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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Page: 6261

Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR (GortonMinister for Privacy and Freedom of Information, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice) (16:32): I thank the honourable member for his question. He refers to the Secure Schools Program—and what a timely appearance has just been made in the chamber by the member for Melbourne Ports, who was engaged in this very important initiative as well. The Secure Schools Program is about dedicating resources to those schools where there is a relatively high level of threat against students or school communities. The purpose of the Secure Schools initiative is to ensure we provide security wherever possible to mitigate such threats. We seek the advice of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies to make decisions and we engage very fully with the schools' constituencies in order to talk with them about the best way to mitigate these threats.

This initiative has been in place since 2008 and I am glad to inform the honourable member that we continue to dedicate resources to this program. We believe all children in this country have the right to be educated in a safe and secure environment. That is why we have dedicated over the next three years a further $15 million to continue the Secure Schools Program, which I believe illustrates the government's interest in this and concern about providing safety for students, teachers, carers and others who may work within the confines of these schools.

Funding assists schools most at risk of racial, religious or ethnically motivated vandalism, property crimes and harassment to increase security measures to better protect students, teachers and support staff. It is a very important initiative that has been very well received by school communities. I have had the great fortune of visiting a number of schools in four or five states. They have been very appreciative of the government's response to their concerns. We do it in a low-key way. We do not want to attract attention and talk about the particular schools because we think that, paradoxically, that could lead to potential problems for those schools. But I can say it applies to some Jewish schools, some Muslim schools and some government schools that have had some issues. We will continue to dedicate resources based on the relative need, based on the perceived threat as advised by our agencies.

Turning to the second part of the question by the member for Hindmarsh, I can say to him that, as I understand it, the grant that is dedicated to Hindmarsh, to the Glenelg area, will be provided to the council very shortly, within weeks. The installation of CCTV in that precinct will commence very shortly thereafter. I know you have taken a direct interest in this, speaking with not only your council but Neighbourhood Watch. I have had three meetings, I think, with the South Australian police on this issue, so that they could provide us with advice about where the crimes occur and where the more dangerous areas are.

These are public spaces and I know some people have some issues about CCTV. I think those issues are valid, but equally I believe people should not have to be concerned or alarmed about walking the streets, walking in public spaces. I believe that the lighting and CCTV can provide extra assurance. As I say, the fear of crime is a quality-of-life issue. People should not feel that anxious in their neighbourhood. I believe this assists. It is not a panacea, but it certainly does provide assistance for police, for governments and for others to ensure that people feel more secure and indeed are more secure in their communities. I commend the member for Hindmarsh for his advocacy for the initiative and for bringing together all the constituent parts of the community to talk to me about this issue. I would be very happy to return when we are looking to install the physical security infrastructure in his electorate in due course.