Member for Orange Phil Donato has hit back at suggestions from NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian he hasn’t been vocal on issues of police numbers.
In a war of words which erupted while Ms Berejiklian visited the city on Wednesday, the Premier said she was aware of issues around police staffing in the city and the spate of stolen and torched vehicles, but hadn’t heard anything from Mr Donato himself.
“I’m disappointed that the local member hasn’t been more vocal and active about this,” Ms Berejiklian said.
I’ve heard from other local members who have asked for extra police officers.NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian
“I’ve heard from other local members who have asked for extra police officers, we have put out a record 1500 extra police officers across the state.
“Our police commissioner and his deputy commissioner responsible for regional support have actually boosted the number of regional police officers.”
While admitting he’d never had a one-on-one meeting with the Premier, Mr Donato said Ms Berejiklian “would have to have had her head in the sand” to have not heard his requests.
VIDEO: What the premier had to say in Orange on Wednesday …
Nearly 40 instances are recorded in Hansard of Mr Donato asking government ministers about police numbers, both in the Orange electorate and across the state, and Mr Donato said he had been liaising and meeting with ministers about the issue.
“I’ve requested and had many meetings with ministers and the deputy premier,” he said.
“I haven’t had a one-on-one meeting with her [Ms Berejiklian], but that’s what ministers are for.”
On her first visit to Orange since the 2016 byelection, Ms Berejiklian said she’d heard of the car thefts and fires which “weren’t part of the Orange culture before”, and was “disturbed” by the news.
I’ve requested and had many meetings with ministers and the deputy premier.Member for Orange Phil Donato
She said she was hoping to increase numbers with some of the 1500 new officers slated to roll out over the next few years.
“Many more remote locations are getting those extra officers and of course through Kate’s [Hazelton] hard work we will make sure that happens here in Orange.
Mr Donato, who is a former police officer, said he will have a meeting with the commissioner this month to discuss Orange’s shortage of police numbers and to try and nab some of the 1500 officers set to enter the police force over the coming three years.
He also knuckled down on his attack of Ms Berejiklian’s visit to Orange, saying it proved she was “out of touch”.
“Regional communities are build on fairness and loyalty and to lie and to blackmail goes against the grain of regional people,” he said.
Additional rural investigators were announced on Thursday, but NSW Police assistant commissioner Geoff McKechnie – who was in Orange – said there was no word on how many of the 1500 new officers would be placed in Orange, saying it was a matter for the commissioner.
“When that’s announced I’m sure we’ll be back here,” he said.
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