Elizabeth Gosch, Australian (Sydney), Jan. 17, 2006
A brawl has broken out over suggestions the NSW Government has been too politically correct to arrest the people responsible for revenge attacks in the wake of the Cronulla riot.
NSW Opposition Leader Peter Debnam yesterday repeated his attack on the Iemma Government for being soft on ethnic crime and criticised police for failing to arrest people of Middle Eastern descent.
Premier Morris Iemma denied telling police to go soft on people of Middle Eastern descent and responded angrily to the comments.
Inspecting the state’s new anti-riot squad, Mr Iemma promised a crackdown on antisocial and riotous behaviour.
“We’re on the side of the police in this, he’s (Mr Debnam) not. The hooligans and thugs have got no respect. No wonder, when the example is being set by the Leader of the Opposition,” Mr Iemma said.
Mr Debnam’s comments last week that the NSW Government had been soft on ethnic crime for the past 10 years prompted Mr Iemma’s outburst and criticism from police Commissioner Ken Moroney.
“The statistics would suggest the Government is simply not putting the resources into rounding up these Middle Eastern criminals and thugs. The Labor Party seems to be indebted to certain ethnic groups,” Mr Debnam said last week. Yesterday, he refused to back down. “Thugs on the streets of Sydney that should be in jail. That’s the issue.”
Mr Debnam said the Government was too “politically correct” to act against ethnic gangs. “The community wants these people locked up and I’m going to keep raising this issue every day until those couple of hundred Middle Eastern thugs are behind bars.”
Police have charged 20 people with offences relating to the December 11 Cronulla riot, during which people of Middle Eastern descent were chased and attacked.
Middle Eastern youths carried out violent revenge attacks at Cronulla, Maroubra and Brighton-le-Sands in response to the riot.
Hadi Khawaja, 24, of Peakhurst, was last week jailed for three months for burning an Australian flag stolen from the Brighton RSL Club.