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Monday, 19 September 2011
Page: 10628

Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (12:19): I rise to speak on the motion on the coming National Police Remembrance Day on 29 September. I have also had the great honour to serve as a sworn member of the Australian Federal Police and, while that was only for a couple of years back in the 1980s, I do recall seeing enough of the realities of life in Australia to know that the risks that sworn officers, police in uniform and plain clothes detectives, take are very grave indeed. So often society is a little bit negative towards police until such time as a person on the street feels a personal threat—at which point they are very glad to see that blue uniform. It is always the case that when the public needs uniformed police they call and call very loudly.

In Western Australia I am honoured to have a number of excellent officers and stations around my area. We have got Wanneroo Police Station and Warwick Police Station and also a very active crime prevention team within the north-western district of the Western Australian police in the urban areas.

Looking back over events of the last few years, we have had a couple of pretty bad incidents in Western Australia. There was a very grievous attack on Constable Matthew Butcher, though it did not cost him his life. It was a completely unreasonable and dastardly attack, where he was assaulted from behind with a flying head butt. As a result he was very seriously injured and will probably have to live with those injuries for the rest of his life. That is a great tragedy.

What is really required is respect from members of the public. Unfortunately, there are a lot of terrible people out there who see the police as a problem for their normal activities, and I guess we will always have criminals. But, in the case of Constable Butcher, what made it worse was that there was no attempt to confront him, only an attempt to take him out from behind. That was a terrible thing. As a result of that, the state government in Western Australia has taken a very firm line on assaults against public officers, which is resulting in jail terms. I think that is entirely appropriate. I would go so far as to say that not only should assault of police officers come with a jail term upon guilt being found, but that swearing at police officers should also require specific action to remind people that it is unacceptable.

I would also like to talk briefly about Constable Damien Murphy, who died on 15 February 2007. Constable Murphy, having just dealt with a domestic violence incident in the suburb of Craigie, tried to flag down a vehicle on one of the major roads and was struck by that vehicle. This was a real tragedy—he was a young bloke with a young family who left behind a wife—but these things unfortunately happen when police officers put their lives on the line for community safety.

It is important that state jurisdictions in particular take a very firm stand against assault or abuse of police officers to make sure they are protected as much as possible, to look after them when they are putting their lives on the line for the community. I say, 'Thank God they are there; thank God there is someone out there willing to stand up and be counted and do these things.' I wish them well and hopefully there will be no more of these assaults.