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Wednesday, 5 March 1980
Page: 572

Senator SCOTT (New South WalesMinister for Special Trade Representations) - I rise to speak briefly on this matter. The Government opposes the disallowance of these regulations. Nevertheless I have taken considerable note of Senator Gietzelt 's contribution on this occasion and do not doubt for one moment the sincerity of his views on the matters that concern him. However, I must point out again that this matter in relation to the Australian Federal Police was subjected to a full debate in the Parliament in June 1979. It has since been agreed to by the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. I shall consider some of the points that Senator Gietzelt has made and pass comment on them.

We should be aware that in dealing with any matter that is relevant to police and our society we are dealing with an extremely serious situation. A matter which is relevant to the laws :, rider which we live is absolutely crucial. It is crucial that police organisations have confidence in their own structure and in their own capacities and should likewise have confidence that the community itself stands behind them, because that is the way a community survives in our society. The Act was drawn up as the result of consideration of recommendations and observations made by Sir Robert Mark to the Australian Police and to the Australian Government. From those recommendations has evolved the Australian Federal Police. At this stage the Australian Federal Police consists of two components; the general duties officers and the protective service officers, with clearly different areas of involvement. I think that a little too much sensitivity has developed referable to the different areas of involvement.

Senator Gietzeltreferred to regulation 4 which relates to the titles of constable, sergeant, senior sergeant and, in the case of general duties officers, station sergeant. Those ranks have the prefix 'protective service' which, of course, takes quite a deal longer to say, but it is the sort of distinction that occurs when we think of the society and the way in which we live. It is the sort of distinction that applies to many fields indeed. I recall 'paymaster' or 'engineer' as a prefix to 'sublieutenant' in the Navy, and these are also distinctions. I recall that during the war aircrew trainees wore a little white patch on their forage caps. Those are matters of distinction about which I think we might be tending to become too sensitive. I suppose that in actual fact 'protective service sergeant' would be commonly known as sergeant' anyway. The station sergeant, of course as I understand it, does not exist in the protective service component.

Senator Gietzeltreferred to regulation 6 which again relates to a measure of differentiation. It relates to the competency, the various qualifications of people involved in the two different branches of the service, the two different components of the service. There are slightly different requirements, educationally and physically. Of course, there are slightly different requirements from the point of view of age on entry. I do not believe that this is an area of serious concern. It is perfectly normal that various jobs in many areas across the range of our community efforts require and indeed attain different standards. In our own educational field, different matriculation standards are applicable to a whole range of facilties. Perhaps we are being more sensitive than realistic about the problems which Senator Gietzelt has raised this afternoon.

Regulation 1 3 has been referred to. It relates to the oaths and affirmations. Here we are looking at what has become a tradition. There is a requirement that general service officers are required to take the common oath together with the Public Service oath. The common law oath, as I understand it, is related to keeping the peace of the land. In the case of police in the Australian Capital Territory, that oath refers to their responsibility for peace of the land, referable to the Australian Capital Territory itself; another case refers to a State. The protective services officer has very specific and very important duties to perform in guarding embassies, diplomatic people, parliament houses and buildings of that nature, buildings where high security and high risk exist. I believe that the oaths are related to real circumstance and tradition and that they are not in reality a reflection on any component or anybody in the service to which we refer. Regulation 20 relates to the composition of the Promotion Appeals Board, about which Senator Gietzelt showed a measure of concern. Action is in train to ensure that, despite leave or any other form of absence, there is always a representation of each association on the Appeals Board.

The final matters referred to by Senator Gietzelt are referable to regulations 35 to 38 which relate to police associations. The suggestion was made that it was improper for the Government to enter into any form of control or directive in this matter. It is common practice in many Western countries for some sort of directive and control to be used in regard to police associations. I suppose it is because the police force itself is of such importance and such basic significance to the societies we live in that it is absolutely outside the bounds of security for the population to countenance a situation in which one may be confronted by a very significant number of associations with disputes, demarcation issues, and that type of thing. I believe it is something that the community does not see as being part of the police force under whose security it chooses to live. Consequently, the matter of proliferation of associations is not one which really fits into our particular society and into our particular way of life. In fact, the two associations concerned in the Australian Federal Police have agreed in principle to merge. I think that Senator Gietzelt made reference to this fact. Deliberations on how that merger is finally to be achieved are now being conducted in detail and with a measure of real concern.

I close my remarks by reminding the Senate that there is between these components in the Australian Federal Police a capacity to move from one area of service or from one area of concentration to another. That capacity to movethat mobility- is determined purely and simply by questions relative to those matters honourable senators were talking about earlier. Those questions are relative to age, educational standards and, of course, in almost every case, physical standards. It is my understanding that there is mobility from one component, from the security or guard division to the general duties division, and that members in the guard division have preference over new entrants into the force if they seek to move into the general duties division.

I think I have covered most of the matters that Senator Gietzelt raised. He mentioned ministerial assurances in an earlier debate. I understand that those assurances were that the jobs, terms and conditions of the Commonwealth Police would not be at risk. These assurances were contained in a document issued to all members on 24 January 1979. 1 conclude my remarks opposing the disallowance by saying that the Australian Federal Police seems to be the development of a composite force. No doubt it will develop as time goes by. I hope and believe that most of the worries raised by Senator Gietzeltwith a measure of real sincerity I am sure- will prove to be caused by sensitivity and not, in fact, to be matters of real and solid concern. So I reiterate that the Government opposes the disallowance.

Question resolved in the negative.

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