From January, a story that flitted across the headlines and which now bears re-visiting: Victoria’s Chief Commissioner of Police, Graham Ashton, was slugged with a $190 fine for exceeding a freeway speed limit by a shocking eight kilometres per hour. That was amusing in itself, as some $800 million a year is wrung from Garden State drivers who are nailed, in the vast majority of cases, for “offences” that in any foreign jurisdiction most likely would be ignored. Who doesn’t enjoy seeing a biter bitten?
Why drag up Ashton’s lead-footed transgression today, when the city on the Yarra is enjoying both its Labour Day public holiday and a parade down Swanston Street, the annual festival of hokey fun that Melbournians know as Moomba?
Just this: on Saturday night in Federation Square there was a full-blown race riot as one street gang, the Apex boys, consisting primarily of Africans, rumbled with members of another, Islanders 23, composed for the most part of Pacific Islanders. If you happen to live in unfashionable Dandenong, an outer Melbourne suburb, such a conflict would be remarkable only for its size, as young multiculturalists beating the daylights out of each other is something to which law-abiding residents have long since grown accustomed. The Channel 9 report below should be watched, as images convey the havoc far better than mere words.
What made the weekend’s fist fest unusual was that the antagonists shipped their violence into the heart of the CBD, where thousands of peaceful and inoffensive folk, including many families with small children, were on hand to enjoy a Moomba fireworks display. They were obliged to scurry for cover, some barricading themselves in restaurants, others seeking sanctuary behind the turnstiles at Flinders Street Station. Coffee-sippers at Brunetti’s in the City Square were less fortunate, as the tide of lawless youth rolled over them in a wave of flying chairs, random brutality and the odd, opportunistic mugging. The rioters owned the streets and for two hours went at it hammer and tongs.
According to reports, very few police were present to contest control of the streets with the CBD invaders. By one account, fewer than a dozen officers, hopelessly outnumbered, were on hand when the violence first erupted.
Which brings us back to Commissioner Ashton’s speeding fine and the real shame of Saturday night: a simple truth, one most often ignored, is that Victoria’s citizens now fall into two distinct classes, each subject to radically different treatment by those charged with enforcing the law.
In the first category, we have families like those that assembled on Saturday for the innocent fun of skyrockets and eye-catching explosions. No doubt many in Federation Square had driven into town and, like all Victorians everywhere and every day, would have kept a wary eye on their speedos. When the Police Commissioner, presumably a man of the greatest probity, can have his wallet considerably lightened for what, as he admitted, was a momentary lapse of attention unlikely to do anyone any harm, no one is safe from the revenuers.
Think of these Victorians as the softest of soft targets. As they can be filmed, fined and fleeced with lucrative impugnity, so they are. Any objection to such treatment is met with lectures and publicity campaigns about the road toll, which has flat-lined over recent decades at around 300 lost lives per year. Unmentioned is that, back in the Seventies, when the state’s population was half what it is today, well over 1000 Victorians were killing themselves and others every year on our roads. It was a shameful waste of life and the police of the day did themselves proud by implementing a determined and sustained effort to reverse the carnage. The assault on drink-drivers, on speed demons, boy racers and those who spurn seat belts or accelerate through school crossings worked a treat, as the remarkable decrease in road fatalities attests.
Unfortunately, as is the way of all bureaucracies, including those dressed in blue, once the war had been won those who prosecuted it kept right on with business as usual, providing a case study in diminishing returns. More speed cameras, bigger fines, slick and shocking big-budget TV ads – huge investments, in other words, for insignificant gains. Insignificant, that is, if one overlooks the ever-increasing haul in fines. The simple fact is that if citizens are allowed to move about the streets in heavy tin boxes, some will bump into others or something else. Given the expanding population and the ever-increasing number of cars on the roads, the annual toll is probably as low as it is likely to get. So, as further significant gains must be considered unlikely, a reasonable soul might conclude the time had long since passed for authorities to turn their attention, their manpower and resources to more pressing problems. The ability of blameless citizens to watch fireworks in peace on a pleasant March evening is surely one of them.
This is where it is important to recognise citizenry’s second category. For at least a decade now, crime and violence involving ethnic gangs have been increasing in and around Dandenong, the location’s amenity considerably diminished by thuggery and brazen defiance of the law. If one swallows the brochuresmanship of multiculturalism’s professional advocates, life in Dandenong and environs is a showpiece of amicable diversity. This is where Muslim schoolkids don’t have to sing the National Anthem, where a nearby municipal pool installs curtains in order to spare the female faithful the indignity of being exposed to infidel eyes, and non-Muslim swimmers are ordered to cover their shoulders lest newcomers take offence. It is also a place where, when a minority teen dies in a gang rumble, “community spokesmen” jostle to go before the cameras and explain that the kids with baseball bats and machetes can’t really be blamed because they have yet to fully grasp the different attitudes of the society which has taken them in. Funny thing that: quaint Australian conventions, such as not waging war on the streets, are hard to comprehend, yet the mores of US gangsta culture, with its colour-coded bandanas and rappers’ hymns to violence and misogyny, are easily assimilated. Go figure that one.
To get a glimpse of what life is like in Dandenong, watch the video below. It is part of a series shot by someone who lives there, and the fact that it is an amateur production, rather than a product of the mainstream media, is telling. Few reporters, bless their bourgeois bottoms, live in Dandenong, so the idea of exploring a community’s fragmentation and disintegration holds little appeal. Much better to write about same-sex marriage or the perils of climate change, as those are topics newsroom colleagues care about much more than the emergence of an imported, violent and alien underclass. And anyway, what reporter wants to be dragged before the Press Council to answer some activist’s lawfare complaint of racism?
Behold the second category of citizens, the hard targets it is not in the best interest of any police officer’s career to restrain or rebuke. Consider the fate of three officers from Sunshine, on the other side of Melbourne, who printed and distributed 50 stubby holders for their comrades’ amusement and private use. These were decorated with a cartoon picture of catfish and this was taken by community activists as an insult to new arrivals from Africa. Black residents, according to those same activists, are sometimes called “mudfish”, the murky bottom being where catfish find their dinners. Those officers were soon out of a job and the stubbie holders incinerated. Ethnic friction and crime in the area continues.
Or think, too, of the settlement reached in 2013 by Victoria Police when taken to court by six young African men who insisted they were victims of racial discrimination. The facts of the matter are undisputed: The men ran from their vehicle and scattered after being pulled over by police on the look-out for a group, described as being of similarly “African appearance”, which had earlier beaten and mugged passersby. What is a street cop to make of that? One obvious conclusion: if a suspect flees and he happens to be black, it may well mean more trouble than it is worth to pursue him.
When Commissioner Ashton broke the law he turned on a snivelling display of contrition and self-criticism that would have gladdened the hearts of Mao’s Red Guards. It was quite the performance. His mind had wandered, he confessed, but avowed that it was no excuse – and he was right about that, as tens of thousands of fellow Victorians have discovered when they appeal their speeding fines.
When a race riot erupts in the heart of a major city, it is not only a Chief Commissioner’s mind that must have wandered. If the primary focus of the law and legislators has drifted so far that it is now fixed on extracting fines and revenues from motorists while kid-glove, politically correct treatment leads others to believe they can make city streets their battlegrounds, then it is self-evident that priorities and purpose have slipped a good deal further, and far more dangerously, than a top cop’s foot on the accelerator.
Roger Franklin is the editor of Quadrant Online.