Page 3452 - Week 10 - Thursday, 20 October 2022

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This motion today is a simple, straightforward one—that is, to commend ACT police for the tireless work that they do for our community, and to offer our thanks, formally, from the Legislative Assembly, for the people of the ACT.

As we know, police undertake difficult and often dangerous work, and they do so day and night, week after week, year after year. It is remarkable just how much our police have had to deal with in the last few years. There were the bushfires, which shocked many of us and strained every resource available. We then rolled straight into an unprecedented pandemic, with police on the front line.

It is safe to say that, for some years, the ACT’s thin blue line has been stretched very thin indeed. That was exposed even more when we looked at annual reports, as was discussed in question time, that showed that, in the last decade, police numbers have actually declined in the ACT whilst the population has gone up by 70,000.

Indeed the strain on our police force was brought to a head at the very height of the pandemic. It was reported at the time that “police officers have been brought to tears and have taken to sleeping in their cars out of fear of bringing COVID home to their families”.

Australian Federal Police Association President Alex Caruana said members in high-risk environments, such as attending anti-vaccine protests and assisting with quarantine transports, were suffering because they did not want to go home and risk infecting their loved ones. He said:

We’ve had members that are sleeping in their cars or have made makeshift humpies in their backyards … and still go to work the next day to protect the community.

That is service, that is dedication, and that deserves our recognition and our thanks.

I will take a moment to stress that this should not be a partisan debate. I certainly refer to a previous motion brought to this place by a former member, Mary Porter. At the time Ms Porter said:

I thank members for their support in recognition of the fine work of the achievements of ACT Policing and all who serve in it.

She also said:

I congratulate members of our police service, and let us not forget the support provided by the volunteers in policing. Our police service deserve our thanks and congratulations on a job well done. The work undertaken by our law enforcement officers is not an easy one. It is often difficult and may be dangerous. Every day they work to make this city a safer place to live in, and I would trust all members in this place would support this motion.

Indeed I remember speaking to that motion, and it did receive tripartisan support. There were some amendments, some moved by me, to recognise assaults on police, that were supported by Labor, and some by the Greens that were not. But the motion was passed by all three parties. I hope that today’s motion will receive a similar fate.

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