Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 11:04 :08 ): By leave, I move:
To amend the motion standing in my name to insert the words ‘in the opinion of this h ouse’ after the word ‘ T hat’ first appearing, and add the following parts 2 and 3 after ‘(i) any other related matters’:
2. In the event of the j oint c ommittee being appointed, the House of Assembly be represented thereon by three members, of w hom two shall form a quorum of a ssembly members necessary to be present at all sittings of the committee.
3. That a message be sent to the Legislative Council transmitting the foregoing resolution and requesting its concurrence thereto.
So that the motion reads:
That in the opinion of this h ouse, a joint c ommittee be appointed to inquire and report into—
1. (a) the impac t upon service delivery of the g overnment’s budget savings targets for SAPOL;
(b) the intended and potential consequences of organisational reforms proposed for SAPOL;
(c) the civilianisation of p olice positions previously under taken by sworn police o fficers;
(d) the potential impact up on service delivery of closing police s tations and the reduction of opening hours at others;
(e) the g overnment’s election commitment of $5.3 million to demolish and rebuild a new Henley Beach Police Station which will operate 9am to 5pm weekdays, rather than the recently extended hours of 8am to 11pm seven days per week;
(f) progress in achieving the g overnment’s election commitment to recruit an additional 313 police officers by 30 th June 2018;
(g) the resources available to SAPOL to meet the g overnment’s target of an additional 313 police officers by 30 th June 2018;
( h ) the use of SAPOL resources to hold prisoners and remandees on behalf of Department of Correctional Services; and
(i) any other related matters.
2. In the event of the joint c ommittee being appointed, the House of Assembly be represented thereon by three members, of w hom two shall form a quorum of a ssem bly m embers necessary to be present at all sittings of the committee.
3. That a message be sent to the Legislative Council transmitting the foregoing resolution and requesting its concurrence thereto.
Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: At the outset, let me be very clear that I am exceptionally supportive of SAPOL, as I know other members of this house are—both political parties are. Everybody should be. We have the best police force in the nation.
Moving for this select committee is not about trying to give SAPOL a hard time at all. They are the best police force in the nation, but they are not above scrutiny either. It is the right of members of parliament, and of parliament itself, to look into police activities, and it is my strong belief that it is the government’s lack of resources and budget cutting that is forcing SAPOL to make decisions and go down directions which SAPOL would not otherwise be pursuing. It is really not about SAPOL; it is very much about the pressure put on to SAPOL by government pressures which are leading to unsatisfactory outcomes, both for SAPOL and for South Australia at large.
We know that in the current forward estimates period, SAPOL’s budget has been cut by $261 million, and that is an enormous slice of money. That is a huge amount of money out of the SAPOL budget. It is inconceivable that that would not have a direct impact upon service delivery and SAPOL’s decisions, starting with the commissioner and all the way through the organisation, with regard to how best it can support and serve South Australians under such a very harsh regime.
We hear all the time from the government that the budget blowouts in health are because they are unavoidable because people get sick, people have accidents, and people require health services. Unfortunately, the government still finds it possible to just say that regardless of the demand upon SAPOL they just have to cut their budget nonetheless. The amount of $261 million over the forward estimates period is a very significant budget cut, and it is leading to very significant and, potentially, negative organisational reforms.
SAPOL should always be reinventing itself. SAPOL should always be questioning the way it works. Should some things be done that are not done now? Should some things that are done now not be done? Should some things that are being done be done differently? Or, in fact, should some things that are being done continue in the same way?
Of course they should always be going through that sort of introspection, and I have no doubt that Commissioner Stevens and his senior team would be doing that all the time, whether there were budget cuts or not, but the fact that there are such harsh budget cuts will change the outcomes of those decisions, because there will be some paths that they will be forced down because they have no other choice because of budget cuts.
I believe that the proposal to very significantly civilianise the South Australian police force fits into that category. Not to say at all that there should be no civilians in SAPOL—far from it: of course there should. There are activities that civilians can do just as well as sworn officers, and it is quite appropriate that you would pursue that course of action and essentially not waste a sworn officer on some of those activities, and yes, of course, as time goes on, that list and those types of tasks need to be reviewed and considered. But the very dramatic increase, which is something like recruiting 50 per cent civilians, is clearly budget driven. These are the sorts of things that need to be looked into.
The reduction of hours of operation at police stations and the closing of police stations is a very emotive, hot-button issue. I do not say that no police station should ever close or should ever have its hours reduced; of course there will be situations where that should happen. As the community around that station changes, as technology changes, as officers’ skills and capacities change, of course there will be instances where that is completely appropriate, but there seems to be a very strong requirement to close police stations because of budgetary constraints and/or to reduce their hours.
Deputy Speaker, I bring your attention to the Henley Beach Police Station, which is being rebuilt at the moment at a cost of $5.3 million. The opposition strongly supports that. We believe that was a police station that needed to be upgraded and that the range of activities happening in the broader surrounding area of the Henley Beach Police Station warranted a rebuild. But that rebuild was announced in the dying days just before the last 2014 state election and, at that point in time, the member for Colton and the Premier told everybody in South Australia that this was an absolutely necessary investment and, essentially, a necessary resource for SAPOL, and the hours of 8am to 11pm seven days a week, with this new upgraded, state-of-the-art police station, were actually what Henley Beach and the surrounding district needed.
Now, of course, as we all know, those hours have been reduced down to nine to five, five days a week. We are all open-minded and we can all understand that technology improves and community expectations improve and police capacity improves, but to make that bold statement in the dying days of the election that this upgrade and the extended hours were absolutely necessary for community safety and to now say, ‘Actually, they are not at all. Now it can be business hours,’ really does beggar belief. I think that is just one example of many that this committee, if the government agrees to establish it, could look into and that the community of South Australia would benefit from straightaway.
We need to have a very thorough, objective and impassionate decision-making process about reinvestment and rebuilding police stations and their hours of operation, not having the government come out to shore up a very marginal seat in the last couple of days before an election and offer money, extended hours and extended support to the local community through SAPOL and then two years later say, ‘Well, actually it’s just not necessary anymore, so we’re not going to do it.’ That is not what I would call a thorough, objective and impassionate review of how policing should be operating, and I am confident that the local community around the Henley Beach Police Station has exactly the same opinion.
The Recruit 313 election promise—which was made by the government back in 2010 as an election commitment and was originally to be delivered by 2014, that is, that the government would recruit an additional 313 police officers net on top of current sworn officer population at the time—is something that has been outrageously dealt with by the government. As I said, made in 2010, to be fulfilled by 2014, and now the government says it will fulfil it by 2018.
That commitment was to grow the number of sworn police officers by 313 and now the government is trying to suggest that cadets should be included in that number, which was very clearly not the case at the time. I fear that the government might also try to include civilians in that recruiting promise and say, ‘Oh we’ve recruited a lot of civilians and a lot of cadets and some police officers and the total of all of them adds up to 313, and so we have fulfilled the promise.’ Well, that would be completely unacceptable. The promise was very clearly for 313 additional net sworn officers.
The government still says—the Premier has restated, and the police minister has restated—that it will fulfil that promise, and I welcome that, that is a terrific thing, but the commissioner has also made it very clear in his statements to the Budget and Finance Committee that he would need an additional $8 million per year in his police budget to be able to fulfil that promise, and if he does not get that $8 million per year extra in his police budget, he will not be able to fulfil that promise on behalf of the government and, as I said earlier, we know the government is reducing the police budget by $261 million dollars over four years.
Two successive police commissioners have said that it will not be possible to fulfil the government’s Recruit 313 election commitment with existing resources and yet the government says it will still fulfil that commitment, so nobody really knows how. It is not possible for the commissioner to be saying that he cannot get enough sworn police officers, that he is actually going to recruit more civilian officers. The government is saying, no, they are still going to recruit 313 extra sworn officers. The commissioner says that he needs $8 million more in his budget and the government says, ‘Well, actually, you are going to have $261 million less in your budget over four years.’
Those statements, which have all been made to this parliament and/or to parliamentary committees, cannot all be true. I think it is very obvious that this proposed select committee should look into that. The promise that the government says it is still going to keep, based on all the evidence we have, cannot be kept. The government should just come clean and say, ‘Look, we can’t do it anymore,’ or should come clean and say, ‘We are still going to do it and we’re going to give the commissioner and SAPOL the resources that they need so that they can fulfil that promise.’
The resources that the government has given to the Department for Correctional Services has meant that the Department for Correctional Services has had to put extraordinary pressure on police, and DCS remandees are being held (from time to time) in police cells at Sturt, Port Adelaide and Holden Hill. That is putting undue pressure on those police stations and on police resources. That is a very important issue that needs to be looked at.
Again, that is a government resources issue: not providing resources to the Department for Correctional Services is putting SAPOL under extraordinary pressure and requiring SAPOL to make decisions that they would not otherwise want to have. That lack of resources from the government is having very negative consequences on both of those departments—both SAPOL and the Department for Correctional Services.
Very regularly, all of us here in this house speak in glowing terms about SAPOL. On particular anniversaries and particular events and particular situations, any number of us have spoken up. I have many times and I stand by every single thing I have ever said in this house—in general, but specifically about SAPOL at the moment.
If members of this chamber really believe everything that they have ever said in support of SAPOL, they will support the establishment of this committee. If members here really believe that SAPOL are as good as we want them to be and that SAPOL deserve the resources that they need so that they can do the job required of them, then they will support this select committee to look into it so that SAPOL knows that they genuinely have their support. I do not mean just on nice days when we are wearing different ribbons on our jackets and things like that when people stand up, but that they honestly support SAPOL and they want SAPOL to have these resources so that SAPOL can get on and do the job that we want them to do on behalf of all South Australians.