Homemade Road Spikes
|About this Item||Subjects||Road Safety; Traffic Offences; Police: New South Wales; Weapons
||Speakers||Watkins Mr John; Debnam Mr Peter
Mr JOHN WATKINS (Ryde—Minister for Police) [3.50 p.m.]: Last year the Government provided New South Wales police with 600 sets of highly effective pursuit-ending road spikes. These spikes are state-of-the-art police technology. They allow the vehicles of speeding and fleeing criminals to be brought to a halt quickly but safely. The spikes have been used more than 30 times to end dangerous pursuits, enabling the capture of offenders. As often occurs, the crooks try to emulate top police practices. Again, in a disgraceful set of circumstances, they have tried to use the weapons of law enforcement against our front-line police. In the past week highway patrol officers in country New South Wales have discovered crude examples of homemade road spikes, hidden by the side of the Hume Highway. Some cowardly thug left 30-centimetre steel spikes in two locations on the Hume Highway often used by police as radar checkpoints.
It appears to be a blatant bid to prevent police from doing their job. However, it is not just a job for the police—it is the work of protecting people and saving lives on one of our busiest roadways; it is the work of enforcing the traffic laws to prevent death and injury; and it is the work of catching criminals who would seek to flee the law after their heinous crimes. Police patrol cars often have to take off at high speed in pursuit of offenders. Such a pursuit could end in disaster if one of these spikes were hit in an emergency situation. A major investigation is now being undertaken, including forensic work, to determine the source of the implements. I hope police are successful in catching these low-lifes, because bringing these offenders before the court would provide particular satisfaction.
The New South Wales Parliament changed the law a year ago to include homemade road spikes on the prohibited weapons list. New South Wales has the toughest prohibited weapons laws in Australia and the longest list of banned weapons. I added homemade road spikes to that list after an incident in which makeshift spikes were thrown at police at Campbelltown last year. Their inclusion in the prohibited weapons list means that even possession of these implements, let alone their use against police, will attract a gaol term of up to 14 years. The tough penalties were introduced because these backyard inventions have the potential to cause enormous damage, even to kill. New South Wales highway patrol officers are the only people allowed to use road spikes in this State. They will use them to end pursuits quickly and safely. The laws are there to protect the public and our police, and offenders in these cases should face the full force of the law.
Mr PETER DEBNAM (Vaucluse) [3.52 p.m.]: I will respond to the press release of the Minister for Police. The Opposition shares the Government's concern about the road spikes that have been found, I believe in three locations, clearly targeting highway patrol vehicles conducting radar checks. We are all very concerned about that. However, the Minister came into the Chamber and read a press release. He has obviously now gone downstairs to conduct a press conference. All we have seen from the Government on this issue is publicity. This story has run a couple of times. As I say, we share the Government's concern about this attack on police, but the Government should do something about it. This has not happened merely once; it has happened three times in three different locations. The Government must provide resources to find out who is doing it, instead of merely issuing press releases. Let me refer to the resources available to the highway patrol. The number of highway patrol officers is down by 10 per cent on authorised numbers.
Mr Andrew Stoner: They are replacing them with cameras.
Mr PETER DEBNAM: As the Leader of The Nationals suggests, the numbers are down because the Government is replacing highway patrol officers with revenue collection. The Government should provide the resources to enable the highway patrol to do its job. The Government should go back to the Staysafe committee report of 1994—10 years ago—which recommended the installation of video cameras in police vehicles. That committee was chaired by the honourable member for Wakehurst, who did a fantastic job. It recommended the installation of video cameras in police cars. What did the Government finally do after Paul Whelan announced it twice and the present Minister announced it several times? This year it announced an allocation of $8 million spread over four or five years to install video cameras in highway patrol vehicles. Officers are going to be killed because the Government has not installed cameras in police vehicles. It should put them in now. The Government can afford it because it is rolling in cash. The Minister for Roads is raking in money from fines, which he increased today. The Government should install the video cameras.
Another committee recommendation related to the highway patrol was the introduction of an offence of aggravated dangerous driving. We wanted to say to motorists who attempted to outrun police, "This is a serious offence." It is currently not a serious offence in New South Wales. That recommendation has been on the Government's books for 10 years—from the time Labor took office. However, the Government has done absolutely zero about it. It is like everything else in this State—whether it be road safety, policing, the health system or the Attorney General. The Opposition has to provide the initiatives and the ideas; it has to harass the Government week after week, year after year, to get any action. It very often takes a death to get action in relation to road safety. I note that the Minister for Roads is in the Chamber. The Deputy-Speaker merely nods his head and pretends that this is funny. I say to him, "John, give the money back. Give that $16,000 back and take road safety seriously." [Time expired.]