The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS ( 15:03 ): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Police a question regarding the reduction in operating hours of local police stations.
The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: On Monday of this week, the City of Salisbury unanimously passed a motion in relation to SAPOL's Organisational Reform Program following a lack of any response from the police commissioner to their calls to retain the current operating hours for local police stations. The motion read:
1. The report be received.
2. That a submission to be submitted to the SAPOL Organisational Reform Program by 27 May 2016 outlining council's concerns with the proposed reforms summarised as follows , and requesting the Commissioner not proceed with the proposed reforms in relation to the Salisbury, Holden Hill and Golden Grove police stations:
(a) lack of details of the specific usage data for the Salisbury, Holden Hill and Golden Grove police stations, particularly in relation to after-hours demand, that demonstrates that the local community will not be adversely affected by pr oposed changes in opening hours;
(b) likely detrimental impacts on community safety , a s the presence of an operating police station impacts the real and perceived safety of a community and the re lativeimportance of a police station is n't uniform across all offence groups and the importance of police stations in reporting crime in creases for more serious crimes;
(c) A reduction in customer service availability, particularly for members of the community who are unable to attend a Police station during normal working hours;
(d) A lack of rationale aligning SAPOL operating hours to other government agencies, given the unique nature of services provided by SAPOL;
(e) Assurances are required of the numbers and extent of officers returning to frontline duty, should the proposed reduction in operating hours and the expected improvement to community safety; and
(f) The need to maintain meaningful connections with the community via a locally-based policing presence that is accessible to the community.
My question is: does the minister consider that the significant concerns raised by the City of Salisbury are valid?
The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) ( 15:05 ): I thank the honourable member for his question and interest in the Salisbury police station, which I think he has mentioned on more than one occasion. Let me be clear about what it is that the police commissioner is undertaking here.
The police commissioner is the person, as we all know, who ultimately is responsible for the South Australian police force, and he is undertaking a thorough organisational review of the way SAPOL conducts itself. I know that some members opposite are seeing this as an opportunity to score some political points. I would be incredibly concerned about such an approach, because what we want is for SAPOL to be no different from any other modern organisation in the community.
I do not take the view that somehow SAPOL should not be treated like everybody else. We expect all departments within government, as with all organisations in the private sector, to be constantly reviewing themselves to make sure they are able to deliver the services the community reasonably expects, and SAPOL should not be immune from examining itself to ensure it is doing it. So, when the police commissioner undertakes an exercise in doing that, that is thought through, evidence based and methodical, we should be supporting the police commissioner in undertaking that exercise.
Of course it is appropriate, and is my expectation, that the police commissioner will take into account the public's view when it comes to this issue, which is exactly why the police commissioner has written to all members of parliament and has written to local government, asking them to submit any views or thoughts they had about policing in their local communities, particularly in the context of police station hours, which is exactly why the Salisbury council, to which the honourable member refers, is able to submit its views, its thoughts, its questions and its concerns to the police commissioner for him to be able to take into account during the course of his considerations.
But, the prism through which I hope, trust and understand the police commissioner is making all his decisions is, first and foremost, community safety. Community safety has to be the priority that the police commissioner puts to the top of the list. So, if the police commissioner, having had the opportunity to get feedback from the local community and of course from other members of SAPOL, then decides to amend police station hours over here or adjust them over there, I very much hope that he enjoys the support of the entire parliament. If it is well thought though, if it is evidence based, if its objective is community safety and if its objective is delivering more front-line services to the local community in Salisbury, then I would very much hope that is something that the Hon. Mr Dawkins, along with every other member opposite, would seek to endorse and support, rather than trying to score political points. It is a review that is being undertaken.
I wait for the police commissioner to conclude that exercise. Once he does, of course the outcome will be made public, but I endorse the police commissioner going through the process of considering what is going on with police station hours. It is a worthwhile exercise, and it is important for everybody to remind themselves that no-one is being arrested by an officer who is sitting behind a desk, so if the objective is to take someone out from behind the desk and put them on the front line—
The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: Sometimes someone walks in and decides to confess at 3 o'clock in the morning, then, sure—
The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire interjecting:
The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: Otherwise, we want police officers out on the beat. We are a government that has seen a massive—
The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire interjecting:
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: We are a government that has seen a massive—
The PRESIDENT: Order! Minister, sit down. The Hon. Mr Brokenshire, that is quite disrespectful, with such a loud voice; it is not even a little interjection.
The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire: Yes, I know, because I get frustrated.
The PRESIDENT: That's right; you take your frustrations out somewhere else. Allow the minister to answer the question without your interjection.
The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: I know the Hon. Mr Brokenshire is frustrated. He has been frustrated ever since he lost the police portfolio, and we have been fixing up the mess ever since. We have been a government—not yours—that has been increasing police numbers, that has delivered more services to the community and made our community safer. We just want to make sure that as police numbers go up, so too does the efficiency, the expeditiousness that we would reasonably expect of our police force, which is why we support the police commissioner in his police station hours review.
The PRESIDENT: Supplementary, the Hon. Mr Dawkins.
The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS ( 15:10 ): Will the minister acknowledge the local concern in the Salisbury community that assurances are required of the numbers and extent of officers returning to front-line duties should the proposed reduction in operating hours and the expected improvement to community safety occur?
The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) ( 15:11 ): What I can assure the honourable member is that I have zero doubt about the fact that when the police commissioner is making the decisions that he is currently in the process of making, the thing he is putting at the top of the list is community safety. When he makes decisions around the allocation of SAPOL officers to be at this station over here or to be on that task force over there, every decision that he makes is done so with the community and public safety in mind. That is something that I have a lot of confidence in, and I would very much hope that everyone in this chamber supports him in those efforts.
The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS ( 15:11 ): Supplementary: will the minister acknowledge local concern about the lack of details of the specific usage data for the Salisbury, Holden Hill and Golden Grove police stations, particularly in relation to after-hours demand that demonstrates that the local community will not be adversely affected by proposed changes in opening hours?
The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) ( 15:12 ): I understand that SAPOL, through its organisational reform effort, has been engaging actively with local government, including the local government organisation that the Hon. Mr Dawkins refers to, in providing them with the information that they need to be able to make a contribution that they would reasonably be able to hope to regarding the police station hours review. I would encourage them to make a submission. Obviously, the Hon. Mr Dawkins is conscious of the fact that they already have.
I am sure that the Salisbury council, if it wants additional information from SAPOL is more than capable of asking for it. If SAPOL is in a position to be able to provide the information, then I would applaud any efforts on their behalf to do so. It is very much an interaction that should be occurring without ministerial interference from the local government organisation to which you refer or SAPOL themselves. If the Salisbury council has strong views about its local police station, I would actively encourage them—and if they already have, I applaud them in their efforts—to make a thorough detailed submission to the police commissioner for him to take into account once he makes the decisions that he is likely to make.
The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS ( 15:13 ): I can assure the minister that the council has made representations before going further.
The PRESIDENT: We do not want any assurances, Hon. Mr Dawkins, we want a question.
The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: Supplementary: should SAPOL and the commissioner be immune from responding to organisations such as the second largest local government body in South Australia? Because he has not responded.
The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) ( 15:13 ): I am sure that the police commissioner has not responded to every submission that has already been made by local government organisations, because he is in the process of considering. The police commissioner is a police commissioner who readily makes himself available to the community and available to the media. I do not see this as a police commissioner who is trying to shirk or avoid public accountability through direct public engagement, and I am sure that if it is appropriate to do so, he will respond. What we need to understand is that the police commissioner is in the process of undertaking a review, he is taking information as it comes in, and if it is appropriate for him to respond, I am sure he will. But I have every confidence that the police commissioner is taking these views into account, which is why he has initiated this process in the first place.