” … people are scared to go out to Melbourne restaurants of a night-time because they are followed home by these gangs …” People worry about home invasions and cars being stolen.” Peter Dutton’s New Year Message 4 January 2018.
At Heston Blumenthal’s Australian outpost, fireballs erupt outside the casino windows while a waiter freezes your ice-cream with liquid nitrogen, while, at Vue de Monde, patrons nibble on duck breast with fermented truffle.
Such culinary delights, alas, may soon be no more. Haute cuisine, imported wines and all the festive gaiety of a New Year’s nosh-up and natter with pals, once the birthright of every Melburnian, are now off the menu as violent gangs of black youths roam the streets driving honest, decent citizens away from eating out. Furtive, anti-social, home-delivered take-away or even DIY, stay at home, home cooking drudgery threaten to become the norm. Unless something is done.
Or at least that’s the government’s festive New Year’s message of peace on earth and goodwill to all white men. Hark, the herald angels at News Corp’s Herald Sun sing: glory to the new-born gang. Having promoted the “Apex gang”, they are now on to lurid accounts of a “violent crime spree” they wish us to imagine grips Melbourne’s western suburbs.
“Victoria, the state of fear”, they pun. The Herald Sun dedicates 28 front pages in a year to a Sudanese migrant “gang” which police confirm were always Australian born-offenders, never had a clubhouse or flag and is now disbanded.
It’s all part of the service News Corp provides to Coalition politicians who sniff votes in a law and order scare campaign.
News Corp’s scare-mongering flies in the face of the facts. Criminal incidents recorded in Victoria are down 4.8%. Victoria’s youth crime rates are declining slowly over the last decade. The proportion of young offenders, under 25, moreover, is falling from half of all incidents recorded in 2007-2008 to 40% of all incidents in 2015-2016.
As Ben Debney reports in New Matilda, migrant youth and newly arrived migrants are not involved in criminal activity. Less than 10 per cent are overseas-born offenders. After Australia, the second-highest country, of alleged offenders in Victoria is New Zealand (2.8 per cent of the total offenders), followed by India (1.5 per cent), Vietnam and Sudan (both 1.4 per cent). Victoria Police confirm that Apex members were from a variety of backgrounds.
Still, gang violence is a good stick to beat Labor with. Turnbull bags Daniel Andrews’ government for nurturing “Apex and Menace to Society gangs terrorising residents following a spate of thuggery across the city’s western suburbs”.
‘We are very concerned at the growing gang violence and lawlessness in Victoria, in particular in Melbourne … this is a failure of the Andrews Labor government,’ Turnbull tells reporters at Sydney’s Bondi Beach Monday before handing the moral panic job to his superior attack dog Peter Dutton. Greg Hunt helpfully yelps the same talking points.
Welcome to 2018. As befits his status as Home Affairs Minister, an MP suddenly more powerful than the PM, Coalition chief head-kicker, fear-monger and crisis lever puller-Dutton, leads his Orwellian government’s first Hate Week by demonising Sudanese-Australians. African gang violence is totally out of control. Something must be done.
And said. Like all bigots, Dutton pretends his cynical racism is just honest, plain speaking. Unlike Heston’s steak tartare, moral panic can’t be minced. Leave that to the mealy-mouthed left with their Mouli-grater of political correctness.
“We just need to call it for what it is.” Dutton has no idea what “it” is. If he can’t or won’t even define what he’s talking about or give some evidence or example, he can’t possibly “call it for what it is.” But he reserves the right to vilify.
Perhaps he’s alluding to the Herald Sun’s graphic tale of the slap where “escalating gang violence” in Werribee has left one woman disfigured and distraught.
“They told her to stay still for five minutes or they’d come back for her. She’s traumatised. They slapped her in the face and she’s got a fat lip.”
While there’s no doubt that the victim of the sensationalised attack may well be traumatised, there is no evidence that a Sudanese gang was involved. Just one witness reports to a News Corp scribe of seeing “men of African appearance”.
Victoria’s Police Minister, Lisa Neville, confirms that youth crimes in her state are mainly committed by Australians.
‘Overwhelmingly Australian citizens are the offenders, some of those are African-born.’
Yet none of this deters Dutton who is on cue to refine his PM’s “growing gang violence and lawlessness in Victoria”.
“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.”
Condemn this action? Last year South Sudanese community leader, Richard Deng helped set up a team of volunteers who patrol the western suburbs trying to prevent crime by engaging troubled South Sudanese youth.
30 volunteers now patrol the Wyndham area, 18 patrol the streets of Melton, and there are plans to recruit more volunteers across Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, Maribyrnong and Dandenong.
In fact, only one Sudanese man, Nelly Yoa has publicly supported Dutton’s nonsense that political correctness has helped create African gangs but MSM has published him everywhere. It’s almost as if he’s being groomed for Liberal politics.
Yet when Dutton rings the young Sudanese volunteer youth worker, Wednesday, Yoa says he politely rebukes the minister for his “reckless” and “exaggerated” comments about Melburnians being afraid to go to restaurants. Sadly for both parties, moreover, Nelly’s claims over his sporting career are revealed to be false.
So, too, are other claims. ABC News Radio’s Tracey Holmes speaking with the South Sudan Community Association in Victoria discovers that Nelly Yola is actually not working with the association; not in contact with community leaders.
But saddest of all, sanctimonious Paul Barry’s ABC’s Media Watch falls for Yoa’s claims — labelling him an “ex-professional footballer” despite there being no evidence of his football career. Not on your Nelly, Barry. It’s a no Yoa.
Hate week, or “Peter’s Panic attack” identifies the nation’s common enemy, unifies us against a nominated minority and diverts us from real threats to our security such as the impending energy crisis. Prices continue to soar despite talking-point-Turnbull and flip Frydenberg’s glib, risible, assurances they have our gas and electricity oligopolies under control.
In fact, Victorians’ electricity prices will rise 10-15%, courtesy of the Coalition’s failure to regulate the price-gouging industry or its labyrinthine, extortionate supply mechanism. This rise comes on top of last July’s rise which imposes a $44 million increase for health services as part of the new electricity contract, according to Health Purchasing Victoria, which is responsible for securing bulk power deals. Some Health services’ power bills doubled.
Cobdenhealth’s CEO Leonie Rooney says her regional service’s monthly bill is up about $4000 to more than $7000.
Gas producers continue to jack up local prices and to export 74m tonnes by 2018-19, up from 52.2m tonnes this year, with capacity growing to 88m tonnes as we challenge Qatar for world’s largest LNG exporter. All cool, says Turnbull.
“They have given us a guarantee that they will offer to the domestic market the gas that was identified as the expected demand shortfall, by AEMO, in 2018.” The PM cons no-one. It’s a non-binding fairy-floss agreement and the ACCC’s December report says prices remain too high. The market is not functioning effectively. Big companies may have experienced some price relief but smaller operators and domestic consumers will still pay rates which were too high.
A slew of other problems afflicts a government whose big win, its raison d’être, is to cut corporate tax rates by increasing income taxes on middle-income wage earners. Its Centrelink war on the poor is going well, too. Knight errant of neoliberal austerity, the very undistinguished, Christian Porter has now been over-promoted to Attorney-General.
A former failed WA Treasurer, Porter maintains Centrelink’s Robo-debt recovery program is “working incredibly well”.
Like Dutton, he can scapegoat and demonise the poor as unworthy dole-bludgers, a drain on the public purse who can’t be trusted not to rort their pension claims. Accordingly each is deemed guilty until they prove their innocence.
This can be impossible, especially for women who are more likely in our gig economy “precariat” to hold a range of poorly-paid part-time casual jobs. One woman, reports Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie, was expected to get documents from five employers she had worked for in a seven-year period, one of whom was no longer in business.
The high error rate among 20,000 notices produced weekly brought a sharp public and political backlash against the Coalition and prompted both the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Senate to investigate the scheme.
There’s a herd of other elephants in the room. Alan Austin reports our economy collapsed inexcusably during the two years Joe Hockey was treasurer. But it has tanked even further, except for the very rich, since Morrison replaced him.
And – despite his denials, we experience galloping economic inequality, a demoralised, underpaid, increasingly part-time and insecure casual workforce, homelessness, not to mention housing unaffordability and a housing bubble. Nauru and Manus smoulder. Then there’s Australia’s male violence epidemic, still too often misleadingly termed domestic violence.
ABC’s Emma Alberici takes issue with Dutton’s scapegoating of Sudanese when the minister could more profitably turn his faux concern for victims of gang violence and deploy his resources to deal with male violence towards women.
Victoria recorded 90,000 family violence offences in 2017. Family violence accounts for 17.5% of all crime in the state. One woman a week in Australia dies at the hands of a current or former intimate partner.
What crime is “out of control”? Family violence is “out of control” She tweets.
Dutton is already way out of control. Yet his understated delivery, like a drunk’s deliberate phrasing gives him away. He’s a plain speaker, he insists. Nuanced language just can’t be trusted. Like Trump, he poses as blunt, homespun and trustworthy. He also shrewdly exploits populist anti-intellectualism. Tellingly, in 2016, Dutton attacked Labor’s leader.
“Bill Shorten can carry on being part of the tricky elite in this country,”… “He can talk double-code to people, he can be tricky in his language. I’m not going to be intimidated by it.”
Confusing racial vilification or offensive speech with honesty is part of Peter’s plain speaking shtick. Calling it for what is. Part of Peter’s appeal is that we already know what he’ll say. He’s said most of it before. More than once.
“The vast majority of Lebanese-Australians are law-abiding, hard-working, good, decent people who are besmirched by a small element within their community who are doing the wrong thing,” he said in November only last year.
It’s dangerous dog-whistling which encourages racists to make threats and post insults to South Sudanese community leaders on social media, but then, Il Duce Dutton is the most dangerous politician in the country.
His Home Affairs combines ASIO with Australian Border Force, Australian Federal Police, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) and the Office of Transport Authority.
Dutton’s been over-promoted, a textbook example of The Peter principle in politics, stratospherically beyond his own competence. A serial failure, the worst Health Minister in 35 years, according to a magazine survey of doctors and a Minister whose mission to blend Border Force with Immigration, still eludes him, now has a swag of other ministries to administer. The responsibilities would tax even a capable administrator. But he loves talk-back shows.
Of course there’s no real talking back with a minister who opens his mind only to give you a piece of it. He gives us his Wild West weed-killer formula for a tolerant, sophisticated, multicultural and compassionate society.
“We need to weed out the people who have done the wrong thing, deport them where we can, but where they are Australian citizens, we need to deal with them according to the law.” Yep. Round ’em up and run ’em out of town.
African leaders warn that Dutton’s out of touch and dangerous. Many young offenders were in fact born here, they add, while those who are not Australian citizens would be returning to war-torn death zones if they were to be deported.
But Dutton has no time for facts. And if he doesn’t like the look of you, you’re gone, as many Kiwi deportees now on Christmas Island have discovered.
Vigilantism, demonising and scapegoating work a treat on talkback’s echo-chamber where petty-minded opinion recycles in an endlessly recirculating spin like the fan above the warm fug of the front-bar of some country pub.
Dutton turns lazily like a basking shark in the shallows of populist ignorance on 2GB’s Chris Smith Show. Slow, talking out-spoken Pete shows off his strong moral leadership, nurturing yet inflaming his listeners’ prejudice dependency .
Dutton also keeps to the Coalition team plan of evading real challenges, as former Liberal leader, John Hewson, notes.
“In almost every area of public policy the real challenges have simply been kicked down the road by an obsession with short-term, opportunistic, mostly negative, point scoring and blame shifting,” writes John Hewson for Fairfax.
Attack-dog Dutton may not sully his assertions with evidence but he is swift to smear the judiciary. It’s de facto Liberal policy: Greg Hunt, Michael Zukkar and Alan Tudge did the same in July but were quickly forced to make grovelling “unreserved” apologies to the Victorian Supreme Court to avoid pending charges of contempt of court.
The Coalition’s Sisyphean task is to paint an image of lawless Victoria under a soft Andrews government in order to improve the chances of Matthew Guy’s opposition in November’s election on a tough on crime law and order ticket.
Guy’s mug already appears on Orwellian billboards reading “Safer communities; protecting your future.”
Yet Guy’s lobster with a mobster has blown his tough on crime campaign up in his face. Early last year, Guy enjoyed a crayfish and a few bottles of Grange with Tony Madafferi, whom police allege, is a Melbourne Calabrian Mafia Boss.
Tony, who has never been charged with any crime, and his relatives are long-term Liberal Party donors. The secret dinner at the Lobster Cave in Beaumaris, Guy squeaks had nothing to do with fund-raising. Nor did his 2013 meeting.
In 2013, a dumbfounded Guy found himself “unwittingly’ the star attraction at a fundraiser hosted by Madafferi at his Docklands venue centre. The Opposition leader was warned then about associating with alleged mafia figures.
Besides his interest in seafood, Madafferi is a prosperous market gardener who owns the La Porchetta, literally little pig or roast suckling pig pizza chain. Guy’s spokesman claims straight-faced, “The whole purpose of attending this gathering was to discuss public policy issues in relation to the vegetable-growing industry with some of the biggest users of the market.”
Yet in an affidavit filed in court in June, seeking his ban from Crown Casino and racetracks, Detective Superintendent Peter Brigham said police held “substantial intelligence” indicating that Mr Madafferi had “substantial and close involvement with serious criminal conduct including drug importation, murder and extortion”.
Mr Brigham also alleges that Mr Madafferi is “a known associate of prominent criminal entities and persons who have a history of significant criminal conduct that includes money laundering and drug trafficking”.
The ban succeeds. Yet Mathew Guy invites Madafferi and his associates to a slap-up meal in a sea-food restaurant?
Also heroically reckless, or Trumpian, Junkyard Dutton follows Hunt, Zukkar Tudge in slagging off the judiciary whilst effortlessly spurning respected research disproving the populists’ nostrum that harsh sentences deter crime.
But let’s be fair, as a former Queensland policeman, Dutton may be a tad underdone on criminology. Doubtless, he’d dismiss Victoria as a hotbed of permissiveness but his call for stiffer sentence is cynical populist nonsense, as The Victorian sentencing advisory council concludes:
The evidence from empirical studies of deterrence suggests that the threat of imprisonment generates a small general deterrent effect. However, the research also indicates that increases in the severity of penalties, such as increasing the length of terms of imprisonment, do not produce a corresponding increase in deterrence.
Yet super-minister Dutto can ignore the separation of powers and criminological evidence at the same time.
Dutton knows how to talk tough. His comfortingly-terrifying vision of a lawless, trendy-leftist, human-rightist, civil-libertarian, dystopian Victoria is a right-wing bigot’s nightmare. Victoria is being held to ransom by gangs of black thugs.
Blacks? “It’s an African gang problem”, “Benito” Dutton dog-whistles. And a conspiracy. Victoria’s civil-libertarian judiciary, appointed by Andrews’ socialist Labor government are telling magistrates and police to “go soft on crime”.
They are? It’s a libellous accusation and wilful disinformation- apart from being a parody of how our legal system works.
But Dutton’s a worry from top to toe. For starters, our Minister for Immigration speaks of “African gangs”? Does he not know The African Union and UN recognise 54 countries in Africa? No wonder the pace of refugee “processing” is glacial.
Luckily help is at hand. Like a rat up a drain-pipe, 2GB’s Smith, Dutton’s on-air message masseur, urger and bigotry facilitator du jour notes, glowingly, that “some leaders have spoken out” against the “car-jackings and home invasions”.
Smith spins the Aussie racist’s favourite long-playing broken record. Why don’t the black thugs’ community leaders step up and take control? The record’s been given a thrashing with Muslim community leaders. Now it’s time to point the finger at “The Sudanese Community” as if there is only one. “Some have,” Dutton chimes in.
Now he’s about to castigate the Sudanese-Australian community leaders for not controlling the minority of riff-raff in their communities as he did the Muslims, such a cunning double dog-whistle this time. Two ways migrants can fail.
Will the Coalition’s cunning plan succeed? Will Turnbull’s government ruin Andrews’ chances of re-election? Will the massive distraction of bagging African gangs in Victoria distract the entire nation from all the other ways the government is unable to keep its mind on the job? So far, the signs are not promising.
Matthew Guy who has a lot of skeletons in his law and order closet is backing off the African gang thing like a startled rat. Rupert Murdoch’s increasingly unread Herald Sun has over-egged the lawless state pudding while Melburnians who are not so easily put off a good night out their favourite eatery are already laughing all the way to the bistro.
Ultimately, however, regardless of the success of its cunning plan, the government’s unscrupulous resort to racist tactics for selfish political gain can only fan the flames of prejudice and intolerance and will already be causing incalculable suffering to individuals, families and to the nation as a whole. Turnbull’s New Year African gang-bash is an indictment; another lamentable failure of political judgement.