Territory Stories

Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 17 February 1999



Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 17 February 1999

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Parliamentary Record 14


Debates for 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Wednesday 17 February 1999 With this emphasis of keeping juveniles out of detention, the end result is that it is much more likely that it is only the hard core of determined offenders who will be sent to detention. It is a strategy far more cost-effective than the lock-em-up policy of the Country Liberal Party. Detention of juveniles with the stafFoffender ratios required to meet the duty of care obligations makes for an expensive exercise - in dollar terms, well over $300 a day to keep a juvenile in detention in the Northern Territory. Current imprisonment rates probably tick along at around 25 inmates - that is $56 000 per week. That is very close to $3m per year. There is however, far more at stake than the simple economic cost in dollars and cents. There is the great risk of increasing recidivism, of pushing juvenile offenders further into a life cycle of crime, rather than having them come good to play their role in society as law-abiding citizens. I hope the new Chief Minister and Attorney-General is less ideologically tied to the concept of mandatory imprisonment than his predecessor. I was very impressed with what I was shown and what I learned in Victoria, and I believe the Northern Territory could learn an incredible amount from them in the area of juvenile justice. The Northern Territory stands almost alone in its treatment of juvenile offenders, although Western Australia is not too far behind. The opposition says that the Country Liberal Party has had a go at mandatory imprisonment. It has been unable to substantiate to this point the success of this policy. It risks creating more and more offenders by this policy. It is imprisoning juveniles for stupid matters, as stated by former Minister Poole and Magistrate McGregor, and there are other sound options that should be exercised before detention is considered. Both the Country Liberal Party and the community need to take note of the increasing dollar costs attached to keeping this policy alive. I urge members to support the motion. Mr BURKE (Chief Minister): Mr Speaker, before I deal with the substance of the motion, I just want to deal with a couple of points that the member for Nhulunbuy made. I dont know whether I am listening more closely to the sorts of things he says in the Chamber today rather than other times, but twice today the member for Nhulunbuy has made some astounding statements. Today he said that, in terms of alcohol-related antisocial behaviour, the Northern Territory government has a purposeful policy of encouraging that sort of behaviour in order to gain some electorate advantage. Now I just think that is an astounding allegation and, without wishing to dwell on it too much longer, I find that that sort of irresponsible statement, if one thought about it, really goes beyond the pale. Everyone at local council level - I met with Galarrwuy Yunupingu today and we spoke about that particular issue and it is a concern to his own constituency. The Northern Territory government has various strategies in place, local councils are concerned and have strategies in place. We fund the AIMSS patrol. We have the best programs in place in Australia, that are rated nationally every year with regards to programs that are funded through the Living with Alcohol Program or the wine cask levy. And yet the member for Nhulunbuy has the hide to say in this Chamber that we have some purposeful policy approach to encourage alcohol-related, antisocial behaviour. Secondly, he also makes the statement that we have a purposeful policy - now, whether the opposition agree or disagree with our policy with regards to mandatory sentencing, I can accept that. But to make the jump and the gross generalisation to suggest that we have a purposeful policy of creating hardened criminals, because in doing so again we will gain some electoral advantage, I think is just breaching the bounds of commonsense. When one talks about juveniles, we are talking about something along the lines of $320 a day to keep a juvenile in detention and any government who would even consider some purposeful policy to encourage that simply is beyond the pale of my imagination at least. In terms of the issues that are put before us today, I guess in general terms, I am in total agreement with the mandatory sentencing regime that has been put in place in the Northern Territory. There are aspects of that regime that need looking at. The member for Nhulunbuy made comments about people being imprisoned under that regime because of minor offences, and I acknowledge the comments that magistrates have made for particular offences that fall outside of the intent of this legislation. A review of the legislation to absolutely clarify its intent is something that we will do; and we will do so in a process that involves various stakeholders including the Law Society and the Bar Association and others. Mr Bailey inteijecting. Mr BURKE: The intent is certainly... M r Bailey inteijecting. Mr SPEAKER: Order! Mr BURKE: ... to catch those of good character who can be captured for one incident that is totally out of character. That incident in itself, would under the present system, gain either 14 or 28 days of imprisonment, and I will be looking at mechanisms 2806