Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie has urged the federal government to set up a national youth crime taskforce following increased reports that Queensland has been engulfed in a youth crime crisis.
Her calls come after crime victims held a rally in Townsville on Sunday demanding that the state government better deal with repeat young offenders.
“This is not just happening in Queensland but all over the country when it comes to youth crime. I think we need to admit that. I don't know why we don’t have a special taskforce set up,” Senator Lambie said on Monday.
“Why hasn’t parliament set up a table? Once these kids end up in detention, that should be the last resort, we have lost them. They have become better criminals.
“Start doing things and stop waiting for them to end up in detention. Early intervention, we are just not doing it at all.”
Despite frequent media reporting of youth crime and offending, official crime data shows that most crime in Queensland is not committed by children. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, rates of youth offending in the state in 2021-2022 were at 5.5 per cent compared with 15 per cent for those aged 20-24.
According to an independent report released by the Queensland Government Statistician’s Office in March, the rate of youth offenders was the lowest on record despite youth detention rates being higher than any other state or territory in Australia.
New data released by Queensland police on Monday shows about 2700 kids aged between 10 and 16 have been arrested since the state introduced tougher bail laws in March.
State Police Minister Mark Ryan said the high arrest rate meant Queensland’s tough youth justice laws were working.
“We are tackling youth crime from every angle – from prevention and early intervention to targeting serious repeat offenders,” Mr Ryan said.
Senator Lambie, who has previously called for at-risk youths to be ordered to complete national service or military-style boot camps, said greater investment into prevention was needed to break the back of repeat offending.
She criticised Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk for failing to engage with concerned community members, claiming her government’s response to youth justice was “going to bring her down.”
“Quite frankly, Labor has been really slack and pathetic on this and I expect a lot more. Trust me, I have a lot more to say about this in the new year, and you will see what I’m doing in the first few months because I’ve had a gutful of them not listening to me,” she said.
“So I’ll show them how it needs to be done.”