Youth Crime – Op Ed from Nick Dametto MP
16 February 2023
The Palaszczuk Government is struggling under the pressure of the youth crime crisis and rightly so. As the first sitting week of Queensland Parliament quickly approaches, the frustration of Queenslanders is starting to show as many seriously question what sort of leadership they have found themselves under.
Since the tragic stabbing death of Emma Lovell in her home on Boxing Day 2022, the State Labor Government has had every opportunity to act and hit back at youth crime. Instead, Queenslanders have seen nothing from the State’s leaders aside from the Premier taking a blasé approach while avoiding any urgency to resume parliament early. The Premier didn’t believe that Queenslanders dying at the hands of children was a dire enough reason to get back to work.
Since Boxing Day however, there has been plenty of activity from Queensland’s recidivist youth offenders with two more brutal and violent deaths that could have been prevented. It’s no surprise we are hearing next to nothing from Labor MP’s about these recent tragedies. Then again, is there anything they could say or do that will redeem the negligence and contempt they have shown for Queensland residents?
It is clear the Government is in full crisis mode. That’s evident from the recent comments made by the Deputy Premier who publicly criticised a member of the Townsville judiciary over a decision to release 13 youth offenders in Townsville, a decision pursuant to the State Government’s own laws. This display of frustration shown by the Deputy Premier could be an indication of what’s going on in the party room.
The Government’s internal crisis is further evident by the Premier’s decision to throw the Police Minister and the Youth Justice Minister under the bus and send them to Toowoomba for community consultation in the wake of youth crime victim, Robert Brown’s passing. Will the Hervey Bay community also be invited to publicly consult with the Ministers? Did Townsville receive public consultation following the death of Jennifer Board in 2021? The snap decision to visit Toowoomba demonstrates political fear on behalf of the Premier who appears to lack the gumption to face Queenslanders herself.
A week out from Labor introducing its new “tougher” youth crime laws and the only people who seem to be taking any hard-hitting action are the youth offenders who are well and truly ramping up their own campaign. The Premier doesn’t even have the respect to show Queenslanders what her proposed legislation looks like. Public consultation and the views of Queenslanders is not something the Premier is concerned about.
The Queensland voter was lured in to vote the Palaszczuk Government in for a third term on the premise that the Premier would keep them safe, and this term she has failed to do that.
The Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) are backing the communities calls to see this legislation before Parliament resumes. Unless the non-government members have time to properly scrutinise the bill, it is going to make it very difficult to debate it to its full extent if it is to be rushed through the House. As per usual, Labor will have the odds stacked in their favour when it comes to being well prepared, I can hear the keyboards of busy ministerial staff prewriting speeches as we speak.
The KAP has very little faith in this government. We have anticipated what Labor’s draft legislation will look like and we are currently working on our own amendments. Our amendments will include but will not be limited to minimum sentencing, removal of detention as a last resort, provisions to allow relocation sentencing and a presumption that youth offenders be tried as adults for several prescribed crimes such as murder and rape. The KAP has listened to the community and our amendments reflect their views.
If I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, I’d say, the State Labor MPs will have to 100% back the Government’s proposals and it will be highly unlikely they would support stronger amendments introduced by any other party. So, this leaves them in a conundrum.
One would say, if you were one of the sitting Townsville MP’s or the Members for Cook, Mulgrave, Cairns and Barron River you would be pretty nervous about this legislation hitting the mark. This will likely be Labor’s very last chance to introduce legislation that could save their seat come the next election in 2024.
In the same respect, if the opposition fails to put something of significance on the table, they too could be sealing their own political fate. So far reinstating breach of bail as an offence seems to be their flagship policy, which is hardly a holistic solution to this problem. The Member for Burdekin will also share the spotlight in this debate, as shadow Police Minister he will be scrutinised by Queenslanders as to how he would perform if he held the top job.
We have one chance at this, let’s see who can get it right.