Tuesday, 25 June 2013
Tasmania: Show Some Respect Campaign
I rise this evening to speak about a campaign launched in north-west Tasmania by the local newspaper The Advocate called 'Show Some Respect'. I have discussed this with the whips of all the parties in the chamber and they have agreed that I can table in the Senate this evening not a petition but an indication of support by members of the north-west Tasmanian community. They wished to show some respect to police, teachers, ambulance officers, medical professionals and people who come into contact with the public on a daily basis and who, over a period of time during the life of the 43rd Parliament, TheAdvocate determined were not being shown the respect they deserve. So I seek leave at the outset to table this document, which has the signatures, names and addresses of quite a number of people—some 300-plus who have actually signed and in excess of 100 who completed it online.
The significance is not just the people who have signed the document; it is the whole attitude of the community to the TheAdvocate's campaign. Many, many people have spoken about the need to show more respect, which is the title of the campaign. Show Some Respect has developed because of incidents within the community—and not just in north-west Tasmania, although that is where the issues developed. The embryonic stage of this campaign started from what readers were writing into their local newspaper about. The local editor, Julian O'Brien, decided that he would advertise this campaign and see who came on board—and many did.
I should declare up-front that I have not seen eye to eye with my local newspaper on a number of occasions. I do not think they have been very fair to me from time to time. However, on this particular occasion they were spot on the money. They were absolutely right to launch this campaign in the local community. One of the highlights occurred when a police officer was charged by the public, if you like, because of a YouTube video about using capsicum spray on a young offender. The police officer was subjected to the normal internal investigation that any police department would conduct when a complaint has been raised. It appeared at first blush that the police officer had been excessive in his use of this capsicum spray.
However, when the full video finally became public, he was defending another police officer who had been assaulted. I think this is so important. The respect angle in our community has deteriorated. I can speak from personal experience, having been a serving police officer in the seventies and eighties. Equally, my wife was a nurse in the seventies and eighties and still is today. We have noticed and have discussed at home the lack of respect, or the lessened respect, for people who work on the front line—hospital workers, teachers, police officers, ambulance officers.
A local newspaper picked up this theme and said: let us just stop and pause and examine why there is a lack of respect. Let us develop that concept in our community through our local newspaper and ask people why they are not showing respect to these particular people in our community. I do not know where it starts. Maybe why respect has diminished in our society is a subject for another debate in this place at another time. I am very pleased to present and table this document today and to highlight the reasons why a local newspaper picked up this theme and got the reaction it did.
New South Wales and Victoria have adopted similar campaigns because of the local campaign started in Burnie, Tasmania. I do commend the newspaper for doing that. The mere fact that hundreds of people have signed and come on board is one part of helping to get one aspect of respect back into our community. The fact that those people have done that is great. I commend them for placing their name and address on the petition and for being prepared to have them made public. However, the greater debate that was had in the newspaper, the forums that were developed and the community discussions were far wider than just a simple petition. I will call it a petition even though it is a non-conforming petition.
That petition was just the tip of the iceberg. I think it has started a great debate. Schools have even started debating in our community why we should show more respect to people in positions of authority, in positions of care, in positions on front-line emergency. If our society deteriorates to the extent that we cannot show respect for those people then I think we do have a problem. This is starting in our community and I think it is great that a newspaper like Burnie's TheAdvocate, a very regional newspaper which never makes our newspaper clips here in Canberra, has commenced a program to develop this campaign called Show Some Respect. That is great for a small community and I am hoping that our wider community will eventually develop a greater sense of respect because of a small campaign started like that. As I have indicated, some communities in New South Wales and Victoria have picked up on this campaign. Hopefully, it can spread.
By bringing this to the public, I am hoping that in some small way we understand that respect has diminished and that we need to re-establish it. We are elected representatives of our state in this chamber; in the other chamber we are representatives of particular electorates. If we do not start at our level, if we do not start in local newspapers and if we do not start in schools, we will never arrest the situation of diminishing respect in society.
Madam Acting Deputy President, I thank you for assisting me in being able to make this speech by moving into the chair at an earlier time. Equally, I trust that this contribution has sparked a small desire in each of us to increase the respect we have and show to front-line emergency workers, police and caring people in society, because if we do not have respect there then there is very little hope of having respect anywhere else.