The Youth Justice and Related Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 will not be getting the support of the Independent Member for Araluen, Robyn Lambley, nor the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Lia Finocchiaro.
Ms Lambley (at right) says the response to the Bill came from 26 groups and individuals “almost exclusively from stakeholders within the youth justice, legal and human rights sectors.
“A more meaningful scrutiny process would have actively sought feedback from a broader and more balanced range of Territorians, from those who are less vocal, less resourced and less powerful, for example victims of crime and general citizens”.
Ms Lambley says these “are continuing to suffer the considerable personal and financial impact of youth crime.”
However, it is clear that sections of the community incessantly complaining on social media and elsewhere about youth crime, ignored a structured opportunity of putting their views to the government as it is seeking guidance about the formulation of a law dealing with the problems.
For example, there were no submissions to the committee from the Town Council, the Chamber of Commerce nor Tourism Central Australia which could be expected to be aware of these democratic opportunities.
Ms Lambley explained her dissenting report: “It is difficult to justify how easing the consequences for youth offenders is a solution, as proposed in this Bill.
“The latest riot at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre on July 6 is more evidence of the need for reform coupled with the absolute need for serious youth offenders to be incarcerated. This Bill does not reflect reality.”
“The Department of Territory Families were unable to provide clear information of how a larger number of challenging juvenile offenders will be managed in the community, as opposed to being held in detention”.
In another dissenting report Ms Finocchiaro says the Bill “is completely offender-focussed and does not reflect community concerns over the youth crime crisis that we are experiencing” and it “further diminishes the already insufficient provisions under the Youth Justice Act 2005 for providing accountability and consequences for youth offenders – particularly repeat offenders”.
Ms Finocchiaro (at left) disagrees that breach of bail should become no longer an offence.
“Having the all court proceedings involving youth closed to the media and the public offends against the principle that not only must justice be done, it must also be seen to be done,” says the Deputy Opposition Leader.
Lack of consultation by government with police, the business and the wider community on this Bill – 16 months in the making – was evident throughout the Committee process, she says.
Both Ms Lambley and Ms Finocchiaro are members of the Social Policy Scrutiny Committee dealing with the Bill, together with MLAs Ngaree Ah Kit (chairwoman), Chansey Paech and Kate Worden.
Ms Lambley, when asked to comment by the Alice Springs News, said: “These Scrutiny Committees are a step in the right direction.
“Before the Gunner Government set them up in 2017 the NT Parliament had nothing like this in place.
“Legislation would just go to Parliament and be debated – no second level of scrutiny. The NT does not have an upper house or senate, so this was always a weakness in our democratic legislative process.
“The fact that all Parliamentary committees are chaired by and dominated by Government members makes them quite tokenistic but the process does allow Territorians to participate in the scrutiny of most Bills before Parliament if they choose.
“People need to be informed and educated how they can participate in provided comment on legislation before Parliament,” says Ms Lambley.
“Ideally the Scrutiny Committees should be going out to the people, to towns and communities across the NT informing people of legislation before Parliament and asking for comment. We do not this at present.
“Most feedback comes from organisations and businesses that are directly effected by the legislation, that have paid workers that can write submissions and attend hearings.
“The average person is not able to participate in this way.”