Queensland’s peak law body has slammed the Palaszczuk Labor Government for reneging on key 2020 election promises – in particular that it had no intention to implement ‘breach of bail’ laws for alleged youth crime offenders.
Queensland Law Society’s scathing 22-page submission to the Government’s proposed Strengthening Community Safety Bill 2023 – published today – includes criticism of the 60-hour consultation response deadline, the overriding of human rights laws for children and numerous broken Labor Party election promises on youth justice.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Tuesday (21 February) provided the first details of proposed “new tough laws” to address the state’s so-called spiralling youth crisis.
Ms Palaszczuk, in a joint statement with two other senior Ministers, said proposed youth justice reforms would prevent serious repeat offenders being granted bail by the court and greater public expenditure to tackle the “complex causes of youth crime”.
Youth justice remains one of the most heated and publicly-debated topics, with the Government proposing reforms in response to a spate of high-profile youth crimes – including the Boxing Day stabbing death of a north Brisbane mother and the recent alleged murder of a 75-year-old man at a Toowoomba taxi rank.
The Government last week tabled its Strengthening Community Safety Bill 2023 (the Bill), less than two months after its 29 December announcement of “ten new measures aimed at keeping the community safe” and to “give effect to the announced legislative reforms and strengthen youth justice laws”.
The Bill was referred to the parliamentary Economics and Governance Committee for review, but only provided stakeholders a 60-hour window in which to respond.
The committee – which received 69 submissions despite the short response deadline — is expected to hold hearings this week and is expected to report back to Government by 10 March.
QLS President Chloé Kopilović, in a just-published submission, said: “The adoption of many aspects of the Bill by Government (are) contrary to long-standing policy positions and assurances given … (in) Labor Party response to QLS Call to Parties election statements.
“In 2020, Deputy Premier Stephen Miles responded to the QLS Call to Parties document for the 2020 Queensland Election saying: ‘Youth justice bail laws have been recently reviewed and amended. The Palaszczuk Government has no intention of implementing so-called ‘breach of bail’ laws. There are no silver bullets to address youth crime, and it requires a range of responses to both keep the community safe and divert young people from criminal behaviour. We believe we have the balance right’.”
On 10 February, Mr Miles came under fire for lashing out at a Townsville Childrens Court magistrate’s decision to immediately release 13 children on bail being held on remand at the local police watch house – describing the move as a “media stunt” and suggesting that community safety was being “held to ransom by rogue courts and rogue justices”.
Ms Kopilović said the Society was also disappointed with the extremely short time frame given to respond to the Bill.
“While grateful for the opportunity to comment on the Bill, we raise significant concerns with the unacceptably short timeframe for submissions,” she said. “This is exceptionally concerning considering the magnitude of the legislative reform and the impact it will have on children and young people.
“A call for submissions on the Bill was issued on Tuesday, 21 February 2023. Submissions were due 12pm, Friday 24 February 2023, providing a mere 60 hours for stakeholders to respond.
“The inadequacy of the truncated deadline is compounded by the lack of targeted consultation or the provision of a consultation draft of the Bill to stakeholders prior to the Bill’s introduction.
“The reforms proposed in the Bill are significant and will have wide-ranging implications for Queenslanders, in both the short-term and long-term.
“It is in all our best interests to ensure proposed laws work as effectively and efficiently as possible and have no unintended consequences.
“This requires meaningful and robust consultation with stakeholders. Short consultations will not yield the best legislation for the people of Queensland.”
The submission also tackles the Government’s first “express override of the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld) (HRA)” to secure safe passage of the Bill.
“The proposed legislation seeks to expressly exclude the protections of the (HRA),” Ms Kopilović said.
“This is the first time that the Queensland Government has sought to override the protections in the (HRA), noting that this must only occur in exceptional situations such as war, a state of emergency or an exceptional crisis situation constituting a threat to public safety, health or order.
“In the midst of the recent global pandemic and natural disasters, there have been no circumstances which have been thought valid to justify an override declaration of the (HRA).”
Queensland Human Rights Commissioner Scott McDougall last week released a statement voicing his concern over the Government’s move – saying: “This is the first time a government in Queensland has sought to expressly remove human rights protections.
“It is deeply concerning that the Government has sought to exclude the Human Rights Act from the operation of new provisions of the Youth Justice Act, because the Government accepts that they are incompatible with human rights,” Mr McDougall said.