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More spin than substance on organised crime: -

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ELEANOR HALL: The debate over how to deal with outlawed motorcycle gangs has put the issue of
organised crime high on the agenda of several state governments this year.

But a former New South Wales assistant police commissioner says the response to the gangs and to
drug networks has been more about spin than substance.

Clive Small told Barbara Miller that the problem is out of control but that successive state and
federal governments have been reluctant to tackle it.

CLIVE SMALL: Governments have been very good at giving spin on what they're doing, but very poor on
delivering on substance. There hasn't been a commitment, a political commitment and will by the
governments to deal with this serious and growing problem.

BARBARA MILLER: Why do you think that is?

CLIVE SMALL: Well I think it's a very hard problem and it's not one that governments can solve
within one election cycle, and you don't want to be going to an election, I would suggest,
particularly after you've been in government for some years, saying we have a serious crime
problem.

If you take the NSW Government for example, they've been in power now for, what, something like 15
years. If they were to all of a sudden admit to the fact that there is an organised crime problem
in NSW, the question is: well what have you been doing about it for the past 15 years? So the way
they avoid that is simply by denying its existence or ignoring it.

BARBARA MILLER: Well they don't deny its existence do they or ignore it. I mean you yourself quote
various drug raids by police, where they announced success in tackling organised crime.

CLIVE SMALL: Well, but I think what you have to do is distinguish between the police and the
government. The police, with the resources they have and the fundings that they have, in many ways
are doing a good job. My point is that the resources they have and the commitment they have is not
supported by that of the government.

You have to commit the resources and the time to solving that problem rather than every time you
have a, if you like, a small win it's good to pat yourself on the back, but don't then immediately
claim success. And what we have in NSW and what we've had at a federal level also is a denial of
the problem or an emphasis on spin rather than substance.

BARBARA MILLER: I'm just looking up the Australian Crime Commission here and just last month they
announced that, what they call a key player in an organised crime syndicate was sentenced to 13
years in prison for trafficking heroin and laundering $15 million. That sounds like the kind of
success that you say is not happening.

CLIVE SMALL: No, no, no, that's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that there are a number of
significant successes but in terms of impacting on the overall problem, the damage is little.

Look, in Melbourne they seized, a couple of years ago there was seized 4.4 tonne of ecstasy tablets
or 15 million tablets. That was a very good seizure. The problem was the ecstasy market wasn't
dented. Following that seizure there was no shortage in ecstasy tablets on the streets, there was
no increase in price that indicated a problem in the market. That seizure was simply replaced by
another successful importation.

Now I'm not saying that there aren't very significant successes in terms of arrests and the jailing
of a number of principals. What I'm saying is the networks as a whole are not being damaged by
these individual successes.

BARBARA MILLER: So there needs to be an overhaul of the way that states and territories and the
Federal Government tackle this issue?

CLIVE SMALL: There is a problem in our current state and federal landscape, if you like. The
Federal Government, in terms of responsibility for crime, has quite a narrow focus.

If I can give a simple example: we have people who grow significant cannabis crops in various
states around Australia. They are multimillion-dollar businesses. The proceeds of those crops are
sold across several states. On any measure that's a significant organised crime and significant
national distribution network. But it's not the responsibility of the federal police or the Federal
Government because there are no federal laws that are broken.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the former New South Wales assistant police commissioner Clive Small speaking
to Barbara Miller.