Cop this: Palaszczuk drops a $332 million hammer on youth crime

Annastacia Palaszczuk’s revised youth justice bill comes as an iron first wrapped in a velvet glove. Time will tell if it wallops soaring crime rates, or permanently floors our most vulnerable kids.

Feb 21, 2023, updated Feb 21, 2023
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has launched her new youth crime bill. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has launched her new youth crime bill. (AAP Image/Darren England)

The premier says her keenly awaited youth crime legislation will make it harder for serious repeat offenders to get bail, while evidence based, ‘therapeutic’ approaches will tackle the complex causes of youth crime.

The ‘tough new laws’ and prevention measures announced on Tuesday come with a $332 million price tag aimed at locking up repeat offenders for longer, diverting at risk kids from following a life of crime and getting understandable community fear and anger to dissipate.

Reimposing breach of bail for young offenders, while blindsiding some of her key ministers connected to the law and order portfolios, and potentially shredding her credibility with voters, will be the price paid to neutralise LNP attacks that have grown in momentum and gained traction over summer.

Opposition Leader David Crisafulli said the breach of bail backflip was a sign of  “a government in chaos, lurching from crisis to crisis, attempting to manage the media cycle”.

“The decision by the Palaszczuk Labor Government is an admission their decision to water down youth crime laws when they first came to office in 2015 is directly responsible for the youth crime epidemic spreading across the state,” he said.

“Queenslanders now know that the LNP is leading the state from Opposition.”

Greens youth justice spokesman Michael Berkman said that when it came to crime, voters now had little choice between Labor and the LNP.

“Once again Labor is copying the LNP’s homework, and they’re both failing,” he said.

“Labor hasn’t just backflipped on breach of bail; they’ve come up with an even worse solution than Campbell Newman.
“They don’t care about community safety, all they care about is a headline. Queenslanders now know Labor will abandon their supposed principles for political clout, even where they concede they’re breaching Queensland’s Human Rights Act.
“A ‘serious repeat offender’ declaration is this government admitting that it’s failed to rehabilitate a child, and has no other solutions but cycling them back through an ineffective system.
“Queensland is locking up more kids than any other state and it isn’t working.”
Experts in the youth justice field have previously told InQueensland that locking up more children will only make the problem worse.

Palaszczuk’s legislation has been keenly awaited since a Brisbane woman was killed during a home invasion by two teenagers over Christmas, less than two years since a couple were killed at an intersection in Redland City by a teenage driver with a troubled criminal history out on bail at the wheel of a stolen car.

They have been shocking escalations in an already fast-moving upward trajectory of almost daily assaults, knifings, muggings, car thefts and break-ins reported from across the state.

Palaszczuk says her legislation is carefully considered. It’s also carefully worded and crafted to reach multiple audiences.

For the hardliners, who want a big stick approach, the language is militaristic – $25 million for ‘high visibility police patrols’ and $17 million for expanded ‘joint flying squads’.

Serious repeat offenders will be ‘targeted’, especially the 17 per cent of young offenders who are committing 50 per cent of the crimes, according to Palaszczuk.

The targeting of these offenders under the revised legislation will look like this:

  • For the first time this century breaching bail conditions for young offenders will be an offence in Queensland.
  • Conditional release orders will be extended from three months to six months. Repeat offenders will also serve their suspended term in detention if they breach a condition to improve their chances of receiving rehabilitation.
  • The Youth Justice Act will be amended to declare certain offenders as ‘serious repeat offenders’, meaning tougher sentencing principles to protect community safety must be applied.
  • Requiring offences of unlawful use of a motor vehicle with circumstances of aggravation of violence or threatened violence to be heard by a District Court Judge
  • People who are passengers in stolen vehicles, commit burglary or enter a premise to commit an indictable offence will now have a presumption against bail.

For children needing rehabilitation there will be an expansion of intensive case management and the deployment of co-responder teams and an additional $100 million on top of $800 million already committed to community based initiatives and culturally appropriate ‘on-country’ programs for First Nations young people.

“We have listened to the community. This action is all about putting community safety first,” Palaszczuk said.

“We will use the full force of the law to target the small cohort of serious repeat offenders that currently pose a threat to community safety.

“When these kids reoffend time and again, we need the police to catch them. And we need the courts to do their job.

“They have the resources. They have the laws. They have the tools.

“Importantly, they have this government’s full support to keep our community safe.”



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