NSW Shadow Police Minister Guy Zangari with Richmond MP Justine Elliot outside the old Tweed police station in June. Mrs Elliot says more police are needed in the command.
NSW Shadow Police Minister Guy Zangari with Richmond MP Justine Elliot outside the old Tweed police station in June. Mrs Elliot says more police are needed in the command. Mitchell Crawley

Blame game erupts over Tweed cop crisis

RICHMOND MP Justine Elliot has called on Tweed Nationals MP Geoff Provest to apologise to police, claiming he blamed officers for causing the dire staff shortage in the local area command.

The Tweed Daily News this week revealed police were at "breaking point", voting to begin industrial action and a petition, calling for more staff to be assigned to the Tweed Byron Local Area Command.

Their action comes just days before NSW Police Minister Troy Grant, Police Commissioner Mick Fuller and Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys head to the Tweed to open the command's new headquarters in Wharf St.

But Mrs Elliot, herself a former police officer, said it was unfair of Mr Provest to blame the staff crisis on officers who had taken stress and sick leave.

"Geoff Provest unfairly claims the crisis is due to the number of police on long term sick leave. That is total rubbish," Mrs Elliot said.

"The police put their lives on the line every day and go into situations where others would never go. 

"This is untrue and unfair; the current crisis is due solely to Geoff Provest's continued incompetence and failure to deliver more police.

"It is insulting that Geoff Provest blames the hardworking men and women who work tirelessly as police and have suffered injury while safeguarding the residents of NSW.

"For years our community has been demanding that Geoff Provest and his Liberal National Government deliver more Police to our region, they've constantly ignored these pleas and now we're at crisis point."

Cheap political point scoring

But Mr Provest dismissed the comments as "cheap political point scoring".

"I think Mrs Elliot is misguided in this, I don't think she is looking at the reality of the facts," Mr Provest said.

"We have got 20% of our police on long-term sick, that is one in five, it is a cultural issue. It is not a case of just throwing more numbers at the command. Justine is just cheap political point scoring.

"The reality is that we have an issue here and just throwing extra numbers at it doesn't help. We need to address it. I think it needs a collaboration between the union, the police department and the government."

Mr Provest said the high level of sickness was unique to the Tweed LAC.

"It's not occurring in the Sydney LACs or Woolongong or Newcastle, it is a cultural thing," he said.

"When I got into politics 11 years ago the issue was there, and 11 years later it is still there. The real problem is once they are sick, they are still on the books. It is unlike a school teacher where you can get a casual in, or a hospital where you can get an agency nurse in, there is no casual workforce for the police.

"It is an HR problem in dealing with those claims - there are probably a lot of legitimate claims there. It is just unusual that we lead the state in this issue."

Mrs Elliot said local police did an outstanding job in the community, and commended them for their dedication to keeping the community safe.



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