Select Committee on Redfern Policing
The Hon. GREG PEARCE [11.15 a.m.]: I move:
1. That a select committee be appointed to inquire into and report on the riot that occurred at Redfern on 15 February 2004 and in particular:
(a) resources available to NSW Police on 15 February 2004 as well as the normal resourcing of the Redfern Local Area Command,
(b) available strategies for managing major public disorder incidents,
(c) assaults on police in the Redfern area in recent years,
(d) the ongoing delays in the redevelopment of "The Block",
(e) policies of the Police Media Unit, and
(f) any other matters arising from these terms of reference.
2. That the committee table an interim report by 30 June 2004 and a final report by 30 September 2004.
3. That, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the standing orders, the committee consist of the following members:
(a) two Government members nominated in writing to the Clerk by the Leader of the Government,
(b) Mr Gallacher and Mr Pearce,
(c) two crossbench members nominated in writing to the Clerk by the crossbench members.
4. That the committee have leave to sit during any adjournment of the House to adjourn from place to place, to make visits of inspection within New South Wales, and have power to take evidence and to send for persons, papers, records and things, and to report from time to time.
The motion requires the House to appoint a select committee to inquire into and report on the riot that occurred at Redfern on 15 February 2004, and particularly the resources available to NSW Police on 15 February 2004 as well as the normal resourcing of the Redfern Local Area Command; available strategies for managing major public disorder incidents; assaults on police in the Redfern area in recent years; ongoing delays in the redevelopment of the Block; the policies of the Police Media Unit; and any other matters arising from the terms of reference. The motion requires the committee to table an interim report by 30 June 2004 and a final report by 30 September 2004.
The select committee will comprise six members. I foreshadow that I will move an amendment to paragraph 3 (b) of the motion. The motion was rather hurriedly drafted, given the urgency of this issue, and subparagraph (b) should provide for " two Opposition members nominated in writing to the Clerk by the Leader of the Government", rather than name the two members. I will move that amendment at the end of my comments.
Today it is time to draw a line in the sand. It is time the Carr Government demonstrated support for frontline police in Redfern and stopped its head-in-the-sand approach to the suburb's problems. It is time for the Government and this Parliament to clearly and unequivocally show absolute support for frontline police, who are literally fighting to keep our community safe. The Carr Government has refused to listen to the legitimate complaints of officers and has, as usual, buried its collective head in the pit of spin and propaganda.
When more than 70 frustrated police officers gathered at Redfern town hall earlier this week they were justifiably angry. They were angry at the criticism from the Government about the way the riot was handled. They were angry about the years of inaction and neglect by this Government. And they were angry that they were being made scapegoats for the incompetence of the police Minister and the Carr Government. For the record, the concerns of Redfern police were as expressed in their first motion, which is:
That the Redfern Branch of the Police Association calls upon the NSW State Government and the NSW Police Service to immediately re-introduce a permanent service wide Operation Support Group.
The Redfern branch has been calling for a permanent full-time tactical presence in the metropolitan area for over a year. This is because of the high level of violence directed at police and the lack of a response by the Government. The second resolution stated:
The Redfern Branch of the PANSW calls upon the Police Force to immediately upgrade the Redfern command from a Category 2 to a Category 1.
That motion reminds us of the appalling way the Government responded in Cabramatta. The Cabramatta police station was a category 2 station when clearly it should have been category 1. Police serving at Cabramatta had to go out on a limb to get the Government and the then Minister for Police to take action. The category does not necessarily relate to manpower, it relates to resources available to the police station. One would have thought that Redfern, being the extremely challenging command that it is, certainly warrants a category 1 status. It is really quite extraordinary that there has to be a riot in Redfern and a resolution by Redfern officers before that reclassification is considered. The third resolution passed by the officers stated:
That Redfern Officers are given the same special consideration and conditions as special remote locations, being given the opportunity to choose among LACs across the State at the conclusion of a three-year tenure.
The fourth resolution stated:
The Redfern Branch of the Police Association calls for the immediate introduction of a new Police Station and that the arrangements be signed off by 31st March, 2004.
In a radio interview the Minister for Police has admitted that the current accommodation in Turner Street is manifestly unsuitable. The police say it is squalid and disgraceful. Again, it is incredible that it took a riot and a resolution by the Police Association to get some action in this area. Clearly the new Minister for Police has not had his finger on the pulse and is not on top of his portfolio. The fifth resolution stated:
The Redfern Branch of the Police Association calls for Operation Concertinas to be made a permanent operation with a minimum of 30 full time staff.
Operation Concertinas apparently has had a very positive impact on crime around the Block, and police want that unit to be increased to 30 officers. The sixth resolution stated:
The Redfern Branch of the Police Association calls for the introduction of a full time robbery unit at the Redfern LAC comprising of a minimum of 8 Police Officers to investigate the disproportionate number of Robbery and steal from person offences that occur in the LAC.
Again, it is quite extraordinary that the Police Association has to call for this. We were all shocked and horrified to see the videotapes of robberies that have occurred in Redfern. One would have thought that the new police Minister would have dealt with this urgent matter. The seventh resolution stated:
The Redfern Branch of the Police Association calls for the introduction of a full time Redfern Drug unit comprised of a minimum of 8 Police to investigate the suburbs horrendous drug problems.
Again, that seems to be so obvious that I cannot understand why the current Minister and his predecessors have failed to do anything about the drug problem in Redfern, one of the five drug-indicator stations. Police know what the problem is and they know it is extensive. Police know drug crime has an impact on many other connected crimes. The eighth resolution states:
The Redfern Branch of the Police Association calls for an increase in the number of Detectives at Redfern to a minimum of 20 in addition to the Robbery and Drug Units.
Again, going back to the Cabramatta experience and before that to the so-called reforms introduced by former police Minister Whelan and Commissioner Ryan, the Government is well and truly aware of the lack of detectives, a problem that it has comprehensively failed to address. When Minister Costa was Minister for Police he failed to address that problem; obviously his total attention was on ensuring that everything that could be done was done to ensure that the basic number of police was recruited to meet the Government's election promises. However, the Minister did nothing about the lack of detectives and additional police resources. The ninth resolution stated:
The Redfern branch of the Police Association calls for an increase of General Duties Police Officers stationed at Redfern to be increased by 20.
Again, the circumstances of the riot indicated that policing numbers at Redfern certainly need attention. The tenth resolution stated:
The Redfern branch of the Police Association calls for the Minister for Police to publicly apologise to Detective Senior Constable Lee Bailey and Constable Fuchs for the way in which he down played the seriousness of his life threatening incident.
That resolution relates to the incident, which the Minister shamefully tried to spin and downplay, in which two police officers were threatened by a group of 15 thugs. It was a life-threatening situation and the response of the Minister was typical of this Government: concentrate on semantics and spin doctoring. The eleventh resolution stated:
The Redfern Branch of the Police Association condemns successive State governments for their lack of action over the past thirty years in tackling the real and underlying causes of crime in the Block.
I am sure we all recognise that urgent need to investigate what is happening there. The twelfth resolution stated:
The Redfern Branch calls for the introduction of specific legislation covering situations where suspects throw objects in the direction of Police. Such an offence to carry a prison term.
This is an area for Government reform and I am sure that the Government will act in due course to introduce legislation if there is a need to introduce a new offence. The thirteenth resolution stated:
The Redfern Branch of the Police Association calls for a Parliamentary Enquiry into Police resources in Redfern. The terms of reference to include examining the role of DOCS, South Sydney Council, Aboriginal Housing Corporation, ATSIC, Department Of Education, and the Premiers Initiative.
That resolution is the one we are responding to today, in addition to responding to the overall concerns about Redfern. It is quite clear from the call by the Redfern branch of the Police Association, and it is everyone else's view, that a broad-ranging inquiry is needed. A number of crossbenchers have some amendments to broaden the motion, and the Coalition is certainly happy to ensure that the inquiry is very broad. The fourteenth resolution stated:
The Redfern Branch of the Police Association acknowledges and supports the actions of Police involved in attempting to revive and keep alive the 17 year old youth who tragically died at Redfern and that the investigation into the so called critical incident be immediately stopped as it was identified that this was never a critical incident. Those persons found to have made unsubstantiated claims against Police be subjected to the full force of law.
The fifteenth motion stated
That the Redfern Branch of the Police Association will refuse to take part in any committee or forum that does not involve branch officials Huxtable and Reitano.
Of course, the Coalition would want the inquiry to be as full and open as the Parliament is capable of making it. The Coalition will always give 100 per cent support to the men and women who put their lives on the line every day, particularly in Redfern, an area that police refer to as the most violent place in Australia. Those police officers have asked for an inquiry to cut through the Government's spin and propaganda and to uncover the truth about the situation in Redfern. The Coalition is proud to support the call. Even the Minister has finally admitted what a mess his Government has made of Redfern.
When interviewed by Sally Loane on 2BL on Tuesday, Minister Watkins said the Redfern police station "was truly hopeless, it's probably the worst police station I have been into". He said the Redfern police deserved "to have proper accommodation" and that "we will get that done as soon as possible". The Government has already had nine years, how much longer does it need? It should not take the riots of a week and a half ago, and the frustrated public demands of committed front-line police, to finally get some action. The situation is unacceptable and lives are being put at risk. But the Government pretends that problems do not exist until they become overwhelming. Again, we only need to look at Cabramatta to understand the way in which the Government responds to problems that clearly are overwhelming—look at the collapsing and under-resourced rail system; look at the ongoing crises in health services.
This inquiry will genuinely examine the endemic problems and possible solutions for one of the most troubled locations in Sydney. We are tired of the Government's political stunts. It is time for a bit of bipartisanship and we should try, constructively, to solve these issues. The Minister has begrudgingly been pulled into accepting this by being forced to state that he has "no in principle objection" to an inquiry. That is what he said on the Sally Loane radio program. The Government will not show leadership on this issue so it is up to the Parliament to do so. We owe it to the community, to the people of Redfern and, most importantly, to front-line police, who give so much to our community but who the Carr Government has treated so appallingly.
As I mentioned earlier, I understand that crossbench members might move some amendments to this motion, the purpose of which is to support the thrust of what is intended to be a broad and far-reaching inquiry. I believe that one of my colleagues will be moving an amendment to paragraph 3 (b) to delete the words "Mr Gallacher" and "Mr Pearce" and to insert the words "two Opposition members nominated in writing to the Clerk of the House by the Leader of the Opposition". I commend the motion to the House.
The Hon. CARMEL TEBBUTT (Minister for Community Services, Minister for Ageing, Minister for Disability Services, and Minister for Youth) [11.31 p.m.]: I move the following amendment to the motion:
That the question be amended by the omission of all words after "That" at the commencement, and inserting instead:
the Standing Committee on Social Issues inquire into and report on:
(a) policing strategies and resources in the Redfern/Waterloo areas.
(b) other existing government programs in the Redfern/Waterloo areas, including local, State and federal programs.
(c) non-government services and service provision in the Redfern/Waterloo areas.
(d) strategies under the current New South Wales Government "Redfern/Waterloo Partnership Project", and the effectiveness in meeting the needs of local indigenous and other members of the community.
(e) proposals for the future of the area known as "the Block".
(f) any other matters arising from these term of reference.
(2) That the Committee table an interim report by 31 July 2004 and a final report by 30 November 2004.
In speaking to this amendment I state, as I did yesterday or the day before in the House, that I am sure all honourable members would join me in expressing sympathy and condolences to the family and friends of Thomas Hickey. The tragic death of Thomas Hickey and its aftermath should not be used to pursue a narrow agenda. The Government believes that that will be the outcome of the inquiry that is being proposed by the Coalition. That is why the Government has suggested an amendment that will provide expanded terms of reference to the Standing Committee on Social Issues to enable it to conduct an inquiry. As I said two days ago, these are issues that need to be examined. The Government's approach represents a far more comprehensive approach than that advanced by the Coalition. The words have been chosen carefully because I am aware that many members in this House feel strongly about the events on 15 February, what led to those events, the aftermath and the tragic loss of the life of a young person.
I have had some discussions with other honourable members. The words that I have put forward are the Government's view about what the terms of reference should be. Nonetheless, I have attempted to incorporate the views of respected members of this House who I think have a long history and knowledge of issues relating to Redfern and Waterloo. One of the things that became clear to me in my discussions with honourable members was that there was overwhelming concern that the committee's terms of reference as proposed by the Coalition were narrowly focused. Those terms of reference had an overwhelming focus on police practices and resources. Four of the five specific terms of reference in the Coalition's proposed inquiry deal with police resource and practice issues. The Government's proposed terms of reference pick up those issues in the first point but go further than that and acknowledge that other issues need to be examined.
For example, in discussions with me, Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile and Reverend the Hon. Dr Gordon Moyes made it clear that, if any inquiry is to go ahead, it must be obvious and must be made absolutely clear to the indigenous community in the Redfern and Waterloo area that they are welcome at this inquiry—indeed, they will be encouraged to come forward with views about issues that are affecting their community. That needs to be stated clearly and it also needs to be encompassed in the terms of reference. The Hon. Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans has strong views about and a longstanding interest in issues to do with Redfern and Waterloo and the Aboriginal community. He also suggested some changes that reflected his thinking on some of these issues. Other members also suggested changes that I have attempted to incorporate in the terms of reference that I have just moved as an amendment.
I stand by the Government's amendment. We have aimed to address the desire of honourable members to have a broader approach. Having said that, the terms of reference are not in any way aimed at undermining the significance of policing issues and the welfare of police, many of whom were injured by the violent actions of individuals, which cannot be defended. However, to pretend, as does the Coalition, that the issues that were in evidence on 15 February start and stop at policing is wrong. They do not. The Police Association has indicated that it believes there must be broad terms of reference for any inquiry and that that inquiry needs to look at both government and non-government agencies. The Coalition proposal clearly is inadequate. I believe that the police and the community deserve better than that. The issues are broader than what the Coalition would have us believe. In any event, the Government believes that what the Coalition contemplates in its proposed inquiry will be closely scrutinised through the critical incident team review mentioned by the Premier last week.
In any inquiry that is undertaken by the Standing Committee on Social Issues, such as the one that has been suggested by the Government, the processes that have already been established and that are under way must be taken into account—that is, the critical incident team review that has been mentioned by the Premier and that is being oversighted by the Ombudsman, and the coronial inquiry. Those processes, which are under way, and that have a particular focus, must take their course. The inquiry that is being suggested by the Government would have broader focus. The Standing Committee on Social Issues should be mindful of what is occurring as a result of those other processes. As I said earlier, the issues go beyond policing. Attention has been drawn to the significant issues and challenges facing Aboriginal people who live in, or are associated with, the area known as the Block and the broader Redfern and Waterloo area. It is clear that these issues go well beyond the manner in which this area is policed. That is what the Government's inquiry will achieve by looking at those issues.
The proposed inquiry by the Standing Committee on Social Issues represents a serious examination of a number of issues that affect this troubled area. It does not have a single barrow to push; it will take a comprehensive look at the issues and influences that have combined to create the problems we have witnessed in this area over a number of years. Any serious inquiry will look beyond the issues advanced by the Coalition and will concern itself with the influences of family breakdown, intergenerational unemployment and criminal activity. A serious inquiry will also concern itself with examining how we are tackling the problems that we know affect this area, and how effective we are being. That is what the Government's suggested terms of reference would achieve.
I want to say a few words about what is the most appropriate committee to undertake this inquiry. In my view, an inquiry into the events of 15 February and broader issues in the Redfern and Waterloo area should not be a politicised process. A committee that has a history of examining social issues in a thorough, comprehensive and sensitive manner must undertake this inquiry. The Standing Committee on Social Issues has such a history. It has conducted a number of inquiries of particular relevance to indigenous people. I believe it will be able, sensitively, to ensure that indigenous people can comfortably come forward and make their views known to this committee and to this House, and that is important. A number of people have said to me that indigenous people might be reluctant to front up before a Government inquiry unless particular efforts are made and a focus is placed on ensuring that they feel comfortable in doing so. The committee must also conduct its inquiry in such a way that it provides that scope. I believe that the Standing Committee on Social Issues is the only committee able to do that adequately.
The inquiry must be open to everyone. Police need to be able to come forward and have their say, as do members of the community. Government agencies will have a view. The Department of Community Services, which is involved in a range of initiatives in the Redfern-Waterloo area, will clearly have a strong view. The committee needs to be able to consider the views of all those bodies, and it needs to provide the opportunity for various sections of the community to come forward. I believe that the Standing Committee on Social Issues can do that well. A serious inquiry will concern itself with examining how we are tackling the problems that we know affect the Redfern-Waterloo area. That is why my amendment proposes a term of reference to inquire into the effectiveness of the Government's Redfern-Waterloo partnership project in meeting the needs of local indigenous and other members of the community.
The Redfern-Waterloo partnership project has achieved much already. Prominent among the Government's efforts is a $7 million cross-agency package of initiatives aimed at addressing a range of social, economic and infrastructure development projects in the Redfern-Waterloo area. It represents a comprehensive approach to dealing with what should be acknowledged as complicated and longstanding issues. I will briefly outline some of the work of the partnership to date. There have been improvements in the streetscape and increased police patrols in key areas, and these I am advised have led to reduced antisocial incidents. The street team has been linking young people with drug, alcohol and mental health services, as well as educational, sporting and other recreational activities in the area. The Government is working with the Aboriginal Housing Company, the owner of the Block, and the Aboriginal community generally. Early planning is well advanced.
High-visibility policing operations, such as Operation Vikings and Operation Players, have resulted in a significant number of drug-related charges and arrests, increased drug detection, charges for the commercial supply of heroin and ongoing supply of heroin, and the issuing of move-on orders at Redfern railway station. There are results. In the quarter to October 2003 drug-related crime in Redfern and Waterloo dropped to its lowest rate in five years. The police local area command is also working with young people and children at risk of antisocial and criminal behaviour through the Police Youth Mentor Program. Projects include the Redfern police youth camps and the Redfern police youth liaison officers. In addition to the projects under the Redfern-Waterloo project, the Department of Community Services provides recurrent funding to services in the Redfern, Chippendale, Darlington and Waterloo areas to a total of $4.19 million each year.
There have been achievements, but we cannot ignore the fact that the events of 15 February clearly indicate that we need to look at how effective we are in dealing with some of the entrenched social issues in the Redfern-Waterloo area, particularly the area known as the Block. That is what the committee inquiry will be able to do. No individual organisation or government agency can effect change on its own; a co-ordinated approach is required. I trust that the Standing Committee on Social Issues will hear evidence regarding the efforts of a range of dedicated government, non-government and indigenous agencies. The actions of the Redfern-Waterloo street team are subject to close scrutiny. Indeed, a review is currently being conducted into all human services operating in the Redfern-Waterloo area. That review will be very useful to the Standing Committee on Social Issues in its inquiry. It now appears that if an inquiry such as the one I have proposed goes ahead, it will commence before the human services review is completed. Nonetheless, I believe that the outcomes of that review will become known to the Standing Committee on Social Issues.
The Government is wary about the possibility of review overload. The human services review, the efforts of the critical incident team and the associated oversight of the Ombudsman, together with the measures available to the Coroner, mean that the issues in evidence on 15 February will be closely analysed. The inquiry is not designed to duplicate those processes but, rather, to look at underlying social issues, services provided by government and non-government bodies, and the effectiveness of those services in meeting the needs of the local community. It will be open to the committee to deliver proposals to better co-ordinated these efforts in order to achieve better outcomes. I believe that the Standing Committee on Social Issues inquiry will provide rational guidance in addressing the issues that many of us are aware of and want to see resolved. In my view this is a far more constructive approach to dealing with the issues in the Redfern-Waterloo area, examining the approach of both government and non-government agencies to addressing those issues, and developing positive proposals for the future. We need an inquiry process that engages the broader community and the indigenous community and allows people to come forward. The Coalition's proposal will not allow that to occur, whereas the Government's amendment will. I commend the amendment to the House.
The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE [11.45 a.m.]: I move the following amendment to the motion:
That the question be amended by omitting paragraph 3 (b) and inserting instead:
(b) two Opposition members nominated in writing to the Clerk by the Leader of the Opposition.
The Government's amendment proposes that the inquiry be conducted by the Standing Committee on Social Issues. The Government suggested that the inquiry should be conducted by a committee that is "not politicised", would allow all witnesses who may want to come forward to appear before it—the Minister identified Aboriginal witnesses in particular—and could sensitively ensure that their views would be heard. The Government suggested that if it were a Government inquiry, such witnesses would not want to come forward. The House needs to reflect on that argument. The Standing Committee on Social Issues is a standing committee of this House which, by convention, has a majority of Government members by virtue of the fact that its chair, who may at any time have a casting vote, is a Government member. The Opposition's proposal is that a select committee be appointed, comprising equal numbers of Government, Opposition and crossbench members.
If the Government suggests that its committee is not a Government committee but that appointing a select committee for this purpose somehow makes it a Government committee, the logic of what the Government proposes escapes me. The Opposition seeks the establishment of an impartial committee, which will provide fair representation. The options available to the Parliament are the Standing Committee on Social Issues, which is chaired by the Hon. Jan Burnswoods, and a select committee, the chair of which would be chosen by the committee. I do not know how members could possibly vote for the Standing Committee on Social Issues conducting such an inquiry. This House is well aware—as is the community, because there are ample media reports to support what I am about to say—that the Hon. Jan Burnswoods would not be able to provide the impartial judgment needed for such an inquiry. The political career of the Minister for Police was enhanced by her skills as his campaign director. Certainly she was in charge of his campaign in 1999. Indeed, we well remember the famous campaign photograph from the last election. I wonder whether the Hon. Jan Burnswoods will recall the photograph of her that appeared in her local paper? She was apparently seen to be removing some Liberal Party election posters.
The Hon. Peter Primrose: Point of order: If the honourable member wishes to denigrate or cast aspersions against another honourable member, she should do so by way of a substantive motion. She should not do so in a scurrilous and underhanded way.
The Hon. Duncan Gay: To the point of order: This debate relates to establishing a select committee. The Government has moved an amendment to refer the issue to the Standing Committee on Social Issues. The Hon. Patricia Forsythe is endeavouring, in the best way possible, to indicate that as a result of the close personal friendship between the chair of that committee and the Minister for Police the committee is not unbiased. The honourable member has referred to a photograph in a newspaper to reinforce her argument. She is making a valid contribution to this debate.
The Hon. Peter Primrose: Further to the point of order: The decision to appoint the Hon. Jan Burnswoods as chair of that committee was made by the House. It is totally inappropriate for the honourable member to introduce extraneous matters in this debate. If the Hon. Patricia Forsythe or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition know of something to do with the Hon. Jan Burnswoods that is relevant to this debate, they should bring it on by way of substantive motion.
The Hon. Greg Pearce: Further to the point of order: As you have ruled on numerous occasions—quite correctly—if the Hon. Jan Burnswoods believes that she has suffered some offence or slight, the appropriate course is for her to make a personal explanation. There is no allegation of unparliamentary language. The Government Whip has got his rulings incorrect on this occasion.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Amanda Fazio): Order! The level of detail to which the Hon. Patricia Forsythe has gone in her argument to try to establish some impartiality on behalf of the Chair of the Standing Committee on Social Issues is straying into an area that would be best dealt with by way of substantive motion. Therefore I uphold the point of order and I ask the Hon. Patricia Forsythe to continue with her arguments.
The Hon. PATRICIA FORSYTHE: I will, of course, abide by your ruling. I will not go to the issue of impartiality; I will stay with the issue of partiality and with the facts. The facts are that the key campaign operative of the Hon. John Watkins, the Minister for Police, at each of his elections was the Hon. Jan Burnswoods. I ask the House: Is she the appropriate person to provide impartial chairmanship of a committee to preside over something as sensitive as what we are talking about? This is a most sensitive matter. All honourable members were absolutely horrified by the events that occurred in Redfern on 15 February. Taking the politics out of it, we all want to see some resolution to what has happened in the Redfern community for many years. The way to go forward is to have a select committee to look at and deal with issues of resources to give the Police Force confidence about its role and place in providing adequate policing to that community.
We have to learn lessons from what happened. We can do that through a select committee of this House that is not dominated by the Government and that provides for appropriate impartial analysis of all of the issues. The Coalition contends that the Hon. Jan Burnswoods is not the person to provide that impartial chairmanship—it is as simple as that. Madam Deputy-President, I do not believe in any sense that I have contravened your ruling. I stay with the facts that the Hon. Jan Burnswoods is known to be close to the Minister for Police. The Opposition is concerned that she could possibly be seen as being partial in her interpretation of aspects of the committee to ensure impartiality. More particularly, the committee should provide a fora where the Aboriginal community can come forward with confidence and talk about issues. We believe that must be a select committee.
It is absolutely essential that we go forward mindful of the needs of the police, the community in Redfern and the community of New South Wales who regularly visit that area. As a State and nation we have to learn lessons. We cannot afford to have these sorts of events occur again. The media pictures of what occurred on the night of 15 February have been seen around the world. It is absolutely essential to solve the problems through a select committee that gives people on all sides of this debate an impartial, fair and sensitive opportunity to have their views heard. We must remember that our Police Force has to provide law and order in this area. As the Hon. Greg Pearce said, many elements of the resolution of the police meeting indicate that they are not satisfied with the level of resources. The police need to have their case put sensitively. The issues need to be dealt with impartially.
I urge the House to give consideration to the Opposition's motion. I suspect that at the end of the day there will be some agreement across the Chamber about the need for a broadening of the terms of reference. I suspect that the Opposition will be in agreement with much of what the Minister has said. I say to members of the crossbench that the critical decision is the nature of this inquiry and whether it is given to the Standing Committee on Social Issues, whose chair is known to be close to the Minister for Police, or to a committee that is impartial and will ensure that witnesses from the Aboriginal community and the Police Force are confident that they will be heard by an impartial chair. That is the key issue in the debate, not the terms of reference. At the end of the day there will be capacity for agreement. A potential conflict will arise if this matter is referred to the Standing Committee on Social Issues, as proposed by the Government. I say to members of the crossbench that the key issue before us today is whether the chair is partial or impartial.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.