Canberra Now: News in 90 seconds for November 17, 2017

Good morning Canberra.

TGIF. We’re looking at a pretty miserable day – the weather bureau says it’ll be a maximum of 22 degrees with a 100 per cent chance of showers. It doesn’t get much more certain than that.

Let’s take a look at what’s making news this morning.

US embassy dragged into Canberra dog attack investigation

Stirling dog attack victim Livia Auer disappointed that the dog owners are claiming diplomatic immunity as they live in a property belonging to the US embassy and authorities say their hands are tied. She is now taking legal action and is afraid to even check her mail without taking a weapon. Photo by Karleen Minney.

Stirling dog attack victim Livia Auer is now taking legal action and is afraid to even check her mail without taking a weapon. Photo: Karleen Minney

Here’s a weird one. Two German Shepherds have been linked to three separate attacks in the past 18 months, but investigations have been hampered because the dogs live on a property owned by the US embassy. 

Livia Auer, an attack victim, isn’t impressed.

She talked to Sherryn Groch about the attack, where she was bitten on her legs and backside.

Read more here.

Rainbow roundabouts ahead

Braddon street party to celebrate the marriage equality vote result.

Canberrans celebrate in Braddon after the marriage equality vote result. Photo: Rohan Thomson

The roundabout at the intersection of Lonsdale and Elouera Streets in Braddon will turn rainbow to celebrate Canberra’s resounding “yes” vote in the marriage equality postal survey.

It will be painted by volunteers over three days next week with paint supplied by the ACT government.

The most Canberra thing ever? A waste of money? A great idea to mark a wonderful moment in history?

Katie Burgess‘s story should help you decide.

Fight for same-sex marriage continues

Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton during Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday 25 October 2017. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Related: our coverage of same-sex marriage continues. HereJames Massola explores the appetite for religious protections.

He writes that Peter Dutton made a significant intervention in the debate about legalising same-sex marriage, slapping down calls for sweeping changes to senator Dean Smith’s proposed law but suggesting a new “religious protections” bill may be introduced in 2018.

Nicole Hasham reports that gay and lesbian couples face a likely wait of at least two months before being allowed to tie the knot, as the landmark change passes through the hands of politicians, bureaucrats and the Governor-General.

And our Megan Doherty reports on the street party that was.

ACT to vote on mammal emblem

An eastern bettong at Mulligans Flat.

An eastern bettong at Mulligans Flat. Photo: Adam McGrath

The ACT is the only state or territory without a mammal emblem, and the government’s keen to correct the record.

A public consultation will kick off next year to help decide the best representative. Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the obvious candidate for the emblem role was the eastern bettong, but also mentioned the brush-tail rock wallaby as a contender, and agreed the echidna was “worthy”.

Read Jack Price‘s story (and vote in our poll) here.

Today’s cartoon

David Pope November 17

Prosecutors accused of ‘ferocious attack’ in ADFA rape case

Updated November 17, 2017 06:29:48

Prosecutors have been accused of launching a “ferocious attack” on a former ADFA cadet accused of raping a colleague allegedly too drunk to consent.

Prosecutor Rebecca Christiansen told the court the allegation stemmed from a night out drinking, where the woman had become so drunk she could not see.

A text message she had sent to a friend at the time was used as evidence of her condition.

The group had been at one pub and moved to another, before Agresti offered to take the woman home in a taxi.

At ADFA they were seen going into her room, with one witness saying he saw Agresti shut the door in breach of the rules.

Ms Christiansen said the woman’s evidence was that her mind was so blurry she could not remember much of the incident and had to check her sheets the next day to confirm what had happened.

“It’s entirely consistent with her being substantially intoxicated the night before, so intoxicated she was unable to consent to intercourse,” she said.

“From the very beginning [the victim] has given a plausible … honest account.”

But Agresti claimed the woman initiated the encounter.

‘Amber lights’ around victim’s account, lawyer says

Agresti’s lawyer Philip Dunn told the court he was an 18-year-old who thought he got lucky, and labelled the prosecution’s case “misleading”.

“There has been a ferocious attack – this man has lived every young man’s worst nightmare,” he said.

He also questioned the woman’s evidence, in light of the fact she did not complain for more than a year.

“There are amber lights about her evidence that caution you about what she said,” he said.

Mr Dunn pointed to text messages between the pair immediately afterwards when she made arrangements for Agresti to collect his watch.

And he drew attention to an agreement between the pair to not tell anyone.

“These two people reached an agreement that what they had done would be kept a secret,” he said.

“Is that the comment of somebody who thinks they have been assaulted, abused, or is that a person who’s had friendly contact?”

He suggested she had raised the issue because of rumours about her and Agresti.

“Her defence to the rumours is that I was drunk,” Mr Dunn said.

“She didn’t like being described as a stargazer, or starfish … or a bad root.

“Regretting sex when you have been drinking is not rape.”

Agresti ‘knew of victim’s intoxication’

But Ms Christensen said Agresti showed a consciousness of guilt, telling the first person he saw despite agreeing to keep the encounter secret.

“What the accused is doing in his evidence is attempting to shift the blame,” she said.

“Mr Agresti will have you believe she was the one who initiated it.”

Ms Christensen said he knew about her level of intoxication and that she was so drunk she could not respond.

“He described those sex acts in those crude words because he wanted to show off to his mates,” she said.

“He knows he has just had sex with a woman who was too drunk.”

Mr Dunn told the jury his client had not been that cunning.

“If he thought he’d done nothing wrong why did he tell the first person he saw?” he asked.

It is the second time Agresti has been tried for the crime.

Topics: courts-and-trials, law-crime-and-justice, canberra-2600, act, australia

First posted November 16, 2017 17:46:16

Canberra Now: News in 90 seconds for Thursday, November 16, 2017

Good morning, Canberra.

The dust – and glitter – has settled in Braddon after hundreds of Canberrans took to the streets overnight to celebrate the marriage equality survey results.

We’re in for a top of 23 degrees today but don’t forget that umbrella – showers are likely and there’s the chance of a thunderstorm.

Grab a coffee (or tea) and catch up on what’s making news this morning.

Canberra’s ‘yes’ voters gather to celebrate marriage vote

Braddon street party to celebrate the marriage equality vote result.

Scenes from the Braddon street party on Wednesday. Photo: Rohan Thomson

There might be a few sore heads this morning.

Glitter faces kissed, danced and sang along to George Michael in Braddon on Wednesday, celebrating a national vote in favour of marriage equality.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr was among revellers packed into the bustling suburb, storming the stage to cheers and chants of “ACT, ACT”.

For some, the celebrations came with mixed emotions after a “difficult” campaign.

Emily Baker filed this report from the scene.

You can catch up on more marriage equality coverage, including next steps, here:

Same-sex marriage victory: what happens next?

This is how and where Australia voted YES for same-sex marriage

Socceroos storm to victory in World Cup qualifier

Mile Jedinak scores from the penalty spot the first time around.

Mile Jedinak scores from the penalty spot the first time around. Photo: AAP

Get ready for a sleep-deprived June 2018, football fans.

Australia has qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia after defeating Honduras 3-1 Wednesday night.

Catch up on the match here.

Pill testing on the cards for another ACT music festival

Groovin the Moo will return to Canberra in 2018 on April 29. Photo: Mikki Gomez.

Groovin the Moo will return to Canberra in 2018. Photo: Mikki Gomez.

Next year’s Groovin the Moo music festival could be the site of a pill testing trial.

The ACT government says it would consider allowing pill testing at the event, after Spilt Milk festival pulled out of a trial last month.

Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris said she expected the consortium behind the proposed trial at Spilt Milk to approach the government about a similar initiative at 2018’s Groovin the Moo.

As Daniella White reports, there’s still plenty to discuss first.

Body found in Murrumbidgee River could be missing Canberra man

A 37-year-old man remains in a critical condition after the stabbing.

Some sad news you may have missed.

Police believe a body found in the Murrumbidgee River on Saturday is that of a Canberra man reported missing in September.

​An ACT Policing spokeswoman said the body had not been formally identified but the family of a missing person had been contacted.

You can read more here.

Today’s cartoon

David Pope editorial cartoon November 16, 2017

David Pope’s editorial cartoon November 16, 2017.

ARU decided to axe Western Force in April, inquiry finds

Updated November 15, 2017 20:02:24

A Senate inquiry has found Australian Rugby Union had already decided to cut the Western Force from the super rugby competition in April, well before it looked into the books of the Force and the Melbourne Rebels.

The Community Affairs References Committee into the future of rugby union in Australia found that the decision to cut the Force was effectively made on April 9, a day before the ARU, now Rugby Australia, met with Rugby WA.

The committee also found the ARU was resistant to changing their decision to axe the Force, despite the efforts of mining magnate Andrew Forrest and the West Australian Government.

In its report, the inquiry made several recommendations, including that the Australian Securities and Investment Commission review financial transactions involving the Melbourne Rebels, as well as investigating the annual reports of the ARU.

The inquiry was established by West Australian senator Linda Reynolds to investigate the future of the code in Australia, following the ARU’s decision to remove the Western Force from the Super Rugby competition.

“Australian Rugby Union … cut Western Force from the Super Rugby competition without appropriate explanation or justification in August this year,” Senator Reynolds said.

“Even before the inquiry had commenced hearing evidence, it was clear ARU representatives were resentful and contemptuous, even dismissive of this Senate inquiry.

“I believe there were also inappropriate and misdirected attempts by ARU officials to stop this inquiry.”

‘ASIC should review Melbourne Rebels deal’

The inquiry heard evidence from a wide range of people involved in the process, including former ARU CEO Bill Pulver, chairman Cameron Clyne and Western Force CEO Mark Sinderbury.

Much of the questioning revolved around the contract to sell the Melbourne Rebels to New Zealand businessman Andrew Cox for $1 — which included a $13 million write-off, $1.8 million cleared with creditors, $6 million in incremental payments between 2016-2020 and $750,000 in working capital grants.

It also heard West Australian businessman Andrew Forrest agreed to guarantee the future of the Western Force at a personal cost of $50 million, but when he met with Mr Clyne to finalise the deal, it was knocked back.

The deal included underwriting the Force for eight years, providing $6 million for grassroots rugby union over the next eight years and compensating the Super Rugby competition by $20 million to cover costs of keeping the franchise.

The report recommends the WA Government seek legal advice to review its negotiations with the ARU, which resulted in extensive investment from the Government, as well as proposing Rugby Australia transfer Western Force’s intellectual property to Rugby WA.

Topics: sport, rugby-union, wa, perth-6000, canberra-2600

First posted November 15, 2017 19:26:45

Woden bus attack sparks calls for more youth support, recreational centres

A recent spate of violence in Canberra’s south has sparked calls for more recreational centres and support programs aimed at young people.

Last month, an attack on four Chinese high school students allegedly involving a group of youths at the Woden bus interchange made international headlines and left two teenagers in hospital.

Community groups warned the assault was not the first at the interchange, while international students said they continued to feel harassed and threatened in Woden.

The group involved are understood to be known to police. Two teenagers were arrested following the attack and police patrols stepped up in the area.

Director of the ACT Council for Social Service Susan Helyar said government funding had not kept pace with demand for youth support programs. Despite new housing developments such as the Molonglo Valley, Canberra’s south hadn’t seen an increase in money for youth outreach.

“That’s making it very hard for workers in the Woden or Weston Creek area if they want to go out there and provide outreach for those kids,” she said.

After the bus stop assault, the Woden Valley Community Council suggested the community might need to “reclaim the evenings” at the interchange and blamed a lack of social infrastructure in town for recent incidents.

Council president Fiona Carrick said reports of youth “jumping” between the roofs of the abandoned nine-storey Alexander and Albemarle buildings in town also had residents worried.

“It’s a huge safety risk. We’ve become a graffiti hot spot too,” she said. 

“If you live amongst derelict buildings and that’s acceptable in your community, then it’s sending a poor message.”

Ms Carrick said, despite long years of advocacy by the council, Woden still didn’t have an arts or cultural centre or a multi-purpose sports hall, and its Canberra Institute of Technology campus had closed.

“We can’t demonstrate a causal link, but we’d hope the ACT Government would investigate the impact of not having basic facilities in the town centre to keep kids occupied,” she said.

Just across the road from the bus interchange is the Woden Youth Centre, run by Woden Community Service. Doors open every day at 3pm for kids to drop in and shoot pool, play music or lounge around with friends.

Chief executive Chris Redmond said a team of four youth workers at the centre worked with about 24 vulnerable teens, including those involved in recent violence at the interchange. 

“We are concerned, and we’re concerned more generally about an increase in the potential for mental un-wellness, I guess you could call it,” Mr Redmond said.

He said the federal government had axed several key youth programs in recent years, including the youth connections program.

“We self-funded a worker to maintain some of that really important work for the past two and a bit years, but she’s just left us so we’re not sure if that program will continue,” Mr Redmond said.

A lack of youth mental health services had recently been identified as a priority for the area, he said. Woden Community Service hoped to win funding to create a non-clinical support program that would help connect kids getting treatment with their community.

At the centre, sometimes that’s help with Centrelink, and sometimes it’s learning to DJ or playing basketball out the back after school.

This week, youth workers Hayden Page and Jeremy Leela are busy preparing for the centre’s annual band competition, Lift Off, which will see young musicians battle it out in the Woden town square on Friday. Mr Leela said the long-running contest had given many young Canberrans their start, including 16-year-old singer Lucy Sugerman, who this year made it through to the grand finale of The Voice.

ACT Planning Minister Mick Gentleman said the government was continuing to invest in Woden, including turning Phillip Oval into a sporting facility for events such as cricket and AFL, and bringing stage two of the light rail to the town centre.

“We have also previously dedicated $5.75million to upgrade and update the Woden bus interchange [and] we are… investing $3.2 million to revitalise the Woden Library,” Mr Gentleman said.

SA Parliament attempts to pressure Prime Minister to split water and agriculture portfolios

In a rare show of unity, the South Australian Parliament will gang up on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to try to force him to split the federal agriculture and water portfolios into separate government departments.

The water portfolio was merged with the agriculture portfolio in 2015 as part of a revised Coalition agreement, at the request of the National Party.

The SA Labor Government and the Liberal Opposition have told the ABC they will both support a motion by the SA Greens to formally request Mr Turnbull separate the two portfolios.

“The water portfolio and agriculture portfolio at a commonwealth level should not be held by the same minister, the [portfolios] compete with each other,” Greens member of the Legislative Council, Tammy Franks, said.

“We need a minister to stand up for the Murray and only holds the water portfolio and not agriculture.”

The SA Greens want to capitalise on the chaos caused by the citizenship saga, which has seen the former agriculture and water minister, and Nationals leader, Barnaby Joyce, step aside while he faces a by-election.

Mr Turnbull currently holds the portfolios in an acting capacity until Mr Joyce’s fate is decided on December 2.

“While Barnaby Joyce is off contesting the by-election we don’t have him in this portfolio, so it’s a great opportunity to fight for the river and for the water portfolio not to be given back to Barnaby Joyce,” Ms Franks said.

SA opposition water spokesman, David Speirs, questioned the need for the State Parliament to interfere in the Prime Minister’s Cabinet decisions, but said the Liberal Party wouldl give the motion “lukewarm support.”

“I don’t believe it is the place for a State Parliament to be telling a Prime Minister how he should construct his parliament, it’s an unusual thing to do,” Mr Speirs said.

“But we believe it’s a valuable motion and does stay quite clearly that we have concerns about the current administration of the river.”

In July the major political parties and independents in South Australia made a joint declaration, calling for an independent judicial inquiry into the Murray Darling Basin, following allegations of water theft in New South Wales and mismanagement of the basin.

However, this is the first time the State Parliament has united formally since those revelations, and Ms Franks said when her motion passes it would be a rare occurrence.

“I’m not sure if this method has been used very often, if at all, but the Murray is so important that it should see our whole parliament unite,” she said.

However, Mr Speirs denied his party’s support for the motion meant the SA Liberals was turning on their federal counterparts and the Prime Minister.

“I have no problem having robust conversations or disagreements if necessary, if that includes the minister for water federally, or the Prime Minister, then I’m more than happy for that,” Mr Speirs said.

SA water minister Ian Hunter said the State Government would also support the motion, guaranteeing its passing, and labelled it a “commonsense proposition.”

“It takes the policy position back to what it was under the Howard Government when Malcom Turnbull was the Minister for Environment and Water Resources,” Mr Hunter said.

“That separation of agriculture and water portfolio had been constant until the Nationals strong-armed the portfolio off the Liberals in 2015.”

“We understand the Prime Minister is in a tight spot and relies on a one seat majority in the Federal Parliament, and he’s essentially been blackmailed [by the Nationals] to hand over the keys to all the goodies.

“But we think he needs to take a broader view, that is respect for the whole Murray, and if he doesn’t act, then all South Australians will have the right to judge him very harshly.”

The motion will go to Parliament on Wednesday, and once it passes both houses of Parliament, it will see the president of South Australia’s Legislative Council issue the demand in a letter to the prime minister.

Ms Franks said she believes South Australian’s want to see the prime minister action the request, and rejection it will frustrate his state counterparts.

“You would have a lot of grumpy Liberal MPS who wouldn’t be impressed with the leadership of Mr Turnbull.”

Canberra Now: News in 90 seconds for Tuesday November 14, 2017

Good morning Canberra,

Happy Tuesday. We’re looking at a lovely 26 degrees today with a slight chance of a shower in the afternoon. 

Here’s what’s making news this morning.

Ainslie shops explained

Mr Fluffy asbestos removal in progress at Ainslie Shops. Photo: Jamila Toderas

Mr Fluffy asbestos removal in progress at Ainslie Shops. Photo: Jamila Toderas

The ACT government has defended its decision to allow the owner of the Ainslie shops building to remove deadly Mr Fluffy asbestos insulation rather than demolishing the property.

Asbestos Response Taskforce executive director Chris Reynolds said the decision was made with cost in mind, citing the $307 million bill for the removal program in residential properties.

Mr Reynolds conceded there was no safe level of loose-fill asbestos in a property, but said the risk could be managed by the current health and safety laws governing workplaces and the handling of hazardous materials.

Read Katie Burgess‘s story here.

‘I hope he’s dead’

Police investigating a suspicious death at the Stuart Flats in Griffith.

Police investigating a suspicious death at the Stuart Flats in Griffith. Photo: Melissa Adams

A Canberra killer who stabbed his neighbour to death plunged the knife into the man’s neck with such force the blade hit the floor beneath the victim and damaged the tiles.

Scott Jamie Cole, 42, cut his own arms and face to make it look like he’d been attacked in the deadly confrontation with his neighbour Jason Hollingshed, 46, at Stuart Flats in Griffith the afternoon of February 29, 2016. 

“I f—ing stabbed him,” Cole, who will be sentenced next month, told police. “I hope he’s dead.” 

Read Megan Gorrey‘s story here.

Citizenship crisis continues

Senator Jacqui Lambie in the Senate at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday 21 June 2017. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Senator Jacqui Lambie. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The dual citizenship crisis could claim high profile independent senator Jacqui Lambie this morning – but Malcolm Turnbull has assured his party he’s got everything under control.

Labor and the Coalition finally struck a deal on a disclosure regime that will require politicians to publicly disclose their citizenship history and status by December 1 in a move designed to bring the citizenship crisis to a head.

It was busy in the senate yesterday, with newly-elected senator Fraser Anning sensationally quitting his party, One Nation, an hour after being sworn in and joining the cross bench.

Read James Massola‘s story here.

Junk food hotspots revealed

OUTRIM - SAUSAGE; DATE TAKEN: 960625; DATE OF PUB: 960626; AFR INFO; PHOTO BY: MAYU KANAMORI; STORY BY: BEV HEAD; MR STEVE OUTRIM - MD, HOTDOG, TALKS TO AFR ABOUT SAUSAGE SOFTWARE. Generic image of a man about to bite into a huge hamburger / burger.

Here’s one for the stickybeaks. Analysis of Commonwealth Bank data has revealed which areas of Canberra consume the most junk food.

I won’t give too much away but should note that Canberrans spent the least on eating out in all of Australia.

Read Isadora Bogle‘s story here.

Today’s cartoon

David Pope cartoon, November 14 2017.

A recent ABC poll was (almost) rigged by someone at the ABS — here’s how

You might not have realised, but yesterday’s Curious Canberra story was almost rigged.

Each month the ABC puts three audience-submitted questions to a vote and its journalists endeavour to answer the most popular one.

But a recent experience with the poll has demonstrated the perils of collecting votes online: An IP address linked to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) voted for one question almost 1,500 times.

The votes were sent over a two-week period, and would often come in bursts of dozens of votes within a few minutes.

All of them were directed to the question “Why was Canberra established as an inland city?”

Benign as that question may be, it highlights how easily people can manipulate online polls. So should you think twice before believing their results?

Was it really that simple?

Australian Defence Force Academy lecturer Ed Farrell, who describes his work as “pretending to be the bad guy” to expose security weaknesses, said online votes and polls were easy to manipulate.

“I can write a script that keeps sending that request of a vote in one particular direction or another,” he said.

“I can give the appearance of a number of requests appearing to come from multiple different users.

To demonstrate his case, Mr Farrell offered to mess with the poll in question.

Within minutes he had a program send 2,300 vote requests, moving the third-place option to the lead.

While in this case the vote wasn’t an issue of great substance, Mr Farrell said the same vulnerabilities could be present in other online polls.

But while vote-farming robots are fascinating, the method in our real-life case of tampering appears to have been far cruder.

Even easier?

Voting for a Curious Canberra question is designed to be easy to maximise participation. Once a vote is open, anyone can click on their favourite question to have their say.

However once a person has voted, their browser will record that fact and prevent them from voting a second time.

“We’d rather err on the side of having people be able to vote, and then after the fact, figure out whether we want to keep those votes,” Corey Haines from Hearken, which works with the ABC on Curious Canberra said.

According to voting data, the most likely method used to rig the vote was simply opening a voting page in a private or ‘incognito’ browser, voting, closing the page and repeating that cycle.

By using a browser which doesn’t record what you’re doing online, data telling the website that a user has already voted (also known as cookies) isn’t recorded.

Over the time the vote was live, the ABS-linked IP address voted 1,500 times.

“Most of the fraud that we see … the votes come in at a rate of one per four, five, six seconds,” Mr Haines said.

“That implies to me that its somebody doing that browser cycle.”

The ABS confirmed a rogue employee had used a work computer to rig the poll.

“The ABS has and will continue to ensure its staff are aware of their [computer use] obligations, and has and will take appropriate disciplinary action when required.”

So now I can rig every poll all the time?

Slow down there — just because someone tampered with the vote doesn’t mean it influenced the final result.

It’s not uncommon for websites running an online poll to monitor for fraudulent voting, and Hearken works with the ABC to weed out dodgy votes.

“We do keep track of your IP address, which is how we do some rudimentary fraud detection,” Mr Haines said.

Before the vote ended, the ABC reviewed and discounted all the suspicious votes — which had gone to the question which won regardless.

How trustworthy are online polls?

Online polls are often noted as being less representative than other forms of polling, and Mr Farrell says their added vulnerability to tampering means results should be served with a big helping of salt.

He said while measures like Captcha codes could provide some protection, it’s possible to circumvent them.

And although firm data about bots rigging polls is scarce, Mr Farrell says their influence can be seen everywhere.

“I would say that we see them often without actually seeing,” he said.

“By that I mean we probably don’t have the evidence for or against a lot of these voting applications to the level we would like.

That being said, we still want you to vote for the next Curious Canberra poll — we’re on top of the rigging. We promise.

ACT Policing needs to think beyond ‘banging up crooks’

The ACT Chief Police Officer, Justine Saunders, had plenty to be happy about last week. ACT Policing’s annual report revealed that, last financial year, the territory’s crime levels remained stable.

Unfortunately for Saunders, the Canberra Liberal’s police spokeswoman, Giulia Jones, saw things differently, and focussed her energy on the ACT’s low police numbers. As a result, last week’s annual reports hearing failed to highlight a very important policing development in the ACT: the community’s apparent increased trust in its police.

For many years, ACT Policing has sought to implement the last great police management fad: community policing. This fad called for a shift from the traditional security and enforcement-focussed policing model to one in which police worked in partnership with the community to solve crime.

If this community-policing approach was working, the ACT ought to have seen an increase in prosecutions or a decrease in crime by now. However, despite the best efforts of all involved, neither benefit materialised.

In the face of stable crime levels, there has been an increase in calls to ACT Policing. Saunders testified to a Legislative Assembly committee hearing that there was a 16.7 per cent overall increase in calls last financial year. Interestingly, this figure includes an increasing number of lower-priority demands for police services.

The ACT’s operational police often report that a large percentage of their work involves dealing with domestic violence or mental-health issues. Last financial year, 44.7 per cent of all assaults reported to police related to family violence – an increase of 18.9 percentage points on the previous year.

Nonetheless, increasing callouts may indeed be a product of ACT Policing’s success at becoming the territory’s “go-to” problem solvers, rather than any actual increase in crime.

It’s interesting that, with these facts, Saunders didn’t take the easy road, demanding some arbitrary number of new officers. The Chief Police Officer’s decision to consider further the “quantum, skills and experience” of any increase makes good practical sense.

ACT Policing has a very real opportunity to be at the leading edge of policing in Australia and globally. With community trust, it could move further away from an enforcement regime focussed on arrests and seizure, to a broader focus on interventions and problem-solving.

Saunders will need to be very careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. ACT Policing has a proud history, with a strong organisational culture committed to service to the community in traditional-law enforcement. And we still need this type of investigative law enforcement.

But building the next-generation police organisation involves more than increasing numbers. The challenge is how to develop the sort of police force that is as capable of comfortably apprehending an armed offender with minimum force, as it is helping to refer a young person for interventions for drug addiction or mental-health treatment.

Saunders will need to create a more networked police force that is capable of working seamlessly with other elements of the ACT government. And this police force will need to believe that there is as much intrinsic policing value spending time with domestic violence victims as taking part in a high-speed pursuit.

With any luck, Canberra’s finest will soon be bolstered by new police, with new training and a new mindset collectively focussed on solving problems, not necessarily “banging up crooks”.

Dr John Coyne is a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

Police pull body from river outside Canberra

Posted November 12, 2017 09:54:27

ACT Police have found a body in the Murrumbidgee River outside of Canberra.

The discovery was made at Stromlo on Saturday afternoon, after police responded to a call from the public.

The body was found partially submerged in the river, which runs to the west of Canberra.

Police said it was too early to tell how the person died, and a post-mortem examination would be conducted.

Investigations into the death are continuing.

Topics: death, community-and-society, police, crime, law-crime-and-justice, canberra-2600, act, australia