House debates

Thursday, 15 December 2022


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

1:11 pm

Photo of Karen AndrewsKaren Andrews (McPherson, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Home Affairs) Share this | Hansard source

I'd like to start by acknowledging the contributions of those who have already spoken here today. There have been some incredibly moving contributions by members in this place, but, in my view, none more moving than those of members who have spoken and have drawn on their experience as serving members, previously, of police forces. I thank them for their contributions but I also thank them for their service.

I would like to say at the start that these people put their lives on the line every single shift, almost every single day, and I know that many of those people would take action during the times they are officially off duty. These are the people we call when the people across the road are beating each other up. They're the people we call when our next-door neighbour's house has been broken into. They're the people we call when there's been some sort of accident and emergency. They turn up, and they put in their absolute best to help other people. As a nation, we cannot be more grateful.

Earlier this week, tragedy struck a small town in western Queensland. It shocked not only the people in those communities but communities right around Australia. What appeared to be a very routine call to check on the welfare of an individual ended in absolute tragedy. The police officers that turned up were out on a very routine call, doing their jobs. They went to work that morning and they never came home. Twenty-six-year-old Constable Matthew Arnold and 29-year-old Constable Rachel McCrow lost their lives. They didn't deserve this and their families didn't deserve this. These were two young people doing their jobs, going about their work. They did not deserve what happened to them that day at all. Their families deserve our support not just now but on an ongoing basis.

Fifty-eight-year-old neighbour Alan Dare went next door to help a neighbour. He went there genuinely trying to help. He didn't come home either, and he was within days of celebrating a very significant anniversary. He didn't deserve exactly what he got for reaching out to try to help a neighbour who he thought needed him. My very heartfelt condolences go to his wife and his family. As a nation, we thank him for doing his best to try and help someone else. He will never ever be forgotten for what he did to support people who he felt were in need and who repaid him in an absolutely appalling manner. Today we pay tribute to Alan Dare, and we also pay tribute to the officers who lost their lives when they were out there doing their job and, in the course of their duty, protecting our community and keeping us all safe.

To them, I say that their sacrifice will never, ever be forgotten, and to their families and to their friends, I say that we will never forget them and their contribution.

As we have heard not only here today but through all of the reporting, there were two other police officers, who bravely managed to escape the line of fire to raise the alarm with their colleagues. One of those was also shot. It's a very, very timely reminder for us of the risks that our first responders—in this case, police officers—take when they enter circumstances and they are not expecting the outcome of being faced with a series of gunshots going their way. A team of four Queensland police on that day attended the call-out, which was originally requested by New South Wales police, and just two of those officers made it out that day, but they were able to raise the alarm. For those two officers, 28-year-old Constable Randall Kirk, who was shot, and 28-year-old Constable Keely Brough, their lives and the lives of their families and friends will be changed in a way that very few of us in this place could imagine.

I recall hearing the words of the Queensland Police Commissioner, Katarina Carroll, shortly after the tragedy and after she had surveilled the open area where this tragedy unfolded. She said those officers 'didn't stand a chance', and it seems as if that was very much the case. The same evening, members of the special emergency response team, who specifically deal with high-risk incidents, killed the three armed offenders after a stand-off that lasted for hours. Monday night's operation was the most high-profile engagement in that unit's history. Those officers entered into a crime scene where some of their police colleagues had been brutally executed, and they spent six hours trying to secure the area. And they did, and I thank them for their efforts.

To the families, friends and colleagues of all of those who have been impacted by the tragic loss of life, we send our thoughts to you. There are absolutely no words to convey how you must be feeling at this time, and you will carry that pain with you for years to come. I urge you, if you have been affected in any way, to take the time that you need to get the support that you need. I understand that the police family is banding together and providing as much support as they possibly can, and I know that there are mental health organisations, such as Fortem Australia, who are able to provide much-needed support to our first responders.

I am very acutely aware that the police investigations are underway. There's a lot of discussion and a lot of commentary about what contributed to the actions of the three individuals that chose to execute police officers and their neighbour, so I won't comment on that. I will allow the law enforcement agencies to do the work that they need to do to uncover the reasons behind this particular action.

In my time as the Minister for Home Affairs, I had the opportunity to work very closely with the Australian Federal Police and to work very closely with some of their officers, who I have enormous respect for, and I cannot thank them enough for the work that they do. They often have to pay a very heavy price, as we've just seen happen in western Queensland. Each day that they go out to work, there is always that risk that they may not return home. That is a big risk that they take to keep all of us safe, so I thank them, and I thank their families, for everything that they have done to support us.

I know from my various discussions with the Australian Federal Police Association that there is still work that we can all be doing to support our officers in the work that they need to do—the support that we need to provide to them. So I am determined to continue to advocate for more support and better conditions for those who serve our community in this way. We owe them a debt of gratitude, especially those who have paid the ultimate price for their service, such as what we have been speaking about today. Those individuals have paid such an enormous price, as have their families, and they deserve our support.

To the many police families across the nation, please know how much you are loved and appreciated by us. I thank you for your service.


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