Thursday, 15 December 2022
Arnold, Constable Matthew, Dare, Mr Alan, McCrow, Constable Rachel
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.
I join with the Prime Minister in his fine words and acknowledge that in the gallery today, representing the police family, are Acting Commissioner Ian McCartney, Acting Deputy Commissioner Lesa Gale and Acting Assistant Commissioner Stephen Dametto.
In the aftermath of a tragedy we reflect on what we've lost and what we've learned. Constable Rachel McCrow was sworn in as a police officer last year. Her friends said she was a person with a selfless nature and a genuine care for others, a person who always went above and beyond and took pride in her job. Constable Matthew Arnold was a triplet. His former principal said that he was a talented athlete and that he'll be remembered as a man of service, integrity and compassion. Alan Dare was due to celebrate his 26th wedding anniversary on Wednesday. A resident of Tara described him as a kind man who looked after disadvantaged teenagers.
Constable McCrow, Constable Arnold and Mr Dare meant so much to so many. For those many, of course, there will be much pain and sadness, now and enduring. Those of us who didn't know Constable McCrow, Constable Arnold or Mr Dare will continue to hear about their lives and their deeds in many tributes. Our nation, clearly, has lost three wonderful Australians, three people who embodied compassion, commitment and courage during their lives and in their final moments. Certainly those are qualities that we will remember, and which we will revere. It's those qualities which will continue to inspire confidence in us to confront evil, wherever it lurks.
I want to also acknowledge and pay tribute to Constable Randall Kirk and Constable Keely Brough. As the Prime Minister pointed out and others have said, their bravery, their composure and their quick thinking in extreme has helped save their own lives, as well as others, in calling for backup. We certainly wish Constable Kirk a speedy recovery from his wounds.
At the National Police Memorial here in Canberra, there is a walkway, and engraved into that walkway are the words of loved ones, fellow officers and community members, in memory of those they lost. This is one tribute: 'She had special qualities of reliability, of dedication and community spirit;' and another: 'That man was a godsend to the area; it needed someone just like him.' Whilst those words speak to specific individuals, of course they also capture the ethos of Australia's law enforcement community. Australians have always been able to rely on those who wear a uniform at the state and federal levels. They go into the line of fire and into danger zones so that we don't have to. I hope that the virtues displayed by Constables McCrow, Arnold, Kirk and Brough continue to inspire the next generation of young police officers.
I want to acknowledge the work of Commissioner Katarina Carroll and her bravery, her leadership and her inspiration. Equally, I want to acknowledge the contribution and the support of the Queensland Police Union, headed by Ian Leavers, and the associations and the federation, which do great work around the country in providing that day-to-day support and the support in years to come.
The depravity of this incident is what has struck hardest. On 29 September, many of us went to police memorials around the country for the commemoration day, to mark those who had lost their lives in the service of their state or the Commonwealth—every one them a tragedy. But, in this instance, what has hit hardest across the country is the execution style and the complete disregard for the human beings these officers were—the premeditated nature of the attack and the callous lack of heeding the pleas that would have echoed in between the gunshots. I want to acknowledge the work of all of those who attended the scene, including forensics officers, Special Emergency Response Team officers and the many police officers who will be scarred from this experience.
By chance, as I returned from Toowoomba earlier this week, we came onto the highway to go to Brisbane, and the motorcade was there, carrying the bodies of the officers, with the highway blocked as they moved down to Brisbane to the John Tonge Centre. It was a reminder of the good and the bravery that they displayed.
I want to thank the Prime Minister for the condolence motion today. I say thank you to all of those who provided support and comfort to the families involved and all of those who have attended police stations. There are many reports of local communities, particularly in western Queensland, running out of flowers, and the tributes will continue for some time to come. Our thoughts are also with the officers of the Tara and Chinchilla police stations, the Queensland Police Service more broadly and the Wieambilla community, represented ably by the Leader of the Nationals here today. This is particularly difficult as we head into Christmas. We should all spare a thought and a prayer for those who have lost their lives and for those who continue to serve over Christmas to keep our families and us safe.
I rise today to join the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and all members of this House to express my deepest condolences to the families of Constable Matthew Arnold, Constable Rachel McCrow and Mr Alan Dare, three people who went to help others and lost their lives in a cold-blooded ambush—three lives cut short, three futures denied, three families left heartbroken at a time when families across the country are preparing to join together to celebrate Christmas. For these three families, there will be an empty seat and grief instead of celebration. We think of their loved ones who grieve their loss. We grieve with them.
The police involved in this tragedy were dedicated members of the Queensland Police Service. Any police officer will tell you they are members of the broader police family, and there is no police officer unaffected by this tragedy. Today we pay tribute to those who responded to this terrible attack with quick action, kindness, grace and compassion. This includes the police officers and other first responders who arrived at the scene ready to help. The communities of Weiambilla, Tara and Chinchilla have suffered an unspeakable tragedy. We will stand with them. Today we recognise and honour Constable Randall Kirk and Constable Keely Brough, who, in the face of grave danger, survived, demonstrating extraordinary bravery and ensuring their colleagues could be retrieved. They will walk through life with the scars and memories of that day. We will walk with them.
Like so many Australians do every day, Mr Dare went to check on a neighbour, thinking he could lend a hand in their time of need. No-one should meet their fate when going to the aid of others. We must never accept that police attending a property or a neighbour coming to offer help will be met with such violence, such brutality. The response from the community, the outpouring of love, the way we've come together, shows Australians never will.
Yesterday evening I was honoured to join the Prime Minister and the acting Federal Police commissioner, Ian McCartney, to lay a wreath at the National Police Memorial in Canberra. I acknowledge Acting Commissioner McCartney, who joins us today, representing all Australian police. The National Police Memorial is simple, unobtrusive, and a place of contemplation. It sits just across the lake from here, a wall of touchstones bearing the names of officers who've died in the line of duty. Sadly, the names of Constable Matthew Arnold and Constable Rachel McCrow will now be added to the long list of fallen officers.
As I stood with police officers paying their respects, I reflected on the fact that each of these brave men and women accept the risk of danger every day. They and those who love them know there may be a day they won't come home from work, and yet, each day, they get up and put their uniform on. Despite the fear, the pain of losing colleagues and the worry of their loved ones, they continue to protect and serve their communities. We honour Constable Arnold and Constable McCrow, alongside all those who have lost their lives in the line of duty. We also honour Mr Dare, who went to his neighbour's property to see if he could lend a hand. This has been a sad week. The House joins as one in grief to mark these three brave Australians.
I thank the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, not just as the member for Maranoa but as a boy from Chinchilla. The innocence of this nation but also of two small western Queensland towns was shattered on Monday, when four officers—two from Tara, Constable McCrow and Constable Arnold; and Constables Brough and Kirk—left their stations on a routine job, with pure intent to serve their community, and they were met with malicious intent, with a vile outcome that has shattered the innocence of two small country towns, the likes of which we have never seen before and something we hope we never see again. The bravery of Constables Brough and Kirk in the line of fire—being able to escape a situation they weren't prepared for; they had no intelligence that it was coming—is something that mere mortals would find hard to comprehend: to see two of their colleagues slain in cold-blooded murder. It is one of the most vile acts I have seen and heard about to those who are prepared to put their lives on the line for us. As a society we are better than that—and we are, and our communities are.
While this is a stake to the heart of two small country towns, it's not the end. In fact, it has only solidified the strength, solidified our reverence for those that serve our community—because once you become a country copper you become a part of the community. There is a sense of protection by our police in the bush because, in our hour of need, we know that they are there to protect us, isolated from much of the rest of the world. And so they are one of us, and to have this happen in these communities with that reverence for those that serve us—the most exalted position, above politicians, above mayors—is something that has torn our community and rocked our community to the core.
But I'm proud of the fact that our community wrap our arms around those that continue to serve us, but also around Alan Dare's family. A husband, a father, a grandfather, who yesterday with Kerry celebrated 26 years of marriage—26 years together, living a peaceful, happy life, but doing what we all do in the bush: when someone needs help, you step up. And Alan Dare, with another neighbour, stood up. They went to help a neighbour. They walked into the line of fire. He paid the ultimate price. His family has paid the ultimate price, along with these two brave constables.
I'm proud of my community. It has already raised $56,000 to help the Dare family in whatever small way that is. Whatever outpouring we can show in a monetary sense or whatever, our community is there. And for these officers our community is there. For these families, we have no words. There's no explanation for this. You cannot explain the inconceivable—the vile actions of these individuals. What we have to take strength from and believe in as a community and as a country is that their legacy, their honour, is that we as custodians of this great democracy and this great country and our great communities will come together and solidify around the loss, the huge loss, that these families now face.
In our part of the world, you're only classified as a local if you're born in these towns and live there all your life. But, to Alan, Rachel and Matthew: you're now locals. You're now the greatest locals we've ever had.
Firstly, to the member for Maranoa: on behalf of all of us in the chamber and on behalf of all of our communities, we express our deepest sorrow to you, as a representative of your area. This is a horrible incident, and I truly am sorry. The PM has shared some beautiful words with the chamber. To hear that there's a town that's run out of flowers—I think that says it all. There is something very, very special about the kind of community that we see in country Australia. You've spoken very movingly about how this will affect the people who live there, Member for Maranoa.
Can I say to the Leader of the Opposition: we have plenty of arguments in this chamber, but today we're all on the same side of politics. I just want to acknowledge to the opposition leader that we all see and understand how much this will affect him personally. We thank you for your service in uniform to your community.
Our country today is in mourning. We've lost two brave young people who put on a uniform to serve their community. We've lost a member of the public who died undertaking his own act of bravery. We've got two police officers who are injured and traumatised. These were heroic Australians doing heroic acts, who have, in three instances, lost their lives. To lose your life in the service of your community—without question, this is a tragedy for our country. Our hearts go out, particularly, to Queensland police, who are now investigating a horrible crime that has occurred and are in the process of mourning two of their members. Policing is difficult, dangerous work, and I'm very grateful for the service of those officers around this country. We heard the Attorney-General express the government's thanks to the police officers who are here in the chamber, and I extend my grateful thanks to them too.
The Queensland police will, of course, lead an investigation into what has occurred and do the very important and diligent work of ascertaining what the motivations for violence were in this case. I would say to the country: we need to allow the police some time and space to do that work. Australians should know that their security agencies are actively considering the implications of this matter for the national security of our country—the implications of online radicalisation, misinformation and violent extremism. There is a lot of media reporting and speculation about what motivated these three people to perform the despicable acts of violence that they did. A lot of what comes out in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy is incorrect, and we need to pause a little bit here before we get into the discussion about what's happened. It's really important that we let law enforcement and national security agencies do their job.
Once the picture does start to clarify, it is likely that radicalisation will form a part of it. Radicalisation is not new, but it is absolutely clear from events here and around the world that conspiracy theories, disinformation and misinformation—problems as old as time—are being turbocharged by technology into terrible acts of violence. They are presenting a new kind of threat to our national security. There will be deep and very important policy questions for us here as a parliament in thinking about how our country prevents and deals with acts of violent extremism, but today is not the day for those discussions. Today is a day for grieving, and, again, I express my deepest sympathies for all of those who are affected by this horrible act of violence.
I'll say briefly, too, in my role as a local member, just how much I'm thinking of the police officers who protect the community in Hotham that I live in and love. The work you do is so important to our community, and we are thinking of all of you who are protecting us during this difficult period ahead and through into Christmas.
I rise in support of this motion led by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. It is times like this when we come together as a parliament, and I want to acknowledge the heartfelt speeches all members have contributed to this motion but particularly that of the Leader of the Opposition; as a past serving police officer, you know this better than just about anybody else in this place. I also acknowledge other members in this place who have served wearing the uniform.
We acknowledge here today the deaths of Constable Rachel McCrow, age 29, and Constable Matthew Arnold, age 26. No person should go to work and not come home, whether that be on a building site or, in this case, on a farm in the western Darling Downs. When I heard the news coming through on Monday night, I, like most of us, experienced a great sense of grief and despair. I put something up on Facebook and was flooded by responses from everyday Australians and Queenslanders—good people who refuse to acknowledge that this is not what we are as Australians. Members of the Queensland Police Service—17,000 members—form a community of 66,000 police officers around this country who go to work every day to serve their communities, to serve us. They know that, like members of the military, one day they may be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice, but, of course, none of them would ever expect to do that. But they do it. They join up. They do it to protect us as citizens.
As we remember Constable Rachel McCrow and Constable Matthew Arnold—and also Alan Dare—today, we remember their sacrifice. We remember the sense of service that they gave and that their colleagues continue to give. We remember their other colleagues Constable Keely Brough and Constable Randall Kirk, who was wounded. We will never understand the unspeakable grief that those survivors will be living with for the rest of their lives, nor will we understand the grief of the scenes-of-crime officers, the SERT officers and the other officers who came and retrieved the deceased. These men and women in uniform run to the sound of trouble when most of us would run away. I want to acknowledge Commissioner Katarina Carroll. I want to acknowledge the work that has been done by Ian Leavers, a great Queenslander and a great contributor and representative of his colleagues in QPS.
I want to say to Australians and Queenslanders and members in this place who have served in uniform: if you have an interaction with the police, whether it be today, tomorrow or next week, please acknowledge them for the service they have performed and continue to perform. Acknowledge them and thank them for their service. We thank our military and our veterans, as we should, but we rarely thank our emergency service workers. Our emergency service workers, sadly, see so much carnage, whether it be on the roads or in domestic violence or, in this case, worse. We need, as an Australian community, to throw our arms around them and, as an Australian community, let them know that we love them and care for them, and thank them for their service, and that we will help support them in any way we can, whether that's in Tara, Chinchilla, Maroochydore, Alexandra Headland—it doesn't matter where it is in Australia.
Go up to a member of the QPS or a police service today—or an ambulance or a firie—and say, 'Thank you for your service. Thank you for putting your life on the line every single day of your working life so that we can have better lives as Australians.'
Most Australians from a young age are familiar with the police, from Adopt-A-Cop in our schools, to Anzac Day services and parades, Neighbourhood Watch and Crime Stoppers. They see their local police officers, clubs and associations at their fetes, festivals and faith based groups. They are respected. They're not a force but a service, and with honour they serve. Australians in regional areas are used to young constables being transferred to their communities. The community embraces them. The local community becomes their community. Tara is like so many country Queensland towns which service remote and even more remote areas like Wieambilla.
For all Australians, but even more so for regional Queenslanders, decentralisation means that the bonds of friendship and feeling are more intense. The recent events are shocking, incomprehensible—a monstrosity, a barbarity beyond any form of sane understanding. Four young police officers were doing what they were expected to do and what they were trained to do, to follow up a missing persons report—to be ambushed and executed in cold blood is beyond words. This was senseless slaughter. A neighbour was doing what any good neighbour does, seeing if he could help—a good Samaritan act—and yet he was gunned down without mercy. Our hearts, deepest sympathies and condolences go out to the grieving family and friends of the two brave police officers slain: Constable Matthew Arnold, 26 years of age; and Constable Rachel McCrow, 29 years of age—younger than my daughters, lives cut down short.
I pay tribute to those police officers for their service, and I grieve for their families. I pay tribute to the serving police officers, Constable Randall Kirk and Constable Keely Brough. How they'll ever get their lives back is beyond belief. Their lives will never be the same. I pay tribute to Alan Dare, whose neighbourly instinct led him to try to help, and he, tragically, was murdered. I pay tribute to the specially trained tactical police officers who showed immense courage and yet terminated the lives of the murderous trio. They risked their lives, and the bullet holes in the armoured police vehicle show that it was under a tremendous hail of bullets that they retrieved the bodies of their comrades slain.
Bridges in Brisbane's central are coloured in the blue and white of the Queensland Police Service. The sight of those colours on a uniform of an officer of the Queensland police during cyclones, bushfires and floods is always comforting to Queenslanders, particularly regional Queenslanders. Flowers and tributes, from Tara to Brisbane and around Australia, have been laid at police stations and elsewhere—outpourings of sympathy and grief. In November 2018, I joined so many at the official opening of the new Queensland Police Memorial located in Brisbane's City botanic gardens, a place of reflection for family members, colleagues and the community to honour and pay their respects to fallen Queensland Police Service members, the first of whom was killed back in 1861—over 150 since then. Very sadly, the names of the fallen from the Tara station will be added, by necessity, and it's fitting to do so.
Each year, in each federal electorate around the country, services of remembrance and commemoration are held for officers who paid the ultimate sacrifice. It's done on National Police Remembrance Day, which started in 1989.
I want to thank the extraordinary performance of Queensland Police Commissioner, Katarina Carroll, and the senior ranks for the support they've show the Queensland police community in the last few days. I extend my deepest sympathy to them. I extend that sympathy to the Queensland police officers in my electorate, in Ipswich, the Somerset region, and base at the Karana Downs police station as well.
I've pay tribute to the outstanding performance of the General President and CEO of the Queensland Police Union, Ian Leavers—someone known to many in this chamber, across the aisle. He is deeply respected. His work, and the work of his union members and their senior ranks, has been exemplary. I contacted Ian and asked him what I could say on his behalf. I couldn't think of a better thing to say than his own words in the statement he released from the union on the day of the tragedy:
The events of today remind us that our job as police is always dangerous. It never stops, and it comes at a heavy cost to us all.
It is also a stark reminder of what we risk every day… We know that when we leave home to go to work each day, there are never any guarantees we will come home at the end of the day.
These officers' lives have been cut tragically short for one reason and one reason alone, for simply doing their job, and we Queensland police remember and honour them.
These are great words, but simple words, from Ian Leavers. Ian and his team have wrapped their loving arms around the Queensland police community and their loved ones. I thank Ian and the union leadership for their empathy and ongoing commitment to their colleagues, fallen and alive. It has been exemplary.
The union has a memorial fund and Ian has asked me to let the public know that that memorial fund has been set up so people can donate funds. All the funds will go to and assist the families of Matthew and Rachel. I would encourage the public to do so.
There is an old saying in St John's gospel which states, 'There is no greater love than this: that someone should lay down their life for their friends.' The words are ancient but their relevance is contemporary. These police officers have given their lives in the service of their community, their state and their country. They paid a price they should never have had to pay. The least we can do is follow their example and support their colleagues, support their family and support their friends. They were doing their jobs but they were heroes. They will rest in peace but not be forgotten.
It is with a very heavy heart that I rise to speak on this condolence motion and pay tribute to those who were involved in this terrible event. As a former Queensland police officer, it truly is a tragedy. On 12 December 2022 four police officers attended a property at Wieambilla, south of Chinchilla, in response to a request for assistance with a routine missing persons inquiry from New South Wales. They got there at 4.30 pm and faced a hail of bullets. Two of the officers were struck down almost immediately, whilst the others were able to make a retreat. Constable Matthew Arnold and Constable Rachel McCrow were both murdered in what appears to be a calculated ambush. Constable Randall Kirk was shot in the leg and managed to retreat. Constable Keely Brough took cover in nearby bush. I just will say, in relation to Constable Brough, what you must've gone through in those hours before backup arrived would've been horrific. You acted with the highest degree of bravery. I pay tribute to your actions.
Alan Dare, a neighbour who came, as has been said here, to do what Australians do was also gunned down. The loss that his family are feeling right now is equal to any. I pay tribute to him and acknowledge that loss.
… police are the public and the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
They are the words of Sir Robert Peel, the father of modern-day policing, and they are as relevant in 2022 as they were in the early 1800s when he said them. As a former country cop before coming into this place, they're extremely relevant. You're a part of the community. You keep order. You help people. They rely on you and you rely on them. That's policing in Australia, and I think that is part of why this has struck so deep. Attacks like this, they attack the very fabric of who we are. Yes, there's a tragic, tragic loss of life here, but when citizens turn on each other in this way it's us turning on us, and it's horrible. We have to do everything to work out why and make sure it doesn't happen again.
The police that were attending, those officers that we're paying tribute to today, they were going there to help. They were going there on a missing persons job, a simple callout. You're going there to make sure someone's okay. That is what you are going there for, to find them and say: 'Are you alright? Someone's worried about you. There's a call that has been made to police.' That's what they were going there for, to help. Unfortunately, one of the people that they were going to help had very different intentions, and that's what we've seen play out.
As a former policeman, I've received a lot of messages over the past few days from colleagues, members of the community expressing their grief, horror, anger and sadness, but one thing they all, without exception, have said is this just doesn't happen in Australia. This is not Australia. And that is so true. We see this in other parts of the world, not Australia.
I pay tribute also to the bravery of the local police who, after receiving the information that they were heading into a situation where their lives would be put on the line and they would more than likely be shot at, went in there. They hoped to rescue Matthew and Rachel. They did retrieve them but, unfortunately, they did so under a hail of fire. To them I say: you are heroes. That's a word that's bandied about a lot these days, but you truly are heroes.
To the Special Emergency Response Team that goes out there with the very, very real and difficult job of stopping threat: I commend you for your performance and your duty. It must not be easy to know that when you are called out there is a strong chance you are going to have to take the life of another citizen. That's a heavy, heavy job. They are also unsung heroes a lot of the time, and I pay tribute to them for stopping that threat and containing it. A terrible, terrible job to have to do, but they did it.
I also pay tribute to Ian, and his team at the police union, they're there in the good times and they're there in the bad times. I know, from my experience as a cop, I relied on the Queensland Police Union for their support, and they're doing that now. I commend that; I commend them. A total of six people were killed on that day: two police officers, one innocent neighbour and three offenders. Two other young police officers suffered injuries, no doubt that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.
In conclusion, I honour Constable Matthew Arnold and Constable Rachel McCrow—they made the ultimate sacrifice. I extend my deepest sympathies to their families. I also pay tribute to their colleagues, the first responders who attended and all those involved.
I rise today with an extremely heavy heart and a heart that's been rocked by the tragedy that we have seen out of Queensland this week. The fact is that a national tragedy occurred on Monday 12 December 2022, and the lives of two bright and promising young Australians were cruelly ripped away from all of us. I honour the fallen—to remember Constable Matthew Arnold and Constable Rachel McCrow—and recognise the hard work and dedication of their colleagues Constable Randall Kirk and Constable Keely Brough. I share in the collective grief of our nation and of our parliament, and extend my heartfelt sympathies to our wider police family.
Police know that there's a risk when we walk out the door, and we know that this risk can have a catastrophic impact on the lives of those we love and who love us. Yet, in spite of this, police turn up. They show up at the worst times in people's lives, and they do what needs to be done. Police officers care and are very compassionate. They share of themselves and do their best to see everyone, including themselves and their partners, make it home safe at the end of the day.
There are families across Australia today who have witnessed the worse nightmare of policing families coming true—the fear that the person our families know to be strong and dedicated could be so cruelly taken away, that there'd be a gaping wound open in the lives of those we love and all that potential can be taken away so quickly. To Dr Judy McCrow, Samantha McCrow and your families, to Sue Arnold, Hayley Arnold and James Arnold and your families, I share and see your grief and grieve with you. Your families have paid too high a price for the safety of the community and the tragic loss of your loved ones will not be forgotten. I also acknowledge the grief of the community and particularly the loss of Mr Alan Dare, a neighbour executed cruelly. To Kerry, Corey and Renee, I extend my deepest sympathies and condolences.
A horrific attack on the way of life all Australians hold near and dear has occurred. The facts of this situation have played across the news over the last few days. What we know now is at the confronting situation that the police faced, being called out to what would be a routine job, and then to be ambushed and killed in this way; it was just horrific.
Constable Matthew Arnold was sworn in as a police officer in March 2020 and Constable Rachel McCrow was sworn in as a police officer in June 2021. Both of them began their careers in the Dalby division, before moving to the Tara police station. Matthew was a triplet and brother to James and sister Hayley. He was a talented sportsman, who proudly gave back to his school, St Laurence's College.
We just cannot imagine the pain that Sue Arnold and the rest of Matthew's family must be going through at this time. Matthew was a proud graduate of St Laurence's College, graduating in 2013. He left the school with a Sportsman of the Year Award and continued to serve the school community as a coach to students since graduation. He exemplified giving back to the communities that cared for him. I know and I understand he brought this compassion and community focus to his time as a serving police officer in Dalby and Tara.
Rachel McCrow understood at a personal level the great personal fulfilment that comes from serving others. Her mother, Dr Judy McCrow, is a dedicated nurse and passionate academic who has given so much to the community. Together with her sister, Samantha, Rachel too was on the path of continuing that community service. A kind and supportive family member and friend, Rachel always stood resolutely and bravely for what she believed in, and she inspired others around her. I am told that for Rachel going above and beyond was normal, and she applied herself with such diligence and dedication as a police officer. She was warm and supportive and had all the skills that we need in the police who serve our community. Rachel's humanity shone through as a police officer, and she gave so much of herself to get the very best results.
The grief that has poured forth from across the nation for Matthew and Rachel is a testament to the remarkable young police officers that they were. That their lives and their great promise have been cruelly cut short is a tragedy that no-one should have to experience. I know that everyone here in this place mourns for these lives cut short and mourns for the families who somehow must have to carry on. As a former Queensland police officer, I mourn for my former profession and colleagues. Two bright and dedicated Australians took up the role of police officer, and they brought their vigour, their life experience and their understanding of a new generation to the profession. They aspired to serve their community. The loss of that opportunity, for the Queensland police and indeed for the Queensland community is another layer to the absolute tragedy that has occurred. Their loss is something that the whole wider police family mourns very intently.
It's a miracle also that constables Randall Kirk and Keely Brough survived this atrocity, and I think we are all overwhelmed and inspired by the actions they took in what were extremely difficult circumstances. Make no mistake: this was an execution planned by calculated monsters, and in the face of that horror, Randall, Keely, Rachel and Matthew rose up and paid a terrible price. The scars from this event will carry through the lives of the Queensland community, the Queensland police and indeed across the nation for many years to come.
I also want to acknowledge the 16 brave officers who rallied to protect the community and defend their colleagues. From what we know, the circumstances that greeted them were confronting and horrific, and these police did what needed to be done to keep each other and the community safe.
I especially want to acknowledge Constable Keely Brough and the courage she displayed under the most difficult of circumstances. We know that Keely desperately wanted to join the police service and worked incredibly hard to get there and join and serve. In this situation, when faced with brutal murderers and fearing for her own life by fire, by a deadly rain of bullets, she was able to provide intelligence and relay information to her colleagues. I want to acknowledge her actions and wish her a speedy recovery. In her first eight weeks as a police officer Keely has been faced with huge adversity and has risen to the challenge in the eight weeks she has been in the police.
Constable Randall Kirk was shot, and his body was impacted by shrapnel. I understand he has left hospital and has been reunited with his wife, Breanna, and their young daughter. Randall and Breanna are expecting another child in January, and we wish them all the very best. Randall was shot and managed to make his way back to the car and get to safety. Like Keely, he continued to provide assistance and pass on information and raise the alarm with his colleagues. The pain that he must have been under is incomprehensible, and in the face of such adversity he rose with such bravery to continue to do what was best for everyone involved.
I also want to acknowledge everyone at the Queensland Police Union, particularly president Ian Leavers, for their ongoing support of their members, especially at this time.
In this place, we must continue to reflect on this tragedy and we must indeed lead the mourning in our nation. We must never forget, and could never forget, the sacrifices. We must never forget their families and the fundamental way those families' lives have changed forever. We must always reflect after these instances and ensure what must be done to prevent these tragedies from happening. We have a duty to ensure an Australia that is safe from such extreme violence. I pass on all my condolences to family and friends and to the wider police family, and I acknowledge all of the speakers here today. I ask everyone to continue to be mindful and reflective in the coming days.
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.
No-one should ever go to work and not come home—no-one. The atrocity that happened to four of our young, capable, dedicated police officers, who had committed themselves to serve our community, should never have happened. My heart aches for the two police officers and one member of the public who have passed. My thoughts are with the officers who survived this tragedy, who will bear this burden and experience from the line of duty. To the families and friends and community of those impacted: I'm so sorry for your loss.
This should have been a simple call-out to seek a missing person. I too responded to this call many times during my service as a police officer. I will not speak the name of these animals that these officers were there to seek, as they do not deserve the acknowledgement in this House. But the sole fact that this act of murder was made on police officers doing their job and on a concerned neighbour disgusts me. Life is precious. Cherish it, and your loved ones.
Today I wish to pay my respects to those who have passed in this tragedy. To Constable McCrow and Constable Arnold: thank you for your service. May peace follow you in your next journey in life. To Alan Dare: thank you for your concern for our brothers and sisters in blue. May you rest in peace. To all my brothers and sisters in blue: I wish you all well. May you all be happy and peaceful. To all my brothers and sisters in blue: we all appreciate your service to our community. Thank you very much.
Queensland police constables Rachel McCrow and Matthew Arnold, and civilian Mr Alan Dare—with honour they served. Alan responded like any mate, any neighbour, would—to check in to see how his neighbour is travelling, see if they needed a hand, and he was gunned down. He was set to have a wedding anniversary, his 26th wedding anniversary. Constables Rachel and Matthew—killed in the line of duty. Police officers see tragedy every day on our roads, responding to incidents, but every morning they get up and put on their uniform, to protect us and to look after us. These tragedies simply should not have occurred.
There has been an outcry, and people want to pay their respects to our slain police officers as well as to Alan. In Townsville, many people went to the QPS headquarters there, as well as to different police stations, to pay their respects, to say, 'Sorry for your loss.' This shouldn't have occurred. It absolutely should not have occurred.
To all the police around the nation: thank you for everything that you do. You keep us safe, you help us, you are there at public events, you are there when your community needs you—and we're there for you now, in this moment of absolute tragedy.
I have a message from a lady in Townsville. She is known as Nanny Jan. Nanny Jan sent me a message about Constable Rachel McCrow. She said: 'Rachel was a recruit here in Townsville that I had the pleasure of looking after at the lodge. I was employed as a caterer there and called her group of recruits my babies, which made them chuckle. Rachel was the one most turned to for guidance during their stay there. She would email the whole group to make sure they picked up their takeaway lunches if they wouldn't be returning for lunch. Amongst many other things, she was just pure class and always presented herself in the best way. I remember hugging her when she had completed the course and saying, "Just keep safe." She was so proud and happy to have become a police officer. My heart just breaks for her family and all the recruits that trained with her. I know they'd be heartbroken. They were a very close, amazing group of young people; I'm blessed to have crossed paths with them. Love to them all, Nanny Jan.' This is just one message, out of many that I have received, speaking about the constables who were killed, as well as Alan.
This has deeply affected every single police jurisdiction here in Australia and in New Zealand. Tuesday was a day of mourning, where people were walking in and out of QPS headquarters and police stations around the country in tears, together in solidarity. Those who have been to and been involved in critical incidents can feel that true vulnerability and terror they would have felt. Our police officers' thoughts go to them, wishing to be with them at that time. That split second between life and death, that last stop—that's what the thin blue line is.
Police, and specifically the QPS, will still go out on their jobs and have that feeling now of vulnerability—second-guessing. The tragic circumstances always happen when you least expect it, but that uniform, which means the world to our police, in this vile act has become a target. Police do this job because it's a calling, a wanting to help, a love for their community. I'm so sorry, to the families of Rachel, Matthew and Alan. This tragedy has broken the hearts of all Australians.
Thank you to the SERT that responded and put down hard these vile scumbags who murdered our police officers, as well as the civilian local, and let this serve as a warning to everyone who thinks ill of or wants to do ill to our police or to the civilian community. There will be a response, and there will be a response by highly trained, highly capable people that put the community first and that will respond. It's a sad day in Australia, and this day will be remembered. I am so sorry for the loss to the police, for your brother and sister, as well as the civilian who was also killed.
Australia is in mourning, monstrous violence ripping Queenslanders from life and away from their families.
Three lives were taken without remorse, and three brave people are now deceased due to the actions of monsters.
On behalf of my Lilley community on the north side of Brisbane, I rise today to pass on our deepest condolences to the loved ones of Constable Matthew Arnold, Constable Rachel McCrow and Alan Dare. For Matthew and Rachel, with honour they served. For Matthew, Rachel and Alan and their families, we are so sorry.
While the worst of humanity was on display on Monday night, so too was incredible courage. Surviving constables Keely Brough and Randall Kirk showed rare bravery to help police find evil, while injured themselves and while under attack. Bravery was exhibited too by 16 Queenslanders, 16 members of the special force team who were shot at as they tried to retrieve the bodies and rescue Constable Brough. We run from danger; police run towards it. These police officers, knowing that their colleagues had been brutally murdered, ran into danger and spent six hours securing the area. We thank you. We would like to recognise their efforts and the efforts of their team, of the Queensland police more broadly and of all the officers across the country today who continue to serve despite mourning their colleagues, their brothers and sisters in blue.
I would particularly like to thank Sergeant Jodie Murray, who does a fantastic job representing the Queensland police in our local community, and all the exceptional men and women at Boondall police station, Sandgate police station, Stafford police station, Carseldine police station, Hendra police station, the Chermside police beat and the rail station squad at Northgate. We owe all officers a debt of gratitude. When you go to work you should be able to come home safe. We must not take for granted how dangerous a police officer's job is. Every day they put their lives on the line to protect ours. We must not forget the sacrifices made by Constable Arnold, by Constable McCrow and by a good neighbour, Alan Dare. I thank the House.
I rise today to honour the memories of Constable Matthew Arnold and Constable Rachel McCrow. I also acknowledge the death of Mr Alan Dare, a kind neighbour who attended what he thought was a neighbour in distress only to be killed by the same brutality that cut short the lives of Constables Arnold and McCrow. I know every member of this place will agree that it's a miracle that Constable Keely Brough and Constable Randall Kirk escaped this extreme act of violence with their lives.
I want to pay my respects to Rachel's family and particularly to her mother, Dr Judy McCrow, and her sister, Samantha McCrow. I cannot fathom the grief that Judy, Samantha and the rest of Rachel's family are feeling at this difficult time. Similarly, I want to acknowledge and pay my respects to Matthew's mother, Sue Arnold, his sister, Hayley Arnold, and his brother, James Arnold. The loss of a son and a fellow triplet is a tragedy. The bonds that unite our families are so precious, and their destruction is an unbreakable crime.
Dedication and service are attributes that fuelled Rachel and Matthew through life, and I am not surprised to know that both of them were called to serve the community as police officers. Constable Arnold was sworn in in March 2020 and Constable McCrow was sworn in in June 2021. They both began their careers in the Dalby division before moving to Tara police station.
Rachel McCrow graduated from Genesis Christian College in 2010 and has been described by her friends as someone who was most determined to serve the community and work tirelessly for the people of Queensland. I acknowledge her service today and lament the outstanding career that was cruelly taken from her.
Matthew Arnold graduated from St Laurence's College in 2013 and was a dedicated and talented athlete. Matthew was awarded the Sportsman of the Year award in 2013 and has continued to give back to the St Laurence's community as a coach since graduating.
Each and every Australian who is drawn to serve our community as a police officer understands that there are risks associated with the work they do. However, what occurred on Monday 12 December 2022 stands as a stark reminder of the extreme risks police undertake every day for the peace and wellbeing of our community.
Rachel was kind and warm, and she used her effervescent personality to connect with others and make people feel seen and heard. These are powerful attributes, and ones that are essential in a healthy police service. Matthew was a compassionate and dedicated man, who, above all else, exemplified service. He was a devoted brother and a son, who freely gave back. Matthew brought his compassion to the work that he did every day as a police officer, and the outpouring of grief from the community of Tara recognises these attributes.
The monsters who committed these heinous crimes have taken from our community the types of people that we desperately need in policing, those people who will dedicate their lives to keeping our children, our streets and our communities safe, and who use their charisma and professionalism to reach across the divide that separates all of us and bridge the gap with professionalism and humanity. Everything I know about Rachel McCrow and Matthew Arnold says they fit the bill. They, along with Keely and Randall, were young police officers at the start of their careers, undertaking vital services our regional communities need. The police service is the only 24-hour service that most communities in our regional centres have. They don't have ambulance services at night in the smaller communities, so the police become the linchpins.
People like Rachel, Matthew, Randall and Keely are the new faces who serve and protect our remote communities; who bring their training, their life experiences and their enthusiasm to communities; and who build relationships that last a lifetime. The impact of fresh faces and new lives in our regional communities is an injection of vigour. The history of Queensland is filled with stories of young constables who move to regional communities and bring their passion, their vigour and their new perspectives to enrich the lives of the communities that they serve. Communities like Tara, Dalby and Chinchilla are better for the service of young men and women like Rachel, Matthew, Randall and Keely, and I join with those communities that are in shock and are grieving at this time.
I want to acknowledge the amazing work of Ian Leavers, the Queensland Police Union president, after being called back from a break that he was on and having only recently had an election for the Police Union presidency, which was uncontested—evidence of the work that he does representing his members. I want to acknowledge the advocacy from him and his team in keeping members of this parliament up to date with the proceedings as they've unfolded. It was harrowing to hear of the bravery that Constable Randall Kirk and Constable Keely Brough undertook in the line of duty. Both officers went above and beyond to support their colleagues in this horrific circumstance.
I want to acknowledge, and echo the words of, the Queensland Police Commissioner, Commissioner Katarina Carroll, and say that I am extremely grateful that Keely and Randall escaped with their lives. To Commissioner Carroll, I ask that she pass on my appreciation to the tactical response team that neutralised the situation. It was an amazing task, and they're heroes in the making.
Keely's bravery was exceptional. As she hid from the psychopaths determined to kill her, she continued to relay intelligence and prepared herself for the end. I cannot comprehend the enormity of such a situation and the breadth of the emotion that must have fuelled Constable Brough. Constable Brough rose to the challenge and relied on her skills and tenacity to survive and support her colleagues. I want to acknowledge Constable Randall Kirk and wish him a speedy recovery. Randall was shot and managed to get away to his vehicle under heavy fire. Similar to Constable Brough, Randall continued to assist his colleagues. Randall and his wife, Breanna, are young parents, and they're expecting their second child as early as January. I want to join with Constable Kirk in sending my prayer to the police families at this difficult time.
Our community stands with police every single day. This place has provided the laws and the mechanisms to make our communities safer. State politicians can pass laws, but we rely on the bravery and dedication of each and every police officer to enforce those laws and to ensure that the community stays safe. Today in this place we can speak words and shed tears. Today we remember and mourn the young lives full of promise that have tragically been cut short.
We must not, in this place or as a nation, forget this tragedy. Each and every member of this place owes the memory of Matthew and Rachel and the dedication of Randall and Keely our attention and respect. In the months and years to come, we must remember this moment and protect those that protect us. In closing, I want to take the opportunity to acknowledge the local police men and women that serve in my electorate, particularly Sergeant Peter Boyce, my local senior sergeant, and the team that diligently work with him. I honour them as my local police establishment. I honour every police officer that serves. With honour they serve.
OSLING () (): I rise to join the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and all members to honour and pay tribute to the heroic Queensland police officers Constable Rachel McCrow, 29, and Constable Matthew Arnold, 26, who so tragically lost their young and promising lives when they were murdered in a siege on Monday. Sue Arnold, Matt's mother, said the words could not express her devastation and that he had been due home this week for a break. Rachel was remembered as someone who volunteered to assist disadvantaged young people by helping them drive safely while she was herself training to become a police officer.
I also wish to pay tribute to the brave Alan Dare, who put himself in harm's way to investigate a fire on his neighbour's property. He went to see how he could assist. Al's stepson Corey said that he often helped anyone and everyone, even at risk to himself, and he never asked for anything in return. The Queensland Police Union praised Al as 'a good neighbour going out to do the right thing'.
I want to pay tribute to those who survived this horrific incident, constables Keely Brough and Randall Kirk, and to all the first responders who will live with this tragedy for the rest of their lives. Whether they wear the police blue or Army green, whether they are paramedics or firefighters, or whether they wear a uniform of any other colour, our first responders meet danger head on at great risk to their own lives.
I send my family's and my community's deepest condolences to the families, children and loved ones of the victims. In his statement, the Northern Territory Police Association's president and CEO Paul McCue said:
… our hearts are breaking for our Queensland colleagues.
… … …
This incident highlights the volatile, dangerous nature of policing, and the bravery of every police officer who puts on their uniform every day not knowing what they'll face.
The Northern Territory Chief Minister Natasha Fyles said, 'Our Police put their lives on the line to protect us, not to be harmed.' NT Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services Kate Worden rightly said that no-one should lose their lives just for doing their job.
I call on all members to support these families this Christmas. The Queensland Police Union has established a remembrance fund for Constable Matthew Arnold and Constable Rachel McCrow. There is also a GoFundMe page set up for Alan Dare's funeral. Those details are online, and I urge all who can to make a contribution.
Finally, thank you to all who serve and protect our community, and thank you in particular to their families. I wish you all a blessed Christmas with your loved ones. You are in our thoughts, in our prayers, and in our hearts.
My thoughts go out to those who've lost their lives: Constable Matthew Arnold, Constable Rachel McCrow and Alan Dare. We've seen in the days since this horrific tragedy how the loss of these lives have devastated the communities of Wieambilla, Chinchilla and Tara. Those small and close-knit communities are now reckoning with not just the loss of some of their own, but also trying to grapple with the shocking circumstances in which it occurred. My thoughts go out to those who knew and loved those killed on Monday, and also to constables Keely Brough and Randall Kirk.
Our community owes first responders a debt of thanks. Every day the nation's paramedics, police and firefighters go into unpredictable and dangerous situations. And in this place we often only reckon with that danger when tragedy occurs. The prospect of arriving at a missing persons call only to be met with gunfire is utterly gut-wrenching. Everyone deserves to be safe at work.
The bravery of Alan Dare must also be acknowledged. When he heard gunshots on his neighbour's property, he ran towards the danger in hopes of lending aid, despite the danger. For this brave and selfless act, he lost his life.
And while the exact circumstances of Monday are still being worked out, what we know so far is extremely worrying and points to a growing trend of extremism. In the last couple of years we've seen the terrible impacts of conspiracy theories laid bare. In Melbourne, paramedics have been attacked because of disinformation about vaccines. We've seen people in rallies opposed to the pandemic response bring a noose to the front of parliament. While the more visible parts of the pandemic health response are now winding down, we continue to see some people push division based on disinformation and conspiracy while we know that, so far, this tragedy appears to be another example of how this harms our community.
In coming to grips with this shocking event and the horrific loss of life, my thoughts are with the victims' families and their communities, and I hope it serves as wake-up call to those who would sow the seeds of conspiracy and division.
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.
Constable Matthew Arnold, 26, was sworn in as a police officer just in March 2020; Constable Rachel McCrow, 29, sworn in just last year, in June 2021. Both started their careers in Dalby before being transferred to Tara—and, as the member for Moreton has outlined, it's pretty tough country. In fact, it's pretty wild country. But no-one ever thought that it was murderous country, where such treachery would occur. To Alan Dare, 56, who responded in a way that pretty much everybody I know would have in regional Australia—they simply would have gone to have a look at what was going on to see if they could provide assistance. It's as simple as that. You would not even give it a second thought; it's just what you'd do. It is second nature.
To Constable Randall Kirk, 28, who was shot in the leg and escaped; to Constable Keely Brough, 28, who ran into the bush, hid and called for backup—she had only graduated eight weeks ago—what a remarkable story and a remarkable response. Both of them are from Chinchilla police station.
I want to give a shout-out to our colleagues in this place—the member for Wide Bay, Llew O'Brien; the member for Cowper, Pat Conaghan; former senator Barry O'Sullivan; the former state member for Bundaberg, David Batt; and many others—who I know have served in the police force and ended up in this place. I know that, for them and for all of the police family, this is an incredibly difficult time because every single police officer knows that this could be them. Today, tomorrow, next week, next year, it could be them. Their families know it could have been the call that they got. To my own father-in-law, who has been gone for a very long time, a lifer in the police force—one of their more troublesome children.
We know that simply the work that they do creates such challenges—PTSD, mental health, problems with the drink and all of those issues that happen at home because of their service to their state, to their country and to their community. And yet we know that Constable Arnold and Constable McCrow will never get that opportunity. They will never go through those stages of life for many of them, whether it's children or grandchildren, or the tough times, the good times or the not-so-great times. Unfortunately, their lives have been taken, and they will never get that experience.
Ian Leavers, who is known as a very straight shooter in Queensland—he's incredibly frank; I've had a number of discussions with him over the years—walked straight up to a microphone and called this out for what it was. It was pure, cold-blooded murder, and it is a terrible reflection on our society that this has even happened. How could this happen? We need to do better. We all need to do better.
So those two individuals, who will never grow older, whose families will never have that experience with them over time—we all go through difficult circumstances, but they will never even get that opportunity, and I think that is just such a terrible outcome.
All the police in Tara and Chinchilla in Queensland, whether they were in the response forces, whether they are paramedics who responded—we know they will see this into the future on many, many nights. But the police force now has so much better support, much better opportunities for the people who serve, to manage those difficult issues.
I had the great good fortune to do some training with the Police Service many years ago, and the piece that stuck with me was not about investigation techniques, which I still recall; it was the police psychologist, who said, 'Every single one of you is a bucket that slowly fills, and eventually you will spill over.' And they've got to manage those challenges. I know, even for our serving members in this place who've come from the police force, it's a very, very difficult job to do, to run into danger, to deal with such incredibly hard and tough decisions.
Along lines of the contribution from the member for Moreton, I do want to talk about the impact of social media. There will be significant investigations into this tragedy, and I'm not reflecting in any way on the particular circumstance that have happened near Tara this week. But, quite simply, disinformation, fake news and, most particularly, anonymous accounts—we cannot let these continue. The idea that you can go online and be anonymous and say whatever you want—that's not free speech. This is your real life. It is where you now live. It is not something for which you should be protected. If you have something to say, you're welcome to say whatever you like, but you should have your name next to it. And it impacts our entire society, from young children who get harassed, all the way through to adults, to businesses, to individuals that use it to influence people in a particular direction.
I think it reflects poorly on all of us that we have not managed to deal with fake accounts on social media. We should once again stand up to the Facebooks, the Twitters and the Instagrams of the world and tell them it is not acceptable. This is where we live. It is our real life. It's not part of some fake universe. It has direct impacts, and those impact, in a lot of cases, have terrible outcomes. I think it's something we on both sides of the parliament should focus on. It is to my great disappointment that when we were in government we did not fix this, and it wasn't for a lack of trying, I have to say.
To come back to the condolence, to all of our police forces, to all of our police families, to their families, we know that you serve with great honour. We know that our society in many cases do not treat you with the respect that you deserve. But know that the overwhelming majority of the Australian community stands with you. They stand with you. Whilst, in this place, words are all we have, words are never enough, but it is what we can contribute. Vale to those two officers; vale to Alan Dare. May you rest in peace. Thank you to those who were injured.
I join the parliament today in honouring the memory of three brave Australians: Constable Rachel McCrow, Constable Matthew Arnold, and Alan Dare from Wieambilla, Queensland. Our hearts go out to all of those who mourn this terrible loss—the families and loved ones who have lost a piece of their heart; the friends who are grieving their beloved mates; everybody in the communities around Chinchilla and Tara, who have been shaken by this awful atrocity; and so many Australians in every part of Australia. I particularly want to acknowledge the constituents of the member for Maranoa. The member spoke very movingly about the people in the community that he represents that are affected by this tragedy, and I hope that he will convey to his electorate, to the people that he represents, the feelings of the whole of this parliament about the senseless loss of life that has just occurred.
Rachel McCrow, Matthew Arnold and Alan Dare were killed in cold blood, without warning, without reason, without mercy, and well before their time. The police officers who arrived at the farm were doing their job on a very ordinary Monday afternoon, chasing up a missing person case. A few concerns had been expressed about someone who'd been out of contact. It was a very routine sort of visit. They were ambushed by cowards while serving in the line of duty. As the president of the Queensland Police Union said afterwards, 'They didn't know what was coming.'
Police officers understand danger. They know they work in a hazardous profession, that every room they walk into carries some risk. Sometimes that risk is physical. Sometimes it's psychological—the work that is done by police officers investigating child abuse online or sexual assaults or murders; this is the worst of human behaviour. The risks are both physical and psychological.
But no-one should expect something like this, something so senseless, on a standard Monday afternoon at work, especially when they were just going to help. They were doing a welfare check.
Constable McCrow and Constable Arnold were at the start of what should've been very long careers. They were popular in the community. They were popular with the kids in the local schools, who could see that they were good people with kind hearts. They were taken down in the prime of their lives, with so much left to give, so much left to do and so much love in their lives.
I want to acknowledge the other officers who attended the scene, Constable Keely Brough and Constable Randall Kirk. They were taken to hospital with injuries and are also victims of this tragedy who should be remembered. I am sure that their injuries will last well beyond the time they spend in hospital—for many years to come. That's true of everybody who has attended the scene of this crime.
I also very much want to honour the memory of Alan Dare. We raise our kids to help. We think that if we have the opportunity to help we should do it. Alan Dare was a good Samaritan who saw smoke across his property and his first thought was, 'I need to go there because maybe someone needs my help.' As his family remembered, Alan was someone who would assist anyone and everyone and who would never ask for anything in return. According to his stepson: 'He went to help the neighbours because he thought there was a fire and he heard bangs. Maybe the house was on fire.' There is something so particularly cruel about Alan Dare's death, an act of kindness met with an act of depravity. May the memory of his goodness outlive any infamy attained by the extremists who killed him.
In my electorate there's an auditorium with a basketball court and it's named after Peter Forsyth, who was a police office killed in Ultimo. It was an absolutely standard part of his day. He stopped a suspected drug dealer. He lost his life in 1998. Every time I walk past that auditorium, which is almost every weekend, I think of Peter Forsyth and his family and think about their lives now, still missing their loved one.
If you look at the national police honour roll you will see these faces—so many of them so young—of police officers who have died far too early, while serving their country and serving their community. You will see face after face after face representing family after family after family, community after community. Especially as we approach Christmas, we think about them and their families and the empty places at those tables. We think of families missing their loved ones.
I join all Australians in remembering all of those lost in the line of duty and in particular the three courageous citizens that we remember today: Constable Rachel McCrow, Constable Matthew Arnold and Alan Dare. A few others have pointed out that it is in the very nature of police work, and other first responders, that they run towards the danger that we all run from. It reminds me of the Bruce Springsteen song 'Into The Fire' that he wrote about the firefighters who ran into the World Trade Centre after the 9/11 attacks. He wrote, 'May your strength give us strength. May your faith give us faith. May your hope give us hope. May your love give us love. I need you near but love and duty called you someplace higher.' I think about those words in respect of these tragic deaths. May they rest in eternal peace.
I too rise here in this place to give the condolences of myself, of my family and, indeed, of all the constituents that I represent in the electorate of Cowan on the tragic loss of Constable Matthew Arnold, Constable Rachel McCrow and Alan Dare.
Indeed, all of Australia is shocked and saddened by this absolute tragedy. I know that, for police families, the pain of this tragedy will be acutely felt. We are a police family ourselves—my husband, David, was a police officer for many years. My stepdaughter, Tiana, and her partner, Mackenzie, only just this year graduated from the Police Academy in Western Australia, and they're now policing together in Carnarvon. They are the same age as Constable Rachel McCrow. Like Constable Rachel McCrow, when they graduated and left the academy and took on their first job at the station in Canarvon, they were filled with hope, filled with pride and filled with passion—passion for their work as police officers to serve and to protect: to protect their community and to serve their community.
I remember that day that they graduated and attending the graduation ceremony, up at the WA Police Academy, and—apart from my husband beaming with pride that his daughter was following in his footsteps as a police officer— the pride on the faces of each and every one of those graduates that day, and on the faces of their families, was something to be seen. You could feel it in the air—it was palpable; you could touch it—that these people, many of them young people, had chosen a career where they put their lives on the line each and every day in order to serve and to protect the community. It is something really quite extraordinary, as well as being very inspiring, I must say.
I know that families out there who are policing families will have seen this tragedy and, like us, they would have thought, 'What if that was my daughter?' or 'What if that was my son?' In the same way that we held each other and thought but didn't quite speak the words, but we knew that we were both thinking, 'What if that was Tiana and Mackenzie?' They're the same age as Rachel McCrow—probably graduated at the same time.
Some other members today have commented on this, and I think it's worthy to also comment that this is a sad but very timely reminder about how vigilant we have to be about violent extremism and the rise of violent extremism in Australia. It is a reminder of how important it is that we are able to identify individuals who are down that path towards violent extremism, who are becoming operative, and to intervene. Like many Australians, I've been reading the reports coming out, and some of the coverage on the backstories of these perpetrators—whose names shall not be spoken—and it's very clear to me, as somebody who was a professor in this field, and who studied in this field, that their trajectories were very typical of a trajectory to violent extremism. Human behaviour is quite simple, really. Human behaviour is actually quite predictable. There are warning signs, and, from the reports that I've read, there were warning signs with these perpetrators. We have to get better at recognising those warning signs. We have to get better at intervening early. We have to get better at early identification. And all of us have to take more seriously the warning that our security agencies have been giving us about the rise of violent extremism in this country.
On a final note, I just want to reiterate just how deeply this tragedy, this loss of three lives—two very young lives, Constable Matthew Arnold, just 26, and Constable Rachel McCrow, just 29; and Alan Dare, who valiantly, as the member for Sydney mentioned, ran towards danger, being a good neighbour, a good Samaritan.
Those three names will live on in our memories. They are more than just statistics. They are more than just numbers. We will remember them for the courage they showed, for the bravery they demonstrated and for the tragic way in which their lives were drastically cut short. May they all rest in peace.
I join with all those who have spoken on this motion in paying my respects to Constable Rachel McCrow, Constable Matthew Arnold and Alan Dare, and also with all those who have expressed their commendation to Constable Keely Brough and Constable Randall Kirk for the bravery they showed in standing up to this evil.
In particular, I pay my respects to the Leader of the Opposition for his fine words on this motion. What came through to me from the Leader of the Opposition's words was very much someone who had been part of the police family. The emotion that he showed and the deep sorrow that you could see he felt, as all of us feel, was very much because he has been part of that police family. For anyone who has been a member of a family that has suffered grief and loss, the sorrow is immeasurable and unquantifiable. I think we saw that from the Leader of the Opposition, and I say to him: thank you for your fine words in this parliament today.
I also say, as someone who grew up on a farm, that I know many Alan Dares. The way he responded fits a pattern that I've seen so often of those people on the land reaching out and doing what they think is their duty—that is, to go to help those who are in need, whether it be through fire or anything else. To Alan Dare: thank you for what you did, and my deepest sorrow to you and your family. You did what many people on the land do out of absolute natural instinct—that is, to go to help and support others.
To the two constables who were there and have survived: my deepest appreciation for what you did, the bravery that you showed and also the healing that will be required for both of you in being able to come to terms with what happened. I'm sure I speak for everyone in this parliament when I say we stand with you in making sure that you understand that what you did demonstrated the utmost bravery. You will be in our thoughts and in our prayers as you recover from this evil act you have witnessed.
To all those who have had to respond: our thoughts and prayers are with you. There is no crime scene that any of us would want to have to go to, to take the evidence and to deal with the scene. To those who have had to do that: thank you for what you do.
To the country communities who are being impacted by this, Tara and Wieambilla: our thoughts are with you.
As someone who represents small country communities, I know that this evil will bind you together and make you stronger. The stories of how you're already coming together are quite inspirational, and I'm sure that you will continue to be there to support the families and to support the police going forward because that's what small country communities do. I have no doubt that this will make you stronger, and we're very grateful for that great aspect that country communities have in that regard.
To the police that look after all of the communities in my electorate, thank you. I know some of you personally. I have the great pleasure to call some of you my friends. I've been thinking of you over these last few days, because you go about your jobs in just a normal fashion, like how all of us go about our jobs, but you do put your lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe. It's times like these when I think we all need to say thank you for your service, and thank you for the duty that you carry out. I'm sure I can say this on behalf of all the communities in my electorate: thank you for keeping us safe, and thank you for being prepared to put yourself on the front line in service of our local communities.
At times of grief like this, it's very hard to understand how you can make anything of it other than to be absolutely appalled at what has occurred and at the evil that has taken place. But we do have to learn from incidents like these. We have to make sure that we're doing everything we can as a society to stop them happening and to make sure such evil and hatred cannot continue in our communities, and that's a battle that obviously needs to be waged over a period of time. But we've also got to make sure that we stand with those communities that have been impacted by this and make sure that we support them in the medium and the long term to ensure that they have what they require to get through this. They will come together, these small communities, and they will obviously be brought together, and that will strengthen them. But we still also have to make sure that we're there to support them.
We've got to make sure that these lives are remembered because those who put themselves in the line of duty do so with a sense of selflessness that we need to recognise. We've got to make sure that the losses that occurred here—three lives, two of them in their 20s—are remembered, because it is absolutely vital that we do. If we don't remember them, and if we don't remember their duty, then we do them the gravest disservice that we could possibly do to them. The memorial to the police here in Canberra is a great way for us to do that, but I think, also, what each and every one of us in this nation needs to do whenever we see police officers who are out on the beat, doing their bit to keep us safe, is say hello, acknowledge them and thank them for what they're doing. In that way, in small part, we're also thanking Rachel McCrow and Matthew Arnold for what they did and for their service.
When you come across someone who is going beyond the call of duty to help and support someone, thank them, and make sure you stop and acknowledge it, because in that way you'll be playing a little part in remembering the great legacy of Alan Dare, the farmer who went to help others, and will also be helping to support Keely Brough and Randall Kirk for their bravery, and helping their recovery.