House debates

Thursday, 15 December 2022


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

1:47 pm

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Late on Monday night, when my wife and I were reading about what had occurred on that property in Wieambilla, my first thoughts turned to that community. I know the area, having grown up in St George, and that sort of small country Queensland town. As a kid growing up in St George I used to go and play rugby league in Tara and Chinchilla, so the area between those two towns I know well. I've driven through there plenty of times. Tara was our closest opposition at only 280 kilometres away. And then later, when I worked as a lawyer, a lot of my clients were in that area. In fact, I'm sure I would have been the solicitor acting for a lot of the blocks in that area.

If you know that country then you know it's tough country. It's sandy country. It's cypress pines. It's pretty lean territory. I see the member for Hinkler nodding over there. It breeds some tough people. Nevertheless, it's a small rural town where you know your neighbours, where you bump into each other at the local store. Later that night and then the next day, as more news came through around the specifics, my heart sank and my thoughts turned to the families and colleagues of the officers killed—those young constables Rachel McCrow and Matthew Arnold.

Rachel is from the north side of Brisbane. I particularly want to mention Matthew, from the south side. He attended St Laurence's College, which my son graduated from this year. Matthew's grandparents go to the same church as me at Saint Pius on the south side. And Matthew particularly, as a triplet—you think of all of his siblings, those grieving families and friends, those young lives needlessly ended at just 26 and 29.

They, along with constables Randall Kirk and Keely Brough, were bravely just doing their job as police officers, as so many speakers have mentioned before; doing something that police do in communities all over Australia every single day. It was strange that there were four people, one car from Tara and one car from Chinchilla, turning up at the same spot.

So often police officers in country Queensland are doing jobs on their own—just one officer turning up to do a job. It just so happens that four turned up on this day. They put their lives on the line every day, every time they stop a car or turn up at a rural property. Police and their families know that when they leave home to start work there is a possibility that they may not return home. But still, this is so tragic. Constables Kirk and Brough were shot and shot at. They will have to deal with seeing their colleagues murdered and also what they've had to experience for the rest of their lives. Thank goodness we weren't in a time of drought and that there was plenty of grass in that sandy country so that that young officer was able to find enough cover, even though they did try to burn her out of that area.

I know that all the police and their families are still in shock at what happened. Even just talking to the local police in Sunnybank yesterday, this really has touched the policing community and all Australians. It is the sort of incident we never want to see in Australia, the stuff of a whacky Waco in the wild west or some Mexican gang war, not in a friendly Queensland bush. With that in mind, I want to thank the police who bravely turned up, contained and managed the subsequent operation. While their comrades' blood was still soaking into the soil, they turned up and ran towards the danger. I thank them for their bravery. I can't imagine how that must have felt, going out there in that helicopter and going into a situation like that after the deaths of two of their colleagues. Their professionalism and dedication to their job are a credit to them and appreciated by all Australians. The names of Constable McCrow and Constable Arnold and the tragedy of two young lives lost while at work will be remembered by Queensland police, Queensland and Australians forever.

I also want to mention Alan Dare, the good Samaritan, the good neighbour, not someone with a weapon. He was just armed with what every Australian in the country wants to be, which is to be a good neighbour. Alan lived on the neighbouring property. As I said, I know that area well. A lot of battlers who move to that part of the world may come from Western Sydney or may come from the western suburbs of Brisbane after looking for a second chance, perhaps after a marriage breakdown. These blockies are looking for a chance in life. I don't know Alan's story, but it sounds like he was a great neighbour. We've heard reports of Alan being a good, responsible neighbour, wanting to check on the welfare of his neighbours when he noticed the fires on the property. As the member for Melbourne said, he was moving towards the danger when he heard the gunshots. That is the country way, which is the true code of the west. Sadly, Alan didn't know the full extent of what was happening in his quiet part of Queensland. He didn't realise that a pocket of evil had come into his part of paradise. But all he would have been thinking was, 'I'd better go and check and make sure my neighbours are okay and see whether they need a hand,' because that is what good people should do, what good people did do, and what good people will do again. But tragically for Alan and his loved ones, he was never able to return to them and his home after being murdered, shot in the back—what a dog act! He didn't get to celebrate his wedding anniversary.

In the last part of my speech, I particularly want to call out this rise that we're seeing in terms of conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers, sovereign citizens, and the purveyors of hate and misinformation who cultivate some of these things. I'm not jumping to a conclusion to say that this is what happened here, but I am seeing it on the rise. People in the police service and people who work as magistrates tell me that there is a rise in this sort of misinformation. In particular, while I'm here in Canberra, in this building, call out the politicians who harvest mistrust as part of their business model, who go on Sky After Dark and dog whistle or dog trumpet these conspiracy theories and these shadowy conspiracy theory groups who are actually praising these killers of police officers and encouraging others to take up arms. We need to shine a light on that behaviour. Hitchens's razor states: What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. So I urge those people who start to go down these rabbit holes to instead go to your libraries.

Don't do your own research. Have your information created by a professional—someone we call 'a librarian'; look it up—not by an algorithm that has clickbait outrage as a business model. I don't want the cookers and antivaxxers, or sovereign citizens or conspiracy theorists—I know they're negative terms, but these are difficult times—sentenced to jail or anything. I actually want them confined to their local libraries under the supervision of a good librarian who helps them find accurate information. Don't go down the rabbit hole; come out into the sunlight. It is where evil withers.

Lastly, I particularly want to put on the record my condolences for the lives of the brave Constable Rachel McCrow and Constable Matthew Arnold, and the kindly Alan Dare. May they rest in peace and their memories be cherished forever.


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