Here we go: the newly-minted Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton has doubled down on his attacks on “African gangs” apparently terrorising the state of Victoria, laying the blame squarely at Premier Daniel Andrews‘ feet.

Dutton was recently ridiculed for his claims that Melbourne citizens are afraid to go out for dinner thanks to these so-called African gangs, but today boldly backed those claims, demanding an apology from Andrews for letting gang violence spiral out of control.

“It’s a complete nonsense and the fact is that there are many victims in Victoria who have suffered at the hands of these gangs and we need to call it out because I’m not, like any Australian, wanting to see a very small element of a community – in this case the African community – define the rest of the community, which is law abiding, engaged in society, working, employed, studying, whatever it might be,” he told Adelaide radio station FIVEaa. (Why Adelaide? Why not!)

“The law applies equally to any Australian – to any Victorian in this case – so Mr Andrews has, I think, a lot of deep thinking to do, to firstly apologise to the people of Victoria for the mistakes that he’s made which has led to the resulting violence that has taken place.”

He also told 3AW: “I’ve called out Daniel Andrews based on the facts. Victorians are worried about law and order. They are worried about African gang violence.”

Liberal MP (and Melbourne native) Kelly O’Dwyer doubled down on these comments, saying that “Daniel Andrews needs to stop being a menace to Victoria and start being a premier to Victoria,” and that “people are afraid to go out at night.”

Are they, though? This whole ‘African gangs’ thing has been flying again since December last year, following three different incidences involving youths of African appearance (a brawl at the St. Kilda Maccas, the trashing of an Airbnb property in Werribee, and the assault of a police officer in Highpoint).

But, as The Guardian pointed out, calling these young people ‘gangs’ is a huge stretch. Deputy commissioner Andrew Crisp urged the media “not to play up to the ego of these young people by calling them a gang, because they’re not a gang,” and his fellow deputy commissioner, Shane Patton, explained that the preferred term was “networked criminal offender”, and that these young people aren’t some “high-level organised crime gang.”

And literally just yesterday, police chief Graham Ashton ridiculed claims that Melbourne isn’t a safe place to live are “complete garbage”.

He instead reframed this debate: “What’s changed over recent weeks as been a further increase in public disorder and public misbehaviour in public by groups of young people.”

Meanwhile, Andrews responded to Dutton’s latest sledge by inviting the bloke out to dinner, a power move if we’ve ever seen one.

“I think Mr. Dutton’s comments were designed to get a rise out of people,” he said. “They were designed to be as controversial as possible. I don’t know how often he spends time in Melbourne. He’s always welcome to come and have dinner.”

It’s going to be a long, long election year for Victoria, that’s for sure. Meanwhile, probably the only good thing to come out of this is African-Australians reclaiming the #AfricanGangs hashtag. Check it out:

Image: Getty Images / Stefan Postles