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Monday, 14 October 1985
Page: 1177


Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy)(8.15) —I thank honourable senators for their support of these Bills, if not for the very extended canter they have just gone through on the alleged deficiencies of the Australian Federal Police and the problems of that force, none of which, of course, are issues to which this legislation is squarely addressed. The conventions of this place are such as to allow, if not encourage, discursive debate of this kind and I will do my best in reply to address at least some of the main points that have been made by Senators Lewis and Haines.

Senator Lewis suggested at the outset that the Joint Management Review had not yet been implemented. In fact, the JMR report was received in April 1984 and only five out of its 124 recommendations have not yet been implemented. Equally, Senator Lewis said that it was inappropriate for the current AFP resources review to proceed, given that the JMR report was not yet implemented. The premise for that proposition is false, as I have just indicated. In fact, the resource review is almost completed and the recommendations arising from it will be put to the Special Minister of State (Mr Young) later in the year. That review will address a number of the matters which have been the subject of comment by both Senators Lewis and Haines. For example, the salary question, which is stated to be part of an alleged morale problem in the force, will be addressed in that review. Terms and conditions are being considered for presentation to the Federal Police arbitral tribunal.

That is not to say that the Government accepts some of the more extravagant claims that have been made about the condition of morale in the force at the moment. In particular, so far as resignation rates are concerned, it is not accepted that there is anything remotely out of the ordinary about the present wastage situation. There is perhaps some tendency on the part of the Police Association to gild the lily just a little in relation to this matter. Although wastage rates are very closely monitored there has been simply no increase evident in recent times over the situation which prevailed previously.


Senator Haines —Maybe that just means that it was awful previously.


Senator GARETH EVANS —That is perhaps an interesting point for Senator Haines to make. One of the very interesting contrasts to draw is that between the very extended effort that has gone into resource analysis and review by the present Government and the effort of the previous Government which, when it established the Australian Federal Police in 1979, went about it without any analysis at all of the resource needs of the force of a kind that has been involved in both the review exercises to which I have recently referred. The contrast is stark. It is obvious and it does no credit to critics like Senator Lewis to ignore that state of affairs.

More general swipes have been administered at the general operation of policing in the Australian Capital Territory. It has been suggested that the force was under strength, that service was poor and that the kind of priorities set for the force were erratic. I make the point in response to at least some of these criticisms that since the AFP was created in 1979 there has been a 15 per cent increase in the resources made available for Australian Capital Territory policing as compared with a population increase over that period of only 13 per cent. To that extent the resource allocation has more than kept pace with the changes in the population base. To the extent that priorities and policing are always a subject of controversy, I simply remind the Senate that the ministerial priorities tabled recently by the Special Minister of State require the maintenance of present levels of service. The way in which resources are deployed from day to day and week to week is a matter for the Commissioner on the basis of the operational requirements as they exist from time to time. In regard to the question raised by Senator Haines about the Criminal Records Unit, I simply refer her to a very extensive answer which I recall making some months ago on behalf of the Special Minister of State when this question was raised in the Senate.

Senator Lewis spent some time on the old chestnut of the World Cup Athletics. He asked whether the proposed cost recovery for police service equals the double dipping which allegedly is involved in police accounts this year; whether members were paid overtime or given leave in lieu; what other functions suffered-to use his words-as a result of the World Cup exercise. I again respond by making the point that recovery sought from the World Cup organisers of costs directly attributable to security at the Games amounts to some quarter of a million dollars. No double dipping has been involved because the costs of this have been included in AFP estimates on the basis of a refund being forthcoming. The Government believes, as does the police force, that the overtime rates paid were appropriate, with time off in lieu being not an appropriate option in all the circumstances. Adequate staffing levels were maintained for the proper performance of other functions as determined by the commander of the force for the ACT during the period in question.

With regard to an alleged cutback in funds, police dissatisfaction at AFP resource allocation, allegations about 50 per cent of AFP motor vehicles being clapped out, allegations about tasks being increased for which resources are not available or skilled resources being used for unskilled tasks, again I simply say this: The AFP 1985-86 budget did involve an increase for the AFP of 8.72 per cent, which includes $1.8m as the first instalment of a government commitment to recruit a stronger force and a commitment which will involve the expenditure of about $10m over a three-year period. Motor vehicles in the Australian Capital Territory have been replaced on a time-kilometre basis to ensure a high standard, and a replacement program has been developed in consultation with the AFP Association. The implementation of the JMR recommendations provides that police skills are allocated where essential, with other duties being performed by Public Service support staff. Ministerial priorities, which are spelt out under the AFP charter, require resource deployment to major criminal activities. That is what has been occurring.

Without spending a lot of time on it, it is the case that each separate point that has been made in the course of this short but wide-ranging debate can be answered. That is even true of the very last point on my list in relation to police dogs. Senator Lewis said that special provision was necessary in this regard. The Minister, I am sure, is acutely aware of the situation in respect of arguments about police dogs and is considering options. After such a reply, who could possibly oppose the terms of this legislation, which has nothing whatsoever to do with any of the points that I have been making? Equally, it has nothing to do with the points that were made by Senator Lewis and Senator Haines.

One remaining point made by Senator Haines concerned the standard of proof in disciplinary cases. Again, as fascinating as this subject is, it is not one that is brought to our attention by the terms of this legislation. These matters are addressed in regulations that are yet to be made and they will go to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances in the usual way, so there will be ample further opportunities to debate that fascinating subject, on which I will have a great deal more to say than I have had to say tonight about police dogs and clapped out cars. I do thank Senator Haines nonetheless for her contribution to this debate, as I thank Senator Lewis, and I commend the Bills to the House for a speedy passage.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bills read a second time.