Statements on which today’s lead story is based.
The CLP’s strategy to deal with youth offending
Statement provided by Bill Yan (Namatjira) and Joshua Burgoyne (Braitling).
Everyone has a right to feel safe in their homes, in their businesses, and in our community.
Instances of crime in Alice Springs are a daily occurrence and the Labor Government is asleep at the wheel. The lack of leadership from this Chief Minister is seeing long-term Territory businesses shut their door and people leaving the Territory in droves because they’ve simply had enough.
The Labor Government has weakened consequences for youths doing the wrong thing, like removing breach of bail conditions as an offence. Labor is putting offenders first and completely ignoring victims of crime.
Last week on Mix104.9, in a snub to concerned Territorians, the Chief Minister ruled out reversing his watered down bail laws. In fact, he described the Territory’s bail laws as ‘extremely strong’.
Michael Gunner is absolutely delusional if he considers removing breach of bail conditions as an offence to be anything but weakening bail laws.
Confronting the issue of escalating crime in Alice Springs should be a priority for this Chief Minister, and the Minister for Central Australian Economic Reconstruction Chansey Paech.
Business confidence is at an all-time low and it doesn’t take an economist to figure out you can’t develop a local economy with the current levels of crime and anti-social behaviour in our town.
In the lead up to the August 2020 election, the CLP pledged stronger penalties to deter criminal activity and make our communities safer for law abiding citizens.
A new Country Liberal Party Government would use the first sittings of Parliament following the election to introduce a raft of amendments to the Bail Act to ensure that repeat offenders face the consequences of their action, including: reversing the changes made by the Gunner Government which removed breach of bail conditions as an offence and removed the presumption in favour of bail for repeat youth offenders.
The CLP is committed to addressing youth crime with a number of strategies, one of which will be a new, purpose built “Sentenced to a Skill” Boot Camp for Alice Springs.
These key measure would work alongside the CLP’s four-point plan to tackle crime which includes:
- Youth Justice being immediately returned to Corrections. The Department of Corrections is best placed to correct the behaviour plaguing our communities. Territory Families will focus on the care and protection of children, and Police and Corrections, along with relevant NGOs, will be given the tools they need to take back control of our streets.
- Youth offenders who are placed in diversion will undertake community service. The community deserves to see real consequences and community service offers a meaningful and effective option if incarceration is not required.
- Victims will be put first. Territorians have had enough of the Labor Government’s ‘offender first’ policies where the victim is forgotten. The toll of crime in our community cannot be sustained and a strong message needs to be sent to offenders.
- Community-centred solutions will be prioritised. The best answers to crime often come from the communities impacted, and they will be different across our Territory. Solutions like curfew in Alice Springs, if supported by the Alice Springs community, will be implemented.
A CLP Government would also have a six-pronged approach to supporting the Territory’s police force.
A CLP Government would commit to:
- Making police a top priority, guaranteeing the police portfolio will be held by the Chief Minister. This ensures that the concerns of police and public safety are always at the forefront of government decision making.
- Rolling police recruitment and sufficient funding provided to ensure that multiple recruit squads can run at the same time. Priority will be given to backfilling vacant positions, in major centres and the bush, as well as meeting attrition rates and keeping the police college appropriately skilled and resourced.
- Rolling back youth justice changes. Reverse the watering down of penalties for youth offenders and institute a system where each offence has a consequence including escalating consequences for youth offenders.
- Increase penalties for the assault and abuse of police officers. There is an average of 230 assaults on police each year. A clear message will be sent to people who assault or abuse police by introducing stronger and more certain consequences for those who assault or abuse police.
- Focusing on remote policing by working with the Federal Government for additional resources to ensure remote police stations are manned as necessary and ensure that housing and staffing meet contemporary requirements.
- Provide greater opportunities for promotion for Territory-trained police officers in order to reward the commitment and local knowledge gained.
My plan to fix crime in Alice Springs – Robyn Lambley (Araluen)
Step1 – Acknowledge the Problem
If I were the NT Government in charge of tackling crime in Alice Springs I would firstly publicly acknowledge that there is a serious crime problem in Central Australia. I would address the people of Alice Springs and acknowledge that the current crime prevention strategies, whilst well intended, are simply not working. I would make a public commitment to work collaboratively with local people to address the escalating problem of crime in Alice Springs using a balanced, sensible, carrot and stick approach. My plan to tackle crime in Alice Springs requires a whole of Government and whole of community approach.
Step 2 – Identify Strategies
I would separate the plan to tackle crime in Alice Springs and Central Australia into short, medium and long term strategies. The priority must be restoring law and order in the short term. The state of lawlessness we have in Alice Springs at present is completely unacceptable.
An audit must be undertaken into NT Government expenditure into youth services and an assessment of bang for buck. Are we getting the services we need to assist youth in Alice Springs? Are the youth services inadvertently enabling youth crime or helping kids to make better choices?
Step 3 – Implement a Youth Curfew
I would immediately implement an emergency Youth Curfew for children.
This would require all children to be off the street between the hours of 8pm and 6am. Parents and carers would be responsible for ensuring their children do not breach the Curfew. Like during the COVID 19 shut down in March / April 2020, the Police would be tasked to confront people that are not adhering to the Curfew. Territory Families would have a primary role in supporting families to comply with the Curfew. All Government funded youth services would be required to assist in compliance and supporting the implementation of the Curfew. If agencies decide they are ethically or otherwise opposed the Curfew they may risk losing their NTG funding.
The Curfew would be a Child Protection strategy designed to keep children safe and get them off the streets at night, so as to minimise the opportunity to commit crimes. The Curfew would remain in place for as long as it takes to see a significant change in behaviour of children, parents and carers. We saw after three weeks of the COVID lockdown that people did comply and crime was reduced to the lowest level we had seen in years. Although temporary, the curfew may remain in place for many months, as required to change behaviour.
Penalties for breaching the curfew may be considered if people refuse to comply.
Step 4 – Examine Legislative Changes
As Legislators I would be looking at strengthening all legislation pertaining to juvenile justice, to ensure the safety of children and the broader community. The bail laws passed by the Gunner Government in early 2020 have been the greatest contributor to the current state of lawlessness in Alice Springs. These laws need to be changed to ensure that the revolving door of juvenile offending stops. Laws must be amended to reinstate personal and parental responsibility.
Step 5 – Bush Youth Camps
Troubled kids need to be provided respite. Being taken away from the harmful influences and pressure is proven to be one of the best ways to help kids to start thinking clearly and to regain their physical and mental health. Bush youth camps must be rolled out to get these kids away from harmful influences.
Step 6 – Child Protection
Child Protection is still one of the greatest shames in the NT. The number of children that continue to be abused and neglected in the NT is an absolute disgrace.
Territory Families, the NT Child Protection authority, needs a shake up from top to bottom again!
The bar continues to be set so low we are meant to accept that children roaming the streets at night is OK. It is far from acceptable. Children have a right to safety, education and care. Their right to roam freely at night without adult supervision is a form of neglect promoted by people without a true understanding of the vulnerability of children and the trauma they suffer being allowed to behave in this way. If children need to escape violence or abuse at home, then they are clearly “at risk” and should be provided Child Protection assistance through Territory Families.
I question the effectiveness of the multiple “inquiries” into child abuse in the NT over the past 20 years: Little Children are Sacred, Growing them Strong Together or the 2017, Royal Commission into Child Protection and Youth Detention, just to name a few.
Caring for children is not rocket science, yet we continue to have the highest rates of abuse, neglect and sexually transmitted diseases in children in Australia.
What we are doing it not working. We are continuing to fail children.
The NT needs to have some frank conversations about child protection. The statistics show the problem in the NT is primarily an Aboriginal one and I suspect the solutions lie within Aboriginal communities and families. I think a good Government needs to boldly tackle these issues. They might be accused of being racist but they might just save children’s lives or at least save them from a lifetime of misery and abuse.
Step 6 – Alcohol Reduction Strategies
The latest NT Police Crime Statistics say one thing very clearly, that the alcohol strategies we have in place are no longer working. Assaults in Alice Springs are up by 20%, Domestic Violence is up by 30%. Added to this, the NT has the highest rate of murder or homicide in Australia. Alcohol is the main contributing factor in most assaults and murders.
Urgent attention needs to be given to changing or modifying our alcohol reduction strategies.
My approach would be to actually target the drunks and problem drinkers. The broad brush approach preferred by the Gunner Government does little to actually identify the real drunks that neglect their children and terrorise their families. I do not believe the NT Liquor Commission is functional or effective. I would scrap it saving approximately $1m per annum and redirect those funds to put more Police on the beat.
Step 7 – Boost Police Services
The Police Service in Alice Springs must be boosted to implement the emergency curfew and restore law and order. The streets of Alice Springs need to be saturated with Police sending a message of zero tolerance. This would be a temporary but powerful measure to assist in the behavioural changes that need to occur.
Step 8 – Central Australian Economic Reconstruction
You cannot talk about economic development in Central Australia without addressing crime. The cost of crime to business is phenomenal, let alone the impact on population growth and attracting workers to our town.
I would immediately task the Minister for Central Australia Economic Reconstruction (currently a portfolio held by Chansey Paech) to become the leader of economic and social reform in Alice Springs and Central Australia. The Minister would be tasked to bring the whole of Government and the whole of community together to fight crime. This work would be actively supported by the Chief Minister and Cabinet. Presently this upper level coordination and leadership is absent.
I would expect this Minister to work tirelessly to bring about the changes required to reduce crime and restore Alice Springs as a safe and attractive place to live, work and visit.
Step 9 – Effective Leadership
The Chief Minister would be a true leader for all Territorians. The Chief Minister’s participation in tackling crime in Alice Springs must be seen and felt. Alice Springs should have access to the Chief Minister and his Cabinet Ministers. They support us and we will support them.
Step 10 – School Attendance
To deny a child an education is a form of neglect and abuse. With truancy levels so high in the NT, we again are failing these children. The role of truancy officers in the NT needs to be strengthened. The Department of Education must work as a part of the whole of Government approach to tackling crime by assisting to actively identify children that are not attending school. Families need to be assisted to get their children to school. Chronic non-attendance at school must be viewed as a Child Protection issue.
Extra estimated cost for 12 months $5m.
More Child Protection workers
More Bush camps
Funds can be redirected from underperforming areas of Government to assist in this emergency response eg. NT Liquor Commission, Level 5 Political Advisors
Note: The intention of the three Alice Springs MLAs joining forces is to have a louder voice demanding action from the Gunner Government on crime. Our ideas and policies on crime are similar in respect of wanting legislative changes around the bail laws for juveniles; our support for youth camps; the view that personal and parental responsibility are critical to the solution; and a deep concern about the lack of leadership and action from the Gunner Government.
As an Independent Member of Parliament my views remain my own.