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Wednesday, 10 October 1984
Page: 2077


Mr WELLS(9.40) —I was very surprised to hear the honourable member for Boothby (Mr Steele Hall) stand up and say that the Opposition would support the Government in the passage of the Australian Federal Police Amendment Bill and then accuse the Government of hypocrisy for introducing the Bill. It is unusual for the honourable member for Boothby to use such language. He is not an intemperate man; he is a man slow to anger and slow to indulge in reprobation. But for him to accuse us of hypocrisy for introducing a Bill which he says we opposed in Opposition is a little rough. This Government is prepared to be persuaded on the basis of new information as it comes in. We are open to argument and reason. This Government, when it came into possession of new information, which the honourable member for Boothby would regard as important, quite properly decided that this was the correct way to go. The Government cannot be accused of hypocrisy on those grounds. If anyone is to be accused of hypocrisy it is the honourable member for Boothby, who criticises us for doing something which the Opposition has been in favour of all along.

I do not intend to keep the House very long on this Bill since it is obviously a rational move. The Federal Police in Canberra are at the moment performing two distinct and quite separate functions; the ordinary police function which is performed by police in every State and Territory of this Commonwealth and the protective function of ensuring the security of government buildings around Canberra. This Bill is designed to rationalise the situation by confining police to ordinary policing duties and establishing a new branch to perform the protective function in Canberra's public places.

Such an arrangement obviously has a great deal to recommend it. In terms of public relations for government departments, it is much better that the first person the public see on walking into a public building should be a civilian attendant rather than a member of the police force. Secondly, the training and skills appropriate to policing functions are not generally required in the performance of protective functions and, to a lesser extent, the specialised task of providing a protective service in public areas requires skills which the policing function does not always call upon. Because of the sensitivity of some establishments, such as the Parliament itself, these will continue to be protected by officers of the Federal Police. However, other buildings in Canberra will benefit from the reorganisation.

The advantages of this specialisation and rationalisation are so clear that once mentioned there is no need to go on any further. I merely record my support for the remarks of the Special Minister of State (Mr Young) in his second reading speech concerning the detailed implementation of the policy and thank the House.