No: 1

Autumn 2001

Youth a target of new Nazi-style police powers

by Andrew Jackson
"Nazi-style" legislation and finger pointing at ethnic communities will do nothing to solve Australia's growing drug and crime problems. Tackling poverty through education and employment is the only answer.

In the last two weeks a number of politicians and police have exploited figures showing a growth in violent and drug-related crime to vilify immigrant communities and propose new laws which seriously erode civil rights.

In an interview in which he expressed "real concern" about the rise of violent crime in Australia, Commissioner Mr Mick Palmer squarely pointed the finger at Lebanese and Vietnamese immigrants.

"It's related to some of the ethnicity of some of the people involved in the (drug) trade and the fact that the use of knives and guns is a more familiar part of the criminal side of those cultures than has been the case in Australia", Mr Palmer said.

"I think that it is to some extent a reflection of the behaviour that would have been more likely to be acceptable in the countries from which these people came", he said, suggesting that violent crime was acceptable to migrants from Vietnam and Lebanon, because they came from violent countries.

His statements have been slammed as ignorant and unbelievable by the Chairman of the Ethnic Communities' Council of NSW, Mr Salvatore Scevola.

"We acknowledge that there are pockets of the community stricken with very low socio-economic circumstances, and accept that the precipitation of crime is born of these conditions and not ethnic solidarity", he said.

NSW Premier Bob Carr's analysis of the situation was less than helpful.

Also refusing to acknowledge the socio-economic causes of crime, Mr Carr intervened in the debate with "there are some people on the fringes of that community who've got a criminal history in their own country and (are) replicating in Australia some of the practices they've bought with them".

He very quickly went on to point the finger at sections of, "the Vietnamese or the Indo-Chinese in Cabramatta, the Lebanese at Lakemba" as responsible for Sydney's problems.

The rise in violent crime is also being used as an excuse to attack civil rights.

Commissioner Palmer suggested overhauling the legal system and changing some of the fundamental principals of justice that operate in Australia.

He wants a review of the "right to silence"; and he would like to see a reversal in the "onus of proof", so that people who are charged must prove their innocence, rather than being innocent until proven guilty. He would also like to see "hearsay evidence" admissible in court.

Premier Carr is demanding a "new generation of policing initiatives", a further erosion of civil rights.

His proposed new legislation has been attacked as "Nazi-style" by the President of the Law Society of NSW.

One of the new initiatives is likely to be the power to "remove from the streets" anyone they suspect who might want to buy drugs. There will be no evidence required, no purchase made, and no actual possession of narcotics for the police to be able to use this power.

It is immediately evident against whom these special powers would be used Lebanese and Vietnamese youth.

Statements by people in power, such as Commissioner Palmer and Premier Carr blaming immigrants for crime and violence, without proper analysis of the causes, will throw fuel on the fire of racist sentiment in Australia.

The very next day a letter appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald, the author obviously feeling emboldened by the Commissioner's words to offer more blatantly racist commentary.

"For many years now the obvious relationship between violent Asian crime and the cult of multiculturalism has been downplayed and denied" harped the author, one Frank Robinson of Lindfield.

He then went on to warn that if Australia didn't re-institute a policy of ethnic purity then "another Yugoslavia" would ensue.

The Howard Government has justified its high-security refugee detention centres by saying they are a necessary precaution against criminals arriving from overseas, a stance the United Nations has condemned as racist.

The statements by Commissioner Palmer and Premier Carr that crime in Australia is not a result of any failure by the government, but that it is imported, will only see the razor wire stacked more highly on the fences of "fortress Australia".

Ethnic communities are scapegoated by governments to cover for the lack of action around the real issue poverty.

Youth unemployment stands at 27.8 percent nationally, with the rate in some immigrant communities, and amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders being much higher.

Literacy rates are low, a basic university education now costs over $10,000 and billions of dollars have been cut from employment services and training budgets.

Until some very basic remedies are applied to these fundamental problems, crime will continue to rise, and all Australians will suffer.

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