Labor’s $250 million youth watch-house band aid
6 October 2023
Hinchinbrook MP and Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) Deputy Leader, Nick Dametto is outraged following an announcement from the Palaszczuk Government that they will be wasting $250 million of taxpayer’s money on a remand centre for youth offenders in Brisbane that will be nothing more than a purpose built juvenile watch-house.
The State Government announced that the 50-person facility will be constructed on Queensland Police Service owned land, directly adjacent to the existing Brisbane Youth Detention Centre. Using “rapid build technology” construction of the facility is slated to begin this month and is due to open in 2024.
The Hinchinbrook MP expressed his utter frustration about the missed opportunity for remote North Queensland and said a new youth remand facility was nothing but an expensive band aid that will not adequately address the root causes of youth crime or help communities in the North.
“Rather than addressing the urgent need for a Relocation Sentencing facility in remote North Queensland, this Labor Government is clearly clutching at straws here as they attempt to appease the leftist south-east voter base,” he said.
“While the Queensland Labor Government has made this substantial investment in a youth watch-house in Brisbane, the communities of North Queensland are the real losers here as they continue to bear the brunt of escalating youth crime.
“It’s disheartening to witness the priorities of this government, which appear to favour metropolitan areas over the safety and well-being of our regional communities.
“We could have constructed and operated multiple relocation sentencing facilities in remote areas of Queensland with that $250 million and it would have gone a long way towards making an actual difference to youth crime and the lives of those kids.
“Instead, here we are seeing millions of dollars being wasted on nothing more than a holding facility, which is curious given Labor’s recent controversial law changes that permitted youths to be held in adult watch-houses. Looks to me like Labor is planning to go out with a bang, and not the good kind.
“I implore the Queensland Labor Government to reconsider their priorities.”
KAP Leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter said fast-tracking a “holding pen” for young criminals whilst failing to strengthen and lengthen youth justice laws or trial alternative sentencing options would be a road to further ruin.
He warned that more Queenslanders would die, and vigilante activity would increase, if the problem was not addressed at its core.
Mr Katter said the KAP’s Relocation Sentencing policy was a ground-up rethink of the delivery of juvenile detention, and any approach that failed to meet the proposal’s four main pillars would be a waste of time.
“We, and many other Queenslanders, believe that effective detention-based sentencing options for recidivist youth offenders must be: 1. Remote, 2. Mandatory, 3. Fixed term, and include 4. Intensive rehabilitation,” the outback MP said.
“How does this Brisbane-based holding pen meet these criterion?
“All they’re doing is expanding their capacity to keep kids out of watch-houses before they are either released on remand, or sent to a traditional detention centre.
“Trouble is these detention centres are breeding grounds for worsening criminality – we all know the statistics: at Cleveland Youth Detention Centre in North Queensland the re-offending rate is around 95 per cent.
“It’s just more and more of the same and I fear for how bad things are going to get.”
KAP Member for Hill, Shane Knuth said youth crime should not be a political issue, but it’s clear the State Government fast tracks facilities when it comes to trying to secure and appease voters in the south-east, but pays lip service to regional Queenslanders, where youth crime is spiralling out of control.
“Relocation sentencing has gained widespread support from all levels of local government, business leaders and the wider community in regional Queensland, regardless of party lines, in dealing with repeat youth offenders,” Mr Knuth said.
“Talk is cheap. If the government was really serious in looking after regional Queenslanders, the Premier should also be announcing funding to immediately fast track a relocation sentencing facility in remote North Queensland.”
Youth crime rates in Townsville, Cairns, and Mount Isa remain at alarming levels, with Townsville experiencing a horrific week of serious youth crime offending. Some of the offending included the assault and robbery of an elderly woman, an attempted carjacking involving two young children, and a man was injured by his own vehicle as he attempted to stop it being stolen.
KAP has consistently advocated for the Government to commit to a trial of their Relocation Sentencing policy. The policy received overwhelming community support and endorsement following its official launch earlier this year.
A Relocation Sentencing Facility in North Queensland could provide an alternative and more effective approach to addressing youth offending by focusing on rehabilitation, education, and community engagement. Additionally, it would relieve the strain on the local police force and the justice system, allowing for more proactive measures to tackle youth crime.
 KAP’s Relocation Sentencing Policy can be found here: https://kap.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/KAP-Relocation-Sentencing-Policy-2.pdf