May 13, 2015

Keeping Our Community Safe – My support for AFP & Victoria Police Speech – 13 May 2015

I address this chamber tonight to discuss a subject very dear to my heart, and I know the Australian community’s heart: that is, the welfare of our police forces around the country—in particular, our Australian Federal Police and Victoria Police forces—the support of our community for the work they do and our collective need to demonstrate this support for them. I specifically want to raise the issue of our fine police forces in Victoria and our officers from the AFP.

It would have escaped no-one’s attention, the threat that our community faces due to Islamic State-inspired terrorism events around the world and in Australia in recent months. In particular, my local community has had brutal firsthand experience of a terrorism event on a cold, clear evening on 23 September last year, when two police officers were savagely attacked by an assailant intent on killing both officers and others, had he been successful. The assailant was killed by one of the officers. As this matter will, I hope, soon be heard by the coroners court, there is much that I cannot say about this matter. But I can say that I know of the horror of the events of that evening and the bravery of the two officers and the very fine crew of the Endeavour Hills Police Station, who responded brilliantly to their injured colleagues.

I have immense respect for the men and women of that police station and for the two officers involved. I want them to know that I never underestimate what they have been through and I proudly thank them for their service to their community. I want them to know that they are in my thoughts often in their journey to recovery. I know that this sentiment is shared by our Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The two policemen that were injured are two fine men; two individuals that I am honoured to say that I know and two officers who, to me, deserve the support of all of us in this place as they continue to recover from their injuries.

We also know that there were further raids conducted in my constituency recently that were designed to thwart what I am advised was an horrific Anzac Day plot to murder and terrorise our police force, primarily, and the general public on what I think is our most sacred national day. I can proudly report, notwithstanding the horrific intent of the intended terrorist activity in the lead-up to this most sacred national day, that record crowds commemorated Anzac Day in my area. The silent majority voted with their feet. I was particularly struck by the crowd’s warmth and respect for the men and women of our police force who marched in and guarded our ceremonies. Person after person came to tell me how grateful they were for this support of our state’s finest and how secure they felt seeing the increased presence of our law enforcement officers on Anzac Day.

But I have been very disturbed in my discussions with many police officers to hear of their view that they feel a lack of support from policymakers, media and politicians. Many of those whom we task to protect us, and are tasked to protect us, feel under siege themselves. They feel unappreciated and, disturbingly, not supported. This struck home, particularly after the most recent raids in my area were conducted, when I read the unnecessary and hurtful speculation in the media about the events of 23 September. The speculation was ill informed, unnecessary and provocative. Its effect was to undermine the police force’s belief that the public supported our force in their struggle to keep our community safe. The families of those two brave officers read that speculation as well. So to our fine men and women from the AFP and Victoria Police, who labour day and night often feeling unappreciated and unrecognised, I want to say, in this nation’s parliament and on behalf of a very grateful community, thank you. Thank you for your courage, your ongoing efforts and your resolve to keep our community safe under very challenging conditions. We particularly thank your loved ones who wonder when you walk out the door whether or not you will come home, particularly the loved ones of my two VicPol-AFP friends.

I also appreciate officers who have been very frank with me about the additional resources and protections needed to discharge their duties safely. I undertake to you that I will not rest as your voice in this parliament until you get these necessary resources and protections. I also want you to know that your concerns about your safety are paramount in my mind. I see too often what passes for media commentary on national security matters, and I have been asked whether this is what we up here think. No, it is not; we do care about you and the pressures that you face. I think of this every time I see a young police officer with a ballistic vest at the counter of one of our local police stations. I think about it every time I see a car pulled over and watch as officers approach the car. I think about it when I hear and see our men and women from the AFP, VicPol and the Victoria Police Special Operations Group when they prepare for necessary and often dangerous raids targeting premises and people. We do understand. Finally, I have a message for those who seek to inspire and create those terrorism events: you will not succeed. We must prevail, and prevail we will.

 

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