House debates

Thursday, 15 December 2022


Arnold, Constable Matthew, Dare, Mr Alan, McCrow, Constable Rachel

12:09 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Prime Minister) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That the House record its deep regret at the death on 12 December 2022 of Constable Rachel McCrow, Constable Matthew Arnold and Mr Alan Dare, place on record its acknowledgement of their bravery and sacrifice in the line of duty, and tender its sympathy to their families in their bereavement.

Monday 12 December should have been an ordinary summer's day on the Western Downs, a day of warmth under that big blue sky, a day of peace. Instead, that quiet was shattered by the gunfire of an atrocity—a vicious and deadly ambush that has stolen lives, broken hearts, devastated a community and shocked our nation. On Monday afternoon, four Queensland police officers from the Tara police station, all still just in their 20s—young people, serving their community; a rich and full life ahead of them—were sent out on what was supposed to be a routine check, just an ordinary part of the job that they were so proud to do.

But the property they were visiting was no normal home or farm. It was, unbeknownst to them, a fortress and an armoury. As the Queensland Police Commissioner, Katarina Carroll, has said, they did not stand a chance. Constables Matthew Arnold and Rachel McCrow were murdered. Constable Randall Kirk was shot and wounded, and Constable Keely Brough assumed that she, too, would die, either shot by her pursuers or burned alive when they set the grass that she was sheltering in on fire to try and drive her out. Constable Brough grabbed her phone to seek assistance for her colleagues. And then she texted her loved ones what she imagined would be her final goodbyes. Even then, surrounded by danger and death, her first thought was for her fellow officers. It is a miracle that Keely survived. Tragically, Alan Dare did not—a neighbour who came to the property's front gate, driven by that great Australian instinct to help; an innocent Australian who paid for his kindness and concern with his life.

Police officers in regional Australia are servants of the community and they're part of its fabric. I've been speaking with the mayor, Paul McVeigh, and also I've had discussions with the local MP, the Leader of the Nationals, David Littleproud, about the nature of their communities. Over 200 Tara residents gathered at their police station to observe a minute's silence for Matthew and Rachel. The Queensland Police Union chief executive, Ian Leavers, said, 'In Chinchilla, they've run out of flowers.' They are such close-knit and caring communities, and the loss of these lives has fallen hard on a great many people.

The community are gathering. The community, tomorrow night, will hold events in both Tara and Chinchilla. I'm advised by the mayor that they are taking measures, such as the local car wash donating every dollar that goes through there to the families. The community are donating, everything from sausages and other food through to beverages, so that they can gather together to mourn together. Locals have been saddened by these deaths and shocked by such a senseless atrocity; an act of violence and bloodshed so sudden, so cold, so alien to the community and country they know and so far beyond rational comprehension. Part of the responsibility that all of us have is not just a solemn duty of remembering and honouring those who were killed; it is examining what drove their killers and finding a way to draw that poison out of our nation.

Our nation mourns with all those who loved Matthew Arnold, Rachel McCrow and Alan Dare. We know that for their families this Christmas there will be a place at the table not taken, an empty space of grief and loss that the years will never be able to fill. To those families we say again today: Australia mourns with you. We mourn also with the bigger community and the larger family to which all police officers, past and present, belong—including, I want to note, the Leader of the Opposition, who served as a Queensland police officer—because we understand that every death in the line of duty strikes at the hearts of all of those who serve and casts a shadow over all those who wait for their loved ones to come home from work.

Mr Speaker, it is true that every police officer knows the risks that they face in their life of duty. They are all too aware of the dangers, yet they do their job each and every day regardless. They do it for us, for our communities, for our nation. That is courage. It is public service at the highest level. Today, and every day, we pay tribute to each and every one of the police officers who serve us and protect us.

Last night the Attorney-General and I went to the Police Memorial here in Canberra, which overshadows the lake, to lay a wreath of respect with, as well, the Acting Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, Ian McCartney, who's here with us today. I welcome you, sir, and I thank you and all of your fellow officers for your service. I also acknowledge that joining us in the gallery today are Acting Deputy Commissioner Lesa Gale and Acting Assistant Commissioner Stephen Dametto.

Mr Speaker, we grieve for Alan Dare. And we grieve for Matthew Arnold and Rachel McCrow, who have paid a price that no-one who puts on the uniform should ever have to pay. We can never count the true cost. We can never repay the full debt. All we can offer is the humble thanks of a grateful nation and the heartfelt condolences of the Australian people. With honour they served. May they rest in peace.


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