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Outrage at Queensland Opposition plan to scrap "last resort" condition on youth detention

Dechlan Brennan -

The Queensland LNP Opposition have vowed to repeal ‘detention as a last resort’ if they win the state election, ushering in an approach to youth crime that contradicts the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

Liberal National Party leader David Crisafulli, who withdrew from the bi-partisan approach to Queensland truth-telling and Treaty last year, labels Labor’s approach to youth crime - which the government has called the "toughest in the country" and which disturbs human rights, legal and Indigenous groups - as "soft,” and has called for "restoring consequence for action".

Speaking in Townsville on Tuesday, Mr Crisafulli said the LNP would rewrite the Youth Justice Act to put victims of crime first if it wins the October election and accused Labor of having a “conga line of crises”, Guardian Australia reports.

“An LNP government would make sure the rights of victims come first before the rights of offenders,” Mr Crisafulli said.

It backs up comments he made on Monday, when he argued “removing detention as a last resort will be the first action of an LNP government.

“After nearly a decade, it’s clear Labor has the wrong priorities and they’re out of ideas to fix the youth crime crisis they created."

Premier Steven Miles, who previously emphatically rejected removing detention as a last resort only last month, labelling it “dangerous” – has seemingly softened his stance, with The Australian reporting he would “consider” doing so if it was recommended by the parliament’s youth justice select committee.

“That’s certainly not our intention, but we have a select committee at the moment so we will see what they recommend,” he said. “We will consider whatever they recommend.”

Chaired by independent MP Sandy Bolton, the bipartisan committee has held public hearings and will deliver an interim report next month.

Maggie Munn said she is worried for the Queensland's children (Image: The Australian)

 

Gunggari human rights campaigner and national director of Change the Record, Maggie Munn, told National Indigenous Times both leaders were using election tactics to “play politics with children's lives.” 

“It shouldn’t be about prioritising victims over kids with problematic behaviour or prioritising kids with problematic behaviour over victims, but rather looking at the harm and the perpetuation of harm that comes from exposing children to watch houses, police and prison,” they said. 

Munn said removing detention as a last resort breached international conventions about the treatment of children in detention, as well as “directly contravening” the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

“If that's what the LNP wants to prioritise doing, it shows a real disregard for Aboriginal lives and what can happen in custody to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Munn said. 

“We've already seen what happens to kids when they're in custody, and when they're in prison, and removing detention as a last resort… I think we'll just completely and utterly open the floodgates for really serious harms to occur to these kids.” 

Human rights groups have responded with outrage after the explosion of children being incarcerated since the Labor government twice overruled the Human Rights Act to introduce breach of bail consequences for juveniles and allowing children to be housed in adult watch houses. 

Earlier this month, National Indigenous Times reported on the death of two disabled Indigenous teenagers who died in the immediate aftermath of being housed in isolation at youth facilities after experiencing a lifetime of abuse. 

Justice Reform Initiative's Queensland Advocacy and Campaign Coordinator, Aysha Kerr, said at the time the deaths of the two boys was another warning sign that the Queensland government “needs to shift its approach to locking up children, or face more tragic consequences.” 

"As we head towards an election, Queensland's leaders on both sides must have the courage to follow the evidence of what will actually work to make communities safe,” Ms Kerr, a descendant of the Ngugi people on Quandamooka country, told National Indigenous Times. 

“It isn't getting 'tough on crime' and locking more children up, it's being smart on crime - pumping more resources into community-led early intervention, prevention and diversion that will support children, families and communities towards better pathways away from crime and the criminal justice system."

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