Australia: Bullets in the head, bullets in the letter box.

A socialist analysis of the gangland wars and police corruption in Victoria

The Victorian Labor Premier and Police Minister told the media last month that crime is down in their State in all categories bar one…murder. It’s like the doctor explaining that your flu, tooth ache and ingrown toenail have all improved…but you’ve now got terminal cancer.

The bloody truth is 26 dead in Victoria since 1999, not including bullets in the head of a police informer and his wife, and bullets in the letter box of the ALP factional enemies of the wife of the very same Police Minister!

There is a turf war between two gangs in Melbourne’s underworld for control of the amphetamine industry: the Northern suburbs, ’Sopranos-style’ old school versus the young guns of the Western suburbs. In the past he who controlled production of speed controlled the industry. Now its a lot easier to produce speed and therefore control of distribution in the night clubs and gyms is key. This is a young person’s game and the domination of the old school has been broken by the new guns of the West. When the old school attacked, injured but didn’t succeed in killing leading young gun identities like Carl Williams in the 1999-2001 period they lost their chance to survive. The Western suburbs-based operation counter-attacked and all bar one of the deaths since have been to their benefit.

The Victorian Police are up to their neck in this war, with new revelations every day of corrupt cops in all departments involved in the drug trade and with close relationships to the underworld. In fact sections of the police are in effect a third faction in this battle. Any doubts about this was ended with the execution of Terrence Hodson and his wife, who was days away from giving evidence against two corrupt police.

40 officers have been charged for corruption and 500 others on lesser charges since 1999 spanning the fraud, internal investigation and drug squads. The latter squad has had to be shut down. Right-wing QC Peter Farris told The Australian: "The exporting of allegedly corrupt Victorian police officers (to interstate and national police agencies) threatens the justice system…How can you recruit from a corrupt force and not expect some of that corruption not to affect the organisation. (Victorian Police Commissioner) Ms Nixon has got to go."

The State Government has opposed a Royal Commission or any type of ’independent’ inquiry calling it a potential ’wigfest’. They fear that any investigation not under their control and police control could uncover the deep links between legal and illegal capitalism in Victoria, between politicians and police and the underworld, and (according to ex-Labor Premier John Cain) the regular use of the Crown Casino by corrupt police and criminals to wash dirty money. As one Labor politician told the Sunday Age: "What happens if you set up this massive bureaucracy and they find all the corrupt cops? They start looking for reds under the bed."

With at least 13% of State Government income coming from gambling taxes, Premier Bracks does not want to upset their milch cow. Bracks has given unprecedented powers to his Police Commissioner and a few extra dollars to the Police Ombudsman to investigate the crisis. But police investigating police will never work.

Interestingly the Liberal Opposition leader Robert Doyle is happy to opportunistically call for a Royal Commission but refuses to criticise the Crown Casino. No capitalist politician wants to take on its owner, media baron Kerry Packer.

The Casino has made the amazing and absurd claim that every dollar entering their premises is "thoroughly scrutinised". How this is done they have not explained.

Corruption is the lubricant of capitalism and the recent developments in Victoria have merely lifted a corner of the carpet for ordinary people to see the rotten alliances and feuds between legal and illegal capital, underground and police, and politicians and crime.

As long as capitalism exists, scarcity exists, and crime and corruption will exist.

Sections of the ruling class now see that the situation is getting out of hand and could undermine support for their system. They will now push for a Royal Commission or similar investigation to smash crime and corruption down to acceptable levels, all the better to protect their system. Expect a major back flip from the Bracks Labor Government in the next weeks.

The Socialist Party calls for a labour movement inquiry into the diseased state of the Victorian Police; the links between politicians, the gambling industry and the underworld; and the killings themselves. The inquiry should be undertaken by elected rank and file activists and officials from the labour movement. We oppose any extra powers to the Police. We call for community-control of the Police. We support a socialist economic plan to provide jobs, free education and a future for young people.

Ultimately the drug industry rests on the alienation and demoralisation of millions of people under capitalism. A challenge to this system will challenge all who gain from the exploitation of young people.

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June 2004