Melbourne riots indicate 'pockets of systemic racism'

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, left, and Australian Opposition Leader Bill Shorten go head to head in a debate tonight. Photo / AP
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, left, and Australian Opposition Leader Bill Shorten go head to head in a debate tonight. Photo / AP

Australian Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has seized on violent riots in Melbourne to back his claim that there are pockets of systemic racism in Australia.

Seven people were arrested as more than 500 people rallied in heavy rain against both Islam and racism in Coburg on Saturday.

"When we see people have violent brawls, that to me highlights some of the problems we have in our community," Shorten told reporters in Canberra today. "The truth of the matter is there are pockets of systemic racism."

However, on the same day his home city had also shown the good side of humanity. Shorten joined Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and AFL great Michael Long for a walk for indigenous reconciliation on Saturday afternoon ahead of the Dream Time at the G clash between Essendon and Richmond.

Turnbull and Shorten will take part in the first election debate tonight.

Shorten said the walk symbolised a coming together of Australians and recognised that the nation can do better.

Police are still trying to track down a number of troublemakers who hid their faces during the Coburg rallies. The groups involved were the anti-Islamic group United Patriots Front, the True Blue Crew while others were part of the No Racism rally.

The banning of face masks at protests will be examined, with the coverings labelled a "disturbing trend" by the state's police minister.

A Victoria Police taskforce will be created to catch the "cowards" who hid their faces and sparked the violent clashes.

Five people were arrested for riotous behaviour as well as assaulting and hindering police, while two more were arrested for carrying knives and other weapons.

Police Minister Lisa Neville told 3AW she will meet Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton tomorrow to talk about the violence, including whether wearing masks at rallies could be banned.

"This issue of the use of face masks, I think that is a really disturbing trend we are seeing in these particular protests," she said.

"This is about people being given a licence when they wear those masks to try and participate in criminal behaviour, because that's what violence and inciting hatred is, it's criminal behaviour."

Some draped in the Australian flag and most with their faces covered were drenched in pepper spray and hit with flag poles as hundreds of police tried to separate the groups numerous times during the rally.

- AAP

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