Subject: Alice Springs crime crisis.
This is an extremely important story. Anyone who listens to 2GB knows that the crime wave that is currently gripping Alice Springs is completely out of control. It’s frightening, it’s lawless, and it is no doubt a national shame. We can’t bury our heads in the sand and think that it’s not going on. This is happening and it’s happening in Australia. This is Darren Clarke. He’s a business owner in Alice Springs and he joined my colleague Ben Fordham on Breakfast and I think it is very important that we remind you of this.
It’s very, very bad. It’s so bad that people listening in Sydney, you wouldn’t believe what’s going on up here. You just would not believe what’s going on.
You’ve got three businesses in Alice Springs. How many times have you been broken into?
41 times. Now that includes, I’ve had two vehicles stolen from my home. I’ve had two home invasions. One of my cafes broken into 20 odd times. I’ve had my shop ram raided. I’ve had everything, mate. I’ve had everything you can think of and I’m not alone. I’m not Robinson Crusoe up here buddy. There are victims here, everywhere. It is out of control.
Now, this isn’t overblown. I spoke to a friend of mine who works in health in Alice Springs, and he told me it’s impossible to imagine the carnage that is going on in that town at the moment. You’re talking about men, women, Indigenous, non-Indigenous violence across the board and people being left in a really, really poor state. It’s so intense that there is no doubt the community is scared.
Now, Peter Dutton did ask Anthony Albanese as a show of unity for both of them to travel to Alice Springs as a bipartisan way to see the issues firsthand. But I can tell you this afternoon the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, has effectively said no. The PM will not go to Alice Springs with Peter Dutton. Now, this is after the Attorney-General rejected a request from the Mayor of Alice for more federal police and Peter Dutton, the Federal Leader of the Opposition joins us on the line.
Mr Dutton, what reasons did the Prime Minister give for his refusal to travel with you to Alice?
Well Chris, it’s a good question. There was just a statement out of his office which, as you say, if you read between the lines, he says, ‘no’. I was up in Alice Springs actually in October. I wrote to the Prime Minister after I went up and asked for a Royal Commission to be called because it was just clear the situation was out of control then, and I still haven’t had a response to that letter.
I sat down with the PM as well when we got back and said ‘mate, to be honest, we will support whatever you want to do, whatever police resources you want to send, we will back that. Whatever wraparound services for Indigenous kids that you want to send up there, at additional expense, we will support you in a bipartisan way.’ But, I mean, this is unbelievably critical and I don’t think we really probably comprehend yet how bad it is.
You’ve been there. How bad is it?
Well Chris, I spoke to a lot of whistleblowers up there, people who are public servants involved particularly in some of the family welfare areas and many of them are just on the verge of mental breakdowns because they’ve resigned, or in some cases out on stress leave from their jobs. They’re delivering kids back into communities where, you know, young kids six and eight, 10 years of age are grabbing onto their legs and pleading and begging for them not to be left in that environment.
We know from some of the reports out of the Northern Territory, there are communities where allegations are that you’ve got 100 per cent of kids who have got sexually transmitted diseases. So, any talk of any of that in Sydney or Melbourne or Brisbane or Adelaide just wouldn’t be tolerated, but somehow, it’s happening in Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory and we should be outraged. I think the country is starting to get outraged, but we’ve just got to get the Prime Minister onto it as quickly as possible so that we can try and turn the situation around.
Can you make heads or tails of why the Attorney-General rejected a request from the Mayor of Alice Springs to send more federal police into the Red Centre?
For the life of me, I can’t Chris. It’s clear to me when I was up there that the Northern Territory just didn’t have the resources and I think they’re overwhelmed. I think the police are exhausted.
When I was talking to the Mayor of Alice Springs this afternoon, he’s talking about police, you know, taking seven and eight hours to get to a job. There was a police commander I think, that stood up and did a press conference in the Northern Territory today just talking about Darwin, and he didn’t have the figures for Alice Springs, but he’s talking about 32 incidents of domestic violence a night in Darwin and the commercial breakins in Katherine have risen by 134 per cent.
The government’s lifted the alcohol restrictions, they’ve abolished the welfare card, which was hopefully getting parents spending money on things for their kids and food and other staple items as opposed to taking that money and spending it on alcohol and other things, but all of this has contributed to the melee that’s out there at the moment, and I think law and order needs to be restored as quickly as possible, and it requires additional Australian Federal Police to go up there to supplement the Northern Territory Police, and why the Attorney-General just said in the same day, ‘no’, to be honest, is beyond me.
I think it is a very, very serious situation and somebody is going to get gravely injured if not killed up there and you’ve got kids running around with machetes at the moment. They won’t go home of a nighttime because they feel it’s unsafe. They are out committing crimes and they’re sleeping during the daytime and not going to school. So, it’s a shocking cycle that we’re involved in here.
I’m assuming Anthony Albanese doesn’t want to be seen to be marching to the beat of your drum just like Scott Morrison, there’s no way in the world he would have been dictated to by Anthony Albanese when Albo was Opposition Leader. But surely to God this is above politics?
Well Chris, as I say, I mean when I’ve been up there, I came back pretty shocked and you know, all of us move around the country on a regular basis and hear different stories and listen to all sorts of cases that demand action, but I went to see the Prime Minister, as I said, when I got back and Linda Burney was there at the meeting as well, and I just went through what I’d seen, how severe I thought it was, and why I think the government needed to act immediately.
There are elderly people who aren’t even going to the shops by themselves of a daytime, let alone of a nighttime. People just aren’t going out of a nighttime because of the violence that you’re seeing, and they’re firsthand accounts from Indigenous women, elders, who spoke to me up there and public servants obviously, who are just at or beyond breaking point.
And this isn’t an Indigenous-non-Indigenous thing. It’s just it’s a crime issue.
It is. It’s predominantly an Indigenous issue, if we’re being honest. The other element of course that is here is the fear of public servants, I think, of creating another stolen generation, of taking kids away from parents. But, I mean, we’ve got to have a serious conversation because we’re talking about taking kids out of violent situations, and the paramount consideration needs to be the safety and the welfare of children above culture or anything else.
You don’t want to take parents away from the kids, away from their parents or vice versa in any scenario, but as we know across society, if you’ve got an environment where children aren’t safe, then it’s their interests that have to be first and foremost at the front of decision making. If we’re leaving kids there because we’re worried about the perception of what it means by taking those kids out, then I’m sorry, we’ve lost perspective and these young girls and boys in years to come are going to be saying ‘how on earth in the year 2022 or the year 2023, did you leave me in a situation knowing that I was being physically or sexually abused?’
Before I let you go Mr Dutton, thank you for joining us. But there’s…I’m wondering if you’re still going to go to Alice Springs? I know you’ve said…the Prime Minister has effectively said no. You offered to go up yourself. You said you’ve been before Christmas. Will you still go?
Well, I won’t go tomorrow. I’ll give the Prime Minister a reasonable amount of time to respond. If it doesn’t suit his diary tomorrow, I’m happy to go the next day or whatever it is. I’ll clear my diary and go with him, because I do think it’s an important statement of bipartisanship and it’s not about point scoring or anything else.
I worked many, many years ago as a police officer in the sex offender squad, and I can tell you the impact that sexual assault has on a young girl or on a young woman is devastating. It breaks my heart that we’re seeing young kids in that situation.
So, I say quite genuinely to the Prime Minister, we will support whatever measure you take, whatever expense is involved to firstly restore law and order – no society can function without people understanding the rule of law – and the police are overwhelmed and we need to supplement that with additional resources, and I’m happy to go anywhere, any time to support the Prime Minister in any decision he makes to get the situation corrected. But it needs to happen very quickly.
Good on you Peter Dutton. Thanks for joining us.
Thanks Chris. See you mate.