PM under fire on gun crime
Head to head ... Julia Gillard and NSW Police Minister Michael Gallacher, above. Photo: Max Mason-Hubers
An announcement by the Prime Minister that she is examining ways to end the gun violence on Sydney streets has been dismissed by New South Wales as an election stunt.
With more than 135 shootings across the city last year, including 20 in the past two months, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she had asked the Home Affairs Minister, Jason Clare, to prepare ''options'' to address the violence and explore what, legally and constitutionally, the federal government could do.
The NSW Police Minister, Michael Gallacher, accused Ms Gillard of ''gross hypocrisy'' over the comments, which were made at the launch of the federal government's new cyber-safety program. He said the federal government was failing ''dismally'' to protect Australia's borders from illegal gun imports.
"If Labor in Canberra want to help curb gun violence on the streets of Sydney it should be taking a good hard look at its border protection regime which is failing to stem the tide of illegally imported firearms into the country," Mr Gallacher said.
"The federal government must do what it can to prevent illegal guns reaching our shores - that's to get their own government in order before telling us how to run ours.''
The acting NSW Premier, Andrew Stoner, said Ms Gillard's comments were ''out of the blue'' and more about winning votes in key electorates than addressing the gun crime problem.
''This is merely a stunt by Julia Gillard in order to win some sort of support in western Sydney,'' he said. ''They know that western Sydney is a key battleground for the federal election later this year.''
He said the state government had urged the federal government 18 months ago to improve customs operations to ''stop the flood of illegal guns into NSW'' and introduce national bikie laws in an attempt to curb gun violence in the state.
Ms Gillard, who also expressed concerns about recent street clashes in Brisbane, acknowledged that state governments and police authorities were principally responsible for containing suburban violence but she believed the Commonwealth could help.
''At this time all levels of government need to be doing everything that can be done to address this violence,'' Ms Gillard said.
The prime minister would not give a ''running commentary'' on how she thought the NSW government, which has primary responsibility for policing, was handling the problem. She also would not give any more specifics on what options Mr Clare would be canvassing.
Her announcement came less than 24 hours after the latest Sydney shooting in which a senior member of the Hells Angels was shot dead and another man wounded in the city's west.
''We've seen overnight yet again a report of another shooting in Sydney's south-west … We are seeing reports of violence in suburbs in Brisbane,'' the Prime Minister said.
''People who make their lives in these suburbs, in these parts of our great nation, deserve to be able to get about their business, to raise their families in an environment that is safe and secure and peaceful.''
A senior police source told Fairfax Media officers would support the federal government's involvement if it meant more funding and extra powers to help deal with criminals and gun violence. They would also welcome national laws that would help stop criminals moving from state to state.
''It has to be something more than just a knee-jerk reaction to the violence in western Sydney,'' the senior officer said. ''It has to involve talking to the key stakeholders as well as funding and actually putting proper universal laws in place.''
The Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman, also described Ms Gillard's announcement as ''completely unnecessary'' saying racial clashes between Aboriginal and Pacific Islander families in the Brisbane suburb of Logan were now in hand. After days of violent confrontations, the two families - the Briggs and the Palaus - finally agreed to stop the violence after attending police-brokered peace talks on Tuesday night.