Gillard launches anti-gang taskforce

Australia will have a new national anti-gang taskforce modelled on a similar body set up by the US Federal Bureau of Investigations.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard made the announcement on Sunday, at the start of her five-day visit to key Labor electorates in western Sydney.

The taskforce will tackle sophisticated gang operations involved in weapons trading and drug dealing, which has resulted in shootings in Melbourne and Sydney.

"It means that they are moving a lot of money around and it means that their activities span the borders of any one state," Ms Gillard said.

The National Anti-Gang Taskforce will have $64 million in funding and comprise 70 members of the Australian Federal Police and state police forces.

Officers from the Australian Crime Commission, Australian Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the Australian Taxation Office and Centrelink will also be involved.

It will directly target and investigate gang members in Australia, reinforce the efforts of state police strike forces and provide better intelligence, as it reaches out to international agencies.

Ms Gillard says it's modelled on the FBI's Violent Gangs Safe Street Taskforce, which has made 55,000 arrests in the US since 2001.

"These are new measures to try and make sure we are combating the gangs and guns on our streets," the prime minister said.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the taskforce sounded like an old Coalition proposal.

"It sounds very much like the government is playing catch-up politics here," he told reporters at Auburn in western Sydney.

"We'll have a good look at it. If it makes sense we'll support it."

However Mr Abbott sais Labor's record on crime control showed it didn't always live up to its promises.

"They promised in 2007 that there would be 500 additional AFP (Australian Federal Police) officers," he said.

"They've actually cut more than $250 million out of the AFP and as part of those cuts, 97 officers went."

The government also had cut $22 million from the Australian Crime Commission (ACC), he said.

"There are 144 fewer people in the ACC," he said.

And $60 million had been cut from Customs, meaning less than 10 per cent of incoming air cargoes were now screened, the federal opposition leader said.

A poll published this weekend shows federal Labor faces a wipe-out in western Sydney, losing several seats previously considered safe unless the party switches back to Kevin Rudd.

The Fairfax Media/ReachTEL automated poll of 664 voters, taken in four safe Labor electorates in Sydney's west, found much of Labor's collapse could be linked to negative perceptions of Ms Gillard.

Cabinet minister Chris Bowen, whose electorate of McMahon is one of the four deemed under threat, said Labor would fight hard on the issues that counted for western Sydney.

Locals were well represented by "dedicated, talented" federal Labor members, while the coalition was running its campaign from the Liberal heartland of Sydney's north shore.

"We're more than happy to have western Sydney as a battleground because we have a very good story to tell," he told Sky News on Sunday.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/political-news/gillard-launches-antigang-taskforce-20130303-2fe1n.html#ixzz2Md1h6Wnw

The story Gillard launches anti-gang taskforce first appeared on Blacktown Sun.

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