PRIME MINISTER: Mr Speaker, On Indulgence. When we all heard of the deaths of Leading Senior Constable Lynette Taylor, Senior Constable Kevin King, Constable Glen Humphris, and Constable Joshua Prestney in Melbourne last month, it sent a shudder, I’m sure, through all of us. We all felt it.
Not only Victorians, but every Australian, because we know those who wear that police uniform, wherever they do it anywhere in the country, they stand between us and the harm that can befall any of us. The families of those police officers who serve understand this only too well.
A loss during a time when we are all feeling vulnerable at this point is also felt more sharply. Four police officers doing their duty - keeping the peace; enforcing the law; upholding the community’s trust; keeping us safe.
In normal times, after such a terrible event, such an awful loss, a city would stop. A state would pause. And today, representing a nation, we do that on behalf of all Australians. Instead, these times demand that we don’t assemble. They require us to grieve apart, as so many Australians have had to do in recent months. One of the hardest things, I have no doubt, during this time of the COVID-19 restrictions.
But Australians and Victorians did and still honoured Lynette, Kevin, Glen and Joshua. Blue ribbons were placed on front doors. Flowers were laid at police stations. 142,000 people left tributes on a memorial page. Melbourne’s landmarks shone blue, while fire stations across Victoria sounded their sirens - four blasts for four fallen and brave officers.
And on their last journeys home, people stood on the sides of roads, officers at attention on overpasses, and cars pulled over, because a hero was passing. And today for a few moments, here in our nation’s Parliament, we pause as well.
To remember Leading Senior Constable Lynette Taylor. She served for 31 years with Victoria Police. A mother to Nathan and Alexander, who while grieving her loss, must be so proud of her service. Lynette and her husband Stuart were building a home down the coast, looking out to Bass Strait. That’s where they were going to retire. Five days before the tragedy, Lynette pulled over an unregistered driver. The driver had forgotten to pay because she was moving house during this difficult time. She was flustered and distressed. The driver said Lynette was kind, professional and empathetic. After a breath test was administered, Lynette gently said, “Can you go home and pay it”.
We remember also Senior Constable Kevin King, who had been with Victoria Police for just six years. A father to William, James and Henry. He and his wife Sharron had been together for 35 years. Kevin was, in his family’s words, a “big softie who would do anything for absolutely anyone”. And I can think of no better vocation and occupation that he chose than to be a police officer to fulfil that promise. He loved the Richmond Tigers, as some in this place do also, and he loved his guitar. He loved to strum in the sun. He turned 50 in February. Sharron and the boys gave him a long-awaited guitar amplifier, even though they feared the family room would be turned into a music studio.
Constable Glen Humphris moved to Victoria to begin his policing career only in 2019. He was doing his probationary training at the time of this terrible incident. Glen was originally from the Central Coast in New South Wales and he had later moved to Newcastle. He loved the outdoors. Triathlons, running, cycling, camping. He met his partner Todd Robinson four years ago. Their first date was on a 30 kilometre bike ride. He moved to Melbourne to support Todd who was taking up a role with Defence. A service family - Victorian Police and our Australian Defence Forces. Protecting Australia and protecting Australians. Todd accompanied Glen’s casket on the long journey back to the Hunter. Travelling along the Hume under escort, the cavalcade stopped at the Murray for a repatriation ceremony where the care of Glen was passed over from Victorian Police to the New South Wales Police Force. A reminder that there is only one Police family in Australia.
And we remember Constable Joshua Prestney, who was 28. He also loved music, and had studied a Bachelor of Creative Industries in Melbourne. He liked playing the guitar but after seeing how much his brother, First Constable Alex Prestney, loved being a policeman, Josh changed direction. He joined Victoria Police last May and was handed his badge by his brother when he graduated in December. How proud his brother must have been. Those same hands would clutch a flag-draped coffin six months later. The day of the crash was only Josh’s second in the highway patrol. So much ahead of him. To his family and his partner Stacey, he was “creative, insightful” he was a “loving and genuine soul”. His parents said of Josh and Stacey, “They were perfect for one another and had made plans for their future together.” And of their own grief, Josh’s parents simply said, “We are broken”.
So today, we are broken with you.
Mr Speaker, when my father passed away earlier this year, the Member for Fowler Chris Hayes, also the son of a police officer, graciously sent me a copy of the Police Ode and I’ve taken great comfort from it and I hope it will create the same sense for those who have lost their loved ones.
It reads this:
As the sun surely sets: dawn will see it arise,
For service, above self, demands its own prize.
You have fought the good fight: life’s race has been run, and peace, your reward, for eternity begun.
And we that are left, shall never forget, rest in peace friend and colleague, for the sun has now set.
We will remember. We will remember. Hasten the dawn, it says.
May our brave and dedicated officers Rest in Peace.
We owe them more than we can speak of.
And may their families draw comfort from their country’s love.