Police Station Closures

Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (15:18): My question is to the Attorney-General. Does the Attorney-General believe that crime will rise as a result of closing police stations?

The Hon. J.R. RAU (EnfieldDeputy Premier, Attorney-General, Minister for Justice Reform, Minister for Planning, Minister for Housing and Urban Development, Minister for Industrial Relations, Minister for Child Protection Reform) (15:19): It's a very, very general, almost philosophical proposition. It's the sort of proposition one would expect to get in debating, where three people would be asked to say, yes, it will get worse, and three people will be asked to say, no, it won't.

An honourable member: What do you say?

The Hon. J.R. RAU: I say, 'One hears many things, my Lord. Whether the truth is amongst them is difficult to say.' I don't know. It would all have to be in context. If you had a police station close in a particular place where there was a big crime issue and there were no other steps put in place, obviously that might have an adverse implication. To answer a question like that in the abstract is impossible.

Mr GARDNER: A supplementary, sir: given the minister has asked for context—in the context that the government is closing eight police stations.

The Hon. J.R. RAU: Okay, if that is the nature of the question, then my understanding is that—

Members interjecting:

The Hon. J.R. RAU: Well, sometimes you don't know over there. You ask some—

The SPEAKER: I call the Attorney to order.

The Hon. J.R. RAU: As I understand it, the police commissioner is charged with the decisions about how he chooses to deliver policing services to the people of South Australia and, if the police commissioner is confident that by changing the service centres from which he delivers that and by doing it a different way as well or better, I am not in a position to second-guess the police commissioner. I have to say that certainly the current police commissioner—and I have every expectation to believe—

Ms Chapman: The one on the front page of the paper?

The Hon. J.R. RAU: The putative next one—are people who are very concentrated indeed on having a higher presence of police officers on the ground. If anybody has paid attention to what has been going on in the city, particularly around Hindley Street over the last few years, one would have seen a much stronger police presence, and it is no coincidence that that is part and parcel of the improvement in public safety in that precinct. I have every confidence that the police commissioner has the operational capabilities of being able to deliver good policing in the way that the police commissioner believes that can be done.

Mr GARDNER: A supplementary, sir: given the minister's answer, why did he say on 6 March last year that crime rose as a result of the closure of police stations under previous governments?

The Hon. J.R. RAU: Again—

Mr Pisoni interjecting:

The SPEAKER: The member for Unley iswarned a first time. Does the Attorney wish to answer? No. The member for Bright. I shall listen carefully.

Mr SPEIRS (Bright) (15:22): My question is to the Minister for Police. When the Labor Party promised my constituents a new police station at Hallett Cove at the 2006 election, and then held a media launch to open it in 2008, why was nobody warned that it would be closed just seven years later?

The Hon. A. PICCOLO (LightMinister for Disabilities, Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) (15:23): The operation of the police and also the dedication of officers in their duties, etc., is in the province of the police commissioner. The police commissioner has made it very clear publicly on radio, in the media and also in community meetings that from his perspective—

Members interjecting:

The Hon. A. PICCOLO: No, it is not a question of money. He has made that very clear. He has made it very clear that from his perspective in terms of delivering the best police service for the state, it would be achieved by, and I quote him here—in terms of stations, that 'bricks and mortar do not deter crime. Police deter crime.' His view is to release officers—

Mr Pisoni interjecting:

The SPEAKER: The member for Unley is warned for the second and final time.

The Hon. A. PICCOLO: To release officers for duties on the road from satellite stations which may or may not get one or two inquiries a day in some cases—

Members interjecting:

The Hon. A. PICCOLO: Let me finish the answer.

An honourable member interjecting:

The Hon. A. PICCOLO: Well, in seven years policing strategies and policing techniques have changed. We've actually—

An honourable member interjecting:

The Hon. A. PICCOLO: Well, they have changed. You haven't been in government—that's why you haven't noticed. The best way to deter crime—and the police commissioner has made this quite public—is, in his view, to have a strong police presence on the road with police in cars, etc. He has also made it very clear that he believes this is best achieved by perhaps closing some of those stations that do not achieve much community input.

Mr GARDNER: My question is to the Minister for Police. In relation to all the police stations facing closure—which were opened in the first place as a result of election commitments—and the police commissioner identified four, what assurances did the government secure from SA Police that the stations could or would be maintained into the future before promising their establishment to the people of South Australia?

The Hon. A. PICCOLO: I thank the member for his question. At the end of the day the management of the resources of police is up to the commissioner. He will decide the best use of the resources, and I do not seek to interfere in that.

Mr GARDNER: A supplementary: in relation to the minister's answer in which he identified that this was in the purview of the police commissioner himself, the police commissioner has identified that public consultation will take place in these stations, and to members of parliament he has identified up until 7 April but the SAPOL website says 27 March. A number of members of parliament have told their communities about 7 April, so will the minister guarantee that submissions made by members of the public on this public consultation will be accepted until 7 April?

The Hon. A. PICCOLO: I will certainly ask the commissioner to do so, if possible. Given that it is an operational matter, it is not my place to direct the commissioner.