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




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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 to go wrong, he sounds like he has some compassion somewhere, for people in the Northern Territory. And I take him back to his second-reading speech when he introduced the mandatory sentencing. If you listen to the way he starts off and the sorts of concerns he had, you may have thought that he was genuine, that he was not just doing this for his own political gain or the political gain of the CLP. Listen to what he said: Unfortunately, home invasion, vandalism and motor vehicle theft have become an increasing part o f life in the Northern Territory. Such incidents threaten the very fabric o f society and in the Territory and present challenges to citizens and to the government. Major concern-what do we have. We have home invasion, vandalism, motor vehicle theft, all very serious crime. And, we on this side of the Chamber, would have no doubts about trying to have appropriate severe penalties for serious crime. Mr Speaker, I am sure you have seen the ads on television where it shows a small boy sitting behind a pane of glass with the rain coming down and a voice saying: This is an abused child, there is no-one there to help him. And they show you someone who is in jail and say that there is a system that can possibly do something and why is it we might have some systems in place to try and help some criminals. It goes on to say that the difference is that these two people are actually the same person. The abused child is the person who often ends up in jail further down the line. The person who has been through institutions for numbers of years; the person who has been sexually or physically abused, whether by parents, stepfathers or whoever, ends up leaving home and living on the streets. You, Mr Speaker, I am sure would have come across some children who have been in that situation at 15, 16, 17. I know when I worked as a school counsellor in high schools, with kids who had been going through very difficult times, they often had to live close to the edge. They may at times even break the law. Where are we helping them when societies abuse them that way, Mr Speaker? If they are 17 they are going to steal a minor item, food. What do you think it does to them Mr Speaker, putting them in jail for 14 days to be potentially anally raped by other prisoners? What sort of thoughts do you think they have for a society that, supposedly, their parents and family have already rejected them and possibly abused them? We, the government, the so-called authority figures in the community say: We care so much about you that we put you in jail, and remember what he said is I feel that I have to stress again that the governments proposal for compulsory imprisonment applies to those who persist in flouting the law. One can of beer will put you in jail if you are 17. Mr Speaker, I challenge.... A member inteijecting. Mr BAILEY: You dont have to do anything else, you will go to jail if you are found guilty, - not even convicted, but found guilty - of stealing a can of beer. The judges have no choice in the matter. If youre a 15 or 16-year-old and you commit a second offence, its 28 days in jail. And maybe 10 years later, happily married with 2 kids, something happens. Quite a few examples have been given, like the man who almost went to jail for chopping off a bit of a chook house, or the preschool teacher who poured water over a cash register because she lost her temper with the service. In the future, if that preschool teacher as a 16 or 17-year-old had committed 2 previous offences, 10 or 15 years earlier, she would go to jail for 12 months. That is the system that we have established. That in itself would not be so absurd if we hadnt pointed out many of the concerns that the Chief Minister now raises. We talked about multiple offences before you even go to court for the first time. Not a problem, he said. That wont happen. Theyll be classified as a single criminal event. We said over and over again that the way the legislation reads, if there is more than one separate event, you can end up going for 14 days, 90 days, a year before you have even spent any time in jail. The concerns that we raised 18 months ago are now having this Chief Minister come back again. He said: Nothing in these bills detracts from the intervention and diversion strategies that are in place already and which target people at risk o f offending or those who have offended. Rubbish! How on earth can you take a child who is a petrol sniffer and put them in a rehabilitation program if theyre in jail for 12 months? How do you implement the social training strategies or support if the only option a judge has is to place the person in jail? The Chief Minister will tell us that once hes finished his time in jail, he can go off and do a program. The judge can add that to the end. What sort of attitude do you think is going to come out of that? I challenge anyone in here to produce figures that show that placing people in jail reduces the likelihood of their re-offending. We said before that this legislation punishes not only the offenders but also the victims and the community. In the ministers own words, to place a juvenile in custody costs $320 a day. I know what I could do to try to reduce crime in the community if I 2809