Questions related to Bentley Blockade – NSW Legislative Aseembly 08/05/14
The following questions related to the Bentley Blockade and the use of police to smash the peaceful community movement were asked of the NSW Premier, Mike Baird and the Police Minister, Stuart Ayres in parliament on 8 May 2014.
As usual the Government has chosen to dodge the questions and hold the genuine concerns of the Northern Rivers community in contempt.
The Police Minister, Stuart Ayres made the comment: “We will ensure that the law is upheld, and the allocation of Police Force officers will be made to do that very thing.”
It is completely unacceptable for the NSW Police force to be used as the private security for a gas company which has no social license and at a cost to the tax payer of up to $8 million dollars.
It is also interesting to note that Andrew Constance, the NSW Treasurer characterizes the Bentley Protectors as “not peaceful farmers”.
The Treasurer should show more respect to the thousands of peaceful and passionate protectors of land, water and climate.
POLICE NUMBERS AND RESOURCES
Mr MICHAEL DALEY: My question is directed to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services. Can he confirm that despite more than 360 shootings since 2011, he is pulling 800 police officers from all over the State from their regular duties and sending them to the North Coast to break up a lawful protest against coal seam gas mining?
Mr STUART AYRES: I thank the member for Maroubra for his question.
Mr Brad Hazzard: Middle management.
Mr STUART AYRES: Yes, middle management. The decision on where police officers are deployed definitely is a decision made by the Commissioner of Police. Obviously, the Government supports the people participating in legal protest. That is something that this Government always has considered.
The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Maroubra has asked the question. He should listen to the answer.
Mr STUART AYRES: We will ensure that the law is upheld, and the allocation of Police Force officers will be made to do that very thing. But it would be remiss of me not to take the opportunity afforded by the question to update the House about some of the things that the Government is doing in relation to the Police Force.
Mr Michael Daley: Point of order: My point of order relates to Standing Order 129. I did not ask for a general update.
The SPEAKER: I understand the member for Maroubra’s point of order. The member for Maroubra will resume his seat.
Mr Michael Daley: I want the Minister to confirm whether he sent 800 officers.
The SPEAKER: Order! The Minister has answered the question. He is now being generally relevant to the question. The member for Kogarah will come to order and cease shouting.
Mr STUART AYRES: The member for Maroubra might want to know about the allocation of 800 or 600. It does not matter what number he is after: we can tell him all the numbers he wants to hear. Some of the numbers that come from the member for Maroubra are very good, such as that in New South Wales right now we have an authorised Police Force of 16,356, which is significantly larger than it was when the member for Maroubra was the Minister for Police. Just before Labor lost government, he confirmed in Hansard in response to a question asked in this House that the authorised strength of the Police Force was a little more than 15,500. Under this Government we have seen an increase in that authorised strength. This Government committed to delivering 550 additional police officers, which it is continuing to do. While the member for Maroubra continues to ask questions about how we allocate the resources of our Police Force, it is a good opportunity to mention the results achieved by the Police Force. In the latest Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research information, robbery is down 11 per cent—
Mr Nathan Rees: Not on the Central Coast.
Mr STUART AYRES:—and motor vehicle theft is down 13 per cent in New South Wales.
The SPEAKER: Order! I have warned the member for Toongabbie not to interject. The member for Toongabbie is on three calls to order. He will remove himself from the Chamber until the conclusion of question time.
[Pursuant to standing order the member for Toongabbie left the Chamber at 2.43 p.m.]
Mr STUART AYRES: Furthermore, stealing from a person offences are down 12 per cent, but not in the case of Eddie Obeid. When it comes to the allocation of policing resources, which I know is of considerable interest to the member for Maroubra and plenty of other members of this House, the budget provides for $192 million in recurrent expenditure for the Police Force. Some fantastic work is being done by our police in important policing operations, two of which are Operation Talon and Strike Force Raptor. This information is particularly relevant to the question asked by the member for Maroubra. Operation Talon is having a real impact on criminals, particularly in Sydney.
As a result of laws introduced by this Government and passed by this House, Operation Talon has resulted in 431 arrests, the laying of 688 charges, 2,905 person searches, 1,322 vehicle inspections and the issuance of 77 firearms prohibition orders. Most importantly, Operation Talon and Strike Force Raptor have resulted in a reduction in shootings in Sydney. In 2012 there were 98 incidents of shots being fired into premises in Sydney. In 2013, after Strike Force Raptor and Operation Talon commenced, the number was reduced to 51.
The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Kogarah is on three calls to order. She will remove herself from the Chamber until the conclusion of question time.
[Pursuant to standing order the member for Kogarah left the Chamber at 2.45 p.m.]
Mr STUART AYRES: Why is that number so important? It is because it is the lowest number of shots that have been fired into premises since 1995. For the entire 16 years that Labor was in government, including every single year when the member for Maroubra was the Minister for Police, the incidence of shots being fired into premises was higher than it was last year under this Government.
The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Canterbury is on three calls to order. She will remove herself from the Chamber until the conclusion of question time.
[Pursuant to standing order the member for Canterbury left the Chamber at 2.46 p.m.]
Mr STUART AYRES: The member for Maroubra can ask as many questions as he likes about the allocation of police resources because the men and women of the NSW Police Force continue to do an exceptional job. They are being supported by a Government that gives them the resources and funding they need to do what they need to do. They uphold the law and they are making New South Wales safer for every single resident of the State. We support them. The Opposition should think about doing that too.
POLICE NUMBERS AND RESOURCES
Mr JOHN ROBERTSON: My question is to the Premier. Does the Premier believe that it is appropriate to pull 800 officers away from their normal duties to help private company Metgasco break up a protest against coal seam gas mining—
The SPEAKER: Order! The Leader of the Opposition has the right to ask the question. So far it is in order. The member for Monaro will come to order.
Mr JOHN ROBERTSON: Should I start again?
The SPEAKER: No. I am sure the Premier has heard the question so far.
Mr JOHN ROBERTSON:—to help private company Metgasco break up a protest by peaceful farmers against coal seam gas mining—
Mr Andrew Constance: They are not peaceful farmers.
Mr JOHN ROBERTSON: I note the interjection from the Treasurer that they are not peaceful farmers. Is this confirmation that New South Wales and its Police Force is up for sale to the highest corporate bidder under his leadership?
The SPEAKER: Order! There were two questions in one. Is the Premier prepared to answer either question or both?
Mr MIKE BAIRD: The last comment from the Leader of the Opposition is utterly outrageous.
The SPEAKER: Order! The Leader of the Opposition will come to order.
Mr MIKE BAIRD: I pay tribute to our Police Force. Day in and day out we go about our business, and we do it in safety because of the great work of the men and women in blue. Only those on the other side would try to turn politics into policing. We are very happy for peaceful protests to occur within the law. I do not care where it occurs in New South Wales; we are happy to support it because it is part of the rich democracy that we are part of. That is exactly who we are, here in New South Wales. We are happy to support people to have a difference of opinion and happy for people to protest, but we ask, if they do protest, that they do so peacefully and within the law.
Operational matters are for the police to deal with. They are the ones who assess operational risk, they are the ones who deploy, and that is exactly what they will do in relation to this issue. We will continue to monitor the situation. We will continue to work with the local community and with the police, and we will take advice from police.
The SPEAKER: Order! I call the Leader of the Opposition to order for the third time.
Mr MIKE BAIRD: I want to be clear that for the Leader of the Opposition to make those sorts of slurs against the police is totally and utterly wrong and we will not listen in any way, shape or form to those sorts of accusations. We on this side of the House proudly back our police every day of the week, and we will continue to do that. We are proud of the work they do.