Opinion

Police strike shames Victorian Government

By Riverine Herald

TWO police, their first week on the job, were sent on a routine call in Kyabram and ended up cowering behind their car after a man armed with a rifle tried to shoot them.

When four young men from Echuca died in a Pyalong car crash, the female officer from the single officer station in the town sat amidst the carnage as the one passenger still alive after she reached the scene died in her arms.

Every day of the year our police are confronted with the epidemic of family violence – exacerbated by drugs, booze and mental health – and are expected to help pick up the pieces of battered women, and too often children, and remain impervious to the heartbreaking tragedy.

Bodies are occasionally fished from the river, they provide security at Echuca Regional Health as the mentally ill, alcohol fuelled and drug addled explode into rage, they are often first responders to car fatalities, suicides, murders and victims of violence.

They are confronted with mountains of paperwork where the wrong word inserted, or fact omitted, can unravel days or weeks of work to get an offender in front of a court and dealt with appropriately.

They are abused, spat on, bitten, kicked, punched, knocked to the ground and rammed while sitting in patrol cars.

They wade through the slime of the subhuman underworld, where drug dealers, paedophiles, sex traffickers, gangsters, murderers and rapists flourish and are expected to be in top form to take their own children to school, to fit in with the ‘normal’ lives of their partners, to cope with their ‘normal’ lives as soon as they finish a shift.

And at the first sign of disruption in the lives of most of us, they are the first people we call because we know, we expect, we demand even, they get here and get here fast.

To do all that in a world where their every step is recorded by batteries of mobile phones, where they are expected to be unfailingly polite in the face of the vilest invective, where any violent reaction to the most determined and vicious provocation makes them instantly guilty in the eyes of the public, has to be worth something.

It's certainly worth a hell of a lot more than an insulting 2 per cent offer for a pay rise.

From a government headed by a man who just weeks ago had to cop a $46,522 pay rise (making him the highest paid political leader in the country behind the Prime Minister, on $441,439).

At the same time all Ministers (and the Opposition Leader) received a pretty sweet 11.8 per cent boost in time for Christmas – and obscenely outstripping the inflation rate of 1.6 per cent.

Even your great unwashed on the back benches happily accepted a 3.5 per cent , giving them a basic salary of $182,413 (which goes stratospheric when you add benefits).

Yet it is this lot, as a collective, who have seen fit to demean the work by its police force, and most other public service workers; to steadfastly refuse to move a millimetre towards a serious offer for people performing some of the most serious work in modern society, where not everyone thinks and acts like a modern person or is very sociable.

Today police across the state will be taking industrial action.

But they remain so dedicated to their duty it won’t be industrial action to parallel shutting down public transport, grounding planes, or shutting down public utilities.

No, today our police will be at work.

If you really need them, they will be there.

Their industrial action will revolve around not fining you for a raft of offences, to even letting you know where speed cameras are (although many of them will struggle to do that, so aware of our soaring road toll).

They will be doing things that might marginally impact on the cash flow of a government which is splashing billions of dollars on winning votes – and many of us are waiting for updates on the next announcement of project cost blowouts.

Probably also in the billions.

Don’t think you are an observer here either.

We can all do something to help.

This newspaper is drawing attention to it; you can write to the government, you can complain to your local member, you can simply give a police officer a pat on the back and an “attaboy” next time you bump into one.

There would be no shortage of people who might like to give the Premier a smack over the back of the head, plenty who want to call him or members of his government all sorts of names.

But none of these people can be found circulating the mean streets, out there in pairs in the dark hours wondering what’s around the next corner, or even dressed in a uniform that makes them unmissable, even in a crowd.

No, they are busy shining their suit pants or power dresses sitting on committee chairs and probing every little nook and cranny that will allow them to reject the police appeal for a lousy 4 per cent – and go home to their ‘normal’ sixfigure salary lives.

Knowing when they walk through their front door the chances someone is waiting their with a gun or a baseball bat are pretty damn slim.

So slim, it never crosses their minds.

There is a quid pro quo here – but not the one where the government gets to keep the quid and the coppers deliver the pro quo.

The police have been asked to do a job and they do it incredibly well.

The same cannot be said of the Andrews Labor Government, as the Premier and his Cabinet cronies love to label themselves.