About this Item|
Speakers - Jones The Hon Richard; Lynn The Hon Charlie; Chesterfield-Evans The Hon Dr Arthur; Nile Reverend The Hon Fred; Oldfield The Hon David; Rhiannon Ms Lee; Costa The Hon Michael
Business - Bill, Second Reading, Third Reading
POLICE SERVICE AMENDMENT (NSW POLICE) BILL
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
The Hon. RICHARD JONES [2.00 p.m.]: As I said earlier, Commissioner Avery was a far-sighted commissioner. He wrote a book entitled Police—Force or Service. He restructured the police service, and then renamed it so that the organisation would more accurately relate to the social function it performs. Commissioner Avery, the then Minister for Police and the Government of the time did not regard the police service as a police force; they thought it was an outdated mode. Apparently, in this century the term "police force" has come back in vogue. The then Minister for Police, Ted Pickering, was very proud of the new legislation to name the police service what it was supposed to be: a service. In his second reading speech the Minister said:
- Any large and sophisticated organisation operating in our increasingly complex society needs to employ strategic planning techniques to define clearly its purpose and goals. Where that organisation is concerned with such fundamental issues as law and order, it is obviously desirable for its functions and values to be specified in legislation.
There is no doubt in my mind that in order to have a successful police service, the service must have the respect of all community members. I fear that the legislation that has passed through this Parliament over the past two or three years is dividing the police service from the community more and more, so that it is no longer community-based policing at all. In some instances it is actually the police versus the community.
We had a long and heated debate about sniffer dogs. The Minister's maniacal attack on cannabis users has pitted the police service against a very substantial portion of the population, particularly young and poor people, who are always bearing the brunt of the attack of the Minister for Police on our community. In a sense, the Minister is using the police service as a farce. He goes around with his bullethead and looks like a head-kicker or head-butter. I think he wants to turn the entire police service into a head-butting organisation. I think he would be happy to do that. Ultimately, it does not work. The real danger is that the community, especially young people, who experiment with these drugs, in many cases only for a short time in their lives, will lose respect for the police service—or the police force, as it will now be renamed, unfortunately—
The Hon. Charlie Lynn: They have already lost respect for themselves if they are smoking pot.
The Hon. RICHARD JONES: We are talking about 40 per cent of the young people in our community. Is the Hon. Charlie Lynn suggesting that 40 per cent of the young people in our community have lost respect for themselves? Just because the Hon. Charlie Lynn never got involved with drugs—and fortunately for him, he did not, and I know he did not because he has told me and I believe what he says—many other people have. In some communities, it is more like 50 or 60 per cent; drug use is more prevalent in some areas. Just because people do something that happens to be illegal, it does not mean they have lost respect for themselves.
Is the Hon. Charlie Lynn suggesting that a person who takes more than one or two drinks has lost respect for himself or herself? Unfortunately, many young people engage in binge-drinking, which just happens to be legal. It is okay to binge-drink and then fall into the gutter; that happens to be legal. Does the Hon. Charlie Lynn suggest that such people have lost respect for themselves? Many teenage girls are now taking up smoking, which is a real pity. It seems that some of them believe they will stay thin if they smoke cigarettes. Does the Hon. Charlie Lynn suggest that they have lost respect for themselves? It is nonsense to suggest that.
With this gradual ratcheting up of law and order, as we turn our State into a police state—which is what we are doing as we are losing our civil liberties little by little—and turn our police officers against the community as a police force rather than as a police service, it will be more and more difficult for police to be able to perform their function. The Minister should have regard to history and have a look at the reasons that Commissioner Avery created the Police Service and community-based policing. The present Minister has absolutely no concept of the reasons, because he is absolutely fresh to the job and has no experience whatsoever in community-based policing; he comes to this place from the brute force of the Labor Council, thinking he can use in this Chamber and in the community the same head-butting methods he used in the Labor Council.
The Hon. Greg Pearce: He's a headbutter.
The Hon. RICHARD JONES: He is a head butter. That is why he has to shave his head; his hair would be mussed up from head butting if he had long hair.
The Hon. Greg Pearce: I wondered why he kept looking up to the gallery above the President. He is not looking for anyone in particular; he is looking for the reflection of his head on the panelling.
The Hon. Michael Costa: I am looking at the clock, actually.
The Hon. RICHARD JONES: And what does the Minister see when he looks at the reflection of his face? He sees a hard man. He is pitting the Police Service against a great chunk of the community, who then lose respect for police and make the job of police far more difficult in the long run. The Hon. Ted Pickering was an honourable Minister.
The Hon. Charlie Lynn: Not as good as the bloke who replaced him.
The Hon. RICHARD JONES: He was very good indeed. The Hon. Ted Pickering was always honourable in his dealings with the crossbench. He always did the right thing. He fell on his sword when he did not need to, for a very small misdemeanour. On 2 May 1990 he enumerated the current values developed by the senior management of the Police Service and the Police Board, which was also very effective, in the following terms:
- Each member of the New South Wales Police Service acts in a manner which:
upholds the rule of law;
preserves individual's rights and freedoms—
we seem to have forgotten that one—
seeks to improve quality of life by community involvement in policing;
strives for citizens and police personal satisfaction—
whatever happened to that, I wonder—
- strives to capitalise on the wealth of human resources;
makes efficient and economical use of public resources; and
ensures that authority is exercised responsibly.
- The need to distance police from undue political direction cannot, of course, cut across the clear right of Ministers and governments to establish policies and priorities.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN [2.12 p.m.]: I support the Police Service Amendment (NSW Police) Bill. As a starting point I looked up the definition of the word "police". The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines "police" as a "civil force responsible for maintaining public order … force with similar functions of enforcing regulations". The Macquarie Dictionary defines "police" as "an organised civil force for maintaining order, preventing and detecting crime, and enforcing the laws" and "to regulate, control or keep in order by police" and "of or relating to a police force". The Macquarie Dictionary defines "force" as "an organisation of police" or "any body of persons combined for joint action" and "to compel; constrain or oblige (oneself or someone) to do something". On the other hand, it defines "service" as "a department of public employment, or the body of public servants in it". There is certainly a service aspect to policing by the police force.
I had nothing at all to do with the political process in 1990. I remember reading about the changes that have been referred to and thinking how stupid they were. It was part of the gobbledygook management-speak of the day. Every week a new book or new mantra was published; every week an expert arrived on the scene having read all the books. Management experts invented more management terms. I have been trying to wade through a report entitled "The Pursuit of Police Integrity: Leadership and Governance Dimensions". The author of the report, Andrew Goldsmith, refers to changes in police management thinking. He wrote:
- Considerable reliance has been placed upon local area commands for ensuring the quality of service delivery.
- Of note here has been the apparently seamless integration of the analytical approaches of recent corruption probes with the corporate police governance approach now visible at senior police command level.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN: I have not worked it out yet, but I am working on it. He continued:
- As David Dixon observed, "If the [Wood] Commission's volume on reform has a dominant discourse, it is that of managerialism". A manifestation of this conjunction has been the development and introduction of more sophisticated employee performance management systems to enable regional commanders and field supervisors to better monitor and regulate the activities of police at the local level.
- … the paucity of analytical insight into police "management culture" has been obscure or overtaken by the frenetic growth of managerialism within police administration. The result, I suggest has been an abundance of management and a shortfall of conspicuously ethical leadership and democratic governance.
- … that the price of a truly professional and ethical Police Force is eternal vigilance and the need on occasions to heed the messenger
Policing is also about commonsense. It is about training members of the police force to assess any situation and react accordingly. There is no rule book for every situation, so police have to have commonsense. In 1987 I was hired by the Melbourne Olympic Committee to organise as part of its bid for the Olympic Games a relay run to emulate the 1956 relay run. That relay was run between Darwin, Cairns and Melbourne, and about 4,000 runners each ran about a kilometre. As the relay passed through each town, the local shire presidents or mayors issued messages of support for Melbourne's bid for the Olympics.
The event took a couple of months, and we were going fine until we were just outside Moss Vale. By this stage the relay participants had jogged more than 3,000 kilometres and a reception was being held for us. It was about five in the afternoon when a police car pulled up in front of me. The female officer said, "You will have to stop right here." I thought she was having me on. When I asked her why she said, "Because it's dark." I said, "I'm not quite sure what you are talking about. That mountain range over there is about 10 kilometres away and, as you can see, it stands out." She said, "It is 5.25 and it is dark." I said, "I think I have to speak to your supervisor"; by the time she got her supervisor there it was dark so we had to stop right there. Interestingly, other officers at the scene said, "All she does is attend courses. She has about three degrees so far because she is going to the top." I remember thinking, if she is going to the top we are in big trouble.
The Hon. Michael Costa: Was that the Victorian police?
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN: No, it was at Moss Vale. I have not seen her since. I have been watching out for her but she has not made it. She is probably still wandering around some university giving talks and presenting papers on the theory of leadership in the police force.
Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile: And flexibility!
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN: Yes. There are various leadership and command styles. In a paper entitled "Contemporary Comments", David Dixon, Professor of Law, wrote:
- While the Service's rhetoric is about moving away from a "command and control" leadership style, there is uncertainty around the leadership principles that are to replace it—
- While most Local Area Commanders "acknowledge the need to move away from a 'command and control' style of leadership", where they should move to is less clear.
Management gobbledygook creates confusion at all levels. Expecting police to have a warm and fuzzy attitude to everything they do is unrealistic. That is not why people join the police force. We must also remember that the Police Service is a department of public employment. Public servants are different from police. Police must belong to a disciplined force because they put their lives on the line. I totally support the bill. As I said, the only criticism I have is that it has taken the Government seven years to introduce it. However, now that it is here, it gets my full support.
The Minister probably needs to continue thinking along these lines because I think there is room under NSW Police for a police force and a police service. The Hon. Richard Jones spoke about community policing. NSW Police is a bit like the Army: the fighting arms are the infantry, artillery and engineers, and behind that are the logistical arms, transport supply, medical and so on. As I see it, the police service would run the police stations, administer and manage police youth clubs, perform community policing and traffic duties, operate call centres and investigate white collar crime. The officers do not have to have physical attributes to undertake such work. They would provide a service and they would wear the same uniform as other officers. That would broaden recruitment opportunities; people would be easier to recruit. We could recruit older people—make use of grey power; they could provide a wonderful service. Older people have experience, wisdom and a long-term connection with the community.
That would be one way forward. However, we also need a police force. We need the hard nuts, the detectives, the special crime squads to investigate drugs and firearms offences, the beat police and highway patrol. People would know when they came into contact with these police that the law had been broken and that they either are being investigated or need help. These police would provide the safety that the community needs. The community would know that these police would not be distracted from their tasks by having to perform duties that could be carried out by people in the police service. I commend these views to the Minister. Perhaps we can debate such matters on another day.
I commend the Minister for bringing this bill before the House. It contains long overdue reforms which will help to contribute to a safer community and a more professional police force and police service that will better serve the people of New South Wales. As I said yesterday with regard to the concerns of the Australian Democrats, the Greens and the other Independents, I respect where they are coming from. We must have mechanisms—
Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile: Excluding the Christian Democratic Party.
The Hon. CHARLIE LYNN: Yes, indeed, not the major minor party but the minor parties. One great thing about this institution is that members on the crossbench can express in the Parliament concerns that are brought to their attention, and those concerns can be investigated by the Police Integrity Commission, the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the Ombudsman and so forth. But at the end of the day we need to have both elements of force and service in NSW Police. If NSW Police were to operate along those lines, we would probably satisfy many of the concerns expressed by crossbench members.
The Hon. Dr ARTHUR CHESTERFIELD-EVANS [2.25 p.m.]: In a police state one does not have a police service; one has a police force. I guess that is the Government's philosophy. In 1990 the Police Service Act changed the name of the New South Wales Police Force to the New South Wales Police Service. At the time the reason for the name change was to restore the reputation of the force by encouraging community-based policing. Now we have turned full circle, as we will with the young offenders legislation, going through a brief period of enlightenment and then back to the dark ages. The bill will change the name of the Police Service to NSW Police. In his second reading speech the Minister resurrected the term "police force". He said:
- While NSW Police will be the organisation's formal name, the term Police Force will be restored to popular currency.
The bill provides for increased penalties, from 10 penalty units or $110 to 100 penalty units or $1,100, for the following existing offences: unauthorised use of police uniforms and insignia, impersonation of a police officer, and use of police designations by non-police in a business and employment context. I do not know where that leaves male strippers at hens' parties who turn up in a police uniform ready to do their bit, or people making films. Indeed, films about the United States Army consciously depict that army's so-called humane authoritarianism, its disciplinary hierarchy and its warm human face, which may be hard but firm in a fatherly sort of way.
The American military is very conscious of how films are used, and how patronage of such films helps the military. It keeps the costs of filmmaking down; filmmakers who portray the military in a good light are helped and those who do not are not helped. Presumably, the same would apply in New South Wales. Under this legislation, the public relations spinners—the Government is legend for spending a fortune of taxpayer's money on public relations—might start to use scripts and so on to influence how the word "police" is used and how police are depicted in films.
If one looks at the simple practicalities, in Canada all government agencies have the name of the agency followed by the word "Canada"—for example, Statistics Canada. Obviously, one would look in the phone book under "Police NSW", not "NSW Police". There are practical reasons for putting things in such a way. The essence of names is important, and if there are restrictions on filmmakers on the use of the name that might portray police in a bad light, I worry that they might have a hard time. I want an assurance from the Minister for Police that anybody expressing an opinion in relation to police would get the same help and resources as someone who is making a pro-police film.
The word "force" suggests strength, masculinity, confrontation and power. The word "service" suggests help—not subservience, but at least equality, in the sense of a waiter bringing dinner. I suggest that if we want an integrated society, not dominated by the power of the law but with a law that helps it to be better and more humane, the word "service" is more appropriate. I do not understand why the name of the police service should be changed; it should be maintained. One curious provision in this bill is that relating to special risk benefits for students of policing. There is a serious point to that provision in the bill as a police student, Robert Brotherson, was killed in a police pursuit earlier this year. The bill will extend to student police 80 per cent of the death benefits available to a probationary constable.
The Minister says that NSW Police will have to negotiate an increased general insurance package for students of policing. It is curious that the Government has spent the past three months telling the general public that insurance cover will not be available for public liability and benefits for those pursuing adventure sports will be cut as well. Will members of the public who are injured as a result of a high-speed police pursuit receive compensation? It might be noted that benefits to people who are injured in motor vehicle accidents have also been recently reduced. The Minister deftly stepped from his position as head of the Labor Council before the issue of workers compensation was discussed, and deftly did not step into this job until it was resolved: a very good piece of footwork.
While we should be as considerate and generous as is reasonably possible to people who are injured in policing, we should be sympathetic across the board. If we decide that we want a humane society we have to pay for it, and it should be included in packages and welfare benefits available to all. If an unforeseen accident occurs, we should feel pity for the person concerned, whether that person is a member of the police force or not. As I have said in debates on civil liability, workers compensation and motor accident insurance, at a bureaucratic or legislative level there should be equality across the board. I am not convinced that renaming the police service to NSW Police is a huge step forward. I think that using the word "force" is a backward step. I do not support this legislation. I agree with the improvement to benefits for students of policing, but I would prefer benefits to be spread more evenly in the context of workers compensation, motor accidents or civil liability.
Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE [2.35 p.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party supports the Police Service Amendment (NSW Police) Bill. The bill will make a number of changes, the most controversial of which is to change the name of the police service to "NSW Police". As honourable members know, the change of name from the Police Force to the Police Service was brought about by the Greiner Government when Parliament passed the Police Service Act 1990. One of the reasons for the change was the integration of police officers with the civilian administration of the Police Department. It may have seemed logical at that time, but it was a mistake, and it has had a long-term harmful effect on the operation of the police force, as I will now call it in view of this legislation. Whenever I refer to it in future I will refer to it as the NSW Police force. I hope that all members of the public and the Parliament use that term as it will help members of the police force to reaffirm their role in our society.
The Hon. Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans spoke against this proposal and said that he preferred the word "service", which reminds him of a waiter waiting at a table. Members of the police force are not waiters and do not wait on tables. The role of the police force is to protect the citizens of New South Wales, and in protecting them, to arrest those who break the law. Members of the police force do not serve criminals of New South Wales. They have to use force to arrest criminals and, unfortunately, more often than not they have to use more force than has been required previously because of the brutality and belligerence of gangs. I am concerned about the violence directed particularly at female police officers when trying to control a riot or to arrest males affected by alcohol. There seems to be an aggression directed at female police officers. In those circumstances the police are forced to use force to carry out their role.
When its name was changed to Police Service, as part of the so-called improvements to the police culture, it confused police as to their role in our society. Police officers are citizens in uniform who are there to protect and work for law-abiding citizens. They are not to serve the community in the same way as a waiter does. The other factor—to which the Hon. Charlie Lynn referred—is that the police force is a disciplined, trained organisation, not clerks, a bureaucracy or a civilian administration. Police officers are organised in the same way as an Army unit and are given uniforms and a rank of constable, inspector, et cetera. They are authorised to carry pistols because of their role in our society. They are completely different from any other part of the bureaucracy of this State. It is important that this bill now seeks to restore the understanding of the role of the police force, not so much within the community but within the police force itself. It is a pity that the Government did not make it clear that the title "New South Wales Police Force" is acceptable under this legislation. However, I note that the Minister for Police used the term "police force" a number of times in this Chamber. He also said in his second reading speech:
- Whilst NSW Police will be the organisation's formal name, the term Police Force will be restored to popular currency. The term is one of which police are justifiably proud. It has a strong history, and reflects the community's expectations and the Government's priority of highly visible frontline policing.
I do not believe any honourable member would object to the other provisions of the bill, such as preventing the unauthorised use of the term "police" in operating names. Whereas society accorded some respect for names and did not use or abuse those names, many rock bands and other groups seem to take satisfaction from using a term like "Police" for the name of a band—or the name "church" and so on—when the band or group may be conducting itself in a way that is offensive and contrary to the very meaning of the words that they choose, such as "police" and "force". I hope the Government will monitor that matter.
The bill also increases penalties for certain offences under the Act, including the unauthorised use of police uniforms and police insignia, impersonation of a police officer, and the use of police designations by non-police in a business-employment context. We hear all too often of a tragic event where a male claiming to be a police officer stops and rapes a female driver, who took on face value a claim by the male person that he was a police officer. Obviously, that person would be charged with the offence committed against the woman, but he should also be charged under this legislation and incur the maximum sentence of 100 penalty units for impersonating a police officer.
Importantly, the bill provides special risk benefits for a student of policing. There has been change in the way in which police officers are recruited and trained and I believe that has led to a loophole, demonstrated by the case involving Robert Brotherson. I would not argue for hours about it, but I find it strange that we are talking about "students of policing". That is a bit like using the term "Police Service". These are recruits who are trained at the police academy, and they could be termed cadet police or some other appropriate name. The term "student of policing" almost suggests that they are observing policing from a distance. They should certainly have the risk benefits dealt with by the bill. Those benefits should have been available immediately once they came under the cover of the New South Wales police force.
The bill allows for the making of regulations to prescribe educational or other qualifications or experience for appointment to NSW Police generally, or to a particular rank, grade or position in the New South Wales police force. There has been a lot of unrest in the Police Service about the promotions system. Inexperienced officers with academic qualifications leapfrog officers who have a great deal of experience and what might be termed police sense, community sense, road sense or crime sense by virtue of their length of service in the police force. I know we have moved on from promoting police simply because of their years of service, but it seems to me that we have applied that principle to an extreme.
I could give a number of examples of officers of high rank having to ask junior officers what they must do in particular circumstances. That breaks down morale and affects the operation of the police station or the patrol. I believe we are on the right track with this proposal and maybe others that the Minister will consider in the future. We are pleased to support the bill. We congratulate the Minister for Police—despite criticisms of him by some honourable members of this House—for pursuing these particular objectives. The Minister has our full support.
The Hon. DAVID OLDFIELD [2.46 p.m.]: I support the bill. I am very encouraged by the potential for the police service to be now called the police force. Police officers have an extremely difficult job. It is certainly a job I would not want to do, mostly because of the way that many in the community treat our police. I take particular note of the comments made by the Hon. Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans, who seems to think that our police should be serving the community in the way that a waiter would serve customers in a restaurant. With respect to the honourable member, that is a terrible affront to police and a very silly thing to say. There is no correlation between waitering in a restaurant and doing the duties of a police officer. As an aside, waiters usually benefit from tips. Unfortunately, the only response police get from many in our community is abuse. Policing is a very difficult job. We must encourage more respect from the community at large for our police officers and for the very difficult job they do.
No-one wants to be pulled over by a police officer, and certainly one of the best ways to avoid that would be, for example, not speeding, not going through red lights, and so on. Nobody wants to be pulled over by a police officer and nobody wants to unnecessarily come into contact with the police. There is a stigma among many people in dealing with the police. That stigma needs to be broken down. Police should be seen by the community at large as being the extraordinarily capable people that they are. They should be understood and accepted by the community as protectors of the community because there is no doubt they are doing a difficult job. Their jobs would be made easier if there was more community acceptance of their role, and more community participation in assisting police with their inquiries.
I note that collectively police officers will be known as the Police rather than the New South Wales Police Service and that that name will be used in the sense of a reference to the force. I am aware from my many friends who are police officers that when the police force changed its name to the Police Service, there was a great deal of concern. Certainly "force" is a much more appropriate word because unfortunately police officers need to use force on many occasions when they are undertaking the protection of the rest of the community. We have a defence force, which has been politically correctly named on the basis of its not being aggressive, but the word "force" is still used following its defensive aspect.
The name "New South Wales Police Force" is appropriate. I am very pleased that this has taken place. I am sure that most police officers, if not all, will be happy knowing that their organisation now has a more appropriate title than "Service". Police officers serve the public and in most cases the vast majority of police serve the public extremely well. The public should be more grateful for that service. The areas between the public and the police need to be broken down. "Police Force" is an appropriate name.
Ms LEE RHIANNON [2.49 p.m.]: The Police Service Amendment (NSW Police) Bill is a campaign by the Minister for Police to buy popularity with rank-and-file police officers. A tactic used by the Minister from day one was to neutralise criticism from the New South Wales Police Association and ameliorate the problems and criticisms coming from police officers.
The Hon. Michael Costa: I plead guilty.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: The Minister does not have to plead guilty. If honourable members would just listen, they would know that the Greens are not saying there is anything wrong with working to ensure that police officers have the best of working conditions, but that should not be done at the expense of the public of this State. Some of the positive aspects of the bill recognised by the Greens are the welcome introduction of a special risk benefit for students of policing. It has been more then demonstrated, both inside this House and beyond, that the Greens are strong supporters of workers compensation. We believe that this extends to trainees or students who are training on the job.
It is certainly ironic that the same Government that curtailed workers compensation entitlements that are available to police officers is now introducing a benefit for police students. But that is this Government to a T—give a bit with one hand, and take away a lot more with the other. It is just spin, spin, spin, to spin everybody into submission. The Greens also welcome the new power created by the bill to make regulations to provide for educational or other qualifications, experience for appointment generally, or for appointment to a particular rank, grade or position within the police service. This is a worthwhile extension of a recommendation of the Wood royal commission that the appointment and promotion system should be governed by transparent rules.
Allowing excessive discretion in awarding appointments or promotions is an invitation to abuse and corrupt behaviour. It creates the appearance or actuality of favouritism and is very damaging to morale. Although the Greens obviously appreciate the problems created by individuals who are making unauthorised use of police uniforms and police insignia, impersonating a police officer or using police designations in a non-police complex, we are certainly unconvinced of the merits of increasing the penalty for these offences tenfold. What an extraordinary increase—a tenfold increase. Why is the Government so desperate?
The Government has presented no evidence, not a skerrick, of any pressing need for such an increase in penalty, or of any particularly terrible consequences of the offences being committed. No evidence has been presented on that score at all. A tenfold increase in the penalty is certainly a dramatic rise. Surely the Government should at least attempt to justify its actions. Perhaps the Minister will enlighten honourable members during his reply. The Government has also presented no evidence whatsoever that increasing the penalties tenfold will be effective in preventing these offences from being committed. Why is the Government going there? The change of name from the Police Service to simply NSW Police and, to a lesser extent, police force, makes it clear that this is simply another element of the Government's law and order spin. The Government is more than happy for the term "police force" to be used. In fact, that seems to be the favourite term used by Government members these days.
As the Minister indicated in his second reading speech, he has an interest in the term because the term "police force" sounds much tougher than "police service". The Government desperately wants the police to be thought of as a force—something powerful and authoritative. In the contemporary context of the pathetic law and order race to the bottom, the term "police service" just does not cut it for the agendas of the major parties. As I said, the Greens believe it is a backward step to go from the word "service" to the word "force". The culture of the police service in this State continues to be a problem because it continues to be pervaded by police officers who engage in corrupt activities. Even with a more effective Minister the police culture would be difficult to change.
Leaving aside the ministerial factor, every effort needs to be made to change the culture. Therefore, the language we use to describe the institution of the police is relevant. The word "service" means assisting people, whereas the term "force" is of the old school and carries a heavy implication of power, pressure and possibly inappropriate behaviour. It is also worth noting the honourable members from whom the Minister received such strong support in this House, namely, those well-known supporters of human rights and civil liberties, Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile and the Hon. David Oldfield. The Minister is in interesting company.
Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile: And the Hon. Charlie Lynn.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile can mention the rest of them. I have singled out the very strong proponents. In particular the Greens question the new provisions relating to the unauthorised use of the term "police" in operating names. Although there is a range of exceptions, including notably groups whose purpose is to comment on or object to police actions, it is clear that a variety of organisations will be caught in the net. Those groups may be confronted by a quite messy situation when this legislation is in force, so the Greens question whether that part of the legislation is necessary. Surely it is sufficient for those who misuse the term in a fraudulent or criminal way to be prosecuted for doing so.
As is the case with so many of the bills that the Minister brings before the House, the police already have the powers to address those matters. The Minister either puts a spin on his proposals to appear to be doing something, or he increases police powers. This bill provides for a blanket ban which smacks of a control freak police service and a government that is too comfortable with censorship for the Greens' liking. I do not know how many members would be familiar with the work of the band The Police, which were popular in the 1980s, featuring Sting as its lead singer. Quite seriously, I wonder whether that band's name would be banned if it had come on the scene 20 years later.
Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile: Not if it had permission. It could get authorised permission.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: Yes. Earlier in the speech made by Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile, he said that we do not want more paperwork but we want results. By supporting this bill, he is creating more paperwork for the police service because people will have to apply to the Commissioner of Police for permission. The example I cited of the group The Police leads me to ask whether people will be able to keep their old long-playing records [LPs] entitled "The Police"? More importantly, will people be allowed to play their old LPs? The bill prohibits persons carrying on activities under an operating name that includes the word "police" except with the consent of the Commissioner of Police or in other specified circumstances.
The Hon. Michael Gallacher: The records police!
Ms LEE RHIANNON: I note the interjection about the records police. Who knows where the Minister will move next.
The Hon. Michael Gallacher: That's the real worry.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: Yes, it is all too bizarre.
The Hon. Michael Gallacher: Your speech is very bizarre.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: It is bizarre. The tragedy with the Opposition is that it just goes along with this bill and does not expose what the Minister is up to. Will all the old fans of the band The Police or any other companies that have the word "police" in their name have to ask the Commissioner of Police for permission? That is what all Opposition members are going along with. They are all ridiculing me but that is what they are going along with, and that is what they are signing off on. Maybe we will have the Costa thought police who will step in and tell us what to think, say and write. As I stated at the outset, this bill has negative and positive elements. The Greens will not oppose the bill.
The Hon. Michael Gallacher: After all that, you are not opposing it.
Ms LEE RHIANNON: We will call for a division, if the honourable member wishes.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
The Hon. MICHAEL COSTA (Minister for Police) [3.00 p.m.]: I move:
- That this bill be now read a third time.
I wish to comment on some of the issues raised by honourable member in debate on the second reading of the bill. The Leader of the Opposition was a bit cheeky, but I want to correct the record. In December I foreshadowed a change to the name of the New South Wales police force in the form that is currently before the House. The Government has not encountered difficulties of any consequence in relation to this issue. "NSW Police" is the name on which everybody signed off and it is the name with which we were to come to the Parliament. That is why that name is in the bill. I thank honourable members for their contributions to debate on this bill.
The bill, which renames the New South Wales Police Service, or the Police Service of New South Wales, as NSW Police, prevents persons and bodies from inappropriately claiming an association with NSW Police, and rationalises financial penalties for a range of offences under the Police Service Act. Ms Lee Rhiannon said earlier that I pandered to police officers. I plead guilty to that charge. One of the things that I have been doing quite publicly is talking to police officers about issues that concern them—something about which I make no apology. The bill contains one significant measure, the time at rank promotion, which is something that I know about after talking to police officers about their career paths.
The concern expressed earlier by Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile about inexperienced operational police having supervisory positions is one that has a great deal of currency in the police force. The Government made a decision to go down this path and introduce time-at-rank promotion in the police force for officers with experience for an appropriate length of time in a relevant rank or grade. Ms Lee Rhiannon referred earlier to old long-playing records. This bill will not prevent people in the entertainment industry, such as actors, from pretending to be police officers. It certainly will not prevent the cast of Blue Heelers from pretending to be police officers. That industry has been subject to a long-standing exemption. Those honourable members that raised this issue should read the Act.
The Government makes no apology for the fact that penalties for a number of offences have increased. I have been advised that there has been an increase in police impersonations—an issue with which we must deal. The Government is of the view that penalties should be increased and brought into line with penalties in other jurisdictions. I am a strong supporter of community policing—an important theme in all the Government's policing activities. The police and community service process to which honourable members referred earlier is aimed at strengthening bonds with the community. I do not believe we need the word "service" in the name of the police force. I do not accept the argument that we need the word "service" in a community-based policing approach. I spoke to John Avery about this matter. He was of the view that the word "service" had probably outlived its usefulness.
The Hon. Richard Jones: That is not correct.
The Hon. MICHAEL COSTA: The Hon. Richard Jones has outlived his usefulness. How long has the Hon. Richard Jones been a member of this Chamber?
The Hon. Richard Jones: For 10 years.
The Hon. MICHAEL COSTA: It is all very well for the Hon. Richard Jones to quote something that somebody else said. However, when I say that I have had a contemporary conversation with the same person who now has a different view, the Hon. Richard Jones disputes that fact. Clearly, he is a little confused at the moment. Mr Avery was clear that the word "service" was important when the new concept of community policing was introduced. This Government will continue to engage in community policing—a fundamental and philosophical issue in this State. The issue of benefits was fairly well canvassed in debate. I thank honourable members for their support for that matter and I commend the bill to the House.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a third time.