraceful example of the cynical way in which the Government has treated policing, security and crime matters. The result for people living in Manly and the Northern Beaches is that in many categories crime has increased. The latest crime statistics—the Government's own numbers—that came out last month show that in 1995 there were 839 assaults in the Northern Beaches local government areas. In 2005 the number rose to 1,182—an increase of 40.9 per cent.
In 1995 there were 44 sexual assaults and in 2005 there were 61, which is an increase of 38.6 per cent. In 1995 there were 113 indecent assaults, acts of indecency or other sexual offences, and in 2005 there were 140, which is an increase of 23.9 per cent. In 1995 there were 63 robberies without a weapon and 70 in 2005, which is an increase of 11.1 per cent. In 1995 there were 234 instances of steal from a person and there were 274 in 2005, which is a 17.1 per cent increase. In 1995 there were 617 instances of fraud and there were 1,099 in 2005, which is a massive increase of 78.1 per cent. In 1995 there were 91 instances of offensive conduct and there were 253 in 2005, which is a record 178 per cent increase. In 1995 there were 125 instances of offensive language and there were 147 in 2005, which is a 17.6 per cent increase. In 1995 there were 82 instances of breach of apprehended violence order and there were 169 in 2005, which is an increase of 106.1 per cent. If anyone doubts that this Government's cynical reduction in police numbers, its inability to manage the budget, and the need to cut the police budget has had an impact, they need only look at those statistics.
The Manly Daily of 19 February 2006 reinforces that view in an article headed "We're short 45 police". The article was based on the New South Wales Police Association's view that the police strength in Manly and the Northern Beaches is at least 45 police below the required establishment, which is almost identical to the figures I quoted earlier today; that is, Manly has 23 fewer officers and the Northern Beaches has 18 fewer officers since the peak in 2003. This Government stands condemned for its failure to maintain police numbers.
The balance of this motion relates to underspending on the police station upgrading and replacement program, which was underspent in 2004-05 by a massive $18.77 million. It will be interesting to see the next budget and to compare what has happened. The motion also notes that in the 2005-06 State budget the Minister for Police failed to provide any funding for 21 of the 27 priority police station replacement or refurbishment proposals. Luckily none of those was in Manly or the Northern Beaches. However, it demonstrates this Government's extraordinary failure to maintain police infrastructure. I join with other honourable members in calling on the Minister for Police to fully resource police officers and police stations throughout the State, particularly in Manly, the Northern Beaches and Pittwater.
The Hon. JOHN RYAN [4.14 p.m.]: It is a pleasure to support this motion moved by my Leader, the Hon. Michael Gallacher, about police numbers. I say at the outset something my colleagues have said a number of times: Police numbers in this State largely reflect a political agenda rather than an agenda based on the community's need for security. During every election campaign since the Carr Government came to office—and I have no doubt that the Iemma Government is planning the same strategy—dramatic announcements have been made about additional police officers and a grand attestation parade has been held, usually at the Opera House, with the cameras rolling.
It is proclaimed that the young police officers involved are about to march into local area commands to boost their strength. The problem is that that performance is only for the campaign. Immediately after the election, police numbers decline. We see the sorry impact of that particularly in my area, which includes Narellan, Camden, Macquarie Fields and Campbelltown. People are increasingly concerned about crime, public safety and security.
I recall only a year or so ago doing some doorknocking with my colleague the Hon. Pat Farmer, the Federal member for Macarthur, in the Bradbury area of his electorate. At almost every house we visited, people raised their concerns about home burglaries. The Government has been saying that the incidence of home burglaries, among other crimes, is on its way down. It is not on its way down; the figures are on their way down only because of the impact of the Police Assistance Line. Since its introduction it has become almost impossible to speak directly to police officers about crime. As a result, people do not report crime. Crimes such as burglary occur, but people simply do not go to the trouble of reporting them because they know the police are not paying attention. The Government does not believe it is important for someone in a uniform to answer the phone, let alone to ensure that the information provided to a call centre results in a police officer investigating a crime.
I can count on my fingers the number of constituents who have rung the police concerned about a break-in and who have been visited by someone from the local police station to take fingerprints or gather other evidence. It is rare that home break-ins are one-off events; they are not done by someone spontaneously and never done again. Invariably, a group of people are operating in an area. It is simply a matter of investigating a number of incidents and gathering the evidence that might be available in the form of fingerprints, modus operandi, and what neighbours might have seen. If that is done it is possible to detect the perpetrators. The police often know the identities of the people who are active in a particular area, but without investigation a case is not prepared and people are not charged and brought before the courts. People know that reporting a crime is pointless, particularly when the report is made to a telephone answering service, and the result is that the figures are decreasing. However, if honourable members were to doorknock, they would discover that people are still as concerned as they ever have been about crime, if not more so. My doorknocking as a member of Parliament certainly convinces me of that.
A few years ago someone started a fire in the garden of my home and I had to ring the Police Assistance Line, despite the much-vaunted memoranda we have received about protection of members of Parliament. Someone put an incendiary device in the middle of my yard and attempted to burn the garden, the fence, and who knows what else. When I reported that to my local area command, I was told to report it to the Police Assistance Line. The officer to whom I spoke knew I was a member of Parliament. Apparently the police are supposed to regard threats to the security of members of Parliament as very important. There was physical evidence in my garden in the form of a coat-hanger with a firelighter attached. It was obvious that the fire was no accident, and if it had not been for the fact that one of my neighbours noticed the garden burning the result might have been very different.
I was then asked to report the matter to the Police Assistance Line. When I discovered that it would take me 10 or 15 minutes to go through the routine of giving police essentially statistics, I decided it was not worth the effort and I did not bother to report the matter further. Because I am a busy person I knew that nothing effective would happen as a result of my reporting the incident. Fortunately, there has not been a repeat of the incident that occurred at my house two or three years ago. I am sure that my experience is similar to that of many of my neighbours. It does not seem to matter that people are burgled. The most effective thing you can do is report the incident to the insurance company and make the report to the Police Assistance Line if the insurance company requires it.
The Hon. Melinda Pavey: Get your number.
The Hon. JOHN RYAN: Yes, get your number, and forget about it. As a result, sadly, most people do not bother to report crime. Many constituents have told me about similar experiences. For example, a lady whose son has a disability had as one of his proudest possessions a laptop computer. A few weeks ago, in Bradbury, when he was on his way home the laptop was ripped from his hands and he was punched to the ground by a gang who are well known to police. It was not as if they were people who could not be identified. I have absolutely no doubt that the individuals who committed that crime are known to the police. Had the police bothered to investigate the crime I am sure they would have been able to bring the perpetrators before the courts.
The young man was hospitalised as a result of his injury. I had to ring the local area commander and ask that he invite the lady to bring her son in so he could make a statement. It is now getting to the stage where, on serious matters such as this, it is necessary to go to one's member of Parliament and have him or her speak to the local area commander before police will take action, even if physical injuries are involved. That is an utter disgrace.
Another incident occurred only last week concerning a lady who had been making representations to me about a shoddy builder. She had encountered the builder, a person of Lebanese background, on a number of occasions. Late one evening he came to her home together with another person who appeared to be of Middle Eastern background and demanded money from her. The person accompanying the builder said nothing, but it was pretty obvious what that person was on the doorstep for: to provide physical intimidation while the builder made a threat. Fortunately, they went away.
In the course of last week this lady received not one but four SMS messages from the builder. The text of those messages was: "We are coming around to your home tonight with five other men and we are going to fix this matter tonight." I would have thought that any person receiving a text message of that nature once would be justified in feeling frightened. But if they received such a text message four times from the builder's mobile phone, obviously they would feel somewhat frightened and intimidated. Incidentally, the builder comes from Bankstown.
The lady lives in the Hornsby area, and she went to her local police station, which is part of the Ku-ring-gai patrol. After she reported the incident she was told, "Don't worry about it, he was probably meaning to frighten you." Hang on! Of course he was meaning to frighten her! If I had gone to the police and made such a report I would have expected a uniformed police officer to visit the person making the threat. Given that the police could establish the person's identity, address and phone number, why would they not visit that address and ask the person, "Can I examine your mobile phone to see whether you have sent messages of this nature?" I suggest that the police officer should then give consideration to investigating an offence under the telecommunications Act of threatening a person with physical violence.
The story gets worse. Eventually, after the police told the woman to go away I rang the local area commander and made it clear to him that I did not regard this to be a satisfactory level of service. I asked him, before I made representations to the Minister, whether he could offer the woman a better level of service. She was invited to come to the police station, and she was given some assistance and advice on applying for an apprehended violence order [AVO]—initially on her own, without police support. So the answer now is: You are not going to get police to investigate a crime; the best you can expect if you are intimidated in this fashion is that you can go to the Local Court and make your own personal application for an apprehended violence order. Goodness knows what would happen if the woman went to the police and said, "I am frightened that this AVO is being violated." Eventually I shamed the police into going with this woman to make the application on her behalf, so the magistrate at least had some indication that the police were interested.
To the absolute discredit of the magistrate, he accepted evidence from the person making the threat that what was intended by the text message was that he would go with some members of the Lebanese community and negotiate how this payment would be made. What a joke! Believe it or not, the woman did not get the AVO; she did not receive that protection. So being a single mother with two young children to look after, she left her home for a week to make sure she was not threatened! That is the state of law and order in our community: you cannot get action from the police, and you cannot get protection from the courts.
I am not one to participate in the law and order debate and call for greater penalties, more police action and so on without due consideration. I think I am generally considered in this Parliament to be a person of liberal sentiments who likes to see as low a level of police response as possible. But it should not be so low that people with legitimate concerns for their safety do not receive appropriate service. Needless to say, I have written to the Minister for Police about this incident, and to the Minister for Fair Trading because I do not believe the builder should be allowed to continue to operate while he acts in this way. The Fair Trading Act provides power to suspend a builder's licence if his performance is inadequate. However, I want to know why police are not following up these sorts of threats as they should.
I am particularly interested in police numbers in the Macquarie Fields and Menai areas. I note from figures that are publicly available that the Macquarie Fields area is serviced by the Green Valley patrol and the Macquarie Fields patrol. We all know the profile that Macquarie Fields has as an area of crime. Yet Macquarie Fields, of all places, is under strength by 20 police. Menai is another electorate in which I can assure members opposite that I will be taking a great deal of interest over the next few months. I note that the Menai area is so well represented by its current member, Alison Megarrity, that she has allowed, without comment, the Sutherland patrol to fall 15 police below strength. Similarly, the Liverpool patrol, which is also in her electorate, is 25 police below strength. What a great effort for a marginal seat that its patrols are 30 or 40 police down on their authorised strength.
Moorebank police station is a very ordinary building that is in dire need of some sort of upgrade to give police decent working conditions. There was a Menai police station but the building is now occupied by the dog squad. The police station is now operated from this joke of a facility called a shopfront police station. It is literally that. It used to be a Kentucky Fried Chicken establishment that could cater for only about two people in it at any one time. That shopfront police station now serves the growing area of Menai and that part of the Sutherland shire. That, too, I regard as a joke, and I am sure the electors of Menai also regard it as a joke. They want their police station back, they want a proper police station, and they want the dog squad moved somewhere else. Obviously, the dog squad has been put there for cosmetic purposes, to make it seem that the people of Menai are being provided with police without actually giving them a police service.
The people of Menai deserve a proper police response, the restoration of Menai police station, and an upgrade of Moorebank police station. I think my colleague the Hon. Charlie Lynn has already referred to this. As a resident of Narellan, it would be remiss of me not to pay some attention to the fact that residents of Narellan have been promised a police station for more than 10 years. For as long as the Labor Party has been in office—
The Hon. Charlie Lynn: There is even land.
The Hon. JOHN RYAN: Land has even been identified, and yet no police station has been built—and I suspect that it will not be built. The Camden police still do not have adequate facilities. I understand that female police officers have to leave the police station to visit the toilet because the station does not have male and female toilets. This is the state of policing in New South Wales, and yet my colleague the Leader of the Opposition notes at point (e) that:
The 2005-2006 budget the Minister for Police failed to provide any funding for 21 of the 27 priority police station replacement or refurbishment projects, including those at Bowral, Burwood—
a reference to both Camden police station and Narellan police station—
Coffs Harbour, Corrimal, Cronulla, Ermington, Granville, Liverpool—
which is also one of the police stations that services the Menai electorate—
Macksville, Moree, Parkes, Port Kembla, Quakers Hill, Revesby, Richmond, Windsor, Tenterfield, Warilla, Wyong …
If a government cannot offer its community security, it does not offer it anything. Nothing replaces a proper feeling of actual security and a proper police service. That is one of the things, next to spending a budget, that a government does. [Extension of time agreed to.]
On behalf of my colleague the Leader of the Opposition we want this motion passed today as a strong statement to the community that we support decent policing. We do not believe there has been an adequate level of policing in the community. One of the basic things a government must do is offer people security. As Opposition members have demonstrated in this debate—and there has been virtually no comment from the Government in reply—New South Wales does not enjoy a proper level of policing: basic security issues are left unaddressed and the opportunities for people to seek redress for genuine assaults on their person, such as the ones I have described, are simply not there. There has to be a sufficient number of police to address people's needs, and we certainly do not need the politically oriented policing that passes as a joke in this State. We make that strong statement before the House today.
Debate adjourned on motion by the Hon. John Ryan.