Interview with Alexandra Kirk
6 March 2013
Topic: National Anti-Gang Laws
TONY EASTLEY: The Federal Government is proposing national anti-gang legislation in its latest law and order crackdown. The Prime Minister announced at the weekend that she’d set up a national taskforce to combat organised crime, modelled on the FBI. Now she wants the states to refer their powers to tackle gangs. Julia Gillard will put a plan to premiers and chief ministers at next month’s Heads of Government meeting. The Home Affairs Minister, Jason Clare, spoke to Alexandra Kirk.
JASON CLARE: It’s very important in a country like Australia that we’ve got national anti-gang laws. Criminals move from state to state, they’ve got different chapters of bikie gangs in different states, and they keep their assets in different parts of the country. At the moment we’ve got state laws, but if you crackdown in one part of the country, history tells us that bikie gangs and other criminal organisations tend to move to other parts of the country.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: But don’t most states already have anti-gang laws?
JASON CLARE: Not all of them. Some states do, some states don’t. Other states are thinking about getting rid of their anti-gang laws. That’s why we think it’s important to have a national approach – national laws that apply right across the country.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: Is that the sum total of what you’re proposing?
JASON CLARE: Well, there’s three parts to this Alex. First, the national anti-gang laws, they mean that a court anywhere in the country can declare an organisation to be a criminal organisation, and then can impose orders on people that prevent people from meeting, or prevent people from holding a weapons licence.
The second part of it is national asset seizure laws, or what’s called national unexplained wealth laws. They give law enforcement more power to seize the cash, the cars, the homes, the assets of criminals that’s so important.
The third part of this is giving police right across the country more power to search criminals for firearms. South Australia’s got a model called Firearm Prohibition Orders that allow police to stop and search people that are the subject of these orders, at any time, for firearms. We think that’s something that would work very well in Sydney, and would work well right across the country.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: Law and order is ostensibly a state matter. What are the chances that the states are going to refer their powers to the Commonwealth?
JASON CLARE: Well, I’m hopeful. The New South Wales Premier has made the point that he thinks that this is a national issue, and that states need to work together to create national laws. I think he’s in that respect. The Prime Minister is saying let’s take this COAG, and I think has taken the right approach.
Last year, I got all of the Attorneys General across the country, and asked them for the power to create national anti-gang laws, and they rejected that proposal. I think that was a mistake. I said at the time, we need this and I would prosecute the case for it again. I’m hopeful that by taking this to the next level, and getting premiers across the country to meet with the Prime Minister, we’ll get a breakthrough.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: Well, what’s going to change?
JASON CLARE: Well, hopefully when people see shootings happening not just in Sydney, but also on the weekend in Melbourne, 14 shootings happening in South Australia just in the first few weeks of this year, people will realise that we’re not going to break this unless we work together.
ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Prime Minister announced, a few days ago, the national taskforce to tackle organised crime. Does the Government now realise that that couldn’t work without the states referring their powers to outlaw gangs, as per the FBI model in the States?
JASON CLARE: Oh it will definitely work, the Police Commissioner has made the point, he said on the weekend, this is the way to fight crime. But there’s no doubt Alex, it’ll be a lot more effective if we have national anti-gang laws, and that’s what this is all about.
TONY EASTLEY: The Home Affairs Minister, Jason Clare, speaking there to Alexandra Kirk.