Hope Is The Best Defence

It’s no surprise that the way people represent themselves in Parliament reflects the way that they’ve been brought up and the places they’ve grown up in. For me, I’m a product of the Dandenong Ranges. The environment means a lot to me, as mine was a life spent outdoors, firstly as a Queen’s scout and then in my first jobs as a cross country ski instructor, bushwalking leader and rock climbing instructor. I joined the Victorian Police Force as a 19-year-old, with the hope of being admitted to the Search and Rescue Squad. Unfortunately, my inability to equalise my ears when diving ruled that out, so I focused on becoming a detective in the Organised Crime Squad instead. In Victoria during the gangland wars it was a dangerous time for everyone involved, yet very rewarding. The leadership of the Organised Crime Squad was very strong, driven by the sentiment that ‘they cause hell for others, we cause hell for them’. The Detective Inspectors were old school, gruff types but I got along with them well. They encouraged me to get involved in politics, which led me to join the Liberal Party. To my father’s enormous surprise, this graduate of Ferntree Gully Tech, greenie environmentalist and member of the Police Association was welcomed with open arms by the local branch of the Liberal Party and eventually selected to run as a candidate in the seat of La Trobe!

It’s no surprise that the way people represent themselves in Parliament reflects the way that they’ve been brought up and the places they’ve grown up in.

My political views were shaped by my time as a policeman. I tend to side with the victim as a matter of instinct. Cancelling the visa of someone who has committed a violent crime would be easy for me, as I’ve sat with the victims of those crimes who have gone through hell. Being in the police force gives you a seat in the front row of the greatest show on earth, life itself. You get used to talking with people from all parts of society, perfect training to be a local member.

One of my main interests in parliament is terrorism and counter-terrorism. While people use different definitions, to me terrorism is the act of someone trying to put fear into the public or seeking to change a government’s actions due to fear. Traditionally the aim of counter-terrorism has been to stop an act of terrorism before it occurs, but these days it goes deeper than that. Counter- terrorism is about trying to stop young people going down a path where they become extremists. The time I have spent as a parliamentary delegate to the UK and US has shown me that the root cause of radicalisation is a lack of hope … a lack of jobs and perceived lack of opportunities.

My political views were shaped by my time as a policeman. I tend to side with the victim as a matter of instinct…Being in the police force gives you a seat in the front row of the greatest show on earth.

Problems arise when young people drop out of school or TAFE and see no path towards employment. They need to see their older siblings and parents in work. We can’t afford to create areas in the community where groups of people are not working and become frustrated and bitter. This is where the absolute basics, like English language skills are critical. Funding youth workers is part of the ground game to keep at-risk young people in school and on track. We need to create jobs, including in regions like my own, where people get a chance to use their brain; where there is mobility and aspiration for career growth. That’s why investment in infrastructure, which might not seem exciting, is actually critical. In my electorate of La Trobe, in Melbourne’s deep south east, we need to create jobs in suburbs like Beaconsfield and Officer. These are high growth areas that need to be accessible. An example of a Federal and State Government initiative is the Beaconsfield interchange, with its new ‘on’ and ‘off’ ramps from the Monash Freeway which may sound like a humble infrastructure project but it is in fact a small building block towards creating hope. No business, let alone the sort of advanced manufacturing hub we need in the region, is going to establish itself in a place that’s hard to get to. But infrastructure investment brings businesses and businesses bring jobs. With jobs comes hope.

Community engagement with law enforcement is also key to fighting terrorism. The state police work at the coalface, speaking with informers every day, whereas the federal police have tremendous technical and analytical resources at their disposal. Federal and local police working in tandem is why Australia has been successful in counter-terrorism, foiling a number of potentially deadly plots. Most of the planned terrorist activity has been disrupted by the community working with the police. Fast and direct communication is important. With terrorist activity, police don’t have the luxury of letting a crime run its course and then making an arrest like they might do in a drug bust. They need to intervene early and they need the power to question in order to keep us safe. We have preventative detention but we don’t have the power to question those that are held in detention! One thing I learned as a police officer is that people will eventually talk. The longer you can speak to a person, the more likely that person is to confess or share information.

Federal and local police working in tandem is why Australia has been successful in counter-terrorism, foiling a number of potentially deadly plots. Most of the planned terrorist activity has been disrupted by the community working with the police.

As I learned from my time in the police force and as a parliamentarian, counter-terrorism is a combination of federal and local policing on the one hand and creating hope within an engaged and productive community on the other. People have hope when they know they can get a good job and support themselves and their families. Hope for a job and hope for the future is the best defence against radicalisation and it’s the best defence against the threat of terrorism.