In the wake of recent attacks on three Indians, the Victoria government has said it will provide more resources and powers to its police forces to fight racially motivated crimes.
“We’ll give police more powers and give police more resources to make sure we get the message out clearly in the community. Anybody who undertakes acts of racism or violence in Victoria will feel the full force of the law,” Victoria premier John Brumby said.
Mr. Brumby, who would visit India next week, insisted that Victoria was still the safest place in Australia “in terms of our crime rate.”
“I want to get the message out there that we welcome the Indian community...(and) reassure the Indian community that Victoria’s a great place to be and a great place to study,” he was quoted on Thursday by the local media as saying.
The local media, however, said Mr. Brumby’s visit would be a challenging one after the recent assault and lashed out at the police for being too late in putting out statement for witnesses to the attack.
A report in The Age said Victoria police did not put out a statement calling for witnesses to the attack until Wednesday morning — more than three days after it occurred and a day after it had already been reported in India. Police, however, denied any such attempt with Acting Senior Sergeant Glenn Parker saying, “Unfortunately, within the community, these types of incidents happen regularly and this is really treated no differently, so there’s been no deliberate attempt to suppress it.”
The report commented that “police have found time recently to publicise less serious incidents. This month the police media unit put out a statement about an officer having his hat stolen at an AFL final. It released another statement when the cap was returned.”
An electronic reporting system would have alerted the police media unit to the attack, including the racial remarks, as early as Sunday morning, it said.
The report said that police who were at the scene said they saw about 15 men and women make racist comments on the some Indians who were attacked during the weekend.
Four men aged between 20 and 30 were arrested and later released without charge, pending further investigation.
Mr. Brumby admitted that such incidents would make his mission to India all the more difficult.
“Some of the events of the last few months have damaged our brand and the Australian brand in India,” he said, adding his government was committed to fixing the problem.
Mr. Brumby was quoted by the ABC as saying that he may extend anti-violence campaigns to include violence against ethnic groups. But right now he is focused on how he will reassure Indian leaders and Indian parents that Victoria is a safe place to send their children to study.
“I think it makes the trip to India even more important. I had an excellent meeting some weeks ago with the Indian Minister for External Affairs. I’ll be meeting with him again in India,” Mr. Brumby said.
During his visit, the premier would meet senior ministers, chambers of commerce and student organisations. He will also visit some schools.
“I want to get the message out there that we welcome our Indian community. We have a very large and it’s a very well established and it’s a very good community. I’ll be making these points known strongly and loudly in India, but we do have a challenge here and that is to keep getting the message across that acts of violence are unacceptable and acts of racism are completely unacceptable,” he added.