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Bishop steps into election campaign with challenge to anti-gang rhetoric

Posted on: July 16, 2018 2:05 PM

The assistant bishop in the Diocese of Melbourne, Philip Huggins, has challenged the election rhetoric of the Victoria State opposition Liberal Party, saying that it risks negatively stereotyping young people. The bishop spoke out after the Liberal Party, led by Matthew Guy, distributed election leaflets headlined “only the Liberals will: stop gangs hunting in packs”. The bishop’s intervention follows earlier criticism of the demonisation of refugees from Sudan and South Sudan.

The leaflet has been further criticised by campaigners, for using a photo taken by the Evening Standard newspaper in London, England, in 2012, as indicative of the situation in Victoria. Bishop Philip said that the campaign rhetoric “makes Melbourne youths sound like dangerous wild animals.”

He said that young people “get abused in the streets and on public transport; they see how the amplified fear causes others to shrink away from them. All this is grossly unfair.

“The chosen language that they are, whenever together, “gangs hunting in packs” intentionally makes them sound like dangerous wild animals. This is so unfair to the vast majority of kids who just want to belong and contribute in positive ways.

“Nor is it true, as the adverts suggest, that there is some massive problem which the police are currently incapable of addressing.

“The only purpose of this campaign is to amplify fears in order to harvest votes for an election victory.

“But if the basis of the campaign is neither fair nor true, what kind of moral legitimacy would this give a Government so elected? Already there are questions, given how the State Opposition Leader has recently appeared to legitimate lying as a political tactic.”

Bishop Huggins said official crime data showed that Sudanese offenders comprised only one per cent of alleged Victorian offenders, and that senior police were already collaborating with community leaders. He challenged Mr Guy, asking him to meet a deputation of Sudanese and South Sudanese church leaders and commit himself to promoting social cohesion through multicultural harmony.

“I hope he will agree to listen as they convey to him the unfair and untrue nature of this current destructive campaign.”