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Malcolm Farr of the Daily Tele gets on the anti Stanhope wagon

By Thumper 4 September 2006 61

Malcolm Carr Farr, writing in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday 2 September, has stated that, ‘Canberra, the model city, is looking a bit tatty these days and in some parts it is unrecognisable, even to the local taxi company’.

Farr claims, and probably with good cause that, the city, under Stanhope, has become increasingly violent, increasingly expensive, has the worse health system in the nation, and that it is in danger of becoming a showcase of what can go bad in Australia.

All of this he lays squarely at the feet of our beloved leader.

However, to be fair, Farr does go a little overboard in his assessment of our city, stating that there ‘is a nasty hard drug culture and the involvement of bikie gangs in related activities’.

Whether this is true or not I cannot say for sure, but I doubt it is any worse than any other city in Australia.

It seems that we are making the news for the wrong reasons. Or is this just another angle on Canberra bashing?

[ED – Thumper continues in what was posted as a separate story but I thought was best added here

Malcolm Farr must have had a bad weekend in Canberra.

Not content with his other spray at Canberra and Stanhope, Farr has also gone into print on the crime and violence issue, stating that ‘Canberra has been struck by an outbreak of violence and crime usually associated with much larger cities.’

However, the article seems to simply ramble on about anything bad that Farr percieves. For instance, that it ‘has become one of the most expensive cities to live in, with high taxes but crumbling health and education systems’ as well as ‘more dangerous than parts of Sydney late at night’.

It is alo the ‘the national car theft capital’, and ‘the cost of houses has risen at a faster pace in Canberra than any other major city on the eastern seaboard’, and that it ‘has one of the poorest functioning health systems in Australia. ‘

The rant seems much the same as his previous rant but like most articles, contains a grain of truth.

Has Farr taken up an anti Stanhope cudgel? Or did he just get a dodgy vindaloo here one night? Possibly he couldn’t get a taxi from the airport?

[Ed – Malcom Farr lives here in Canberra as the Tele’s Canberra correspondent]

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61 Responses to
Malcolm Farr of the Daily Tele gets on the anti Stanhope wagon
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bonfire 3:07 pm 07 Sep 06

having worked in a ‘compliance’ area for govt in the past, resource allocation comes down to ‘what is the danger to the public’? largest to smallest. unfortunately that means many at the ‘minimal danger to the public’ never had resources allocated. that didnt stop work being tasked of course. on manager had a ‘current’ and ‘non current’ category. every year he would delete all jobs in the ‘non current’ area. no one ever complained.

resources are always a problem when the public require a response and policing is no different. do you reckon joe plod would like to have 50 extra officers – you betcha. he might not get called in on his day off then.

Big Al 1:44 pm 07 Sep 06


seepi 1:41 pm 07 Sep 06

Newspaper stories when those results came out said that Canberra’s felt safe in their homes at night, but yet had higher violent crime rates than other cities where people felt less safe.
I think increasing numbers enough so that someone answers the phone (and not leaving stations totally unmanned at night) would go a long way towards making people feel safer.

Big Al 1:35 pm 07 Sep 06

But not a lot safer I suspect – the ABS study looked at community percentions of safety – for daytime teh ACT ranked the highest with 85% feeling safe – night time, accross the board was lower – maybe 69% from memory – At that end of the spectrum you’d be looking at some unfeasibly large investment to get the extra percentage points.

seepi 1:31 pm 07 Sep 06

I don’t think it is about competence. It is ALL about resources. Everyone has a story about ACT police failing to respond to phone calls, telling people that property crime wasn’t worth their time to worry about etc etc. I have several such stories. The lack of traffic police is also obvious, compared to a few years ago. Consultants may write creative papers about doing better with less, but in policing I think numbers count. I’d feel safer if there were more police around.

Big Al 1:12 pm 07 Sep 06

Chris, some of what you say makes since – before it trails off into just another bog-paper missive.

A post about policing – does not in itself mean that it is a personal attack – a desire by some to steadfastly defend their position (that in some cases is also closely ties to their profession) does not make it personal either. VG and I have a short history of robust debate and a fair swag of niggling from both sides – we will probably never agree because he thinks I don’t know what I’m talking about and I think he’s too close to see the issues clearly and too quick to defend. I am not trying to bait VG, although I have in the past. In fact any post I make that touches on policing gives me cause to reflect on whether or not I’m going to get myself into an I-said-you-said situation with my erstwhile nemesis.

My comments in relation to this thread relate to a belief that the ACT police lack either the motivation (couldn’t be arsed) or the competence (skill set) to address – as an example – organised criminal groups like the Rebels MC. Others have introduced their own experience of ACT policing as well, and in fact yesterdays CT (this is in no way an endorsement of the CT – just a statement of fact) ran a story about an Ainslie woman forced from her home after being burgled three times and the sloppy way she felt that she had been treated by the AFP.

Crime statistics are essentially a reporting tool and any Government is going to want to see improved results – hence my comment on picking the easy cherries – Its always going to be easier to gather the low hanging fruit and if it buoys the results all the better. For an interesting analysis try the ABS publication “Crime and Safety Australia” (Cat no. 4509.0) there’s a summary available on their web-site – This study looks at victims of crime (actually sourcing data from victims rather than Govt. agencies) for me the striking thing about the ACTs stats here is the frequency with which the ABS uses the phrase: ‘no statistically significant change’ in relation to comparisons for 2005 and preceding years – which brings into question the pressure/response explanation.

In terms of resourcing – If you go to any organisation and talk to the rank and file about how they could do their job better I guarantee you the most common response will be “more resources” when the reality is that improved performance can be delivered through a range of management approaches that are either resource neutral or produce a resource dividend – that’s better allocation of resources – one way to force management to think more creatively about how they deliver outcomes is to tighten resource allocation – reducing budgets, within reason, is likely to deliver better outcomes that bad.

Chris S 12:39 pm 07 Sep 06

You’re right, Thumper. Again, that’s not something that can be sheeted home to Stanhope, or certainly not the major portion. That’s the fault out of touch judges who are quite separate from the executive, so again Farr’s piece falls into a hole.

Thumper 12:24 pm 07 Sep 06


you also forget our softly softly treat em with cotton gloves judiciary system.

Must be a pain for a walloper to get someone to court, have him found guilty, and then see him walk out with a slap on the wrist.

Chris S 12:04 pm 07 Sep 06

When you two (vg and little al) have finished slagging each other off, it might be useful getting back to the real issue.

The original claims by Farr are that Canberra is becoming a more violent place, and he sheets that home to the Stanhope governmnet.

The first is fairly easily proved – or is it? The monthly crime stats put out by the Police for Neighbourhood Watch (their website is down at the moment) is no longer allowed by the AFP to post monthly crime stats by district or suburb. If you go to the AFP site, there are no statistics, and the same with the ACT Department of Justice and Community Safety. Why not? My guess is because the Police Minister, Simon Corbell (remember him?) and his predecessors (of both political persuasions) can/could selectively release crime stats that how them in good light.

So, is crime in Canberra going up, staying the same, or going down?The Australian Institute of Criminology does some reporting, but they are only up to end 2004, and I couldn’t see any ACT specific results. My guess is particular types of crime will change depending on where resources are allocated, but we just don’t know, unless a Riotacter can point us toward some unbiased stats.

Now we come to the second part, whether Stanhope is responsible for the supposed increase in crime. My take on this is that it really doesn’t matter who is in power – when “lock’em’up Bill” Stefaniack was Police Minister, his hard-line stance didn’t seem to make much difference.

It all comes down to the resources that are put into Policing – increase the priority on Policing, and crime rates go down; take the pressure off, and up they go again. So on that basis, Farr’s premise that there is some idelogical foundation to the problem doesn’t stack up. However, reductions in the Policing budget do. Another side to this coin, of course, is whether those resources are appropriately utilised. There has been a lot of comment about the best AFP staff being sent to the Solomons, ET etc, and we’re not well served by those left behind. I’d be interested in comments by vg and DJ on those views.

Does anyone have access to Police budgets that are comparable? One of the problems is that governments tend to move things around within portfolios so that like can never be compared with like.

Incidentally, I think that once again little al is way off target – he’s personalising the debate, and by doing so taking the focus of the argument away from ACT Policing and the Police Minister. The crux of this is whether sufficient resources are being allocated, and whether they are used approriately. So vg, stop rising to little al’s bait – all he’s after is a response, because it makes him feel ..well, whatever it is he feels. Don’t give him the pleasure.

bonfire 11:30 am 07 Sep 06

technically, police, firies, ambos etc are paramilitary organisations, not arms of the public service.

there is quite a distinction apart from legislated functions.

the only public servant with the power to arrest is the sergeant at arms at parlt house (i believe, but will stand corrected).

some customs officers can ‘detain’ but not ‘arrest’.

i agree policing in act is less than optimal, but just like most organisations, the average joe worker is committed, professional and wants to do a decent job. the problems arise from a: poor management, b: lack of clarity in priorities (from management), c: lack of resources.

having said that, i think the afp should arrest all recumbent cyclists on sight.

Absent Diane 11:16 am 07 Sep 06

or if someone lights up

Absent Diane 11:15 am 07 Sep 06

or if someone lights up

Danman 11:07 am 07 Sep 06

Or if vg and Big Al rock up

terubo 11:02 am 07 Sep 06

Or discuss policing…

simto 10:56 am 07 Sep 06

Only if people are foolish enough to bring their recumbent bicycles.

terubo 10:54 am 07 Sep 06

With any luck, it might turn into a bicycle bar Brawl…

Danman 10:13 am 07 Sep 06

Bicycle bar crawl eh ?
Ill start training now

johnboy 9:11 am 07 Sep 06

keep your shirts on gentlemen, we’re working hard on fixing a date for the RiotACT bicycle bar crawl 2006.

Big Al 8:54 am 07 Sep 06

Thumper – you raise an interesting issue – I would not have classed military personnel as public servants – but I would so the police. As VG rightly points out – they are employed under the AFP Act – so, being employed under an act of government – in my view – makes them public servants – but then according to that criteria – the same would apply for the armed forces …

Big Al 8:45 am 07 Sep 06

I’ll share a beer or three with you anytime VG.

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