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Thursday, 7 November 1985
Page: 1799


Senator REID(10.30) —I am glad that Senator Gareth Evans, the Minister representing the Special Minister of State, is in the chamber because in a sense the matter I want to raise tonight is a question to him. Some comments need to be made, which make this matter inappropriate to raise during Question Time. I refer to the account which the organisers of the World Cup Athletics have received from the Australian Federal Police for about $250,000, representing the alleged costs of the police presence at the very successful World Cup Athletics.

Canberra was awarded these games at a meeting in Jamaica in April of 1982, some 3 1/2 years before they were held. It is necessary to have 3 1/2 years to organise games of these dimensions. A lot of budgeting had to be done and many other matters attended to. It was not until 13 August 1985 that the organisers received a letter from the Commissioner of Police advising that the cost of the required police presence would be in the vicinity of $250,000. There is an issue involved as to whether or not the user pays principle ought to apply to the presence of police in any situation, and I shall come to that. If that were the case, I suggest that to raise the matter in August of 1985, only weeks before the event was held, was quite irresponsible. This Government had 2 1/2 years in which to come to this decision and to advise the organisers. They could then have budgeted for it and could have been in a position to pay the bill. That it was raised in August, long after the time that the price of the tickets was set and many had been sold, has put the organisers in a position where, I suggest, it is probably unlikely that they would be able to find that sum of money and, in any event, the request for payment should be withdrawn.

I come to the question of whether or not we have moved into applying the user pays policy for police. It might be very easy to identify the World Cup Athletics as a suitable organisation to hit and to say that it should pay up. Will this apply to all sport? Will it apply to amateur and professional sport alike, in which case the World Cup Athletics may very well be excluded? It goes further than that. From time to time in Canberra there are demonstrations and marches. I believe that most people would think that those demonstrations ought to be allowed to take place and that it is a proper function of police to be there. On occasions, we have had nuclear groups marching. Quite recently, parents of school children marched from Civic to Parliament House in protest at the Government's cutback in education funding. It was a quite orderly affair. There was never any suggestion that it would be anything otherwise. Because of the numbers of people involved and the numbers of children accompanying them, it was inevitable, and appropriately so, that the police would be there.

Are people to be charged if they want to march in this fashion? Will they have to pay the money up front, so to speak? What will happen if they do not pay? At present, we have a very unsightly demonstration outside the South African Embassy, which, as the Minister would know, is an illegal assembly on Commonwealth land. No one would doubt that there are embassies in Canberra which, because of the provisions of the Vienna Convention, require some police presence to honour that convention. Because of what the Government has allowed to remain outside the South African Embassy it has been necessary to have more police there than would normally be the case. Are the demonstrators there to be charged for what they have caused?

These are serious questions and the community is entitled to know what criteria are used to determine who should pay for police presence. They should have been announced by now. I have not raised this issue before because I thought that we would have seen something from the Government as to the new arrangements and who would be affected by them. It is a serious question, and I hope that if the Minister is not able to give a full answer tonight he will do so at the earliest opportunity.