Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — I am pleased to make a contribution in relation to the Police Regulation Amendment (Protective Services Officers) Bill 2010. It is not all that common to be able to stand here and say we are as one in relation to an issue, but all of us in this chamber support the view that safety is — —
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Finn) — Order! I apologise to Ms Tierney for the interruption, but I would like to welcome to the house a former President of this chamber — indeed, the immediate past President — the Honourable Robert Smith. I am sure he is joining us on his way to another function he will be attending not far from here this evening. We welcome him to the chamber.
Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — As I was saying, everyone in this chamber supports the view that safety on public transport is extremely important. However, I will depart from my support of this bill in some of the comments I will make, because I do not think the bill assists us in advancing that objective. It raises a number of issues and concerns, and I do not believe it will provide us with the solutions we seek.
Those concerns have been raised by others, but they are worth reiterating.
Firstly, I do not believe the eight-week training course is long enough for the officers. I do not believe an eight-week training course truly reflects the difficulty of the situations the PSOs will be placed in. There is concern for the PSOs about the very difficult situations they will be placed in, and some of this concern could have been allayed were the legal powers of PSOs more commensurate with those challenging circumstances they will be placed in.
There are also issues to do with the equipment the PSOs will be using, including firearms and other weapons. There are issues around communication devices that have not been dealt with; nor are the amenity issues that are important to PSOs mentioned in this bill.
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Finn) — Order! I apologise for interrupting Ms Tierney. I ask the people in the gallery who are taking photos to desist, as that is against the rules of the house.
Ms TIERNEY — The bill also does not shed any light on how the PSO system will operate. In press releases there is mention of them working in pairs, but there is no outline of whether there will be a team structure, what the reporting mechanism will be and what hierarchy will be employed to ensure the effective operation of the system, not to mention the backup systems that will be required in terms of emergency situations. Also lacking is a description of exactly where the PSOs will be located and what PSOs will be required to do if incidents occur in a car park or in a surrounding railway precinct. Will they be able to deal with those situations, or will they be forced to remain on the railway platforms?
There is then the issue of overseas experience. In the past there have been attempts to introduce these systems overseas. As we know, recently in the United Kingdom this system was shown not to work, and their PSO equivalents were recalled.
A further issue is the budgetary matters associated with the introduction of this program. I have not been provided with information about where the money will be coming from — what line item will be used — to implement the PSO program. As recently as late last week the Premier on radio announced that only 50 PSOs would be in place before the end of the year. That is 50 out of the 940 PSOs promised at election time.
What we know about this project now is how slow the rollout will be. The community is starting to see the true colours of this government. There had been a rush of blood but no work done on this issue when it was announced by the then opposition, and no work has been demonstrated by the new government, as evident in the bill before us today. I would have to ask: why was work not done on this during January and February? It must have been a lot more important to continue the post-election parties than to put some serious work into this issue.
It must have been more important than providing the underpinnings for this election commitment.
Honourable members interjecting.
Ms TIERNEY — We can hear the reaction now. Government members are not giving us any true or clear ideas; they are just proving again that they were obviously partying in January and February. This is a classic case of rushing in and capturing the imagination of the community.
Business interrupted pursuant to standing orders.
Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — Earlier I was expressing my disappointment with the bill and its lack of detail. I was saying that I believe that when they were in opposition members opposite had a rush of blood to the head in terms of developing the concepts behind this bill and that very little work has been done in relation to the bill since they were elected to government. I was also questioning why those opposite had not put in some work in January and February.
I think I was being a little bit provocative by saying that maybe they were just enjoying many post-election parties throughout January and February instead of getting down to the hard work that is required to provide the tenets and underpinnings of this bill.
The bill is quite disappointing because in the rush to capture the imagination of the community with a concept such as this you need the detail and the follow-through. The lack of it leads to a situation where people start having a greater level of cynicism about politicians and political parties and probably the political system as well. I suggest that government members must be saying to the community, ‘It’s all about believing what we say prior to the election, not what we do after it’. I also argue that we probably need to chalk this one up as another example of the government hoodwinking the public, along with what has happened with the pay rates of teachers, the police and low-paid community workers.
The way that this bill is structured and its lack of detail points to it being a very disingenuous proposal. It is not too much to ask for a detailed bill, fully detailed guidelines and a full, exhaustive explanation by the minister in the second-reading speech, and it is not too much for the community to expect.