Stellar support for relocation sentencing at forum

NORTH Queensland residents fed up with youth crime have given a ringing endorsement for relocation sentencing during an engaging forum held in Townsville on Thursday night.

The Relocation Sentencing Forum saw residents from across the region, including Ingham, Townsville and Charters Towers, hear from an experienced panel about how the Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) policy would be implemented, who it would apply to and how it would effectively rehabilitate young offenders.

Chaired by Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto, Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter, Palm Island mayor Alf Lacey and local community advocate Mike Abraham all pitched in with their ideas on relocation sentencing to a supportive audience.

During his speech, Mr Katter said the policy, which would banish young offenders to a property north of Mount Isa to learn life skills, was as much about stopping youth crime as it was about turning young offenders into law-abiding citizens.

“A lot of these kids have had a rough time and they deserve an opportunity for a new start. And they do not deserve to still be in town causing trouble for everyone,” he said.

Mr Abraham said discipline was a key plank of the policy and essential to reforming young offenders.

“It’s just not good enough. At present, the State Government might think they’re doing kids a favour by not disciplining them but they’re not. They’re wrecking the lives of these young offenders,” he said.

“They’ve got no future on the path they’re on whereas with relocation sentencing, we would actually give the magistrate an option to be able to send them out to the bush.

“I refuse to accept that elderly people living in their homes in fear and locking themselves in is the best we can do as a community. If that’s the best we can do, we have failed and our government’s moral compass is broken. I think it’s been broken for a while.”

A telling moment came during Mr Abraham’s speech, where he asked the audience to raise their hands if they had been or had known someone who was a victim of crime. Almost every hand in the audience was raised.

Cr Lacey said while he supported relocation sentencing, parents of young offenders also needed to be held accountable.

“This is an issue for all of us in terms of how we get on top of it. It starts in the home. Whether you live in the white community or the black community, for some families, dysfunction is a daily occurrence,” he said.

“I think relocation sentencing is a good idea, so long as it’s managed well and resourced well.

“Youth crime is a community issue and whether we live in Palm Island, Townsville, Cloncurry or Mareeba, we need to look at the best possible outcome. It needs bipartisan political support.”

Under the KAP’s policy, young offenders would be sent to an approved property in a remote location where they would work on the land to learn life skills to become contributing members of society.

Ankle bracelets would be used for added security, but security would be mainly through distance and isolation. An incentive system, based on points and certificate awards, would allow the offenders to feel a sense of achievement. This would include qualifications towards things such as a windmill technician, master butcher and stockman.

Several points were made by audience members during the night, including the need to hold parents of young offenders accountable, ending the welfare cycle and focusing additional resources on children aged 0-5 to ensure they grew up to be productive and law-abiding citizens.

Mr Dametto said he was thrilled with the night and the vocal support expressed by both panellists and audience members for relocation sentencing.
“It was good to be able to offer a solution to this crime crisis engulfing our region. I know just how much residents are craving a solution to stopping these young offenders, who make their lives hell,” he said.

“I think we’ve got a better handle on our party’s policy now, including areas that we can fine tune.

“But it’s obvious the support is there and we will continue to lobby the State Labor Government on this issue until they see sense.”

Nick Dametto MP