Condolences – Arnold, Constable Matthew, Dare, Mr Alan, McCrow, Constable Rachel

Thursday, 15 December 2022

Mr PITT: 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.

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