Less bravado, more plan
New National Security Minister Gary Griffith should be put on notice that he is raising expectations to a new high by vowing, as he has dramatically done, to take the fight to the criminal gangs. The minister must know that by naming gangs, as he did in the Senate on Monday, he is hardly shaming their certainly hard-core members in any effective way. We would hope that he has thought through the implications of his statement and is not merely playing to the gallery of national observers, starved as the public is for some credible offensive against the murders being carried out by gangs with impunity.
In his Budget debate debut, he signalled a new oversight assertiveness by the National Security Ministry to ensure that “no gang member who we have on our list will be allowed any (State) contract”. Since URP and other contracts are administered by other ministries, he is implying an integrated approach by the Government as a whole, which goes beyond the accomplishments of any administration over the last decade or more. We hope the Senator’s list is grounded in fact and supported by evidence. While he has identified a list of gangs, the more important question would be the names of individuals that he is attaching to gang outfits. His entire anti-gang strategy could backfire if individuals challenge the State on the grounds that it is discriminating against them in the award of contracts on a non-evidential basis. So unless he has a well-conceived strategy for choking off state funds to gangs, Senator Griffith would be better off keeping it low key.
He should also know that having been the Prime Minister’s adviser on national security since 2010, the public is not willing to give him the benefit of any doubt. He has been integral to the Government’s many crime strategies and well-positioned enough to know the lie of the land. While the national security portfolio has changed hands several times over, he has been ensconced in the PM’s office in a position of significant authority. He is not a new broom and therefore cannot claim even the brief honeymoon for settling down given to others.
What the country needs and is still waiting to hear, is a coherent anti-crime strategy with a reasonable chance of success. It is clear that anti-crime initiatives like the very costly Colour Me Orange plan, has yielded no fruit. If anything, they have made matters worse through their emphasis on doling out state funds in order to buy the peace. With each failed initiative, the price of peace has risen, inflating the National Security budget. It is time to focus on elements that will bring real muscle to the fight against crime. We need a better equipped, better trained Police Service, using modern methods of crime-fighting and detection. We need superior management capabilities with the capacity to inspire and lift the morale of police officers. And most of all, we need to de-politicise the national crime-fighting plan.