Julia Gillard’s campaign to tackle criminal gangs is wobbling, with three state governments unhappy about her idea of national laws and a crime statistician saying she has exaggerated the gun problem in NSW.
As part of her five-day campaign to win back Labor votes in western Sydney, the Prime Minister has talked tough on law and order.
On Sunday, she announced a $64 million ”national anti-gang taskforce”. Ms Gillard said: ”When we look at the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, we see that over the past 15 years, shootings in public places have soared.”
But the director of the bureau, Don Weatherburn, said Ms Gillard was wrong to claim that shootings had ”soared”. According to Dr Weatherburn, the number of non-fatal shooting offences in NSW peaked in 2001 and then began to fall.
Ms Gillard has pitched her new gang policies as the government’s way of reining in the violence on suburban streets and in particular in western Sydney, where Labor could lose more than 10 seats in the September election.
At a press conference in Punchbowl on Wednesday, Ms Gillard said she would ask the state premiers at next month’s Council of Australian Governments meeting to endorse new national laws that would give the federal government unprecedented powers to tackle organised crime.
”National laws will prevent members of organised criminal groups from easily shifting their operations to other states and territories,” she said.
The new national laws would include powers to seize ”unexplained wealth” from criminals, including cash, cars and houses.
Courts would be allowed to label a particular group as a ”criminal organisation” and then impose controls on the gang, such as banning members from visiting their clubhouse.
But for Ms Gillard’s plan to work she needs the states to agree to refer their powers to the Commonwealth. At least three appear unwilling.
Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark said he thought national laws would ”risk disrupting the states’ work in tackling drug trafficking and other organised crime”.
The federal government failed last year to convince the states to accept national anti-gang laws.
”There is nothing in today’s announcement to suggest the Commonwealth has changed its position from the proposal already rejected,” Mr Clark said.
Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie accused Ms Gillard of trying to take revenue from the states and said he would not relinquish the Queensland government’s powers to confiscate unexplained wealth.
West Australian Premier Colin Barnett said his state would co-operate ”where the Commonwealth could play a role” but ”we’re not going to hand over powers”.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.