The issue of Melbourne gang violence is getting more contentious, with prime minister Turnbull blaming the Victorian state government for “growing gang violence and lawlessness” across Victoria.
Home affairs minister Peter Dutton backed the PM, telling Sydney radio station 2GB this week that people in Melbourne are “scared to go out at restaurants” at night because of African street gang violence.”
“People don’t see this in NSW, in Queensland, but the reality is people are scared to go out at restaurants of a night time because they’re followed home by these gangs, home invasions, and cars are stolen,” Dutton said.
He added that the Victorian courts weren’t doing enough to deter juvenile offenders.
“I’ve said for a long time we need to respect the judiciary, but in the end the magistrates at a state level are appointed by the state premiers,” Dutton said.
“And if they’re employing civil libertarians and people who won’t put in place proper deterrence – well, you can expect the sort of outcomes we’ve seen in Victoria.”
The immigration minister also said offenders who remain in Australia on visas “do not belong in Australian society” and should be deported.
African community leaders have criticised the prime minister’s claims, telling ABC News “that using immigrants for ‘political gain’ will only create further division.”
“What disappointed me as a community leader is to see a prime minister of our country trying to say these are ‘African gangs’ — these are the children of Australia,” said South Sudanese community leader Richard Deng.
“He’s the prime minister, he needs to join hands with the State Government and police to support these kids.”
Deng challenged the PM to visit his community and speak directly with the children. He also said he did not like to use the word ‘gangs’.
“To be honest with you there are no gangs in Victoria,” he said, adding that a number of kids in his area had become disengaged with the community and fallen in with “ringleaders” who pushed them into crime.
“There are just a group of young kids who are going together in a group and they are terrorising people because they are going in a group.”
The community leader said that it would prove more beneficial to engage the kids with jobs and education, rather than giving them labels.