The Victorian government insists the state is safe despite acknowledging a problem with gang violence and promising to crack down on young thugs.
Debate about youth crime in Victoria has attracted national attention following a series of crimes over the festive season committed by people of African appearance.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has criticised the Andrews government's law and order approach while Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton took to Sydney radio claiming Victorians were too scared to go out for dinner.
Acting premier James Merlino hit back on Tuesday, pointing to Australian Federal Police budget cuts and state opposition attempts to water down firearms legislation.
"This ill-informed commentary from Peter Dutton backed up by his cheerleader (state Opposition Leader) Matthew Guy, their record is to actually support organised crime," he said.
"One of the concerns, and this is street gang activity, one of the concerns you always have is publicity leads to young people being emboldened."
Mr Merlino said the government needs to and will tackle the issue because while Victoria is safe, people do fear "about the level of safety in their community".
"We're not going to cop it, we're going to tackle these crimes where they occur; we're going to tackle these gangs where they occur and we're going to throw the book at them," he said.
Mr Merlino also defended himself and Premier Daniel Andrews taking leave at the same time over Christmas.
"It's appropriate during the Christmas/New Year period that people have time with their families, including the premier," he said.
The opposition criticised Mr Andrews for not returning to work during the debate and on Tuesday launched an online petition demanding parliament resume early.
"If James Merlino and Daniel Andrews don't see the last month of violence around parts of Melbourne as a crucial priority, you've got to wonder whether they're really committed to community safety," he said.
"They've been promising to throw the book at these criminals for a long time but they've never hit the target once."
The Community and Public Sector Union, which represents parliamentary staff, labelled the opposition's calls a "rank political stunt".
"Does Mr Guy intend pulling the staff of parliament back as well?" Secretary Karen Batt asked.