Graham Ashton and Daniel Andrews Back at Work

As Victoria’s African youth gang crime wave exploded this month with violent crimes being committed on an almost daily basis by men described as being of African appearance Victorians have been crying out for leadership. Premier Daniel Andrews finally returned from holidays today and earlier this Victoria’s Police Commissioner Graham Ashton returned from six weeks of sick leave.

However given Graham Ashton’s response to the crime crisis many Victorians are wishing he stayed on holidays. Many were pleased that Acting Chief Commissioner Shane Patton finally used the term African street gangs to describe the spate of violent crimes. However yesterday Ashton at a press conference with African community leaders announced his solution was to form a new ­African-Australian community taskforce to work with police and to provide advice emerging issues and hot spots.

During this press conference Ashton claimed the recent spate of crimes were no cause for alarm “I don’t think it’s a crisis” adding “I’ve heard people say Victoria isn’t a safe place to live. That’s complete and utter garbage”. He also refused to use the term gang describing instead the violent criminal acts of African youths as “young people coming together and networking through social media and then engaging in criminal activity”.

Despite being a public servant who should not comment on political matters he took a swipe at Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s comments last week about Victorians being fearful to go out at night “I think everyone in this room would go out for dinner” and even going as far to claim “I don’t think anyone is sitting at home cowering with the sheets over their heads”. Some residents in Tarniet and Cranbourne would beg to differ.

Ashton and the African community leaders also played the victim themselves complaining about death threats they had received as public anger had boiled over. Any person in the public eye receives death threats and although they should never be excused it should hardly be the issue of concern at a press conference which is supposed to address actual violence.

Daniel Andrews on his first day back also took a swipe at Peter Dutton and tried to hose down growing public concern “I did have dinner out with my family and some friends and this is a great city and we are well served by I think, Australia’s best police force”.

However both figures did do at least some tough talking with Daniel Andrews saying his government would “throw the book” at violent young offenders and Graham Ashton stating that “When they commit appalling crimes they can expect to be swiftly locked up. There is still a zero tolerance”.

But it is clear that both Andrews and Ashton still aren’t understanding the widespread concern and anger in the Victorian community about the state’s crime wave. They would be better just admitting there is a crime crisis, end the denials and pledging to do better. The Andrews Government should also look at passing laws which make sure that the courts are less likely to hand out bail and community based orders to violent offenders.

Andres and Ashton being back on the job has not given Victorians the leadership on this issue they were asking for.

Tim Wilms

Tim Wilms is Editor-in-Chief of The Unshackled and host of The Unshackled Waves podcast. He is based in Melbourne, Victoria where he also does field reports.