DEBATE ISSUES: Rockhampton's aspiring election candidates have responded to questions about the region's significant issues.
DEBATE ISSUES: Rockhampton's aspiring election candidates have responded to questions about the region's significant issues.

YOUTH CRIME: Compare the strategies of Rocky’s candidates

ADDRESSING youth crime was voted the most important Rockhampton State Election issue in The Morning Bulletin’s recent big issues poll.

At The Bulletin’s online debate between Rockhampton’s candidates, we challenged the Liberal National Party’s Tony Hopkins, One Nation’s Torin O’Brien, Katter’s Australian Party’s Christian Shepherd and Legalise Cannabis Queensland’s Laura Barnard on the issue.

Additionally, those who weren’t there, Labor’s Barry O’Rourke and The Greens’ Mick Jones have also responded to the question:

Youth crime – Youth crime was our highest polling issue, with strong support also for law and order including harsher penalties for repeat offending.

Leyland Barnett said “Police officers go to the trouble of catching offenders, only to bring them to court and magistrates appear to let them off with just a slap on the wrist. Is there anything that you were willing to do to reflect the concerns of our community and provide incentives to stop juveniles from reoffending?”

LNP's candidate for Rockhampton Tony Hopkins.
LNP's candidate for Rockhampton Tony Hopkins.

LNP candidate Tony Hopkins

Mr Hopkins said the issues youth crime and law and order (more generally) were serious issues for Rockhampton and his party was prepared to get tough on crime.

He took aim at the government’s “catch and release” policy where police were did the hard work only for offenders appearing in court to be released straight away.

“We need penalties .. but also we must put in place some rehabilitation”, referring to the LNP’s plan to run “payback farms” where offenders could learn skills to boost their employment prospects.

One Nation's candidate for Rockhampton Torin O'Brien.
One Nation's candidate for Rockhampton Torin O'Brien.

One Nation candidate Torin O’Brien

Mr O’Brien admitted Rockhampton’s crime issue would be difficult to fix but said One Nation had a total of 18 points in their policies to improve youth justice and law and order.

He said they worked on three angles: prevention, detention and rehabilitation.

“You can’t just be harder on crime, you want to be able to stop actually putting people in prison, and do better before they get that way,” Mr O’Brien said.

“However, if you do the crime, you must do the time.”

He said more effort needed to stop reoffending and fix any potentially toxic home lives.

Given the low numbers of magistrates in Queensland Courts, Mr O’Brien suggested hiring more to clear the backlog of court cases, in addition to building more correctional centres and expanding existing centres.

Katter's Australian Party's candidate for Rockhampton Christian Shepherd.
Katter's Australian Party's candidate for Rockhampton Christian Shepherd.

Katter’s Australian Party candidate Christian Shepherd

Mr Shepherd said the KAP was very much focused on addressing crime, and their crime policy closely mirrored that of the LNP and One Nation.

He said they were focused on stopping reoffending with their relocation sentencing policy to prevent the propagation of career criminals, and stop the cycle of reoffending before imprisonment, “where it’s an academy for criminals”.

“What I personally like to focus on are the underlying issues which cause crime like substance abuse issues, domestic violence and societal issues that contribute to the behaviour of criminality,” he said.

He said having sufficient employment opportunities would play an important role in addressing the problem.

Legalise Cannabis Queensland's candidate for Rockhampton Laura Barnard.
Legalise Cannabis Queensland's candidate for Rockhampton Laura Barnard.

Legalise Cannabis Queensland candidate Laura Barnard

Ms Barnard said she would like to see vulnerable members of the community assisted with more housing, mental health support, and opportunities for the youth to be able to express themselves safely.

“Such a big thing we take for granted is that some of these people don’t feel safe,” Ms Barnard said.

“Some of these people feel safer in a group of other people who are having the same troubles as them. We really need some more guidance for these young people.”

Labor candidate for Rockhampton Barry O'Rourke.
Labor candidate for Rockhampton Barry O'Rourke.

Labor’s incumbent candidate Barry O’Rourke

Mr O’Rourke said the Queensland government was implementing a five-point plan to crack down on youth crime.

He said this included changing the Youth Justice Act to ensure repeat offenders who were a risk to the community must be denied bail, a police crackdown on bail, the introduction of joint strike teams of police and youth justice workers, trials of on-country rehabilitation programs and support for community groups working to target the causes of crime.

“We’re also recently announced an additional 150 police for CQ,” Mr O’Rourke said.

“The feedback I’ve had from police is that the early results of this plan have been positive though there’s obviously still a long way to go.

“There has actually been a 30 per cent drop in the number of youth offenders since 2010, but that has left us with a small, hardened group of offenders that cause our community grief. We need our whole community working together on those cases – not just police and the justice system, but community leaders, local service providers and of course families as well.”

Queensland Greens candidate for Rockhampton Mick Jones
Queensland Greens candidate for Rockhampton Mick Jones

Greens candidate Mick Jones

Mr Jones said crime was a tough issue because the media and politicians stirred up a lot of fear, making people feel that the only way they could be safe was to be ‘tough on crime’ – but far worse criminal behaviour gets a wrist slap.

“Other political parties let powerful institutions like the banks and the Catholic Church get away with shocking behaviour. It’s disgraceful what goes on in those ‘elite’ institutions, as revealed in multiple Royal Commissions,” Mr Jones said.

“A study by the University of Melbourne found that bank ‘misconduct’ had cost Australians over $201 billion over the last five years. Based on Queensland’s share of the economy that means Queenslanders have been ripped off to the tune of $38 billion.

“Other parties take huge donations and other forms of support from big institutions like the Banks, the Mining Industry, and the Catholic Church. The former QLD Labor Premier Anna Bligh became the head of the Australian banking association just as those big scandals hit the industry.”

He said politicians talked big, but they actually took a soft, cautious, hands-off approach towards that sort of ‘elite’ criminal behaviour.

“Those same politicians then say we should take a hard line, super harsh approach to kids in our community who shoplift or break a window,” he said.

“So-called ‘tough on youth crime’ policies do not make our community safer, and inflict terrible damage on the kids and families who are targeted. We’ve seen how badly it’s gone wrong in Western Australia, and the Northern Territory.

“I challenge any candidate to show a real world example of these policies actually making a community safer. The truth is, the more someone is incarcerated, the worse the result for them, their family, and their community.

“We all know what really works when times are tough- we need to lift each other up, not kick a family when it’s down.”

He said this was part of the Green’s plan to make our community safer, and help kids and families find their way out of tough times:

  • Genuinely Free Public schools, including ending all school fees and costs for public schools, and putting tens of millions of dollars into local public schools who desperately need it.
  • Six bulk billing community health clinics around Rockhampton, creating 72 jobs for doctors and nurses, so families can get the care they need, when they need it.
  • 1,800 well designed, safe, public homes over four years in Rockhampton, creating 364 jobs per year, and giving families the stability they need to get back on their feet, and care for their kids. And those are homes for life, so people aren’t tossed out of their homes when they get their life back on track.
  • Free Sports Club Memberships for all under-18s, $10,000 grants to sports clubs to help upgrade facilities, and a $150 rebate to parents for the purchase of sports equipment.

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