There was an undesirable intervention this week into the debate about African gangs in Melbourne, namely that a judge thought it was appropriate to intervene in what is essentially a political issue. This is, unfortunately, not a unique occurrence in Melbourne, as we have had serving judges appear on Q&A, participate in the campaign against capital punishment and, most recently, engage in a public spat with a federal minister, Peter Dutton, on the very subject of African gang violence. It has surprised and disappointed me very much that it has happened and even more so that no-one in authority has reminded judges that this sort of intervention in political issues is not acceptable under our system of government. But, there you are, we have had it, and now we have had it again.
But before going on, let us get one thing straight. There is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, very real concern in Melbourne about African gangs, the threat they pose to peoples’ peace and security and the apparent reluctance of the police to admit it or do anything serious about it. It is shaping up to be a typical divide between what the people know is going on and what authority figures falsely deny. It was best summed up by the man in the street interviewed for last week’s Four Corners whitewash of the crisis when he said: ‘The politicians and our councillors say the African crime wave is not happening. We know that it is.’ The pathetic excuse is given that there may be African gang violence, but it is only one per cent of crime and therefore it does not really matter and does not deserve special treatment.
That argument is an insult to the middle-aged woman who was terrified by Africans wielding hammers as they smashed up the jewellery shop where she worked, the families terrified by house and car invasions, the young chef beaten up by another African gang outside a restaurant in St Kilda (critics of Peter Dutton please note) and the ordinary citizens terrified by the new phenomena in Fitzroy of African gangs fighting between themselves (the current tally of injuries includes the amputation of a leg!).
So Peter Dutton was not exaggerating when he said that people are concerned what might happen to them at night, and part of the reason is that the police keep covering it up and pretending it is not serious, while the Green left mafia who are besotted by Africans are only too keen to pretend the crisis is being used as some sort of excuse for a racist pogrom. Who would bother? The only reason people are concerned about African crime is that it exists, people are the victims and they are sick of it. So it is the response from the state government, the police and, most recently and most disturbingly, the Chief Judge of the County Court, Peter Kidd that is starting to convince people that they are not being protected by the authorities.
The state government says basically: ‘Nothing to see here. All good.’ The police have contributed to the present crisis. When they had some guts on this issue they started to keep records of African crime. They were then sued for racial profiling and of course gave in and settled the case for undisclosed damages. You, dear taxpaying reader, have the privilege of paying it. I warned at the time in these pages that this capitulation would generate further claims and, lo and behold, the Four Corners program revealed that there is another class action being prepared.
As for the judge in particular, he should have kept well out of it as it is no role for a judge to be expressing views on political and government issues, criticising ‘politicians’ as he described them for their comments on lenient sentencing, particularly during an election campaign and particularly when opposing political parties are taking competing positions on a current matter of controversy.
When ‘politicians’ criticise judges for lenient sentences, they get agitated, threaten contempt of court and get a lot of support from media like the Age. A judge criticising parliamentarians, who have actually been elected, is also a breach of the same principle of the separation of powers. It should be followed by a similar rebuke from the Age, more senior judges and the state Attorney-General. If not, and if the signal we get is that this judicial intervention is approved by silence, the whole system of justice will suffer. But don’t hold your breath waiting.
If we thought that moving children from Manus Island and Nauru to Australia could be done without putting the successful refugee policy at risk, we are sadly mistaken. This is the crack of light in the policy that the people smugglers and their fellow travellers who want to swamp Australia with irregular refugees have been waiting for. It is as clear a message as you could want or imagine that if you can get anywhere near Australia and be sent to Manus or Nauru, all you need is patience and eventually you will be on your way to Australia or the United States. It is a direct failure of the Morrison government to uphold the refugee policy and we will soon see the result.