Mr ROGAN: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Police. In light of the revelations from the Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Service, what steps have been taken to protect whistleblowers?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai to order.
Mr Collins: On a point of order. I notice that the Premier just came to the lectern to remove his material. We took it that, as he had not yet addressed the subject of the question, he had not completed his answer.
Mr Carr: On the point of order. I answered the question about sick leave not only in this House but also at the media conferences on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No point of order is involved.
Mr WHELAN: I thank the honourable member for East Hills for his timely question. His concern for whistleblowers is longstanding. Today I am happy to announce the internal witness support program, an anti corruption policy that will herald a new era for police whistleblowers. From today police whistleblowers will no longer be treated like pariahs, they will be protected. That means that victimisation and harassment will have to stop. And it means that from now on every police officer will be able to act courageously to expose corruption in the Police Service. In the spirit of today's announcement I have been advised that within the last hour the new Commissioner of Police, Peter Ryan, decided to end the Police Service action against one high profile whistleblower. Commissioner Ryan has advised me that the Police Service will not proceed with its litigation against Tony Katsoulas. The commissioner and I see this as an important symbol of signalling yet another break with the past, a past that ignored the plight of police who did not toe the thin blue line.
From today the wall of silence that for too long has led to the victimisation and harassment of police internal witnesses will not be tolerated. This policy not only addresses the needs of known whistleblowers; for the first time there will be a structure to encourage serving men and women to come forward. This program is the result of a great deal of soul searching and consultation. Not only has the royal commission been consulted, but other government agencies such as the Ombudsman and the Independent Commission Against Corruption have actively participated in its development. Perhaps most importantly, the people most effected, the people with the most experience and knowledge about the treatment of whistleblowers, have also participated in this process. Whistleblowers Australia, the St James Ethic Centre and members of the Internal Witness Advisory Council were also involved. Whistleblowers Australia resigned from the council in June over differences about the Katsoulas matter. I am hopeful that today's announcement will bring that organistion back to the table.
Mr Cochran: On a point of order. The Minister for Police is clearly using question time to make a ministerial statement, which he should do at the appropriate time. He should not do so during question time, which is an important time for members on this side of the House. I ask you to rule him out of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I rule that the Minister is not making a ministerial statement.
Mr WHELAN: The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation knows a lot about whistleblowers. No-one can deny that police whistleblowers have been treated appallingly. They have been harassed, victimised and discriminated against. Even today newspapers carry reports of such behaviour as has been revealed before the police royal commission. I acknowledge that in the past police have been disciplined for reporting corruption, maladministration, serious waste and misconduct. Meanwhile the officers who were the subject of the complaints have often been promoted and lauded. This new program will restore the balance in favour of the good cop. It is a vote of confidence in the State's good cops. It replaces the internal informers policy, which was adopted in February 1994 and subsequently discredited, but even that policy was an improvement on the past.
During the past decade the treatment of officers such as Ken Jurotte, Deborah Locke and Kimbal Cooke cast a pall over the entire Police Service. The royal commission has given us numerous examples of the problems experienced by internal witnesses. The internal witness support program has drawn from the experience of these past failures. Only now with a critical eye has the Police Service been able to produce a sophisticated and supportive program, one that the Government believes will work and which has been working since the beginning of this year. The internal witness support unit is headed by Chief Inspector Carolyn Smith and she will administer the program. The unit will provide early intervention to ensure confidentiality and address victimisation.
I would like to personally congratulate Chief Inspector Smith and her team on their extraordinary effort since the beginning of this year. It is important to note that the unit will not operate as an island, because this issue affects every member of the Police Service. Individual problems that may be experienced by internal witnesses will be referred to the internal witness review committee; and all whistleblowers will be allocated a support officer to provide ongoing assistance. Copies of the new policy have already been sent to police all over the State.
I am also happy to advise the House that in the interests of the further development of the program I have asked the Police Service to ensure that it is reviewed annually by an external body. This will ensure that during the ongoing reform process the Police Service will have the benefit of expert external assistance. The Internal Witness Advisory Council will continue to monitor and develop the program, hopefully with the support of Whistleblowers Australia. A healthy and ethical organisation can be identified by the extent to which its members feel confident about reporting corrupt and unethical behaviour. The Carr Government aims to restore faith and confidence in the Police Service by creating a culture that encourages disclosure and integrity amongst its members. Today's announcement is the first step in that process.