PM Renews 'African Gangs' Line But Forgets To Tell One Minister
"I would respectfully say I don't think the Prime Minister knows what he's talking about."
It's an election year in Victoria, and the Liberal party is rolling out its "African gangs" line again.
Six months after Peter Dutton was ridiculed for claiming that people are afraid to go out to dinner in Melbourne for fear of "African gangs", and the Prime Minister is giving this party line a crack.
"The fact is there is a gang issue here and you are not going to make it go away by pretending it doesn't exist," the prime minister told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.
"At some point you have to be fair dinkum and you have to acknowledge that there is a concern, people are concerned about it."
He said he wasn't personally afraid of going out to dinner, but cited "concerns" from his political colleagues.
"You have to be honest, there are Sudanese gangs in Melbourne," he said.
"No one is making any reflections about Sudanese migrants. I have spoken about the enormous achievements of Sudanese migrants to Australia, in every respect."
A short time later, however, and someone clearly failed to alert Christopher Pyne to revived party line of "Melbourne restaurants = scary".
He laughed when a reporter asked him during a stop if he was afraid to go out to restaurants in Melbourne.
"No," he said. "Why? Should I be?"
The reporter reminded Pyne that his boss had mentioned it that morning, and the penny drops. Ker-thunk.
"Oh, because of the gangs, the violence," he said. "I'm sorry, I wasn't following you. I didn't understand the question."
Victoria Police has downplayed apparent 'African youth violence', and Premier Daniel Andrews straight-up rubbished the claim.
"I would respectfully say I don't think the prime minister knows what he's talking about," said Andrews.
"We have the best restaurants in the country, and they're full. I don't know that I can offer any further comment than that."
At least one local African community group accused the PM of playing "political football" with the South Sudanese community, and the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kristen Hilton said that the "inflammatory statements on race and crime – the so-called #AfricanGangs crisis - have caused real harm in Victoria."
It also comes days after the commission released new data showing that race-related inquires had increased by 34 percent in the 2017-18 financial year, compared to the previous 12 months.
"I think to say that Victorians are scared to go out for dinner, or there’s a perceived lawlessness in Victorian society because of the African community, is not only wildly inaccurate, it’s very dangerous,” Hilton told The Guardian Australia.
“What we heard, on the back of that sort of commentary, people in the African community called us on our inquiry line, they talked to us about being afraid to take public transport, we heard people who were spat on waiting for buses or other forms of public transport."
The Victorian state election is due to be held on November 24 this year.