Supply Bill


Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (16:15:15): It is always a sort of surreal experience speaking on the Supply Bill which, as other members have identified, is an opportunity for us to give the government a cheque for $3 billion without actually having any understanding of what they are going to spend it on other than that some of the things are going to presumably be similar to things they have been spending money on up until now.

When approaching the bill, you consider: should I support this bill or should I not? Of course, the opposition is supporting the bill because that is what we do. We do not have any alternative because the consequences of not supporting the bill would be that the public servants would not get paid between 1 July and whenever what is sure to be another miserable government budget is passed through the parliament. The appropriation I am sure will be considered in due time, but the Supply Bill gives them some pocket money to keep going until they feel the need to put forward their budget and get it through the parliament.

So, what should they spend their money on? What programs would it be useful to spend the money on? In my portfolio areas, the thing that immediately occurs to me that would be useful for the government to allocate some of this money to that we are granting them—this $3 billion—is maybe meeting or keeping some of their election promises which, it is quite apparent on current trajectory, are unlikely to be achieved.

The one immediately at front of mind of course this week is in relation to police stations. We understand that the commissioner has a desire to review the operation of the eight metropolitan satellite police stations. Indeed, there has been, of sorts, a form of community consultation. The consultation closed a couple of weeks ago and now, two weeks later, remarkably, in a very short space of time, the government's proposition that was put to the community to consider and come back with—that these eight police stations should, in fact, close—has been unmoved by the results of that community consultation, and this is disappointing. It is disappointing for a range of reasons but primarily because—I want to keep to this track—the government is failing once again to meet what would be considered to be election commitments.

Not all of these eight police stations came about as a direct result of government election commitments in marginal seats, but a number of them certainly did. In my electorate, back in the days when the Labor Party was interested in the seat of Morialta, they committed to a new police station at Newton, which was eventually delivered. On 30 June, it is going to be shut down.

Back when the Labor Party cared about the seat of Bright and was trying to give a parliamentary career to their bright, young star Chloe Fox, they promised a police station would be built at Hallett Cove. Eventually, two years after the election in 2008, lo and behold, the police station was delivered. Now, six years later, it is going. It is going to be closed on 30 June—next month.

In fact, that one may even be closing before then because, while most of these police stations are subject to leases, the lease of the one at Hallett Cove expired on 31 July last year, and it is had a month-by-month contract ever since. I ask members of the house: if the government knew on 31 July last year that their lease was expiring at the Hallett Cove Police Station and they really were committed to its future, would you not have had somebody in Treasury thinking, 'Why are we paying a month-by-month lease on this piece of government infrastructure? Why don't we get a proper new lease and see what sort of good deal we can get?'

I am concerned that the police station at Firle also has been on month-by-month renewals since 7 December 2013. The rest of these stations are certainly closing on 30 June this year, and some of them have leases extending. Newton is on 8 May 2017; North Adelaide, 30 June 2016; Blakeview, 30 May 2017; Pooraka, 30 June 2015—that one closes on the date that the police station is set to close, so that one is good at least—Tea Tree Gully, 28 February 2017; and Malvern, 31 January 2016.

To use Newton as my case study, because that is in my electorate so it is the one that I know reasonably well, I would like some indication from the minister about what will happen to that shopfront. The station is closing on 30 June. Firstly, how much are we going to spend on fulfilling our commitments on that lease, which is not due to expire until 8 May 2017? Will it be an empty shopfront, a Le Cornu's North Adelaide-style, in the Mercury Plaza at Newton dissuading people from going to the pizza shop or the Chinese restaurant next door? Will it be used for other purposes? I would be interested to know, and certainly—

Mr Duluk: Put a big fence around it.

Mr GARDNER: And put a big fence around it, like North Adelaide, is the suggestion that has come forward. One would hope not. One would hope that common sense will prevail, but there is likely to be a cost in giving up that lease.

More to the point, though, just eight years ago this was an election promise from a government, which at the time and since was proud of its record on law and order, which talked loudly about how it was the one out there fighting for new police stations and opening new police stations. The Labor Party criticised the former Liberal government which, having had to contend with the extraordinary economic and fiscal ruin of the State Bank, had to make some tough decisions, and the commissioner at the time had to make some tough decisions as a few of those stations closed. It is the Labor Party that now has that incredible record of rhetoric on law and order that is now closing police stations that were opened just five or six years ago: Newton, Hallett Cove.

There are also some specific issues that merit consideration in relation to some of the stations. In terms of the public consultation process, the government commented yesterday that only 40 submissions were received. I will accept also that some of these police station shopfronts will have had more submissions than others; indeed, some of these shopfronts have more merit than others. The Malvern one for example, I am aware, was not one that had just two or three people come in each day. The Malvern one, we are aware, had in the order of 10 times that number coming in every day to report, and there was a lot of proactive work being done there. I know that the community in Unley is very disappointed at the announcement that their police station will be closed. The member for Unley has been a firm advocate, and will continue to be so, for its retention, although with seven weeks before its closure date it appears that that may be difficult at this stage.

The member for Adelaide is another member of parliament who put in a submission in relation to North Adelaide; it was one of 40. It was a submission on behalf of over 1,000 residents who signed the petitions, over 1,000 residents who have invested in the fight to keep the North Adelaide Police Station open. In relation to the North Adelaide Police Station, I identify some of the concerns that I am aware the member for Adelaide, Rachel Sanderson, raised in support of her local community and her constituents.

There were concerns that a number of members of that community feel disconnected from government services, and the loss of another face-to-face option will just exaggerate this. She identified that, whilst online options are fine for many people who might wish to report offences, older people often do not wish to or cannot use those facilities. It is identified also, from the member for Adelaide's perspective, that the closest stations, if the North Adelaide station is to close, as it appears it will be, is Hindley Street or Angas Street.

Many older and younger people who have been at these public meetings with the member for Adelaide identified that that is not suitable for them; in fact, the ease of parking around the current North Adelaide station was an incentive for people to engage with that service. Local residents also reported concerns about safety in the area and the proactive, positive engagement that the North Adelaide uniformed officers in that station had with traders and members of the general public.

I make some further comments, particularly in relation to the Newton station. Newton and Firle both service a significant number of ageing residents in the eastern suburbs from non-English-speaking background. A very high proportion of the Morialta and Hartley communities are ageing migrants.

One of the things that we understand as members of parliament is that one of the first things that you lose as you are ageing is your second and subsequent languages. A number of people find it harder and harder to express themselves over the telephone, the use of the internet for this cohort is particularly challenging, and a face-to-face meeting is what they expect and deserve. The point that I made to the commissioner is that, for this section of the community who often are reliant on public transport, these sorts of stations are particularly useful and important, and for both of them to go is deeply disappointing.

Further, the other point which is worth making and which I made to the public consultation as I had made it to the police commissioner, is that a number of these stations are there as a result of election promises by the government. Having been established to fulfil those election commitments, it strikes me that those communities who were promised those local stations, received them for a period of time—five, six or seven years—might have every justification to be deeply upset that those stations are now to be taken away again.

The transient nature of the promise that these stations are to be closed, as it appears that they will be on 30 June, calls into question whether any promise by the Labor Party in the area of policing in the lead-up to an election can be trusted. It was only one year and a couple of months ago that Labor's policy documents were bragging about their 24 new police stations—new police headquarters, new police academy, that is terrific, 24 new police stations—that is on page 85 of Labor's big document that the Premier was carrying around everywhere he went, but what does that document stand for?

It might have been a weighty document but it clearly did not mean anything if the government is then going to consequently ignore the very key parts of it that were in there. The 24 new police stations, something to brag about—and get this, under a paragraph saying 'Liberal' with a big cross next to it signifying 'bad': 'Eight police stations closed.' That is what the Labor Party said last year about what the Liberal government had done after the State Bank debacle.

Is the Labor Party saying that they have delivered without a State Bank, the same economic conditions that previously they had only managed to achieve with the State Bank? Or is it in fact that they have so little interest, that they have lost their moral compass to such an extent that they are not only no longer interested in the policy outcomes that they used to care about but they now do not even need a State Bank to deliver the economic and fiscal problems that mean that they have to shut these stations.

The saving is $500,000 a year; that is $500,000 out of an annual $80 million saving that the commissioner is expected to meet, to meet Labor's budget cuts in the policing area. It is a very hard job for him to do that because more and more is expected of our police and, at the same time, they are being asked to do things with new laws and increasing challenges.

The scourge of ice is creating a level of challenge for our police force that is different from those drug epidemics that we have had before, because when we have people who are addicted to ice, the purest form of crystal methamphetamine, we have an arrangement when not only do people often commit crimes to be able to pay for their $100-a-day-hit but the very act of taking the drug itself causes chemical reactions in the body that incite criminal behaviour in a chemical sense. There is a loss of risk aversion in the brain, a loss of consequence-related thinking, an energy level that is extraordinary and accesses the adrenaline and other chemicals that give the body a great deal of energy.

We have this double effect of the scourge of ice and police are reporting incredible challenges in meeting it. We have expectations, as they should be, that are high in the area of meeting challenges posed by domestic and family violence. Frankly, it is disappointing that our community in previous generations may not have had these same expectations. We now have expectations on police that are important, but the police now have to have the resources to meet those expectations.

Much is being asked of police officers and they are being trained more than before. We have just doubled the length of the training course and a significant section of the new training time is going to be dedicated to dealing with domestic and family violence-related responses—as it should be—but it is important to recognise that that does impose significant extra demands on police but, at the same time, police are having $80 million stripped out of their budget by the government.

How does that meet with election commitments? Well, the government's election commitment at 2010, members may remember, was that 300 new police would be recruited. That 2010 election promise was supposed to be delivered by 2013. The promise was there were going to be 1,000 more police than there had been in 2002. They were going to go from 2,400 to 2,700 sworn officers on the beat, on the streets. That was the wording that was in the Labor Party election documentation, and members opposite would remember, because each one of them was elected (with the exception of the member for Fisher who is since the time when Labor used to care about law and order) with these promises, that there would be 300 extra sworn officers on the beat, on the streets.

When it was clear that they were not going to meet that promise by 2013, they extended the deadline a bit. It was 313 by this stage, because there were 13 transit police as well. The member for Stuart will correct me if I am wrong, but I think it was extended first to 2016, and then when they were not going to meet that, it was extended to 2018, and that is the current situation. In Labor's election documents, the promise was that the extra 180 or so recruits who would be needed to meet that promise were going to be recruited and that the 300 target would be met.

So, where are we? We learnt at the Budget and Finance Committee just a couple of weeks ago that, from 2,400 to 2,700, police gave us the number of where they will be in 2017-18: 4,421 sworn officers plus 36 community constables. So, rather than from 4,400 to 4,700, we are going to go from 4,400 sworn officers to 4,457, including the community constables—a total increase, members of the house will be disappointed to hear, given that Labor members were elected promising 300 more officers, of 54.

The recruitment is part of the issue. Recruitment is going slower, so last year the government changed the goalposts to include cadets in the count. The member for Stuart, when he was shadow police minister, kept saying this to the minister in this chamber: 'You are including cadets to meet that target.' The minister said, 'No, we're all good, we're going to meet 300 extra police.'

Mr van Holst Pellekaan interjecting:

Mr GARDNER: Indeed, he did confirm at estimates last year that the original promise excluded cadets. About three or four months after I became the shadow police minister, we finally got the answer to a question taken on notice that the member for Stuart had asked months and months before about cadets, saying, 'Actually yes, cadets are going to be included in the count.' That was the first thing: the shifting of the goalposts of the years.

The second thing is they shifted goalposts to include cadets in their numbers, and now we have the numbers that they are not even going to get anywhere near the target of 300 extra police because, just as the recruits come in, there are going to be sworn officers whose roles are going to rephased into unsworn roles. We are not just talking about a handful of police prosecutors being transferred to private solicitors. There are dozens and dozens of other officers and roles that have been identified that are no longer going to be sworn officers' roles.

Custodial management is one that the Budget and Finance Committee identified, but clearly there are going to be dozens more that have not yet been identified, because otherwise the evidence given to the Budget and Finance Committee by the Director of Finance at SAPOL, Denis Patriarca, that there was only going to be a net increase of 54 sworn officers from 2010 to 2018 cannot be met. There is more coming from the police minister. They are closing stations when not only did they say that they would not, they actually introduced them just a couple of years ago. They are not meeting their recruitment targets. These were promises; these were matters of faith for the Labor Party with the community.

When Mike Rann was premier, this would never have happened. There were plenty of things we disagreed on with Mike Rann. It was all rhetoric and bluster and everything else, but can anybody in the South Australian parliament or in the media imagine for one second that when Mike Rann was premier he would have allowed his police minister to bring forward a plan that was going to mean that they were not going to meet that election promise of 300 by only having 54 extra police? He at least would have come up with a reasonable excuse, but this government now is just walking around pretending that all of these promises are on track when they are not.

This is a government that has lost its moral compass because it has missed that connection with the community. The community expects their government to deliver on law and order, and it expects a government to be concerned about their safety and their community, on their streets and in their houses.

When a promise is made of 300 extra police or when a promise is made that we are going to deliver a police station, the expectation is that that promise should last past Christmas. The expectation is that that promise should go through to the next election and then we should be looking at what else we can do for the community. I fear that when we get to the next election, all that will be left is for us to clean up Labor's mess and to clean up the broken promises and shattered election commitments that this government has left in its wake.

Bill read a second time.