Monday, 30 August 2021
National Police Remembrance Day
When an emergency happens, as frightened people flee from the scene, police and other first responders run towards the danger to assist, to do what they can, to protect property, to save lives. It's instinct. They don't think twice; they just 'do'.
As the proud father of a police officer, I support what our law enforcers do and thank them—not just on 29 September, National Police Remembrance Day, but every day—for the work they do and the risks they take, unflinchingly and willingly on our behalf.
At a time when people across our country should be doing everything they can to support police in their duty, sadly there is an element in society who are doing everything but that. Shame on them. Why people feel the need to gather en masse to protest against COVID-19 lockdowns, in defiance of state impositions, is beyond belief. Not only is it breaking the law; it is also placing at risk their lives and livelihoods and those around them, including the police sent to keep the peace. And that is the point. Police are assigned to these protests to maintain law and order. They do not deserve to be abused, spat on, have projectiles hurled at them, or for their horses to be punched in the head. That is not how Australia should be in 2021.
Sadly there are those, even members and senators in this place, I am disappointed to say, who have not helped the situation. For an MP to exaggerate about police actions at these protests, falsely claiming protesters were brutalised by police, is beyond the pale. How about condemning the protesters for breaching public health orders first, instead of unfairly and unjustly castigating the brave men and women in blue sent to these illegal gatherings to do their job. I know of a young constable who has been physically assaulted in uniform multiple times in the first 17 months of his policing career—multiple times. And then we have MPs, supposed to be people's representatives, pointing accusatory fingers at those courageous officers, from beneath their doonas in the sanctuary of their darkened rooms, from the bravery of their keyboards. These same people would be the first to squeal if police were not on the scene within minutes if they ever needed them. Give me a break. Better still, give the police a break. Police deserve our encouragement. Police deserve our support and respect always. Our courts should not be revolving doors for criminals; and magistrates should and must back our police in their work, with appropriate sentencing.
In my home town, Wagga Wagga, the community is fortunate to have had a police chief such as Bob Noble for nearly eight years. Now the commander of the Riverina Police District, Superintendent Noble has carried out his duties with dignity, grace and style. He is a fine leader and a credit to the New South Wales Police Force. It has not been easy for him. He hadn't been in charge 12 months when the Hunt family tragedy occurred near Lockhart—a husband and father taking the lives of his poor wife, their three beautiful children and himself. It was a tough time for everyone in this close-knit country community, not least the local police called to deal with this horrific and senseless crime. Superintendent Noble coordinated the initial investigation before Sydney homicide detectives arrived. He later told the Guardian's Gabrielle Chan he found it all quite upsetting. He said:
… I am very proud of the work done by police in helping community through that, particularly the friends and family of the deceased …
People chose to live in rural communities simply because there is a deeper investment in the people around you. That's a double edged sword, when the bad thing happens, they knock you around that much more badly.
It was a deeply disturbing case, but police deal with difficult matters every day in a caring and professional way. A recent report said that, on average, across this nation, police deal with 594 domestic violence incidents each day. That is just so sad, so unfortunate.
I also wish to acknowledge Rod Smith, who has progressed from Wagga Wagga to overseeing Goulburn police academy to the important role of assistant commissioner. He embodies everything we want and expect our uniformed officers to be. So let us thank our police. They do the job asked of them by governments for and on behalf of the people they are tasked to preserve and protect. We especially honour those who have fallen in the line of duty, who made the ultimate sacrifice. Thank you to police officers across Australia for what you do, for the risks you must take, for the difference you make, and for the bravery you've shown in the past, you show now and will always show.