For the Greater Good?

by Fiona Tranquillo

Sometimes, the rights of an individual must be given up for the common good. The question, then,  is… when? This is the basis of a legal power struggle going on in Australia right now. Currently, gang violence in Australia is dealt with on a state-to-state basis. The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is on a five day campaign in Western Sydney to change this.

The nature of gangs is that they aren’t confined by state borders. Gangs will go where they need to to do what they want to, and they will spread their assets out over multiple territories. When states don’t have uniform anti-gang laws, the local police lose their power to effectively deal with gangs. In particular, they lose their power to seize “unexplained wealth.” Gillard’s plan is to reform Australia’s system for dealing with gangs to be modeled after the FBI in the United States. By unifying anti-gang laws across the nation, all police would have the power to seize illegally obtained assets, and all courts would have the power to recognize a gang as a criminal organization.

To me, this plan sounds very effective. The states of Australia, however, do not share my view. They see Gillard’s plan as another example of the federal government being money-hungry and power-hungry. In their eyes, they are being asked to give up their state rights so that the federal government can benefit financially from any seized assets. Gillard does, however, address this in her plan, stating that all assets would be divided equally among the states.

I can see both sides of the debate. Nobody likes surrendering power, so I can understand the states’ resistance. More than that, though, I can understand Gillard’s vision for putting up a uniform stand against gang violence and activity. If this legal reform will be as effective as the proponents claim it will, then the right decision is obvious, and hopefully Gillard will be able to lead the state governments to this conclusion as well.

Gillard will continue with her campaign over the next few weeks, urging states to surrender their rights to the Commonwealth for the good of all. There will be a meeting next month to address the issue and hopefully reach an effective decision.



Cullen, Simon. “Government to roll out FBI-style gang laws.” ABC NEWS. 6 March 2013.

“Gillard seeks state help on gangs, guns.” skyNEWS. 6 March 2013.

Swan, Jonathan. “States under pressure on national anti-gang laws.” NationalTimes. 6 March 2013.

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