BIENNIAL NSW POLICE ASSOCIATION

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President Scott Weber; and Executive members of the Police Association; Deputy Premier Grant; my Shadow Police Minister Guy Zangari my parliamentary colleagues; Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey; distinguished guests. Thank you for the opportunity to join you this morning.

For almost a century, the Police Association has ensured that the community’s rights are protected by a police force that is properly valued.

We should reflect on what the Police Association has achieved in its 95 year history.

The creation of this Police Association, its important work and advocacy is the product of many people over many years.

One of those people was Edward Larkin.

I talk about Ted Larkin regularly.

Larkin was a Wallabies fullback, one of the founders of the sport of rugby league, and the Labor Member for Willoughby in the Parliament of New South Wales.

After entering the NSW Parliament in 1913, Larkin began calling for better conditions for police officers.

At the time policemen—and then they were mostly men—worked seven days a week for a modest salary.

Larkin understood—better than most—the imbalance between the rewards and responsibilities of police work.

He had been an officer in Sydney’s Metropolitan Police District for a number of years. 

When he entered Parliament, Larkin was an early and enthusiastic advocate for improving the life of police through the collective power of all serving officers. 

In an early speech, he called for the creation of a NSW Police Association, an association that would in his own words give; ‘…members of the force some protection and a guarantee of fair treatment’. Larkin remained a passionate advocate for the creation of a NSW Police Association until he lost his life at Gallipoli on that fateful day in our nation’s history—the 25th of April 1915.

In 1921, 6 years after Larkin’s death, the NSW Police Association finally came into being.

And under the early administration of the Association’s first General Secretary, Constable Bertram Fortescue, it set about improving the working lives of officers.

By the end of its first year, 2,000 of the 2,400 eligible serving police officers signed up to the Association—proof if proof was ever needed—that police officers required an independent voice.

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Delegates, the demands on police and the nature of police work has changed since these early days but the need for a strong advocate to protect and guarantee the fair treatment of police remains.

Today the Police Association no longer needs to fight for a day of rest, or the right of female officers to marry, or merit based promotions.

But this Association—its delegates and members—still fights:

 for fair police to population ratios;  to ensure all Police Stations are safe and secure facilities; and  for a commitment to fund programs aimed squarely at the well-being of officers.

I believe that police should have the resources you need to keep the community safe.

And equally, I think police should have all the resources you need so that your work is as safe as possible.

Policing is essential community work because police work protects the rights and interests of the entire community.

Each and every day police risk their lives so that the rest of us can go about our lives in safety and security.

Since your last annual conference, the danger of our uncertain and unpredictable times was brought home with the tragic death of Curtis Cheng.

Curtis was not a sworn officer—but he was very much a part of the police family.

Curtis was murdered outside the Parramatta Police Headquarters because he represented the democratic values which you help defend and which we all hold so dear. And we remember those officers who have lost their lives while serving the people of New South Wales.

I think of the loss of Sergeant Geoffrey Richardson a few weeks ago.

My young bloke Patrick turns 7 this year.

That image of Sergeant Richardson’s 7 year old son Patrick wearing his father’s police hat at the funeral is seared into my memory.

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Delegates, I cannot pretend to fully understand the pressures and risks of your work—at any moment, in the act of serving others, you and your colleagues may pay the ultimate price.

But I can say to you, that I appreciate the importance of your work, and I recognise - and honour - your dedication and courage.

The best thing I can do for you is to stand for, and fight for, policies that help you in your working lives.

That is why NSW Labor went to last year’s election with a policy to increase police numbers by 480 officers in one term – a plan to drive down crime and keep our communities safe. That is why NSW Labor pledged to invest $100 million in a Police Technology Fund – to equip police with the latest technology to ensure you are able to remain one step ahead of the criminals.

And that is why NSW Labor committed to funding the Police Force Wellbeing Program.

When a fanatic took hostages inside Martin Place’s Lindt Café, for two days police worked tirelessly in the most testing of circumstances.

I was elected Leader of the Labor Party in the days following the Lindt café siege.

I listened to police men and women when they talked to me about the lessons that should be learned.

That is why, in the earliest weeks of my leadership, Labor adopted policy:  to fund ‘active shooter’ training;  to purchase a purpose build mobile van for police negotiators – because your professionalism should be supported by the best equipment;  to allocate dedicated mobile broadband communications to police and emergency services

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Delegates, before I became the Leader of the Labor Party, when I was just a Shadow Minister, in 2013 I worked with Scott Weber and Inspector Pat Gooley to build support for trading restrictions, including lockout laws, in late night trouble spots.

With Scott and Pat as my trusted advisers, I convinced Labor’s then Leader that bold action was necessary to tackle the late night mayhem in Kings Cross and parts of Sydney’s Central Business District.

Labor gave support to the Last Drinks campaign waged by police officers, paramedics, nurses and doctors.

We campaigned for the recall of Parliament to take action on the 24/7 cycle of alcohol and violence.

Together we achieved change.

Change that makes our streets safer. Safer for the community and safe for the police men and women who work those streets.

Delegates, as Leader of the Labor Party I will not countenance a return to the bad old days.

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But Delegates, improving your welfare and working conditions is about more than any single policy.

It must be about society properly valuing our police officers and the work you do.

The outpouring of emotion from within your ranks and across the community at the deaths of Curtis Chang and Sergeant Geoffrey Richardson is proof that the vast majority of our citizens understand and appreciate the importance of policing.

But sadly, there is a small minority of armchair critics and agitators who are quick to judge your actions; and quick to dismiss the precarious circumstances you have to deal with.

I agree with Scott Weber that there are deeper issues here; that as a society the respect shown to police and other essential workers – nurses, firefighters and paramedics – has diminished amongst some sections of the community.

This is concerning not just because of the impact this has on your work but because this behaviour cascades into, and impacts on, the lives of the wider community.

Scott Weber, speaking of recent attacks perpetrated against officers, put this simply when he said ‘…if some are willing to attack an officer, what are they willing to do to you and your family’?

How our society’s figures of authority are treated is a problem for society as a whole.

It requires a whole of community response.

It requires our democratic leaders to constantly speak out in support of the vital work you do – the essential, civilising, human work performed by our police officers and other essential workers.

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Delegates, more than two centuries after Governor Phillip created the Night Watch to patrol the streets of colonial Sydney—the NSW Police Force still works tirelessly to keep our community safe.

And more than a century since Ted Larkin called for an Association that would guarantee the fair treatment of police—the NSW Police Association continues to work so that you all have the resources you need to do your job.

Thank you for the work you do and thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.

You honour me with the invitation to join you.