Police Minister Bill Byrne accused of silence on police assaults

Police Minister Bill Byrne defended his record on standing up for police victims of assault. Photo: Chris HydeQueensland’s Police Minister has been accused of not doing enough as health authorities ramped up a campaign to stop violence against doctors, nurses and paramedics.

The Queensland Police Union questioned where Police Minister Bill Byrne had been during Health Minister Cameron Dick’s repeated recent condemnation of attacks on health workers.

Mr Byrne denied not standing up for police.

The latest Queensland Ambulance Service figures showed 142 reports of physical assaults on ambulance workers in the seven months to January 31, compared with 170 in the entire previous year.

QPU Metro North regional representative Shayne Maxwell pointed to QPS annual statistical review figures for 2015/16 showing a “whopping” 2192 assaults on police, or six assaults every day.

“I wondered why the Police Minister and other Labor government representatives were not standing beside the Health Minister, stating that all emergency workers and first responders deserve protection while performing duties,” Mr Maxwell wrote in the latest Police Journal.

“… I know policing is a dangerous occupation, but every police officer desires (and deserves) to be protected when performing their duties.”

Assaulting a public officer, whether police, paramedic, nurse or doctor, brings with it a maximum sentence of 14 years but rarely are dealth sentences anywhere near that figure.

Matthew James Thielemans-Stirling, 25, was sentenced to 18 months’ in jail, with parole after six, for the high-profile bashing of paramedic Brad Johnson, leading some to say it wasn’t long enough and call for mandatory sentencing.

Mr Maxwell repeated QPU calls for mandatory sentencing of anyone convicted of assaulting police officers and asked why a taskforce had not been created to tackle police assaults, echoing one set up for medical professionals.

Mr Byrne said he was against mandatory sentencing and he did not have any concerns with recent sentences handed out for assaults on police.

He defended his record on standing up for police by saying he fought to have paramedics and other health officers included when the Newman government first proposed a doubling of the maximum penalty for police assaults.

“I’ve been actively engaged talking to other services, for which I don’t have direct portfolio responsibility and appropriately addressed by government through policy and education,” he said.

“It’s a public position that we’ve taken, it’s one that I fully support and of course police are not being left out of the discussion in any way shape or form.”

Also on Thursday, Mr Byrne announced $32 million for new and replacement police vehicles in response to complaints from the union police were having to trade cars between stations and catch public transport to court appearances and other duties.

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