House debates

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


Paterson Electorate: Vandalism

8:39 pm

Photo of Bob BaldwinBob Baldwin (Paterson, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Science and Personnel) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to talk about the issue of wanton vandalism of private property and other antisocial behaviour in my electorate of Paterson. I have been contacted by a number of distressed constituents who are sick and tired of having such disdain and lack of respect shown for their property. The Newcastle Herald reports that, in the last financial year, Hunter Water spent $50,000 on graffiti removal, while RailCorp paid $380,000 just in the Hunter region. Paterson residents and small businesses are also paying big bucks in damages or increased insurance premiums as a result of graffiti and antisocial behaviour in our region.

This problem is not purely financial, however, and reports have come in of residents being threatened and intimidated in their own homes. John and Denise of Anna Bay have reported that they have had their side fences covered in graffiti and their letterboxes damaged several times and later stolen. They wrote:

Friday and Saturday nights are nights of anxiety, sometimes fear and anger [with] noise, abusive language, swearing, threats, excrement on lawns, yard intrusion and so … on.

The issue of graffiti, vandalism and petty crime has been an issue across the whole of my electorate, whether it is in the Tomaree peninsula, Tilligerry peninsula, Raymond Terrace, Maitland, Hawks Nest, Dungog or Forster Tuncurry.

We have had some success in grassroots direct-action approaches to combatting graffiti. In particular, the ‘graffiti buster’, Ted Bickford, is worthy of recognition for his outstanding volunteer work in not only removing graffiti from public property in the Forster Tuncurry area but also in working with local youths, and he has had some success in preventing graffiti through collaboration with local schools and youth groups. I know Ted has the full support of the Great Lakes Council. Ted operates a graffiti hotline to locate graffiti, as well as directly driving around looking for graffiti to remove. Ted has told me that it is important to remove the graffiti in the first 24 hours, as the tagger wants his so-called artwork to be seen and, once it is removed or altered, it loses the impact and the so-called kudos for the so-called artist. It is also worth mentioning the Port Stephens Graffiti Action Team which is acting in the Port Stephens area in a similar manner to Ted to prevent and remove the graffiti in Port Stephens.

These community-led programs show the selfless nature of the Australian people, as well as being a great example of the potent effect of direct action approaches to solving environmental problems. Unfortunately, if the problems of antisocial behaviour, graffiti and malicious damage to property are going to be addressed, there will have to be a higher level of engagement and action on these problems. While the local governments and community groups of Paterson have worked hard on tackling this problem, there has been a huge level of neglect by our state government in providing the resources necessary to address this issue. In recent years I have been working closely with my state counterpart Craig Baumann, the member for Port Stephens, to address this issue. Despite Craig’s tireless efforts, no real action from the New South Wales Labor government has occurred, as this troubled state government has decided to devote its resources to infighting, spin doctors and political consultants. Further on in John and Denise’s letter, they say:

People are disgusted and fed up. We do not want our homes, towns and cities treated as they are. Respect is at an all time low.

I couldn’t agree more and, for this reason, I have fought hard, along with Mr Baumann and our local councils, in part to address this problem in Paterson.

In 2007 I fought to have CCTV cameras placed in vandalism hotspots in Nelson Bay at a cost of $95,000. This was part of the coalition’s National Community Crime Prevention Program and has been successful in combating graffiti and other crime in these areas. I have also been active in briefing this House on the experiences of Paterson families as they encounter these attacks on their property and their peace and quiet. I call on the Commonwealth government to support an extension of the National Community Crime Prevention Program and provide more closed-circuit television cameras in vandalism hotspots throughout Paterson, to help address this wanton vandalism.

My constituents deserve to feel safe in their own homes and in their own streets. I would also like to warn the state Labor government and their federal Labor colleagues that I will not let this issue rest until graffiti and other antisocial behaviour has been cut down and eliminated in my electorate. The people of Paterson deserve better, and I will continue to work locally and fight nationally until they receive the peace and security they truly deserve.