House debates

Monday, 17 September 2018

Private Members' Business

National Police Remembrance Day

4:56 pm

Photo of Chris HayesChris Hayes (Fowler, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1)notes that National Police Remembrance Day will be observed on 28 September;

(2)acknowledges the significant role police officers across Australia play in our local communities and the great deal of risk and sacrifice that comes with their duty;

(3)honours the lives and memories of those police officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the course of their duty, and tragically this year we specifically honour Constable Dennis Green of the Western Australian Police Force, who was killed during pursuit training in West Toodyay;

(4)pays tribute to the families and friends of police officers who have been killed in the line of duty throughout our nation's history;

(5)commends the good work of Police Legacy, who look after the loved ones of police officers that have fallen; and

(6)reaffirms its support for the nation's police officers and honours their courage, commitment and dedication to ensuring the peace and safety of our communities.

'A hero can be someone who gave up his or her life so that someone else can live. This definition is a pure example of my dad. To the world you may be one person, but to our family you were the world.' That is a statement from Emma, the daughter of Senior Constable Brett Forte, a Queensland Police officer who was tragically shot and killed in the line of duty last year. It puts in perspective the inherent dangers of everyday policing and the significant toll it takes on the families of police officers.

This year, National Police Remembrance Day will be observed on 28 September. This is one of the most significant days on the national police calendar. As a nation, we pause on this day to remember the police officers who lost their lives in the execution of their duty, and we honour the courage, commitment and dedication of all police members who have sworn to protect our community.

Policing comes with a high degree of risk and with dangers that, thankfully, most of us will never have to encounter. It truly takes a special type of person and a special type of courage to wear the police uniform; we are forever indebted to those fine men and women who have chosen to do so. We recognise their commitment to ensuring the peace and security of our communities, a duty which should never be taken for granted. Our safety and that of our families as well as the security of our homes, businesses and, indeed, our democracy are all reliant on law enforcement, a task which primarily falls to our police.

This year's service will also see the total number of police officers listed on the National Police Memorial regrettably rise once again. This year we recognise the tragic loss of First Class Senior Constable Dennis Michael Green of the Western Australia Police Force. Constable Green was killed in a motorcycle crash, during pursuit training in West Toodyay. Constable Green was a highly respected member of his community and a decorated former soldier in the British Army, having served 20 years with the Royal Engineers. For the last seven years he had been a police officer of the Western Australia Police Force.

The death of Constable Green highlights the inherent danger involved in police work—not knowing what they are likely to encounter every time they commence their shift. In recognition of his service in the Western Australia Police Force Constable Green has been posthumously awarded the National Police Service Medal, the Western Australia Police Star and the Western Australia Police Medal. Constable Green, tragically, leaves behind a wife, Michelle, and two sons, James and Ryan, who I met on the weekend at the National Police Memorial in Canberra.

National Police Remembrance Day is, therefore, also a time for all of us to reflect on the loved ones who have been left behind and the families and friends whose lives have been affected forever. While we mourn them, we thank and honour all police officers and their families, whose unconditional support allows these fine men and women to serve our community. We owe it to the fallen to look after their families, which is why the work of Police Legacy is of particular importance and deserving of our full support. In this regard, I'm happy to say I attended again the annual police Wall to Wall Ride for Remembrance on the weekend, raising much needed funds to assist in this great effort of Police Legacy.

Tragically, this year we also lost a distinguished Victorian police officer, Detective Senior Sergeant Victor Kostiuk, who was killed while participating in this charity ride. He was riding with his son to support fallen police colleagues. I pay tribute to his distinguished and long career in the Victorian police force, and I will have more to say about him at another time.

To Constable Green, to all those police officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice, and to all our past and current members of our respective police forces, we honour you and we profoundly thank you for your service. Above all, be comforted in the knowledge that you have made a difference for the better in our communities.

5:01 pm

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion. I am very pleased to support this motion moved by my neighbour the member for Fowler. I acknowledge his longstanding commitment to, and support for, our police forces not only in New South Wales but throughout the nation.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Proceedings suspended from 17:01 to 17:13

I would like to go through the words of the motion of the member for Fowler, because I commend him on the words that he used in it:

That this House:

(1) notes that National Police Remembrance Day will be observed on 28 September;

(2) acknowledges the significant role police officers across Australia play in our local communities and the great deal of risk and sacrifice that comes with their duty;

(3) honours the lives and memories of those police officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the course of their duty, and tragically this year we specifically honour Constable Dennis Green of the Western Australian Police Force, who was killed during pursuit training in West Toodyay;

(4) pays tribute to the families and friends of police officers who have been killed in the line of duty throughout our nation's history;

(5) commends the good work of Police Legacy, who look after the loved ones of police officers that have fallen; and

(6) reaffirms its support for the nation's police officers and honours their courage, commitment and dedication to ensuring the peace and safety of our communities.

Of all the occupations in our society today, the occupation of police officer is one where, when people sign on to start their shift, they do not know what will happen or the personal risks that they will face. They may have to go to a car accident where there has been a fatality. They may have to make an arrest of someone who has committed an assault. They may have to turn up to a violent domestic dispute. They may have to apprehend armed robbers. Most concerning of all is the trend that we have seen over recent years: the blue uniform that our police officers wear puts them at risk because we have segments of the Australian community who, unfortunately, see that blue uniform as a target. That is what every police officer around the nation faces today.

We need in our society, I believe, to have a greater respect for police officers. Too often we see people using the word 'cops' to refer to police officers. Often those who denigrate police officers are the very first ones to call for their help when they are in trouble. So I commend the member for Fowler for moving this motion today. We thank every police officer in our nation. We thank them for their bravery. We thank them for their determination. We thank them for their honourable conduct. We send, from this parliament, our love, our support and our encouragement.

5:17 pm

Photo of Luke GoslingLuke Gosling (Solomon, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to support this motion. 'To serve and protect'—that's why National Police Remembrance Day is such a significant day for us. In the Northern Territory, like in other jurisdictions around the country, we stop to remember those members—

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 17:18 to 17:28

Following what I was saying, I want to thank my friend, the member for Fowler, Chris Hayes, for bringing this important motion for debate. In Darwin, I'll be attending the ecumenical service at my parish church, St Mary's Star of the Sea Cathedral, on 28 September. I will pay my respects to the men and women of the NT Police Force who were either killed in the execution of their duties or who died while serving. I know that the thoughts of many this year will be with the Noonan family, who had to say goodbye to retired Senior Constable Williams Thomas Barney Noonan, who, sadly, lost a long-running battle with cancer.

It's not easy to be a police officer anywhere, but in the NT, with road fatalities, break-ins and dealing with alcohol related crimes, police see some of the worst that the Territory has to offer. In a normal year, police in the Territory respond to over 100,000 triple 0 requests and close to 25,000 incidents related to domestic violence, and breath test close to 180,000 drivers.

It's important that we recognise the work of the police and the vital role that they play in our community. It's a bit of a personal irritation of mine that the levels of disrespect towards the police have increased in my electorate in Darwin and Palmerston. I'd like to add my support for the action taken by the Northern Territory Labor government and their commitment to restore school based constables, which had been cut by the previous government.

I'd especially like to acknowledge the work done by the rank-and-file men and women who are on the ground, at the coalface, working around the clock to make our communities safe. The work they do is tough. It's not a nine-to-five job, and it's mostly done as shiftwork, which makes it even tougher. By now, we should all be aware of the terrible effect that this prolonged shiftwork has on the body, both physically and emotionally. Shiftwork, coupled with the at times tragic work undertaken by our police men and women is, to be quite frank, a recipe for terrible mental health outcomes. I know from my own experiences in the Defence Force that prolonged experience of trauma destroys families and ruins lives. I can't imagine the compounding effect that trauma would have on a police officer who has served for 30 years and the effect it would have on their family. It must be massive.

I'd like to take a brief moment to commend the great work done by the Police Association in the Northern Territory and by Police Legacy in the NT. As I said, it's not easy being a police officer, let alone being a family member of one. The NT Police Legacy scheme assures police families that there is an organisation prepared to assist them with their emotional, financial, education and welfare needs should anything happen to their loved ones in the line of duty. Last week, I saw off the second contingent of Territory motorcycle riders that left our police memorial in Darwin and started riding to Canberra with the Wall to Wall Ride event, with funds raised going to Police Legacy. It's important work.

The damaging effect of the type of work done by first responders and Defence personnel is why I'm pushing for funding to be put towards the construction of a support centre for these groups in Darwin, because the NT doesn't have such a support centre. Often, when I'm talking to my old Army comrades, they're the first ones to say that the police are on the tools every day—and, by saying they're 'on the tools', I mean they're on the job every day. As I say, there is a compounding effect of that sort of work. My own brother is a fireman in the Northern Territory. When they turn up to scenes of vehicle accidents, it is traumatic.

We need to do more to make sure that first responders like the police have that mental health support and other support around them. As a community, that's what we need to be doing. This support is vital. Support is needed for these people who serve us and protect us. Again, I thank the member for Fowler for reminding us all of the services that our police force provide to our community.

5:33 pm

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's a great pleasure to rise to support this motion. This week is a very special week in the Australian police calendar. The Police Federation of Australia's inaugural Police Week starts this week. It commenced with the Wall to Wall motorcycle ride and will conclude with National Police Remembrance Day. Police Week will also see the inaugural Australian National Police Bravery Awards presented at a formal dinner on 19 September. These awards are very special in that they are selected by police for police, the recipients truly being national heroes.

This year I was again honoured to participate in the Wall to Wall Ride for Remembrance with my daughter Eve. We rode from Canberra after the ceremony and returned from Goulburn to Canberra. The Wall to Wall is a special remembrance motorbike ride where police and their families and friends meet at special places and memorial sites in their jurisdictions and ride to the National Police Memorial, in Canberra. The ride promotes motorcycle safety awareness and raises funds for charity. The main beneficiary of the charity this year is Police Legacy, who do an amazing job looking after the families of those officers who have lost their lives while serving, in the line of duty. And I must pay tribute to Detective Senior Sergeant Vic Kostiuk, who tragically lost his life in Victoria while travelling with his son to the memorial. He gave 40 years of service. He was a great man, and his is a great loss to society.

Police Remembrance Day is a solemn occasion when we commemorate and pay tribute to those police who have lost their lives in the line of duty. On 29 September, around the country, we recall the names of every police officer who has made the ultimate sacrifice protecting and serving their community. The role of a police officer is a very challenging but also very rewarding one. Every day police officers put their lives on the line as they go about their duty, serving their community whilst upholding the highest levels of professionalism, often in very, very difficult circumstances. A police officer never knows what scene they'll be confronted with when they start their shift, and, tragically, some police officers don't make it home. That's why it is so important to remember those people who have lost their life in the line of duty and also to pay respect to those serving us every day. This year I'll attend the Police Remembrance Day service on the Sunshine Coast.

Policing is an incredibly honourable vocation where your function is to help and serve, and, in doing so, it gives you a front row seat to every aspect of life. In Australia, it's a job performed in one of the most peaceful, modern societies on the planet, where the rights and freedoms of individuals are precious and you're charged with protecting life and property and upholding those principles and values. As a former police officer, I understand the difficulties that police encounter every time they put on their uniform. It's a job where, at the beginning of the shift, you have the incredibly weighty task of loading bullets into a weapon—a weapon whose primary purpose is to stop human beings—followed by the even weightier task of then walking out into everyday life with no certainty as to what serious challenges you are going to be asked to solve.

Policing is a job where most members of society are happy to see you. Once they see the blue uniform, they want to have a chat. More often than not they'll strike up that conversation for no particular reason. It's just that they like seeing the police out and about doing their job, walking the beat and keeping the peace. It's a diverse job. At one time, you could be attending an incident of domestic and family violence, where every policing skill that you possess is called upon to resolve a highly charged situation, and, later in that same shift, you may find yourself at a day care centre, sitting on the carpet with the kids, explaining to them why they need to hold Mum's and Dad's hand when they're crossing the road. It truly is a diverse job. It's a job where your own physical and mental wellbeing is regularly placed on the line to help others and where the highs of success are often matched by the lows of tragedy.

Police are expected to be brave. They're expected to be able to perform without fear. They're expected to serve their community without hesitation. I convey my respects to all police, past and present, and commend them for the job that they do.

Photo of Luke HowarthLuke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the honourable member and I thank you for your service.

5:38 pm

Photo of Justine ElliotJustine Elliot (Richmond, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's a great honour to rise and speak today in support of the motion of the member for Fowler, and I wish to commend him for his ongoing dedication to this important day of remembrance and, indeed, to his continued advocacy in all areas of policing. The member for Fowler and I have spoken many times on similar motions in the House, because this day does have a very special significance for the wider police family. As I've mentioned before, I was proud to previously serve as a general duties police officer in the Queensland Police Service. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank my other parliamentary colleagues who I know share a deep commitment to highlighting the significant role of police officers right across Australia and the great risk and sacrifice that comes with that duty.

National Police Remembrance Day is being observed this year on 28 September. It's a solemn and important day for police officers, their loved ones and the wider police family. It's also an important day on which the community can also reflect on the invaluable service provided by our brave policemen and policewomen. This is a time that we pause to honour the lives and memory of all the fine men and women who, in their work protecting our community, have had their lives tragically cut short. This year we specifically honour and remember Constable Dennis Green of the Western Australia Police Force. Constable Green had been with the WA police for seven years and was based at the Warwick police station with the traffic enforcement group. He'd also served more than 20 years with the Royal Engineers in the UK before joining the police. Tragically, in December last year, Constable Dennis Green was killed in a motorbike incident during pursuit training. I wish to extend my greatest sympathy to his family and friends and colleagues.

As we've heard, tragically, just last Friday, Detective Senior Sergeant Vic Kostiuk died when a car veered across the road and struck his motorcycle in Victoria whilst he was taking part in the police charity motorcycle ride, the Wall to Wall Ride, which remembers fallen officers. I extend my sincere condolences to his family.

It is tragedies like this that remind us of how important is the work of Police Legacy for families suffering bereavement. Like the police forces themselves, Police Legacy is separated by state jurisdictions. However, they all perform much the same vital functions in their respective states.

New South Wales Policy Legacy supports bereaved police families following the loss of their loved one, and they also extend support to police officers and their families experiencing challenging times in their lives. I commend all those involved with Police Legacy for the vital work that they do within our policing communities.

As a former general duties police officer myself, I've seen firsthand some of the situations and complexities that police officers face, day in, day out, whilst serving their communities in the execution of their duties. It's important to acknowledge that these individuals are out there working hard to keep our communities safe. They do often have to face very difficult and, indeed, very dangerous situations. It is during these times that police are faced with terrible tragedy—events that, so unfortunately, are a part of our everyday lives. These are the tragedies, fatal accidents or family losses that we so often hear about. It is often those police officers who are the ones to break this terrible news to parents, to children and to partners when such horrific incidents occur.

I continue to raise, as I know many members in this House do, some of these issues that put pressures and challenges upon our police, so that there is always an awareness of the incidents they face. There are particular challenges in regional areas like mine on the New South Wales north coast. I have called many times and continue to call for more support and resources for these police. I also encourage locals in my area and across the country to take a moment on 28 September this year and think about the role that police officers play within our community. I say to those police in my local area: thank you for your service.

Finally, I want to mention an important recent event in my electorate. Our local police officers helped to organise the very successful inaugural Police and Community Charity Ball, which was jointly hosted by the Queensland Police Service, the New South Wales Police Force and the Australian Federal Police. It was great to see more than 600 people attending this wonderful inaugural event. More than $65,000 was raised. All profits went to the children's wards at the Tweed Heads hospital and also at the Gold Coast hospital. So thanks to everyone involved with organising that event. I would really like to congratulate all of them. The event was a great success, and it showcased what an integral part our police play, not just in protecting us every day in our communities but also, as members of our community, in raising important funds for charity.

Today, I would like to thank all police for the wonderful, brave work that you do. I especially thank and acknowledge those officers serving in commands on the New South Wales north coast, and I look forward to joining many of those on 28 September at Coolangatta, at Saint Augustine's Church, in which National Police Remembrance Day will be honoured in my area. I thank all those police for the great work they continue to do right throughout our community. This is an important occasion for all of us to come together and recognise that. I particularly commend the member for Fowler for this motion and commend all those who have been speaking as we remember the great work that our police do.

5:43 pm

Photo of Andrew WallaceAndrew Wallace (Fisher, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to support the member for Fowler in this motion, and I join with the remarks that have been made by both sides of the House in relation to remembering the importance of the men and women who serve our communities in uniform, particularly around National Police Remembrance Day. The case of Constable Dennis Green this year, the death last year of Senior Constable Brett Forte and the unfortunate death of Senior Sergeant Victor Kostiuk just last Friday remind us of the dangers involved in being a policeman or an emergency service worker. I want to thank my good friend the member for Wide Bay, who gave so much of his life to serving his community as a policeman before taking a higher calling to come into this place—although some might argue with that! But I think it's important on days like this to really acknowledge the service of those who have pulled on the uniform. We often talk in this place about the importance of recognising our ADF personnel, which is very, very important and should be done. But, when you look at the carnage and the horrible things that people like the member for Wide Bay will have seen over their years in the police service, compared to what a member of the ADF might see if they deploy, it's very, very difficult to compare the two when you deal with death and destruction every single day over a 30-year period.

My brother is a MICA ambo in Victoria, and he and I have often spoken about the pain and agony that he goes through just by virtue of the sheer weight of numbers of the death and destruction that he has seen. I've only been involved in that in a very small way as a counsel assisting in coronial inquiries, and I have been impacted by just the photographs—let alone actually turning up to the incidents with all your senses and the sights and smells. I was only seeing it in 2D, months and sometimes years afterwards. I can't imagine what it's like to be there on the day or on the night.

It's very, very important that we acknowledge these guys. Equally, it's important that we acknowledge them after the event, after they leave the service. We care for our veterans to a very high quality standard. Sometimes that standard doesn't meet our joint expectations. How we care for our emergency service workers after they leave their service is equally telling.

I want to acknowledge a gentleman in my electorate by the name of Neil Reid, who approached me very early on in my extensive parliamentary career of 2½ years, trying to get support for emergency service workers like the support we provide to ADF members. When you look at that life of service and what they go through over a long period of time, we as a nation—we as a collection of states and territories—do not look after our emergency service workers anywhere near like we look after our ADF personnel. I've met with numerous ministers to try and look at this issue, to look at some sort of uniformity of approach about how we care for our emergency service workers once they hang up that uniform, because many of them do struggle. If we are able to help them post—I won't say 'discharge'—service, we will reduce the number of suicides by these men and women. It's the least we can do as a community and as a government to try and push for better access and better service for these men and women who have given us so much.

Photo of Andrew GeeAndrew Gee (Calare, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Fisher. I also acknowledge and welcome those ADF members we have in the chamber this afternoon who are here as part of the observers program.

5:48 pm

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

I support the motion put forward by the member for Fowler regarding how, on National Police Remembrance Day, we honour officers who have lost their lives in service. The Queensland Police Service Roll of Honour includes officers who have been killed as a consequence of the actions of an offender or who died while attempting to save lives. There are currently 32 entries on the Queensland Roll of Honour, spanning 150 years of service. Sadly, the most recent entry is Senior Constable Brett Forte, who was shot and killed near Toowoomba just last year. I acknowledge the service and bravery of all 32 Queensland police officers on the Queensland Police Service Roll of Honour.

I would also like to acknowledge today each and every Queensland police officer who, every day, knowingly walks in harm's way to make us safer. Policing is a high-risk job. Almost every year an officer is killed somewhere in Australia, and many others are assaulted or suffer work-related illnesses. It is high stress. Beyondblue ran a specific program for police and emergency services in an effort to address this reality. Not only do police and emergency service personnel routinely face life and death challenges, but they also witness the worst of humankind.

Beyondblue says that police and emergency personnel who retire or leave the job have higher rates of anxiety, depression and, sadly, suicide. Although they are not formally recognised on the service roll of honour, more officers have died as a result of suicide than those killed in the line of duty. The villains pursuing them were no less real, their bravery in the face of death no less courageous and the reason they were stolen from their families no less the result of crimes they witnessed and criminals they confronted.

I'd like to particularly acknowledge today a family member of my chief of staff, Michelle Howe. Her cousin Detective Senior Constable Russell Sheehan ended his life in 2015 after serving more than 32 years in the Queensland Police Service. Russell was from a large Brisbane police family; his father, uncles and grandfather all served in the Queensland Police Service. He was brought up with a stoicism that was almost a way of life in those families; selflessly just getting on with the job and being there for everyone else.

But, like many, Russell's service to the Queensland police included many experiences that could not be unseen, unheard or unfelt. Russell Sheehan spent four years of his service in the police Child Protection Unit. A letter from one victim of child abuse sent to Russell's family tells of the compassion and strength Russell demonstrated when this victim revealed for the first time the terrible abuse he had endured. He said that Russell saved his life at that time.

Emotional and physical stress were ever present in Russell Sheehan's job. Russell was the first responder to the Childers Palace Backpackers Hostel fire back in 2000, in which 15 people lost their lives. And while on a solo patrol, Russ encountered a man brandishing a lighter who threw petrol over him. He received the Commissioner's Certificate for Bravery for that incident. We can watch physical scars heal but, tragically, the invisible scars continue, festering and unseen. There is an urgent need to improve the health, safety and wellbeing of the police. Service unions, including the Queensland Police Union, together have recognised this and are taking action with the Our People Matter Strategy.

There are many families who have generations of service like the Sheehan family. Many go into the service proudly, to follow in their parents' footsteps. One such police officer on the south side of Brisbane is Senior Sergeant Murray Crone. He entered the force at 19 and, coincidentally, his first placement as a young police constable was with Russell Sheehan. Murray has told me that he could never understand why his mum was so worried about him being a copper. He said that to him it was the best job ever—great people, fun and exciting. But after a few years in the service, Murray had a different perspective. An academy squad mate was shot through the chest and killed at Wynnum. He was in his early 20s. In the same year, another colleague was killed in a crash while pursuing a stolen vehicle in the suburb of Fortitude Valley. After 32 years service, sadly, Murray has lost count of the number of funerals he has attended—all of them good men and women taken too early and well before their time, including those who have, tragically, taken their own lives. Murray says that the sound of bagpipes now make the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.

Being a police officer is no ordinary job; it takes lives and leaves families heartbroken. So on National Police Remembrance Day this year, let's pause; let's remember all the brave police who've been taken from their families—those for which the sun set too early:

We will remember.

We will remember.

Hasten the dawn.

Photo of Andrew GeeAndrew Gee (Calare, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Moreton. There being no further speakers, the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.