The Guardian 16 March, 2005

Calls for royal commission
into Macquarie Fields


There have been some curious developments in Macquarie Fields. The western Sydney suburb has been in the headlines following the deaths last month of two youths in a police pursuit of the stolen car they were driving. Police raids of homes continue in the area after clashes on the streets between police and residents. They even raided the wake for one of the dead youths, Matt Robertson, and violently arrested his brother Aaron. No charges were laid against him.

Jesse Kelly, the alleged driver of the stolen vehicle who fled the scene, has given himself up after guarantees by police that he would not be shot. In fact, the police all but had him in custody at one stage but he mysteriously eluded their clutches.

And it turns out the police were using a listening device they had installed in the home of Kelly's aunt prior to the car crash, to monitor phone conversations. They claim one of these was between Deborah Ann Kelly and Jesse only hours after the crash.

The police are now blaming her for sparking the street clashes. Certainly, the police and the Carr Government moved swiftly to scapegoat individuals. Carr's first foray was to claim it was all a case of a few "bad" individuals and nothing to do with systemic disadvantage and chronic unemployment in the area.

Carr then blamed the parents of the youths involved in the car chase and the street actions. Police Commissioner Ken Moroney also shafted the blame home to some bad apples and had a statement published in the Daily Telegraph newspaper in which he went on about "choices" like a lifestyle advice columnist.

It is quite clear that the causes behind the reaction of those who confronted the police are economic. High income areas where the wealthy reside do not have high rates of crime and unemployment and a disproportionate police presence harassing the locals.

During last year's angry protests in Redfern following the death of Aboriginal teenager Thomas Hickey in a police chase, if you had left Redfern and driven the 15 minutes it takes to get to Sydney's wealthiest suburb, Woollahra, you would have been given the impression of being in a different city.

The NSW Greens have backed calls for a royal commission into the situation in Macquarie Fields where Greens MPs Lee Rhiannon and Sylvia Hale last week met with Jesse Kelly's family and local community experts.

"We support Jesse Kelly's family's call for a royal commission into Macquarie Fields", said Lee Rhiannon. "And until the government comes on board we'll continue pushing for a parliamentary inquiry. Macquarie Fields is a wake up call to Carr. Policing strategies that involved harassment and intimidation urgently need investigation."

Sylvia Hale pointed out that Macquarie Fields had been neglected by all levels of government until the clashes. "The Youth Centre is only open for a few hours at a time, just three days a week." She noted that Campbelltown, where most services are located, is nine kilometres away, making it difficult for young people with no transport to access them.

"People feel utterly neglected by the Government", said Ms Hale. "There are no adequate services. Department of Housing units are not properly maintained and public transport is a disaster."

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