Law and Order Party? Or Posturing Populist PR Party?

National are trying to promote themselves as ‘the law and order party’, but are at risk of being seen more as a shallow, cynical, posturing populist PR party.

It may be popular to pick on gangs, and for good reason, some gang activities deserve condemnation. But we have had gangs for decades, and political rhetoric hasn’t made them disappear.

One problem with National’s ‘Strike Force Raptor’ proposal to harass gangs, which Simon Bridges described as “devastatingly effective” in Australia, is that they may disappear from view, but not go away.

National PR:

I don’t know what “take back control” is supposed to mean. Does National want the Government to take control of the drug trade? National has opposed liberalisation of cannabis laws, which leaves the drug for gangs to sell.

RNZ: Australian ex-cop blasts National’s ‘Strike Force Raptor’ plan

A former Australian detective has ridiculed National’s zero-tolerance approach to gangs, saying the strategy has been a “disaster” across the ditch.

National leader Simon Bridges repeatedly described the unit as “devastatingly effective” and referenced media reports which claimed it was driving outlaw bikies into extinction.

But former NSW detective Mike Kennedy told RNZ that was “nonsense” and Mr Bridges was “living a dream” if he believed that.

“He needs to pull his head out of whatever it’s stuck in because … [gangs] exist. They’re always going to exist. They just go underground.

“I’m not a bleeding heart liberal,” he said. “But [the zero-tolerance strategy has] just been a disaster.”

Dr Kennedy spent much of his time with the police as an undercover officer working in organised crime and is now a senior lecturer at Western Sydney University.

He said there was no evidence to suggest that gang numbers had fallen dramatically since the formation of Strike Force Raptor a decade ago.

“Outlaw motorcycle gangs are unregulated, so how would you know?” he said. “They’re not required to pay a fee … and register with government. So any suggestion that the numbers are down is just nonsense.”

Dr Kennedy said the problem had just been driven underground.

“People don’t stop being members of groups just because they’ve been arrested. They go into jail, they reinforce themselves, they come out, [and] they get more of a reason to remain in the group they’re in.”

Police officers needed a working relationship with communities, including gang members, so they would cooperate with investigations, he said.

 

A NSW Review of police use of powers under the Crimes (Criminal Organisations Control) Act 2012

Under the Crimes (Criminal Organisations Control) Act 2012, the Supreme Court can declare that an organisation is a ‘criminal organisation’ and make control orders in relation to its members. These orders may restrict the ability of members to associate with each other and recruit others to the organisation, and prohibit them from participating in a range of otherwise lawful activities. Overall, the declaration and orders may disrupt and restrict the activities of the organisation.

Despite the concerted efforts of a dedicated unit within the Gangs Squad of the NSW Police Force, which spent over three years preparing applications in preparation for declarations under the 2012 Act, no application has yet been brought to Court. As a result, no organisation has been declared to be a criminal organisation under the scheme. The NSW Police Force advised us that work on these applications ceased in 2015, and that it does not intend to resource such work in the future.

During consultations with our office, operational police advised us that the procedural requirements of the Act are onerous, resource-intensive, and involve difficulties that ultimately prevented police making an application to the Court. The decision to stop working on applications was made against the background that police have been provided with other powers they can more effectively use to target OMCGs and other criminal organisations, such as a modernised consorting offence, expanded
powers to search for firearms, and restrictions on entry to licensed premises by people wearing OMCG ‘colours’ and insignia.

Police in other states and territories have experienced similar difficulties in successfully implementing comparable legislation. No declarations have been made in relation to any organisations.

In my view, given the problems identified by police that have prevented them from exercising the powers under this Act, and the fact that police have alternative powers to disrupt the activities of criminal organisations, it would be in the public interest for the Act to be repealed.

I have made this the only recommendation in my report.

Professor John McMillan AO
Acting Ombudsman

(November 2016)

National’s proposals were not hard policy, they said they were only at a ‘discussion’ stage, but their PR tried to push populist buttons. They seem to have put a lot more work into PR than research.

Or maybe Bridges just doesn’t care as along as he attracts some votes. It’s debatable whether that will succeed, especialy if their propasals unravel.