19 Jan OP-ED FROM ROBBIE KATTER MP: YOUTH CRIME
The youth crime crisis has once again not only revealed the Queensland Labor Government’s ineffective way of dealing with a problem, but has also exposed Labor’s disregard for the regions.
The most recent response by the Government amounts to nothing more than safe political responses and posturing. It was even more hypocritical that the initial response from the Youth Justice Minister to the recent murder of Brisbane woman Emma Lovell was to say that Labor didn’t want a political response to the event.
Secondly, the fact that it took a response for a murder in Brisbane, rather the consistently high levels of violence and off-the-charts numbers of offences occurring in Mount Isa, Townsville and Cairns, to incite some sort of change, is disappointing.
This is now the second time the Government has made its most significant response regarding youth justice following an event in Brisbane.
The four children killed in a car in Townsville triggered no response. The attacks on elderly residents that have led to a number of deaths in the North-West have triggered no response. The death of a 14-year-old boy who was a passenger in an allegedly stolen car in Cairns early last year triggered no response.
The centrepiece of the Government response included increasing maximum sentences, building bigger youth detention centres and some minor additional funding for resources.
The maximum sentences are likely to have little to no effect.
How many existing car thieves are getting the maximum sentence of seven (7) years now? The answer is, most probably, nil.
What’s the point of extending the maximum sentence for car theft from seven to 10 years if judges are never applying the seven years in the first place? Unless the effort is put into the application of minimum sentences, you are wasting your time.
The expansion of the existing detention centres to add another two at a cost of about $1 billion is bordering on ludicrous.
It will sound good to the average punter that they expand the prison, but when the conditions are such that kids don’t see detention as a deterrent, then what is the point?
The KAP exposed in Parliament that the recidivism rate in Cleveland Bay Detention Centre (Townsville) is 95 per cent – a staggering number.
For the past five year, the KAP has met with the Government on several occasions to push to trial Relocation Sentencing.
Sending kids to a facility like Urandangi provides much more of a consequence than telling a kid you’re sending them Townsville.
This would see kids then forced to very remote areas with multiple facilities, having more chance of breaking up friends and family groups associating in one big facility.
It also satisfies the civil libertarian appetite for rehabilitation. The best chance you’ve got of turning any of these kids’ lives around is out in remote areas of the bush.
The city mentality is that we just keep resourcing social workers to support families and kids before they offend. This sounds good on paper and may work under normal circumstances, but we are way past that point now.
The situation we are in now is akin to a war zone where the acute growth of the problem needs to be arrested fast.
No practical amount of resourcing at present is going to make social workers any more effective at getting through to some of these kids in broken family units. The best circuit-breaker has to be getting them out of those environments.
Another solution that needs to be considered is increasing protections for persons defending themselves or their property.
It stands to reason that with the crime rates soaring, there will be increased rates of victims falling into confrontational positions and less ability for police to assist. It must be that there will be increased risk of victims themselves falling under the scrutiny of the law. I have had multiple reports of this in my office already.
On top of it all, it seems hypocritical that the Labor Government is trying to look tough on crime when it is common knowledge on George Street that it is only a matter of time until they raise the age of criminal responsibility.
Only a few years ago, I would have had barely one or two complaints about youth crime per year. Now, I have a barrage of complaints every week.
I can’t walk down the street without being confronted with some element of this epidemic, so I will make sure that the Government gets as much grief as I do.
They alone have the power to fix this, and they remain frozen at the wheel.