Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Move On Directions Bill: Second reading speeches continued

Hansard | NSW Legislative Council | 24 May 2011
The Hon. AMANDA FAZIO [3.15 p.m.]: In my view the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Amendment (Move On Directions) Bill 2011 is unnecessary because the powers it seeks to introduce by this legislation already exist in other legislation. I take this opportunity to express my concern about the potential for abuse of this legislation. People should be aware that the changes proposed by the legislation will impact disproportionately upon homeless people, young people and Indigenous people. In the longer term, as with similar provisions of the past, the bill will serve no common good while in the meantime causing unnecessary suffering.
The Hon. Marie Ficarra noted disparagingly that Labor dismantled the Summary Offences Act. I personally believe that that was one of the best things done by Neville Wran when he was the Premier of New South Wales, because the Summary Offences Act was used by the police to discriminate against people in the lower echelons of society, people who had problems with alcohol consumption but who were not necessarily causing any difficulties, people who did not have a lot of cash on them, people who for one reason or another were deemed to be unsuitable, and people who were at the bottom of the pecking order in society. Labor members should be proud that Neville Wran dismantled the Summary Offences Act.
This innocent-looking Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Amendment (Move On Directions) Bill 2011 will provide police with the opportunity to discriminate against people who are marginalised in society. There is no provision in this legislation for additional supervision of police who will be applying the provisions of the bill, and its powers will be open to abuse. While discussion ensues about the need to remove alcohol-related violence from the streets of Sydney we must remember that this legislation will apply across the whole of New South Wales. The people in country towns who are regularly in contact with the police are not necessarily drunken people who have been to a Bachelors and Spinsters Ball; rather, it is more likely to be young Indigenous people. I must say proudly that I have never been to a Bachelors and Spinsters Ball, but I have seen plenty of documentaries and reports on them that show that the level of alcohol abuse is legendary. One of the things attendees take pride in is sleeping in fields next to their utes after having had more beer and rum and coke drinks than they can possibly hope to consume and still be fit to walk or drive a car. Those people are not bothered by the police.
It will be young Indigenous people, homeless people and people with mental illnesses who are on the streets and who are not necessarily causing a problem but who are deemed to be general nuisances in the local area that will be picked on as a result of this legislation. It is really disingenuous to suggest that this legislation is the way we will stop alcohol-fuelled violence in Sydney's central business district. A range of other measures exist that should be considered closely if we are really interested in reducing alcohol-fuelled violence. We should review what has been going on.
Strong restrictions already exist regarding the service of alcohol to people who are intoxicated, yet somehow people manage to get legless in the central business district moving from one licensed premises to another. Rather than giving police extra powers to target people on the streets we should investigate the licensed premises where people are served so much alcohol they then fall out on the streets drunk and disorderly.
Some measures that were brought in, particularly over the past three years, have borne fruit and are working. Recent research by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research shows that a good deal less violence occurs near hotels than it did three years ago. The measures of tracking people in trouble with the police by finding out what venues they attended and served them alcohol when they were intoxicated are working. Introducing these move-on measures will give police open slather to discriminate against anybody—the homeless, Indigenous people, young people and the mentally ill. That entirely improper process will not achieve social justice or equity. Police can be given all the powers they need—I believe they already have the powers they need—but giving them carte blanche runs the serious risk of increasing the marginalisation of some groups in the lower levels of society. That is a wrong signal to send.
If we give the police too many powers they will feel obliged to use them. Our society does not need powers being used indiscriminately. We should be investigating other ways to tackle these problems. People do not go out on a Saturday night and suddenly become intoxicated; they have to be served drinks at licensed premises. We should be targeting those premises rather than the people leaving them and going onto the streets. We need to examine what is happening in licensed premises in the central business district and determine what we can do to ensure that a minimal number of drunk people are on the streets. This sort of legislation means that in places such as Bourke, Wilcannia, Dubbo and other areas the young Indigenous people, whether or not intoxicated, will be the target of police actions with this move-on power. Police will say "Move on" and if the response is, "I don't want to move on. I haven't done anything wrong" they will be arrested. That is not good enough. Treatment of all people in society should be equal. I am concerned about this legislation but, as my colleague the Hon. Penny Sharpe stated, the Opposition will not oppose the legislation. I ask the Government to rethink its approach to this problem.

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