Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has blasted the Victorian Labor government over African street crime, claiming residents of Australia’s second-largest city were scared to go out to restaurants at night.
In a dramatic intervention in the state’s crime debate, Mr Dutton accused Premier Daniel Andrews of undermining the police and the courts and said political correctness had “taken hold” in the state.
‘They don’t belong in Australian society’: Dutton
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has lashed out at the Victorian government, saying it has not done enough to stem “African gang violence”.
Mr Dutton told Sydney radio station 2GB that “people are scared to go out to restaurants of a night time because they are followed home by these gangs” and were worried about home invasions and cars being stolen, but did not provide any evidence to support these claims.
“You look at some of the jokes of sentences that are being handed down, there’s no deterrence at the moment,” the newly installed Home Affairs Minister and former police officer said.
“And the state government’s wrapped its police force up in this politically correct conversation – which I think they’re trying to break out of and they are trying to do the right thing – but I think the state government’s really been caught flat-footed.”
Mr Dutton claimed police were getting a “go soft” message from the state government, which he also criticised for appointing civil libertarians to the judiciary.
“We just need to call it for what it is. Of course it’s African gang violence. It’s not the whole community, there are many good people within the community that would condemn this action as strongly as you and I would…and have done so, and to their credit.
Acting Victorian Premier Tim Pallas has hit back, accusing the federal government of cutting funding that Victoria could have used for law enforcement.
“We take our advice on these matters from Victoria Police, not from desperate politicians propping up a desperate prime minister and his desperate government,” he said.
“These ridiculous comments made on Sydney radio are not only wrong, they are particularly galling given Malcolm Turnbull wants to cut $972 million from Victoria’s GST share – the equivalent of 7,700 frontline police officers.”
Victoria’s Youth Affairs Minister Jenny Mikakos says tackling youth crime and gang violence will take more than the simplistic answers offered up by critics.
“For those people who are running around putting about simplistic answers, all I can say is that is a complete con job,” she told reporters in Melbourne.
“Because one thing alone is not going to fix this issue.”
Ms Mikakos said youth crime is not a new issue, and authorities have been working with police and community organisations to focus on prevention and early intervention for a number of years.
“We have a very significant number of young people of African descent in custody in our youth justice system at the moment,” Ms Mikakos said.
While people of Sudanese backgrounds are over-represented in crime statistics, Victoria’s youth crime rates have been declining for a decade and the last quarter of 2017 saw a drop in overall crime.
Mr Dutton said the independence of the courts should be respected but insisted they weren’t above criticism, going on to attack “pathetically weak” decisions by some magistrates.
On Tuesday, Victorian Police Minister Lisa Neville and acting chief commissioner Shane Patton vowed youth gangs would be stamped out but sought to downplay concerns the state was facing a crisis.
Ms Neville and Mr Patton said four high-profile incidents in December linked to African youths had fuelled a misconception that police were not willing to call out and address gang violence.
Police have expressed caution about describing the spate of activity as “gang crime” because the core group of youths taking to the streets were not actually involved in organised crime.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Monday said the federal government was “very concerned about the growing gang violence and lawlessness in Victoria”.
Mr Dutton also criticised federal Labor leader Bill Shorten for opposing government legislation that would have required aspiring Australian citizens to demonstrate steps to integrate with Australian society.
“As a Victorian, frankly, he should know first hand why this is important and there’s, I think, a long way to run in this debate,” Mr Dutton said. “But the short answer is that, if people haven’t integrated, if they are not abiding by our laws, if they don’t adhere to our culture, then they are not welcome here.”