Australia: This story just got a whole lot interesting as everything Debnam claimed is showing to be fact.
|Peter Debnam, in the riskiest political move of his five months so far as Opposition leader in NSW, took up the cause. He claimed the state Labor Government of Premier Morris Iemma had encouraged police to go soft on revenge attackers, most thought to be Middle Eastern, because of what he called Labor's political correctness.
Bashings of whites in the southern suburbs followed the riots, as did damage to cars and businesses, mostly smashed windows. One youth has been jailed after an Australia flag was torn down and burnt.
Debnam expanded the conspiracy theory to say many Labor politicians including Iemma, whose electorate of Lakemba has a large Lebanese population, were "indebted" to that community, in part because of the stacking of local Labor branches with members of Middle Eastern descent.
Iemma and NSW police commissioner Ken Moroney described the claims as untrue, outlandish and offensive. Moroney said it had been easy to arrest the whites because of high-quality television video footage. No videos existed of the revenge attacks, he said. Task Force Enoggera, set up with 28 officers to investigate revenge attacks, would do the job.
Then all hell broke loose. Channel Nine broadcast a closed-circuit video showing about 30 Lebanese bashing a bystander at Cronulla after the riot. It's debatable just how recognisable the faces are, but it's expected some perpetrators will be identifiable to those who know them.
Debnam claimed vindication – the police had the evidence, and did not act on it. Iemma and Moroney had a political problem on their hands. They held a joint news conference at which Moroney announced he'd sacked the Enoggera commander, detective-superintendent Dennis Bray, and replaced him with detective-superintendent Ken McKay.
Iemma said he was providing additional resources – quadrupling the size of Enoggera to 100 officers and setting up a permanent Middle Eastern organised-crime task force. But the damage was done – Debnam's conspiracy theory looked credible again. |
Bray held on to the video for five weeks
|Malcolm Kerr, a Liberal MP whose seat is Cronulla, says he's had a stream of constituents come into his office complaining of inaction by the police on revenge attacks despite what they said was clear evidence.
Some locals may have believed Moroney when he said the lack of video evidence was the problem. "When the video turned up with that guy being attacked, it blew that out of the water," Kerr says. And, says Kerr, the fact that Iemma announced a huge increase in officers for Enoggera shows he did not take the issue seriously enough at the outset. "If the Government now says the task needs much greater resources, they should have put them in at the start five weeks earlier, when the clues were still hot," Kerr says.
Iemma and Moroney still say the police have not been soft on Middle Eastern crime. But the evidence suggests otherwise. A notorious police document outlines how, the night after the Sunday riots, "numerous vehicles were sighted congregated in the vicinity of Punchbowl Park [in Sydney's inner southwest]".
"These vehicles and the crowd that had been gathered were suspected to be Middle Eastern criminals who have been involved in malicious damage and civil disobedience offences throughout the Sutherland Shire and St George areas," the document says. "A direction was given to police around midnight not to enter the area and antagonise these persons."
According to former police officers, it's not unusual. The police don't take on Lebanese gangs. But Debnam has not provided any evidence to back up his assertion that the Government specifically ordered the police to go soft on Middle Eastern crime.|
What? They don't go after Lebanese gangs, they don't go after Lebanese rioters, a top cop hides a tape for five week backing up the fact they were not doing their jobs, but no evidence they go soft on Middle Eastern crime. In cases like this, the government doesn't have to send out a damn memo, its understood.
|However, some former police officers, such as former police assistant commissioner and ministerial adviser Geoff Schuberg, say that, leaving the wilder elements of Debnam's conspiracy theory aside, there are some real reasons why the police are soft on Middle Eastern crime. One is politicisation of the police force in which police commissioners are less independent from ministers, and police are nervous right down the line of doing something that could be seen as politically incorrect or lead to a complaint of racial targeting.
Schuberg says Moroney could stand up more to the gangs and the Government. "As a police commissioner you need to be a bit of a mongrel and give firm direction," he says. "I don't see that in Ken."
A second factor put forward by Schuberg, and well-known former detective Tim Priest, is that the skills inculcated in police officers have shifted from an emphasis on old-fashioned street policing to a more cerebral curriculum stressing socially conscious policing.
"The old school of police of the past has been replaced with academics, who haven't the stomach," Priest says.
The third factor, Schuberg and Priest say, is plain fear of Lebanese gangs that, they say, have absolutely no respect for police, threaten to harm their families and have weapons they are quite prepared to use.|
NSW has a fine police force working there serving and protecting themselves.
|"There is an old Arabic saying, 'Me and my brother against my cousin, me and my cousin against the world'," says one Lebanese leader. Randa Kattan, the executive director of the Arab Council Australia, believes there was possibly some underlying frustration that spilt over during the revenge attacks.
"There is a lot of frustration in the community," she says. "They have had a lot to deal with since the rape stories [referring to infamous court cases]. It is a daily reality grappling with public opinion about Middle Eastern people and it won't go away very soon."
Scott Poynting, associate professor at the school of humanities and languages at the University of Western Sydney, says the idea "that good people of Cronulla were sick of bad behaviour of ethnically identifiable groups has been exaggerated to the point of urban myth".
"But a much longer-term causal factor is the anti-Muslim, anti-Arab sentiment that has been whipped up in Australia since the Tampa," says Poynting.
"The Carr government played up fear and ethnic crime because it was popular and it was successful as an electoral tactic. But it has built up damage." |
I knew it, its all whitey's fault. What a pathetic display of a lack of courage, conviction and duty shown by the police force.