Senate debates

Thursday, 18 June 2020


Police, Australian Sovereignty

5:41 pm

Photo of Gerard RennickGerard Rennick (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There are few people for whom I have greater admiration and respect than our frontline workers. The firies, police officers, nurses and teachers perform some of the most critical work within our community. These highly trained individuals are some of the most revered in our community, and rightfully so, because it is times like this, as we deal with the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, that make us realise just how critical these professionals are to our society. I stand in the Senate today to thank those workers for their service to our community. I thank them for their hard work, their compassion, their understanding and their sacrifice, especially during the pandemic. These Australians deserve our respect, as they are among the very best of us.

It is therefore a matter of immense shame that violent attacks on our frontline emergency services providers are a growing problem. Such attacks are a repudiation of everything that Australia stands for. Frontline workers put themselves on the line every day to save our lives and to protect our property, yet some people think it's okay to abuse them, to spit on them, to beat them up and even to murder them in the line of duty. I know of one female police officer who, in her first year on the force, was kicked in the neck by a member of the public resisting arrest. What was initially dismissed by medical experts as redness and swelling to the front of her neck as a result of the assault ended up being a sustained internal injury that resulted in the partial removal of the female officer's thyroid. It has resulted in the female officer having further long-term issues, requiring daily mandatory medication for over a decade. The female officer received a total of $150 in compensation, while the offender escaped the appropriate offence of serious police assault. In the 2018-19 year, over 9,000 police officers were injured in the line of duty throughout Australia. There must be zero tolerance on this in all jurisdictions right across Australia. Any assault on a police officer, nurse, teacher or any other frontline worker should not be tolerated.

The foundation of any free and prosperous society is respect for the rule of law. It is dismaying to see protesters who claim that they want to stop racial violence waving extreme placards supporting violence against police. This is in large part fuelled by the media, who search for the 'gotcha' moment rather than fair and balanced reporting. Some radical elements, including an elected Greens party member in Queensland, have described the police as a violent, racist institution. This accusation is simply not true and only undermines the authority of all our frontline workers. One death in custody is one too many. One incident of inappropriate action or excessive force by a police officer is one too many. But we should not in any way suggest that this represents the intentions or character of our police force, the vast majority of whom are honest, hardworking, decent people serving their communities every day. Any attempt to defund police is an attempt to undermine the rule of law. It is worth noting that the former Queensland LNP government was on target to increase police numbers by a thousand prior to losing government, compared to the current Labor Queensland government, who have added only a few hundred officers in a much longer time frame. The LNP reopened maternity wards in places like Beaudesert and Ingham. The LNP understands that government is about delivering essential services, creating jobs and keeping Australians safe by enforcing the rule of law.

Radical extremists and their promotion of violence, especially against frontline workers, are anathema to mainstream Australia. The father of all discrimination is prejudice. We should not prejudge people based on their race, their creed or their occupation. People should be judged by their actions. When people show disrespect to others and to the rule of law then, as the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, said earlier this week, we all have a responsibility to call it out when we see it.

That is why I am proud to be a member of the Queensland LNP, a party whose core value is the dignity and worth of every individual. That's an important distinction between this side of the chamber and others, who use identity politics to seek to divide rather than unite. That is why I'm going to call out the opposition leader, Senator Wong, who called me, as I was walking into the chamber last week, a 'unilateralist'. I've never had a discussion with Senator Wong about foreign affairs, so why on earth would she think I was a unilateralist? I'll tell you why: because she's made the assumption that, because I'm from the conservative side of politics in Queensland, I must be a unilateralist. Clearly, she hasn't read my maiden speech.

But let me tell you something. You can be both a unilateralist and a multilateralist, but unilateralism must always come before multilateralism. Why? Because the most important bulwark of democracy is the nation-state, founded on liberal values of freedom of conscience, religion, expression and association. Western liberal democracies are characterised by the nation-state and the beliefs that all men and women are created equal, that there should be no taxation without representation and that the government is held to account by the people through democratic elections. The nation-state is the key organising principle by which our government, our economy and our society function.

The world we live in is best served by strong, independent nations who are accountable to their people. It is not best served by unelected bureaucrats in organisations who have no democratic oversight. Indeed, one of the key pivotal moments in the creation of the democratic nation was the Boston Tea Party, when the patriots refused to pay taxes to a government in which they had no say. That, today, is effectively what the United Nations is becoming: a government that is not accountable to any people. That's not to say that the United Nations doesn't have a role to play. It does. But it should focus on securing peace between nations rather than dictate how nations govern themselves.

The creeping erosion of Australian sovereignty, indeed, was started by the Australian Labor Party when Bob Hawke took the state governments to court over their rights to build dams. The High Court, in an extraordinary decision, completely undermined the sovereignty of Australia by ruling that external bodies like the United Nations and its many subsidiaries had greater say over our country than state governments. The damage the Hawke-Keating government did to this country by encouraging foreign organisations like the United Nations and foreign banks to override democratically elected governments should be called out for the betrayal that it is.

But that's Labor's modus operandi—to control the people with as little democratic choice as possible; don't worry about individual rights or their livelihoods. We saw that today. In a choice between protecting the livelihoods of individual workers and the unions, Labor voted to protect their rivers of gold by refusing to lower union fees. They threw their union members under the bus.

That is the difference between this side of the chamber and that side of the chamber. We believe in free choice and government decided by the people, while that side of the chamber believes in central command and total control from the top down by nameless bureaucrats and unaccountable unions.