Has anyone wondered why the CEO of BHP Billiton Australia, Marius Kloppers, was against Kevin Rudd’s CPRS & Resource Super Profits scheme, but this week comes out ahead of anyone else to announce that Australia has to ‘get moving’ on carbon pricing?
Kloppers is a smart man, who out-maneuvered everyone on the recent mining tax negotiations. Keep that in mind, when answering this multiple choice question. And also remember, that a tax is a tax, no matter how many times you rename it, or whether you put happy-feeling words in its title.
So, is Marius Kloppers:
(a) Suddenly mad;
(b) In secret negotiations with Prime Minister Julia Gillard which could benefit BHP if he were to shout support pre-emptively (Labor modus operandi involves hanging someone else out to test public sentiment & then backing away if it goes badly);
(c) Keenly aware that it would be in the interests of shareholders and BHP to price out smaller competitors;
(d) In Team Julia, not Team Kevin; or
(e) A Greenie.
The Australia where everyone had a chance to ‘have a go’ and where small companies could work hard and grow, might just be behind us. The fact that no-one is shouting “anti-competitive behavior” is most vexing.
Australia: vibrant and competitive one day … dull and anti-competitive the next….
Eighteen years ago, on the 5th of August, 1992, the Queensland Labor Government made a pledge to amend the law so that 17 year olds would be transferred back into the juvenile (now, “Young People”) detention system and taken out of the adult prison system. Labor has forgotten its pledge to Queensland children and there is a campaign afoot to remind it.
You might wonder why this matters. You might also think there’s nothing you can do about it. I know: both those thoughts crossed my mind too. Some time ago now, I’d worked for almost 2 years in criminal defense, which is enough time to become cynical about the world and burnt out by the misery of it all – so much so that defending insurance companies afterward seemed like a cake walk. However, I digress.
In 1992, when the Juvenile Justice Act (now, “Youth Justice Act”) was passed by Queensland Parliament, the Labor Government pledged:
“It is the intention of this Government, as it was of the previous Government, to deal with 17-year old children within the juvenile, rather than the adult system, as per the Kennedy Report into prisons. This is consistent with the age of majority and avoids such children being exposed to the effects of adults in prison, thereby increasing their chances of remaining in the system and becoming recidivists. This change will occur at an appropriate time in the future.” (Qld Parliament, 5 August 1992:p.6130).
There’s always been the legislative scope to easily change the position to allow 17 year old offenders to be dealt with pursuant to the Youth regime rather than the adult regime, but no regulation has ever been established, meaning Queensland is the only state that treats 17 year old offenders as adults.
This raises a number of questions:
* Why use tax-payer money to fund a report which the government chooses to ignore? I want a refund. Or value for money. And an apology to the author of the report.
* If Queensland is the Smart State, how come the law defines an adult to be an adult of 18 years except when it’s a 17-year old committing a crime here and not elsewhere? Something yonder brays.
* Under the Child Protection Act, there is an obligation to investigate incidents of children who may be at risk of harm. How does this work when the government is the one putting the child in harm’s way?
* Is it not foreseeable that putting child offenders in with adult offenders would increase risk of injury to the minors? One might cough sideways three times in a way which could sound like “negligence”.
* How is this not a contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child? (as Damian Bartholomew points out).
Queensland’s Children’s Commission, Anti Discrimination Commissioner, Queensland Heads of Churches, United Nations and youth and legal advocates have urged the government to fulfill its commitment to transfer 17-year olds from adult prisons to juvenile detention centres. The Youth Affairs Network Qld, which is the peak body promoting the rights and interests of young people in Queensland, has postcards circulating, which people can write comments on and send in to the Premier, Anna Bligh. While one must appreciate that there are plenty of other priorities in government, especially now, with election fever and State Labor struggling in the polls, it’s inexcusable that a decision can take that long to implement. But of course, bad kids don’t win sympathy or votes in voter-land. Besides, kids don’t vote, either, so screw that.
You might ask what’s the hold up. The answers would seem to be: money and public sentiment. The spoils of the never-ending mining boom have been lost and there simply is no money to improve or extend existing facilities for young people – it’s easier and cheaper not to change things. And besides, most people wouldn’t know this was even an issue and even fewer would care, unless they really thought about it.
I’ve spoken to people on both sides of the debate. Police, who are faced with controlling other people’s unruly and criminally-inclined children are sick of the repeat offenders and the slack, limp-wristed punishment given to young offenders (which don’t have the requisite deterrent effect). Police have no interest in amending the law, and who can blame them. No-one should have to put up with the rubbish that they endure on a daily basis, while the rest of us sit back and demand better law and order but vote with our eyes closed, nonetheless.
Youth advocates also come in all shapes and sizes and have dedicated their lives to trying to help the sometimes un-helpable. Which begs the question: how, as a society, are we letting it get to this?
My personal view is that the law should be consistent – an adult is an adult, not a child with one year to go – and the government has a responsibility to children in its facilities (to protect them from harm and not to put them into an environment which all but removes any chance of rehabilitation). To that effect, the law should be changed, as promised. However, we’ve had Labor both at State and Federal levels and I, for one, would like to know why so little has been done in the way of law and order as well as for the protection of children. The social engineering sins of the past are wildly bearing fruit and rotting before our eyes. And it stinks.
Children go off the rails for various reasons, but they stay off the rails because of inadequate parenting, inappropriate social infrastructure and the decay of respect for the law and those who uphold it.
Demand that the law be changed, but also demand a change to the circumstances that see those children going to prison in the first place.
Thanks to readers: David, aa, Cheryl, Darren and ak.
Please feel free to add your comments, below. Anonymity will be respected.
This issue makes Australia look bad internationally. It transcends political battle lines.
Thank you to the following people for their speedy and thoughtful responses:
Damian Bartholomew, solicitor.
Wendy Francis, Lead Senate Candidate for Family First http://www.wendy4senate.com
Dr Andrew Jeremijenko, The Greens Candidate for the Division of Lilley
Andrew Bolt, journalist. http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt
Nick Earls, author http://www.nickearls.com – Thanks for the words of support!