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Economics References Committee
Personal choice and community impacts

CLIFFORD, Assistant Commissioner Denis, Commander, North West Metropolitan Region, New South Wales Police Force

Subcommittee met at 09:02

CHAIR ( Senator Leyonhjelm ): I declare open this hearing of the Senate Economics References Committee inquiry into personal choice and community impacts. The committee has appointed a subcommittee for the purpose of inquiry hearings. The Senate referred this inquiry to the committee on 25 June 2015 for a report by 13 June 2016. As of today the committee has received and published 418 submissions, which are available on the committee's website.

These are public proceedings, although the committee may determine or agree to a request to have evidence heard in camera. I remind all witnesses that in giving evidence to the committee they are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to a committee, and such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to a committee. If a witness objects to answering a question, the witness should state the ground upon which the objection is taken, and the committee will determine whether it will insist on an answer, having regard to the ground which is claimed. If the committee determines to insist on an answer, a witness may request that the answer be given in camera. Such a request may also be made at any other time.

I remind committee members and officers that the Senate has resolved that an officer of a department of the Commonwealth or of a state shall not be asked to give opinions on matters of policy and shall be given reasonable opportunity to refer questions asked of the officer to superior officers or to a minister. This resolution prohibits questions asking for opinions on matters of policy and does not preclude questions asking for explanations of policy or factual questions about when and how policies were adopted.

Finally, I take this opportunity to thank the witnesses who have taken the time to appear before the committee today. Welcome. I invite you to make an opening statement.

Mr Clifford : Thank you. I am the police commander for the North West Metropolitan Region of Sydney, based here in Parramatta. The Parramatta local area commander is Superintendent Cox, who reports to me and has responsibility for policing the City of Parramatta. I have been a police officer for 44 years and have experience with crowd violence and public disorder associated with sporting events, demonstrations and other events such as the Cronulla riots and the Macquarie Fields riots and violence associated with the Canterbury Bulldogs some 10 years ago. My involvement with the Western Sydney Wanderers dates back to when they joined the A-League and established their home ground at Parramatta's Pirtek Stadium. On numerous occasions supporters have been organised and have marched from nearby hotels to Pirtek Stadium. The hotel they marched from has changed a number of times over those seasons.

Under section 23 of the Summary Offences Act 1988 of New South Wales a person can apply for approval to hold a public assembly by filing a schedule 1 notice and the Commissioner of Police has power to object in the court. In the past the Western Sydney Wanderers have applied for approval to conduct marches and I have given approval on behalf of the commissioner, subject to what I believe have been reasonable conditions to ensure the safety of all concerned—conditions that relate, for example, to the route, marshalling, timings and traffic controls and are designed to provide a safe environment for the marchers, officials and general public. Police have never applied to ban these marches. We have always worked with the organisers to get their agreement to reasonable conditions to ensure public safety.

As a police officer I have a duty to ensure public safety as best I can. I also have a duty, as do the clubs and stadiums, not to endanger people in a workplace. These include police officers, security officers, officials, players and indeed the public attending the matches and going about their business in the streets of Parramatta. Unfortunately, there is an element of the supporters of the Western Sydney Wanderers and other clubs that by their actions and attitudes show no regard for the safety of others.

I recently met with the CEO of the Western Sydney Wanderers, officials of the FFA and management from Pirtek Stadium to express my concerns and my fears that it was only a matter of time before someone was seriously injured or killed as a result of the behaviour of some of the supporters. I raised a number of safety issues, including overcrowding in the stadium's northern seating area; supporters standing in and blocking the aisles; standing and jumping on seats; foul, vulgar, inciteful chants too disgusting to repeat here; and the unlawful use of flares.

On the issue of flares I am alarmed that some people do not appreciate or accept just how dangerous flares can be. For the benefit of the committee I have had prepared a list of recent incidents involving flares where soccer fans have been killed or seriously injured. I have that document prepared to hand up if the committee wishes.

CHAIR: Would you like to table it?

Mr Clifford : I will. I will cut these down, but they are fully referenced for the benefit of the committee. In April 2015 in Perth's NIB Stadium a 13-year-old boy received burns to his legs. In March 2015 a Russian goalkeeper was knocked unconscious after being hit with a flare. He sustained neck injuries and minor burns. In 2014 Greek football fans set a ring of flares around a stadium. There were hundreds of flares let off there. They caught the visitors bench on fire and it burnt down. In 2014 in Bulgaria a volley of flares set parts of the stadium as well as the pitch on fire, resulting in $330,000 damage. In November 2014, here at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, a lady in her 20s and a 12-year-old boy were injured as a result of a flare let off at the Etihad Stadium. In December 2014 in Brisbane, a 60-year-old woman and a 31-year-old man were treated for burns after a 16-year-old boy ignited a flare. In February 2013, a young boy by the name of Kevin Beltran Espada was watching his team—as I recall, the San Jose football team. He was hit in the eye with a flare and he died almost instantly. He was 14 years of age. I have that document to hand up for your reference.

For the record, I enjoy most sports. I enjoy watching a game of soccer and find the chants and coordinated movements of the Western Sydney Wanderers fans entertaining and good for the sport. However, in my time as a player and spectator and as a coach of many junior sporting teams, I know the things that turn people away from healthy sport are violence, foul and abusive language, and risk to safety. Unfortunately, these are too often associated with some supporters of this code of football and must be stamped out for the good of the game.

The events that occurred prior to, during and after the recent game between Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney FC, in my opinion, took things to a new low. I particularly refer to the ignition of numerous flares both inside and outside the stadium; the brawling between fans; and the damage to seating and the seating railings. For the benefit of the committee, I have some photos of the damage, which I will seek to hand up in a moment.

You may have others appear here today before you to talk about how good the Western Sydney Wanderers have been for the game of football and, in particular, the city of Parramatta. I would agree with them, but we all must do as much as we can to stamp out the type of behaviour that I have just outlined before a tragedy is on our hands, such as a death or multiple deaths. I tender the document I referred to, and I have a number of copies.

CHAIR: Thanks. Lisa will take that from you.

Mr Clifford : That document is being handed up in a number of copies, as requested. Also, for the benefit of the committee, I seek to hand up some photographs of the damage at Sydney Football Stadium the Saturday before last. I understand something like 130 seats were damaged. You might note in some of the photographs—which is of great concern to me—that the remains of the railing for the seats have loose and jagged edges, and God forbid that somebody would have a fall onto one of those. You will see that in the photographs.

CHAIR: Have you finished your statement, Commissioner?

Mr Clifford : I have just one more reference. These are two images of CCTV shots from Allianz Stadium. I referred in detail to my concern about flares. You will see the first image is basically the ignition of a flare in the stands, and the second one is when a flare or a number of flares have taken hold. What I would ask you to consider is that the images of the white lines across these photos are actually streamers, and it is a tradition or, I suppose, culture to throw streamers, cash register rolls and whatever as part of streamers. If they take hold, you can just imagine the injury and the damage that could be caused by igniting such a fire.

Finally, I am concerned about the culture with some elements of the Western Sydney Wanderers fans. One only has to go to the RBB website, where you will see images that are, to me, most confronting and concerning. I will refer to some of these if I can, and I hand them up for your benefit. In a couple of images, there is a young child with a balaclava, carrying a flare and a loudhailer. As I say, to me—and to any reasonable person, I would suggest—they are confronting and very concerning. Thank you.

CHAIR: That is your statement?

Mr Clifford : Thank you, yes.

CHAIR: I would like to refer you to the 24 September announcement of restrictions. How did that come about? Can you give me the background to it?

Mr Clifford : As I outlined in my opening, I have had some serious concerns about the level of crowd violence and behaviour. I had a meeting with the CEO from Western Sydney Wanderers and outlined my concerns. I have got to say that there have been a number of issues that have been misreported, like the issue of flags, for example. The nature and the size of flags is governed by or is controlled by conditions of entry to Pirtek Stadium, and there are also some restrictions, if you like, by the FFA themselves, and that is really a matter for them. My concern with the flags would be where they pose a danger to somebody's safety.

CHAIR: What I am interested in is the announcement on 24 September about the restrictions. How did that come about?

Mr Clifford : I was involved in a press conference on 2 October. That was following a meeting I had with the FFA, with Pirtek Stadium and with the Wanderers.

CHAIR: I have got an announcement of restrictions. On 24 September the RBB announced through social media that after meeting with representatives of the venue, council, police and the club, a number of restrictions have been placed on fan behaviour prior to, during and after matches. According to the RBB, the restrictions included: removal of banners and flags or risk confiscation; no march; zero tolerance for swearing, including chants; no standing on seats; no standing in aisles; police to engage the aisles to prevent crowd movement between bays; one member per seat with no jumping or side-by-side movement; capo to be a positive influence; signing of terms and conditions for a person using the megaphone. You are aware of all that I presume?

Mr Clifford : You are referring to a release by the RBB. I could comment on some of those issues.

CHAIR: It is not so much the individual elements of those that I am asking about. I am asking: what led to the RBB on that date saying this has now been declared? Were there circumstances that led to that announcement?

Mr Clifford : You would have to ask the RBB why they released that or what led to that, but I can only assume that it may have followed a meeting that I had with the CEO from Western Sydney Wanderers where I raised a number of concerns. I know that you have not asked me to comment on the individual issues there, but if I can—

CHAIR: I will get to that. What I am interested in is the circumstances that led to that announcement by RBB of those restrictions and the background to it. I am interested in knowing what the process was.

Mr Clifford : The background, as I said, since the Wanderers started we have done our best to work with the club and with the governing bodies to try to address some of these safety issues. But it just seems like it is one step forward and two steps back. We have had meetings with the Wanderers. I know Mr Cox has had meetings with the RBB. It is about trying to facilitate marches and facilitate people's enjoying the game in a safe environment, and some of the behaviour I have seen causes me real concern that it is only a matter of time before somebody is seriously injured, as has happened in other places, or even killed.

CHAIR: You have said that, Commissioner. What I am interested in is: what was the process? To what extent were you or the police involved in the discussions with the Wanderers or the Red and Black Bloc that led to that announcement by RBB on that date? Was there a process that led to it? Did that come out of the blue? Did you just tell them: this is what the situation is going to be?

Mr Clifford : All I can suggest is that I asked for a meeting with the CEO from the Wanderers, who I understand had not long taken up that position, to raise the concerns that I and others had in relation to those safety issues. Regarding the release by the RBB, I do not know where they got the content of some of those issues. For example, I have never said I would have stopped swearing; I am a realist. But it is some of the foul chants and the nature of those chants. Not only are they vulgar, they are inciting. I have said, they are too vulgar for me to repeat here, but I can give you a copy of the chants that I refer to. That is the type of behaviour that often leads to the violence. Given the nature of some of those chants, I would suggest that if somebody chanted that to me then I would probably want to get engaged in violence with them after a game anyway.

CHAIR: I am interested in what process there was leading up to that series of restraints imposed on the Red and Black Bloc that they announced on 24 September. You said you had a meeting with the chief executive of the Wanderers. Was that shortly before 24 September or was it a substantial time before?

Mr Clifford : I do not have the benefit of notes. I imagine it was shortly before. To answer your question, it was a matter of arranging a meeting to try to get some common ground with the CEO of the Wanderers, to raise my concerns. I understand that Mr Tsatsimas is coming on later—I do not know that he would have any different view to me about those safety issues. When you talk about the process, they are conditions of entry to the stadium. They are not my rules. They are the conditions that are there to protect people and to keep them safe. So I raised those. The main ones were the flares; the overcrowding in the bays, which is a safety issue; and people occupying the aisles, which again is a serious safety issue in the event we need to evacuate. They were the main issues that I raised.

CHAIR: How are police dressed at Wanderers games?

Mr Clifford : I do not understand the question.

CHAIR: What do they wear? What do police wear?

Mr Clifford : Police uniform.

CHAIR: What sort—just ordinary uniform like you are wearing?

Mr Clifford : It depends on the nature of their duties. We have got general duty police who wear what we call the two blues. At this time of year, that is blue pants and a light blue shirt. We have our Operational Support Group police, who wear OSG uniform, which is fire retardant overalls, and then we have our Public Order Riot Squad, who wear a similar uniform. Again, that is a protective type of overall they wear.

CHAIR: How many would there have been in each category of uniforms?

Mr Clifford : On which occasion?

CHAIR: Typically.

Mr Clifford : That varies, depending on the risk associated with the game.

CHAIR: You have just told me how there is a substantial risk at the Wanderers games. I am assuming that that influences how many police officers are present in each kind of uniform from each section. Give me a representative indication.

Mr Clifford : It is the same for any event. We look at the risk involved, the number of people involved, the history of the participants—whether it be a soccer game or any other event—and that will determine the numbers. In open hearings, I would prefer not to discuss actual numbers that we deploy to events, but it is based on, in this case, the number of people attending and the teams that are playing. I think a reasonable person would accept that, if you have the Western Sydney Wanderers playing either Sydney FC or Melbourne Victory, you would have greater numbers of police there than you would if it is another side, from Perth or perhaps Brisbane.

CHAIR: So there are more police at Wanderers game than when other teams are playing?

Mr Clifford : Not necessarily. It will depend on who they are playing. You are right: we may have more police at a Wanderers game than we would when there are two other teams playing, but that is for very good reasons, I suggest.

CHAIR: Are there any plain-clothes police?

Mr Clifford : On occasions there are.

CHAIR: Not regularly?

Mr Clifford : I cannot comment on every game, but that is certainly an option that we have got—to have plain-clothes police there.

CHAIR: What is their role, if they are present?

Mr Clifford : Various roles. Again, I do not want to go into the operational side of that. I am happy to do that in a closed session, but it would not be appropriate for me to comment on that in an open hearing.

CHAIR: You do not routinely have plain-clothes police present in the crowd?

Mr Clifford : Again, I am happy to comment on that in a closed session, but it would not be appropriate to comment on that in a public hearing.

CHAIR: What is the procedure for arrests? When you arrest somebody in the crowd, is there a policy or a procedure on that?

Mr Clifford : The current arrangement with the Western Sydney Wanderers came out of a meeting with their CEO. The arrangement now is for stadium security and general duty police, if you like, to patrol the aisles of stands. I will go back to what I said before. We have not come in heavy-handed from day one with this. We have been in negotiation working with the club since day one, I would suggest. Recently the CEO mentioned that he thought the fans thought it was confrontational to have the OSG in the bays. So I have got to say I took a chance—I have got to say that—and agreed to a manner of policing that involves marshals from the club, stadium security and general duty police, but with an to escalate our response if needed. I have to have that, because I have an obligation to those security people and the police as well. If I do not have the proper resources, properly equipped and dressed and so forth, then I leave myself at risk and I am not doing my job.

CHAIR: When the police make an arrest, is there any information provided about that to other spectators as to the reason, the circumstances—what they might be charged with?

Mr Clifford : Do you mean do they stand up at the game and tell people why they have been arrested?

CHAIR: People around them.

Mr Clifford : They may; I don't know.

CHAIR: You don't know?

Mr Clifford : They may; I have not seen it.

CHAIR: It is not routine?

Mr Clifford : It depends on the person you are arresting as well, Senator. If you have got somebody who is being violent and fighting, the last thing you are going to do is stand and have a committee meeting with the crowd and explain why you are arresting someone.

CHAIR: I did not ask about a committee meeting. I just asked: what information is provided to other spectators?

Mr Clifford : They may or may not, depending on the circumstances.

CHAIR: Do you think you can identify troublesome individuals?

Mr Clifford : On occasions, yes.

CHAIR: What do you do about them when you have identified them?

Mr Clifford : Putting aside the game two Saturdays ago, at the game before that the agreement was that it would trial having marshals from the club who would speak to people and, provided they were compliant, that was addressed.

CHAIR: Provided they were compliant with what?

Mr Clifford : With regard to the bays they were seated in, not standing in the aisles and blocking exit aisles—and I understand that occurred. And that is okay. And, if that is the way these games are controlled and policed, I am happy with that. But, on other occasions, when we get people who are violent and they are in the crowd, they are not that easy to identify. People have let flares off in amongst the crowd and, if they are hiding behind banners and so forth, they are very difficult to detect. We do not get too many people from the crowd coming forward and pointing out those troublemakers either, I have got to say.

CHAIR: If we were to say to you: can you name the individuals who have caused problems at Wanderers games or are most likely to cause trouble at Wanderers games, could you, the police, identify them?

Mr Clifford : Are you talking about people who have been detected in the past who have caused trouble; or are you talking about people who may cause trouble in the future?

CHAIR: Both of those.

Mr Clifford : Certainly in the past we could supply names of people who have been either arrested and charged—people who have been ejected from the stadium perhaps—because people are ejected not only by police but by stadium security. As far as people who may cause trouble in the future are concerned, sometimes we can predict that. Sometimes we are right, but I think that is a very broad question as to how we identify people who may cause trouble.

CHAIR: The question is: what do you do if you have information that people have caused trouble in the past or you anticipate they are likely to cause trouble in relation to future games?

Mr Clifford : It depends on how we got the information. The information may come from the governing body themselves, and that is a matter for them to deal with. It may be information that we have that warrants somebody being spoken to. It is such a broad question that I do not understand where you are coming from with it to be honest.

CHAIR: There were 40,000 people at the most recent Wanderers game—

Mr Clifford : That was at Allianz Stadium.

CHAIR: Yes. Not all of them were ripping up seats or letting off flares, were they?

Mr Clifford : Definitely not.

CHAIR: So some did. My guess is a relatively small number—would that be right?

Mr Clifford : It depends on what you call a small number, Senator—130 seats damaged is a fair number of seats. It is not like one seat—

CHAIR: So out of 40,000 spectators, how many do you reckon were damaging property—20,000?

Mr Clifford : I would not say 20,000, no.

CHAIR: About 10,000.

Mr Clifford : I would only be guessing. I do not know if anyone could say exactly how many were damaging the seats because, again—

CHAIR: More than a thousand?

Mr Clifford : It is an environment where you cannot be watching everyone all of the time.

CHAIR: But who is going to know that, if it is not the police? Who is most likely to know who the troublemakers are and how many of them are responsible for causing trouble at any time, if not the police?

Mr Clifford : Who?


Mr Clifford : I would suggest the best people are members of the RBB.

CHAIR: Do you have a good relationship with the members of the RBB?

Mr Clifford : I do not have a relationship with the RBB.

CHAIR: So there is no relationship with them?

Mr Clifford : No. I have met some of those gentlemen outside, today. That is mostly for the local group commander to work with them. My relationship has been with the CEO from Western Sydney Wanderers and with the FFA. That is appropriate because, obviously, they play in different areas. Allianz Stadium falls in a different command to what Mr Cox is responsible for.

CHAIR: Commissioner, you are here as New South Wales Police, so you are allowed to answer more than what you just personally do. To the best of your knowledge, what is the relationship between New South Wales Police and the RBB?

Mr Clifford : I would say it is good with some members of the RBB, but with some I would say it is not so good.

CHAIR: Do they have regular liaison meetings or regular discussions, or is it ad hoc?

Mr Clifford : I do not know. I could take that on notice and get back to you, because I do not know how often they meet.

CHAIR: Okay. Actually, we may put that one on notice.

Mr Clifford : Thank you.

CHAIR: I want to come back to this issue of troublesome individuals. Do you think your operational LAC people can identify the individuals who are likely to cause trouble?

Mr Clifford : I think the best way for me to answer that is to say that they may have a feeling or they may have some other intelligence. I am not trying to be flippant—don't get me wrong—but I don't think they walk around with a sign on them saying, 'I'm about to cause trouble.' But sometimes, when people start to get a bit over the top, police might have a word with them—as would stadium security. I have seen that not just with soccer but with other events, whether it be musical concerts, sporting events or whatever. People sometimes need to be reminded that their behaviour might impinge on others and jeopardise their safety. So that occurs.

CHAIR: What I am interested in is: if you know that even a handful of people have a history of getting up to no good and they are identified on their way into the game, what can you do about it?

Mr Clifford : They may fall in a category of people who have been previously banned, so in returning to the stadium they may commit an offence and they can be arrested and dealt with.

CHAIR: How many people would that apply to at the moment?

Mr Clifford : Since the inception of the Wanderers, I understand there have been over 100 Western Sydney Wanderers supporters banned, then it drops down to something like 50-plus for the Perth Glory club and about 30-something for Sydney FC. I do not know about other clubs, but, interestingly, in that period of time I am told that Pirtek Stadium has banned eight people from NRL games. So that kind of gives you an indication of how many people have been banned.

CHAIR: What capacity do you—New South Wales Police—have to identify and ensure that those individuals do not enter the stadium and do not go to games?

Mr Clifford : It is a matter of the police, stadium security and FFA officials recognising people who have been banned.

Senator DASTYARI: Thank you, Assistant Commissioner. I just want to say your reputation precedes you. I think it is a great honour and privilege to have you with our committee on this issue today.

Mr Clifford : Thank you.

Senator DASTYARI: I also want to acknowledge that I think what you are doing is obviously very important, and what we are trying to do is get the balance right. I can understand that it is a difficult balance to get, but getting the balance right between making sure that a handful of antisocial individuals are properly being dealt with and, at the same time, that tackling those handful of individuals does not infringe on the overall rights and enjoyment of the vast majority of football fans in this city and this state. Is that a fair summation of the challenge?

Mr Clifford : I agree with you 100 per cent. If I could click my fingers and get rid of the troublemakers, that would be great, because the vast majority of people go there to enjoy themselves. As I said, I find the crowd entertaining, but there is that element there that we need to deal with—that we all need to deal with. It is not just a police problem; it is not just me. I am sure the fair dinkum fans and the members of the club do not want to see this behaviour.

Senator DASTYARI: I have been getting feedback and correspondence about this issue in the past few weeks in my office. You would appreciate and understand why there are a lot of individuals out there who have done the right thing, who love the game, who love participating in the sport, who love the theatre and the atmosphere and the environment that has been created yet feel that some of the tactics and tools being employed by the police, with well intentions, results in them feeling like they themselves are being targeted and that their own enjoyment of the of the game is suffering as a result.

Mr Clifford : I can understand that. When I had the meeting with the CEO from the Wanderers, he raised those same issues. We have been working with him and we have agreed to a different deployment model. I took a chance. They did not have those tactical police in the aisles at the game they played after our meeting and that was fine. Everything went fine. But the Saturday before last, I would suggest that had nothing to do with police tactics. The violence started as soon as the Western Sydney Wanderers marchers, some of the marchers, and I am told it was anything up to 50 to 60, ran out to attack Sydney FC supporters. That had nothing to do with police tactics. In fact, the handful of police that were there got in between those two groups to try and stop the violence. It continued for some 10 minutes.

Senator DASTYARI: I am not implying, let's be clear, that the police tactics result in antisocial behaviour. What I am saying is the police tactics result in good decent fans who are doing the right thing feeling like they themselves are being targeted. I am sure you are aware of the whole body of international research that has been done in this space. This problem is not unique to Australia. The whole issue of hooliganism is something that has been studied fairly closely in the UK and Europe. Are you on top of or aware of that body of research that has been done there?

Mr Clifford : I am aware of a number of tactics that have been tried and that ranges between having hundreds of police picket down marchers in the UK to having great numbers of police stopping and searching trains for weapons. That is one side of it. We are aware of other tactics where they have tried to work with the fans, with the club. That is our approach at the moment with the Wanderers, if you set aside what happened at Allianz Stadium, which, as I said, was a great disappointment for me and, I would suggest, for the club itself. Everybody was in a cooperative atmosphere when they played at Parramatta Stadium on the Thursday night. Come the Saturday, it went pear shaped. It went downhill big time. It was lucky no-one was seriously injured that night.

We will continue as we did on Sunday at Pirtek. We will continue to work with the club and with the fans. I do not want police standing there in full riot gear in amongst football supporters. That is the last thing I want to see. Utopia for me would be to not have any police there at all. But I cannot take that chance when there is an element in the crowd that engage in that violent behaviour that could kill someone.

CHAIR: You keep saying there is this element in the crowd. In your opening statement, you said 'an element of supporters' yet the rules that have been sourced to you, apply to the Wanderers fans and apply to all the fans, not just an element.

Mr Clifford : It applies to anyone that wants to engage in that type of violence.

CHAIR: Even if you do not like the chant, how does chanting involve violence?

Mr Clifford : Can I hand up the wording one of the chants I am most concerned about? It is too vulgar for me to read here in public.

Senator DASTYARI: You talk about the European example of what has and has not worked and, again, this is not a new problem for European police, Scotland Yard or others obviously. Working with the fans and working with the fan groups is the most effective model. If you take the mad mob approach, which is effectively treating the entire group as a violent mob, it sends the wrong signals to them. It puts people's backs up against the wall and the people who you need to be helping you actually tackle the antisocial elements get driven away. Do you agree with that?

Mr Clifford : That is right. I agree with that.

Senator DASTYARI: In your opening statement, you made reference to the Cronulla race riots and the Macquarie Fields riots. You did so more broadly in the—

Mr Clifford : That was arraigned to my experience in crowd behaviour.

Senator DASTYARI: This is not the same thing, is it?

Mr Clifford : It could lead to that.

Senator DASTYARI: It could lead to the Cronulla race riots?

Mr Clifford : No, it could lead to large-scale public disorder.

Senator DASTYARI: Are you saying that 50 to 60 fans and an occasional bust up at a football game could lead to the Cronulla race riots?

Mr Clifford : No, what I said was: that was my experience in relation to crowd violence.

Senator DASTYARI: Do you think it could get out of control?

Mr Clifford : Sometimes it only takes a handful to excite the crowd. They get whipped up in things. I do not how many times we have seen somebody get whipped up into something like this and apart from that they have no other criminal history or occasions of violence in their life. They get whipped up in that crowd atmosphere.

Senator DASTYARI: Your experience in this is far more extensive than mine but I find it hard to believe that decent fans like myself who are there with their kids at a football game are going to get whipped up into some kind of riot just because of a handful of the antisocial hoodlums. I do not disagree that those antisocial individuals should be dealt with. What I am saying is surely the best way of dealing with it is to actually bring the fans groups on board. Questions that Senator Leyonhelm asked about whether or not there is regular dialogue with groups like the Red and Black Bloc surely is the approach. Surely that is the answer.

Mr Clifford : There are a number of issues there. I have seen a small number of people that will whip a crowd up into a frenzy. I have seen that.

CHAIR: No matter who is in the crowd? Are you saying that 40,000 people can be whipped into a frenzy by some individuals?

Mr Clifford : No, I did not say that. I did not say '40,000'. But a larger of number of people can be.

CHAIR: We are back to numbers again.

Mr Clifford : There is research about numbers and incidents and all that sort of stuff. To go back to Senator Dastyari and what you said there about working with the fans, that is what I would love to see. I had experience 10 years ago with the Canterbury Bulldogs. That went along similar lines to what we are seeing now—violence at nearly every game if not at all games, violence beforehand, violence on the trains, damage to trains, all of that. The way we got through that and overcame that—that club, give it credit, turned itself around—was by working with the fans. It was the fans who ended up saying 'enough is enough'. We had a stage there where we had a massive police presence. We had the riot squad at every game because we could not endanger people's safety. That was the environment we worked through then. We worked through it with the club and with the fans themselves.

Senator DASTYARI: Can I make a suggestion? I understand how these things work and the chain of responsibility within the police. Your role and your seniority is extensive. I know you mentioned that you just met some of the members of the fan group outside. If it was to be organised by the fan group to actually have a proper sit-down with someone as senior as yourself and perhaps—and I know you cannot speak on his behalf—with Police Commissioner Scipione—is that something that you believe could be a worthwhile exercise, to have some of these concerns raised directly with the highest level of police?

Mr Clifford : I would welcome that. When I met with the Western Sydney Wanderers before, we extended an invitation to the RBB. They did not take that invitation up. That was a matter for them.

Senator DASTYARI: Can you understand, considering some of what had been said and what has been put in the media, why they would have felt that that was not a warm invitation?

Mr Clifford : I do not know. I am happy to sit down with anyone and discuss this and work through it.

CHAIR: Are you familiar with the term 'ACAB'?

Mr Clifford : In what sense?

CHAIR: It is short for 'all cops are bastards'.

Mr Clifford : I saw that on one of the websites.

CHAIR: I am just wondering whether you think that might have influenced the response you get to your efforts to communicate with the RBB? Do you think that the relationships between the police and RBB is positive?

Mr Clifford : I am familiar with that term. I have seen that on a website. It depicts a T-shirt and I am told that is what it means. I do not take offence at that in this sense. I would rather put that aside, sit down with the RBB and try and talk through it.

CHAIR: Let me take you through a paper written by Professor Stephen Reicher, published by the Australian Institute of Criminology. There are a couple of points about it. He has studied crowd violence, the kind of football violence that occurred in Europe, at length. He has made recommendations which have been implemented in some cases, which has allowed him to test his theory. He says that securitised responses to crowds can actually contribute to conflict. What you have just described to us in your evidence is a securitised response to crowds—in other words, you impose rules on them. You have said to them 'none of you are allowed to do these things'. You have confirmed that you have difficulty identifying individuals that cause trouble so you treat the crowd as a homogenous group. That is precisely what Professor Reicher is saying contributes to the problem. So people who go to a football match, who are there to enjoy themselves and who have no intention of causing trouble get treated like a criminal in waiting by the police with fairly firm, severe restraints put on them and they then become antagonistic towards the police. What do you think of that? Have you studied Professor Reicher's paper at all?

Mr Clifford : With respect, I would like to correct you there; they are not my rules. The rules in relation to safety issues that I have mentioned both in the opening and discussed here are conditions of entry to the stadium, I would suggest, for very good safety reasons. I mentioned the overcrowding in the aisles. Sometimes I am told the bays will converge from three or four bays into one bay so you have got a serious overcrowding situation. You have got people standing in the aisles, standing and jumping on seats. They are all safety issues that are in place by the stadium itself—Pirtek, Allianz, any stadium at all. We are there to assist with the stadium security to ensure that people do not get hurt because of noncompliance with those conditions.

CHAIR: Just to be technical for a moment, condition of entry into a private property is a civil matter and not a criminal matter, is it not? So are you enforcing a civil condition of entry?

Mr Clifford : It can be criminal but, yes, we are there. In the case of the stadium, they asked the police to come along and help control or apply the conditions that are there for very good reasons.

CHAIR: Even if it results in the Wanderers thinking the police are out to get them?

Mr Clifford : I cannot help it if they think that way. To be honest, we have tried everything.

CHAIR: You have tried everything?

Mr Clifford : I am open to suggestions. If this committee can suggest some other way that we can approach this, that is fine. As I mentioned before, we are willing to work with the club or the governing body. Now you have raised a very good issue there and I am happy to meet with the RBB.

CHAIR: That is a good invitation.

Senator DASTYARI: We are going to have the RBB on a little bit later today. Perhaps we should suggest to them, through the chair, what you have suggested: that perhaps the answer will be a sit-down dialogue. If you look at some of their stuff, obviously there is a breakdown in communication. You have raised the issue of flares. I do not think any decent, sensible sports wants to see flares and the threat posed by flares at football games.

CHAIR: Not in a stadium.

Mr Clifford : Or in any crowded situation.

Senator DASTYARI: Maybe on a boat.

CHAIR: But are you aware though that this is not unique to Australia or Sydney?

Mr Clifford : No, it is definitely not.

CHAIR: Flares are popular in stadiums used overseas. Rather than take a hostile approach to them, a prohibition approach to them, in some circumstances in stadiums overseas, they have a special time when they allow them to let their flares off under safe circumstances. Have you considered that?

Mr Clifford : That is not a matter for me.

CHAIR: Who is that a matter for?

Mr Clifford : That would be a matter, I suggest, that would involve some legislation, the fire brigade's attitude towards it and where. That is not my area to comment on.

CHAIR: But you are happy to enforce a prohibition.

Mr Clifford : At the moment, my concern is in the stadium or when you get a crowd of people marching through a shopping centre. I am sorry, I have to keep coming back to poor Kevin Asada. I had to go and tell his family it was a bit of harmless fun letting flares off. A 14-year-old was killed by a flare. That is how dangerous they are. To put it in perspective: these flares ignite at 1,600 degrees Celsius. They are extremely dangerous.

CHAIR: We are not arguing about whether flares in a crowd are dangerous. What we are questioning you about is whether you have considered anything other than a prohibition approach.

Mr Clifford : I did not impose a prohibition. If you are talking about something like controlled fireworks displays, we have Sydney Harbour on New Year's Eve. That is a matter for others. It is not a matter for me.

CHAIR: Not for you personally, but I am speaking to New South Wales Police Force here. You are saying that you are enforcing essentially a private property condition of entry to Pirtek and that that is why there are no flares. You also conceded that you do not have much of a dialogue with RBB.

Mr Clifford : Sorry to interrupt, but it is actually a criminal offence to possess and let those flares off in that environment. Yes, it is a condition of entry to, I would suggest, most, if not all stadiums and venues in Australia, but it is actually a criminal offense to possess and use them. That is where it goes from enforcing a condition of entry to dealing with a criminal offence.

CHAIR: All right. It is not a criminal offence to stand on seats. It is not a criminal offence to chant foul and abusive language, notwithstanding the fact that it is foul and abusive.

Mr Clifford : You asked me a question about the chants. Look at the nature of it. If somebody said that to any one of us, I would suggest you would react violently. That is a vulgar chant. The one I referred to is talking about 'your mother'. If that is not inciteful—people might wonder why people leave the games after hearing that sort of chant and engage in violence outside the game. That is what I am trying to stamp out, not someone dropping the magic word here and there. It is about that organised, inciteful, vulgar chant.

CHAIR: It seems to me that you have a particular view of how football fans behave and you are determined to ensure they behave in that way. They have a different view of how they should behave—

Mr Clifford : Not all fans. I would like to think the majority of decent fans would support what we are trying to do, and that is keep them safe.

CHAIR: If they agree with you, they are decent; if they do not agree with you, they are not decent.

Mr Clifford : No, I did not say that.

CHAIR: My point to you is that perhaps there might be another way to do it. Are you familiar with Professor Reicher's work?

Mr Clifford : I am familiar with it. I cannot give you details of it. I think he came out here at one stage and gave some presentations—if I am thinking of the same academic.

CHAIR: The striking thing about it is that his analysis, his commentary, his experience and so forth prove that the issue you are dealing with here is not in any way new or novel. It has all been done before. What you are doing here in terms of dealing with the Wanderers fans and the violence that some of them are engaging in and so forth is not new. The approach that New South Wales Police Force is taking is contrary to what Professor Reicher thinks is an effective approach.

Mr Clifford : I agree that that is Professor Reicher's opinion.

CHAIR: If you think Professor Reicher is wrong, now would be a good time to say why.

Mr Clifford : I am not going to get into a debate. I am not in a position to debate the merits of his paper. All I know is I have a responsibility to look for any options and any cooperation I can get from the fans and the governing body. I am happy to do that so long as they work with us as well. It has got to be a two-way street. At the end of the day, none of us want to be sitting in a coroner's court or, indeed, fronting another Senate or state committee, explaining our inaction or why we got it wrong. I am more than happy to meet with the Wanderers club as I have done in the past, the RBB or anyone else who can exert some influence over the bad element of the crowd.

I take your point about numbers and all that. I am not trying to be confrontational on the numbers, but I cannot quote numbers about it. Sometimes it is a handful; sometimes it could be 100 people who are disruptive, causing trouble and putting other people's lives at risk. But the vast majority of people are good people.

CHAIR: I guess that is the point we are trying to argue. Professor Reicher says the same thing. If you treat everybody as bad then they will be more likely to react as if they are bad, whereas, if you only treat the bad ones as bad and everybody else is good, the outcome will be far superior.

Mr Clifford : I do not agree that we are treating everybody as 'bad'.

CHAIR: You don't?

Mr Clifford : No. We are about the people that are causing the problems and the people who are putting people's lives at risk. That is what we are about.

CHAIR: I have to read something out for formal purposes, and then I am going to hand back to Senator Dastyari. Noting the presence of various media organisations at today's hearing, the subcommittee has resolved that it will authorise all media outlets present at this public hearing to record the proceedings subject to the following conditions. The committee or a witness can object to being recorded at any time and the committee can require that recording cease at any time—I apologise for not reading this out earlier. Recording must not occur from behind the committee or between the committee and witnesses and must not otherwise interfere with the proceedings. Computer screens and documents belonging to senators must not be recorded. Flashes must not be used.

Senator DASTYARI: Assistant Commissioner, again, I want to say—because I know that we are about to wrap up—that this is not an easy job. You accept that you are trying to get a balance, and it is not an easy job getting the balance right between what is a handful of antisocial individuals and a vast majority of law-abiding, football-loving fans—is that correct?

Mr Clifford : That is correct.

Senator DASTYARI: You are also saying that you believe the best solution is a solution in which you are working with the fans and working with the clubs to identify the individuals who are behaving in an antisocial way?

Mr Clifford : What I said is that I am prepared to look at all options.

Senator DASTYARI: Okay.

Mr Clifford : All options.

Senator DASTYARI: I thought that what you were saying—

Mr Clifford : Sorry. I mentioned the meeting that we had with the Wanderers, and then we tried a different deployment model, if you like, at the game that followed that, and it was fine. There were no incidents that I was aware of that I should be concerned about. But then, of course, it went pear-shaped the following Saturday when they played against Sydney FC. I remember saying at a press stand up that I was optimistic that that would lead to change and that we would not see the violence that we saw on the following Saturday. It just seems to be, can I say, that there is that propensity for violence when certain clubs meet, because at the games since then—like the one on last Sunday—there have hardly been any incidents at all to be concerned about. It is just frustrating.

Senator DASTYARI: Who are the best people to identify the handful? When I am talking about handful—we will never know exact numbers. You have floated the number of 50 to 60 people for the incident last week. Let's say, out of a stadium, there may be up to 100. Again, these are all arbitrary numbers, but I think that is probably a fair number. Who are the best people to identify who the troublesome fans are? Is it the fans themselves?

Mr Clifford : The best would be the fans themselves.

Senator DASTYARI: And the best people to do that within the fans, who would probably know who the fans are, would be—you would assume—the leaders of the fan groups. They would be an important part of that?

Mr Clifford : I suspect that is a fair assumption, yes.

Senator DASTYARI: Going back to the body of international evidence that we have been talking about, and Senator Leyonhjelm has been touching on, it talks about how the best way of tackling football hooliganism is to remove that handful of individuals from the game and from participation—is that correct?

Mr Clifford : That is right.

Senator DASTYARI: And what you are saying today—

Mr Clifford : Sorry. That is if you accept that it is a 'handful'. There are 103 people that have been banned so far in three seasons. So I do not know what we should be—

Senator DASTYARI: Some of that, to be honest, has to do with alcohol and other things as well.

Mr Clifford : True; good point.

Senator DASTYARI: There are a whole lot of other issues going on. I think what you are saying here is important: you have come here today to the Senate inquiry and said you are prepared to work with everybody.

Mr Clifford : Definitely; yes.

Senator DASTYARI: You, at the highest levels of the New South Wales police, are prepared to sit down directly with the leaders of the fan groups to see if there is a better, more open, transparent approach that works for all parties.

Mr Clifford : I agree with that; yes.

Senator DASTYARI: You are prepared to do that?

Mr Clifford : We have been prepared to do that along the way. We have never closed the door on discussions with either the clubs or fan groups. As I have said to you, for me, it would be great not to have police at a game like that at all. That would be great, for everyone to sit down safely, enjoy the game, chant as much as they like—provided it is not inciting or vulgar—and to wave the flags. That is a good atmosphere. As I said before, it is good for the game of football, it is good for the City of Parramatta in this case, and it is good, healthy activity.

Senator DASTYARI: I go further and say that it is good for the whole of Western Sydney. What the Wanderers have been able to do is create a sense of a Western Sydney identity that, frankly, generation after generation of politicians have failed to do.

Mr Clifford : I will not comment on that, if you do not mind. But I will say: it only takes one of those violent incidents that gets wide media coverage to bring all of that good work undone. That is unfortunately the way it happens.

CHAIR: Are you familiar with Sir Robert Peel's Principles of Law Enforcement?

Mr Clifford : Which one?

CHAIR: There is only one set of principles: Peel's principles of policing.

Mr Clifford : You might refresh my memory.

CHAIR: Sir Robert Peel establish the first police force in London back in 1829. He established the principles of policing. I have been told by other members of the New South Wales police that they actually refer to this at the Goulburn academy, so I assumed that you might know about them.

Senator DASTYARI: I suspect Assistant Commissioner Denis Clifford left the academy a few years ago.

CHAIR: It has been a long time since you left Goulburn?

Mr Clifford : It has been a little while since I have been at the academy and studied any of that.

CHAIR: I am only going to read two of them out to you to ask for your reaction. There are nine of them. They are actually quite famous, Peel's principles. No. 3 says:

The police must secure the willing cooperation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain public respect.

And No. 4 says:

The degree of cooperation of the public that can be secured diminishes, proportionately, to the necessity for the use of physical force and compulsion in achieving police objectives.

Do you think they are applicable in this instance?

Mr Clifford : In certain circumstances, yes. In other circumstances, there is a time when you do need to have a police force that will step in and take action in relation to people who break the law—if people threaten the safety of others or put them in danger. It is okay to adopt those principles, and of course they are valid comments that you make, but there is a time when we cannot stand back and let people engage in violent, threatening behaviour. The flares are just one issue, but the flares are the most dangerous activity that I have seen during marches and during the games themselves. It is only just a matter of time, if that is not addressed, before someone is killed.

CHAIR: All right. I look forward to the day when the acronym ACAB is not used in relation to the New South Wales police. I look forward to that. I also really do hope that you will take seriously the lessons from the UK and Europe in relation to football crowd control, and particularly have a good look at the work of Professor Stephen Reicher on this front. In my estimation, New South Wales police are making some of the mistakes that have been made and have been learnt from in those areas. Thank you very much for your attendance today, Commissioner.

Mr Clifford : With respect, you are obviously entitled to your opinion, Senator.


Mr Clifford : As I said before, I am happy to work with anyone, including this committee, to find a solution to it. I look forward to it.

CHAIR: Thank you.