Dec 4, 2012

Posted by in Queensland Politics | 0 Comments

Can Do cannot commit on crime

Queensland has a new Police Commissioner in charge of our crime-fighting and community protection service and he has not shunned the spotlight since taking office.


Commissioner Ian Stewart is a product of the Queensland Police Service and has been keen to assure the public that he will serve our best interests as well as can be managed. By flagging some of his priorities, he has already prompted a sour grapes reaction from the powerful Police Union whose leadership is bemoaning the fact they have not been consulted on each of the new Commissioner’s priorities. Well, boo hoo, guys. You are an integral element of the system but you do not run the Service so get used to a back seat.


But there is one element missing from the appointment that raises concern. At no stage has Premier Campbell Newman detailed to Queenslanders what his government’s expectations are of the role of Commissioner or the service he now leads. If there was any discussion between Premier and Commissioner it has not been made public.


Naturally, it would be improper for the state’s top politician to provide any ‘instructions’ to the new top cop that could not be made as part of the public conversation. But by failing to detail to all Queenslanders what kind of society the government wants the Police Service to help deliver, the Premier has failed the  community.


Like many contemporary Australian leaders, Campbell Newman likes to beat his chest and threaten criminals with all sorts of retaliation if they jeopardise the safety of society. Mind you, his sterling sally a while back that crims should ‘be afraid’ and ‘should clean up their act – or get out’ was as underwhelming as the performance of NRL referees last season. Hate to tell you, premier, but the kinds of crims portrayed on Underbelly do stroll our streets. Ineffectual verbal posturing must have created plenty of laughs at low-life haunts and seedy watering holes around the state.


In fact, the Newman approach to crime-fighting is a series of tired clichés that seem like slapstick comedy at worst and a slap on the wrist at best. It’s all threatened new laws, increased penalties, some new controls on firearms and, of course, we’ll make those hoons pay dearly for their burnouts.


What is missing – and what the government seems entirely unable to articulate – is what kind of society Queensland deserves and what role policing has in it, especially prioritising their approach to community safety. Don’t we deserve a government that commits itself and the police service to making the streets safe for women? And not just after dark, either.


All praise to the Highway Patrol for doing their utmost to reduce that staggering debt burden left by Newman’s predecessors (with due credit allocated to permanent and mobile speed cameras for their supporting role). But what is to be done about senseless, random violence that cripples the quality of life of more than 3000 Queenslanders a year?


What about actually confronting the powerful hotels’ lobby and doing something effective to eliminate glassing with the horrific toll that scars untold Queenslanders for the rest of their days?


Paedophilia is an abomination that arouses condemnation across almost every strata of our society but where is the guidance to the Police Service as to what priority staffing and resourcing should be given to this nefarious activity? Similarly for the rampant growth in cyber crime that is robbing ever more Queenslanders of their identity and their savings.


The escalation of weapons and drugs in schools is indicative of the breakdown in wider society but can anyone reasonably suggest that police educative activities and even an occasional presence in schools might not yield a worthwhile improvement?


Do we not deserve the Police Commissioner and the Premier to have a public conversation, carried by our media, to discuss all these issues and more so that a series of priorities and sensible approaches can be articulated? Officers should welcome the guidance that would flow from such a dialogue. No, they cannot hope to meet all expectations but they can benefit from knowing what the community’s aspirations are. Could we dare to hope that our guardians of public safety might actually gain some inspiration and motivation from their two most senior leaders supporting their endeavours.


As it stands, redundancy-threatened Queensland public servants are the only ones afraid of this government while criminals chortle in the shadows provided by an administration that cannot tell us what kind of community it thinks we deserve.



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