Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment)
: I move,
That the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts
Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill be now read a first time. At the conclusion of the first reading debate, I will move that the bill be referred to the Social Services Committee for consideration.
Reducing violent, serious, and repeat offending by young people is a vital element of this Government’s plan to deal with crime in this country. We intend to offer these young people and their families a fresh start in order to turn their lives around and to address the causes of their offending. We need to intervene at the earliest opportunity to safeguard our communities, to do what we can to break the crime cycle, and to give young offenders the chance to rebuild their lives in a positive way.
The current system works well for most children and young people who break the law. Police diversion works, and our courts have powers to deal effectively with most young people who come before them. Unfortunately, a number of serious and persistent young offenders cause significant harm to their victims, themselves, their families, and their communities. Based on police apprehension figures and the number of higher-level orders used by the Youth Court, we see that this group of serious young offenders consists of about 1,000 children and young people aged between 12 and 16 years. The present system is not effective enough for this group and these Fresh Start initiatives focus specifically on them.
When it comes to preventing serious and repeat offending, there is no simple solution. The factors that lead children and young people to commit serious offences or to embark on a destructive path of repeat offending are many and varied. We need responses based on what we know works and that recognise the developmental needs of growing children and young people. It will take time to ensure that the right providers and Government agencies have the opportunity to upskill and to expand their services and systems to meet these needs. The wrong approach could hurt and harden these young people, and exacerbate rather than solve the problems we are trying to address.
This bill, and the Fresh Start range of initiatives, will improve the current system by providing tougher but significantly more flexible and effective legislation that gives a greater range of options for responding to serious and persistent offending by children and young people. To begin with, the bill widens the jurisdiction of the Youth Court to cover the small group of recidivist 12 and 13-year-olds who are accused of committing serious crime or who commit repeat offences despite the best efforts of police, Child, Youth and Family, and the Family Court. For most children and young people, a diversionary approach works well and they are involved with the police only once. This is why we have set a high threshold before those 12 and 13-year-olds would be processed through the Youth Court.
The bill also ensures that the Youth Court deals with those children in a way that takes their age into account and that protects them from the negative influences of, or victimisation by, more mature young offenders. The police and the Youth Court will be given the flexibility to decide how to deal with serious offending by these children. If a Youth Court judge decides that it is not in the public interest for the offending to be dealt with in the criminal jurisdiction, he or she can refer it to the Family Court. Under our Fresh Start changes, the Youth Court will have a wide range of powers available, including new and longer orders and programmes. The bill doubles the length of the Youth Court’s highest-end sentences, and this will affect about 300 young offenders. Currently, one of the most serious sentences presently available to the court is to send a young person to a youth justice residence for a period of 3 months, followed by 6 months’ supervision. In practice, as long as the offender does not escape or commit more offences while there, his or her time in residence will always be reduced to 2 months. This is simply not long enough. It does not send the right message to young offenders about how seriously society views their offending, and, just as important, it
does not provide enough time for them to receive the help and support they need to turn their lives around.
The bill doubles the length of the sentence to a maximum of 6 months in residence, followed by supervision for up to 12 months. The supervision with activity order will also be doubled to a maximum of 6 months, which may be followed by up to 6 months’ supervision.
Many of the young offenders who receive these high-end orders come from backgrounds that may involve chronic alcohol or drug abuse and families that condone antisocial behaviour, where negative peer relationships are too often the norm. In order to provide these young people with the best chance to avoid becoming serious adult offenders, these Fresh Start changes will require the investment of time and intensive support by the Government and the providers who work with them. It is important that we identify the right people and programmes for these young people. The bill will enable young offenders on supervision with residence orders to undergo activity programmes. Under this amendment, military-style activity camps will be introduced. They will provide a small group of young people with the opportunity to move away from a secure residence and into a camp where they can develop life skills, personal discipline, and self-confidence under the training and control of army or ex-army staff members who have a particular aptitude for working with young people. It will be part of a comprehensive package designed to address the underlying causes of the young person’s offending.
These longer sentences offer the opportunity for intensive work to be done with the young offender to stop the offender from committing further crimes. Each young offender will be the subject of an individually tailored plan designed to address the underlying causes of his or her offending and to support his or her transition back into the community. The lack of drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes for young offenders in the past has not been good enough. As part of the Fresh Start suite of new sentencing orders introduced by the bill, young offenders may, where necessary, be sentenced to attend and participate in drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes for up to 12 months. This will require the strengthening and development of residential or day programmes to respond to the expected increase in demand.
Many young offenders lack positive adult role models in their families and communities. The bill introduces a mentoring programme order that may be imposed on young offenders for up to 12 months. Mentoring will also be an important part of all the programmes in the Fresh Start package. I hope that through the process of developing the new mentoring order, we can have good dialogue across the sector about what high-quality and effective mentoring looks like for the particular young people we are dealing with.
Some parents have not been held to account for their role in their children’s offending. The bill empowers the Youth Court to make an order requiring parents of young offenders to attend a parenting education programme for a maximum period of 6 months. Such orders may also be made against young offenders who are, or are about to become, parents. This will help them to become better parents and, in reinforcing a sense of responsibility, will contribute to their motivation to stop offending.
The bill also deals with young criminals who keep offending and ignore their community-based orders. It introduces spotlight sentences to empower the Youth Court to actively monitor young people who are serious repeat offenders or who have breached the terms of their community-based orders. The level of monitoring of young offenders will be up to the court in each case. Further breaches of community-based orders may require the imposition of a new intensive supervision order. This will subject the young offender to extremely intensive monitoring for a period of 12 months,
and, where necessary, this may include curfew monitoring by way of an electronic bracelet for a period of up to 6 months.
The bill also proposes a range of additional amendments to the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act that will support these important changes. These include introducing split sentencing, establishing a hierarchy of orders, and making transfers to the District Court available where any Youth Court order is clearly inadequate. The requirement that young offenders consent to supervision with activities or community work orders is also removed. These orders are made in response to serious offending, and it is not for offenders to decide which orders are appropriate for them.
The new programmes and orders we are introducing and the funding we will make available to implement them will ensure that the people with the proven expertise, knowledge, and community standing needed to make a difference will be available to help serious young offenders turn their lives round. The passing of this bill will provide an opportunity for community groups, Māori, and iwi-based service providers and individuals to step up and make a fundamental, positive difference in the lives of some of our most troubled and destructive young people. We are committed to ensuring that the right providers are identified and involved in the development of these services, and that they are ultimately responsible for delivering the services in community-based settings.
This Government believes that serious and repeat offending by young people needs a serious and intensive response. This bill offers a new approach and a fresh start for the worst young offenders. It is tough, but it acknowledges that these people are trapped in a cycle of crime and need help and support to break away from a lifestyle of offending. Thank you, Mr Assistant Speaker.
Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour)
: The Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill was given to Opposition members at 1.30 this afternoon.
Hon Ruth Dyson: What?
Hon ANNETTE KING: At 1.30 today we received this bill. I have a copy of the bill as given to me. It was printed and ready for introduction on 16 February, not on 18 February when it was given to us. If the Minister is serious about this bill, why would she not want to share it with the Opposition? Why would she not want to share it with the media? Why are the public of New Zealand not able to have a look at this bill? Why is it not allowed to sit on the Table of the House for the usual number of days? Why would the Government not allow that to happen?
By taking urgency on this bill, the Government has bypassed a crucial part of the democratic process. It means that the bill does not have to lie on the Table of the House for 2 to 3 days, as normally occurs with bills, so that people can have the opportunity to digest the bill in detail, and to take some account of what is in it. Why is there such an urgent rush to introduce this bill right now?
Hon Anne Tolley: Are you going to support it?
Hon ANNETTE KING: If that member would stop carping and think about the democratic process, I would ask her to have a look at the bill, and turn to the part of the bill that tells the people of New Zealand when the implementation date will be. Does the member know when this bill is to be implemented? When is it to take place? Does the member know? I can tell the member that this bill is not due to come into force until October 2010. According to the bill itself, it does not come into effect until 1 October 2010.
The Government has introduced the bill under urgency, without allowing the opportunity for any other member of this House, let alone the media or the public, to
look at it and study it. I say it is an absolute disgrace. The Minister herself has said that the Government will not be able to put boot camps in place until the end of 2010—in 20 months’ time. It is 20 months before this policy can kick off, but we have to introduce the bill under urgency right now. If the Minister thought it was so important to bring in an order covering residential care, why not support the bill already in her name before the House, which was Labour’s bill? The Minister has also said that the residential facilities needed for the hardened young criminals will not be ready until the end of 2010. We have to ask ourselves why we are rushing such a serious legislation.
Hon Paula Bennett: Because you were talking about it, but there was no action.
Hon ANNETTE KING: Government members do not like me raising this point, but it is a fair point to make. When those members were in Opposition they made a pledge to the people of New Zealand they would always be transparent, they would always be open, and they would be cooperative in the way they approached legislation. On every one of those counts those members have failed. This is not the first time the Government has introduced legislation in this manner. I say to the Minister that I am very disappointed in her bulldozing of democracy, when the bill does not come into effect until October 2010.
What about the bill itself? It sets out to do five things: it widens the jurisdiction of Youth Courts to deal with serious offenders between the ages of 12 and 13, it widens the sentencing options available to Youth Courts, it imposes longer residential orders of up to 6 months, it introduces military-style activity camp programmes for the most serious and recidivist offenders, and it enables the Youth Court to spotlight and monitor the conditions of certain community-based orders.
Let us look, firstly, at the aim to widen the jurisdiction of Youth Courts. The provisions base the need to widen the jurisdiction on 80 apprehensions—not 80 arrests, not 80 convictions, but 80 apprehensions—given as a figure by the police. That figure of 80 includes an offender who has reoffended. So in that 80 there might be a young offender who has reoffended four times, and that makes part of the 80. On the basis of 80 youths—some of whom have reoffended many times—the Government needs to bring in this legislation to extend the jurisdiction to 12 and 13-year-olds.
Hon Paula Bennett: You’re not making any sense.
Hon ANNETTE KING: The member should read her own bill and read the reference in her own bill that states that it is based on 80 apprehensions, including recidivist youths. It is in the bill. It is notated in the bill, and it comes from the New Zealand Police.
If we look at the sentencing options, what do we know about the sentencing options that already exist? We find that there is already a range of options under section 306 of the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act. I say that for the member’s benefit. Judges can already add additional conditions and they tell me they have been doing it for the last 20 years. They have been able to send young people to drug and alcohol and mentoring programmes, etc. They can summon parents before the court. So to say that this is something new that has never been done before does not take account of 20 years of what has been happening.
Then we look at the residential orders for up to 6 months. This is what has been in a bill that is currently in the Minister’s name, but which was the previous Government’s bill. If it was so urgent that we have that measure, why was it not put ahead of the Minister of Education’s educational standards, which had to be rushed through before Christmas, even though the schools were closed for 8 weeks? That had to be done under such urgency because the schools were closed, and obviously high standards were needed when the schools were closed! I have to ask, if this matter was so important, why did it not happen then? We support this part of the bill.
Then we get to the military-style boot camps. I have to say to the Minister that there has certainly been a change of attitude by the Government. During the election campaign, John Key said that boot camps would not be run by the Ministry of Defence. National did not intend to have the army running military-style boot camps in New Zealand. Oh yes, he did. It is on record, I tell Mrs Tolley. It is on the public record that John Key said that the army would not be running these boot camps. Now we know that National is in negotiations with the Ministry of Defence for it to run boot camps. I have to say that the Ministry of Defence gave us advice that it did not want to run such programmes, other than voluntary programmes such as the Limited Service Volunteers programme that is already in place.
I was astounded to hear from the Minister yesterday, when I asked her whether she had read any reports or any international evidence and research about the success of boot camps, that her answer was no, she had not read such reports or research. Can members imagine a Minister bringing out a policy that has no analysis around it? She had not read a single report. I direct her to a report on boot camps that were abolished in Florida 2 years ago; the report on boot camps in America in 2007; the Home Office report on military-style boot camps, which condemned them as a failure in 2002; and the study of offenders for 2 years after they were released, which showed that they were more likely to commit violent offences than others who had not been in such camps.
The report that came out of the United States showed that this corrective training has not led to fewer young criminals. In fact, what is the reason that we have so many? What do the judges say? What does a judge like Judge Becroft say? Judge Becroft said that the underlying causes of offending are poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, neglect, and abuse of a young person. This bill tells us that it will tackle the underlying causes of offending. How can it tackle the underlying causes of offending when the programmes are being put in place after the young people have offended? This is really a case of the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. It is not an approach whereby one is trying to address the causes of offending. It does not matter how much the Minister yells across the Chamber, because that does not make this bill any better. Labour will vote against it.
JO GOODHEW (National—Rangitata)
: I rise to contribute to the debate on the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill. I do so sure in my own mind, after that contribution from the member opposite, Annette King, that those members on the Opposition benches will not be supporting this bill. I am very, very sad to hear that they are totally opposed to this bill—or at least that is what I gained from the member opposite’s contribution.
I intend to answer some of the questions that were posed to me by constituents during the election campaign. We campaigned on this issue. One of the reasons why this bill is having its first reading here under urgency is that this National Government delivers on its promises. We promised that it would be here, and members opposite need to understand that we deliver on our promises.
We have a slight problem about the implementation of this bill, which arises from the fact that after 6 years of talking about the youth justice facility, the previous Labour Government did not manage to actually produce or build it. That needs to be done before we can implement the bill. However, we promised we would deliver it, and I am proud that I will serve on the select committee—where we will hear considered submissions and continued debate—that will receive this bill. We will look at this bill carefully.
The public of New Zealand have told us that they fear for our young people. They fear for young offenders. They fear that the current system is not supporting those young offenders to not continue down their offending track, and that we do not acknowledge the seriousness of the situations of some of the 12 and 13-year-old
offenders. There is a need for us to better address ways to do things. The member opposite—Annette King—harped on about how this could prevent offending. She needs to understand that there is recidivist offending happening among young people. Therefore, when they have offended, we need to put all manner of things around them; for example, a residential camp where we increase the length of time they spend in a residential facility, rather than simply getting them through the paperwork process and letting them off without anything actually happening. We need to make sure that education is around them, and we need to address their alcohol and drug habits or addictions—the things that will cause them to reoffend.
One of the questions my constituents have asked me is how much this will cost. This does not come cheap. This will cost up to $35 million and it is worth it to keep our young people out of prison, where almost twice as much money per year is spent as we usually pay to keep an elderly person in a rest home. It is worth it, so we need to get it right. We need to make a real effort. We are heading down the track of new territory, and we are improving on what we already have. Other organisations will be involved, such as the Ministry of Social Development and Child, Youth and Family, the Ministry of Justice, the New Zealand Police, and the New Zealand Defence Force, plus all those justice and welfare agencies that will support these people and wrap around the parenting orders to support parents to be good parents and to support their young people.
I am very supportive of this bill. I look forward to addressing the bill in our select committee, and I look forward to hearing from New Zealanders who are as worried about our young people and their offending practices as I am. Thank you.
JACINDA ARDERN (Labour)
: Before I begin, I point out that it interests me that the National members’ biggest triumph at the moment seems to be that they are fulfilling the election promises they made. We on this side of the House have pretty high expectations. We expect that when people come into this House, they do what they said they would do; I do not think that that is something to celebrate.
Moana Mackey: You don’t get brownie points for not lying.
JACINDA ARDERN: One does not get brownie points for not lying. Just to clarify for members on the other side of the House, who may not have picked up on this, I say that we do not support the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill.
Before I continue, I acknowledge the common ground that exists between us on the principles of what we are trying to achieve in youth justice. There is common ground, despite what might be said on the other side of the House. Everyone here wants young people who commit crime to be held to account; no one is disputing that. However, we acknowledge that when it comes to youth justice—and there is a reason we cordon off that part of the justice sector—we are dealing with young adults and children. Therefore we expect that there is an ability to intervene and to turn lives round. There is a perception that when it comes to the youth justice sector, we should make use of that opportunity; it is right that we try to address both aspects of youth justice. But if ultimately the aim is to address offending and to prevent reoffending, then I have to say that the Government has failed. What do we base that on? It is not just on assertion and rhetoric; we base it on evidence.
Let me begin with boot camps. I know that my colleague the Hon Annette King has already addressed that briefly, but I want to go back to the one time in New Zealand’s justice system when we tried this. That was with corrective training. I reflect here not on my own words but on the words of someone who is held in high regard in the justice fraternity and by both sides of this House—that is, Judge Andrew Becroft. He noted in a paper on youth justice that “the sentence of Corrective Training was abolished in …
2001. It had been designed as a short, sharp, three month “shock” in a military training/borstal type facility for 15 - 19 year old boys. It proved a spectacular failure.” It was not just a failure but a spectacular failure. “If anything, it simply produced fitter and stronger young offenders.”—a point we have made continually. “The reoffending rates approached 92%. It was the least effective intervention in New Zealand’s criminal justice history!”
Chester Borrows: Check the legislation. It has nothing to do with corrective training.
JACINDA ARDERN: I am quite open to hearing from members on the other side of the House about whether there are differences between the military-style training they are proposing and corrective training, which was also military-style training. I am happy to hear from them. The Brits have tried it since the 1940s; it is not a new idea. It has arisen a few times since, but since then it has been abolished because Governments have realised that it does not work.
I add an additional statement from Judge Becroft on this: “A commonly held and erroneous perception, at least in New Zealand, is that youth offending is ‘out of control’. Knee-jerk responses can all too easily include ‘scare them straight and send them to boot camp/corrective training’ demands. These types of suggestions are usually ‘intuitive’, well-meaning, and born out of profound concern. But it is clear they are not effective in reducing youth offending.” We all have to acknowledge that statement by Judge Andrew Becroft. He has more to do with the youth justice sector than we do—he sees these offenders every day—and he says those ideas do not work. I tell Mr “Burrows”—
Chester Borrows: Borrows!
JACINDA ARDERN: Fortunately the pronunciation is not spelt out in
If that were not clear enough for the Government members, I tell them that the judge went on to say that a simple solution of sending all youth offenders to a programme such as boot camp would be unsuccessful. Indeed, it could increase reoffending. I do not need to go over that point any further; Judge Becroft has made it quite clearly.
These are not the only measures contained in the bill; I will quickly address some of the others. Firstly, there is the extension of the jurisdiction of the Youth Court to include 12 and 13-year-olds, to bring them into liability for prosecution. The first question I have for the Minister for Social Development and Employment on this is: what evidence does the Government have that the Family Court’s current jurisdiction over these offenders, and its role in addressing offending at that age group, is not working? We have not seen any evidence, and I think that it is critical that we see the evidence before we pursue that option.
Secondly, what evidence do we have that this extension will prevent reoffending? We acknowledge, of course, that some children—and they are children; we are talking about 12 and 13-year-olds—are committing crimes at what we would perceive to be the higher end of the offending scale, but let us keep this in perspective. Do members on the other side of the House know how many 14-year-olds were convicted in the Youth Court in 2006? There were three. We need to keep this in perspective. We have seen no data on how many 12 and 13-year-olds we propose the Youth Court to deal with, and no data on why the Family Court is not currently catering for these offenders.
I can see that there is a temptation on the other side of the House to treat these children as adults, so my question is: if we are sending these children to the Youth Court, are we also extending its ability to send them on to the District Court? That can be done currently by the Youth Court for those who appear before it, and I want to know whether this provision will cover 12 and 13-year-olds, as well.
Why am I asking these questions? As has been pointed out by Judge Becroft, “there is an increasing trend towards treating youth offenders as junior adults for whom ‘adult crime demands adult time’. The pendulum swings between ‘welfare’ and more punitive ‘justice’ approaches in different youth justice systems. These changes in policy have historically bedevilled a consistent approach to youth crime. Currently, the pendulum is moving firmly towards a more punitive approach.” Why is it important to make that point? It is important because Judge Becroft goes on to state that with more punitive measures come heavier levels of sentencing. One would expect that if 12 and 13-year-olds are being sent to the Youth Court, the Government has an expectation of heavier levels of sentencing. Judge Becroft points out that that more punitive approach—moving from community-based approaches towards custodial sentences—is less effective.
I reiterate this point: we are looking at policies without any evidence base behind them. Why? And when will the Government produce the evidence on which it is basing these quite major legislative changes that impact on our youth justice system? Our youth justice system has historically been heralded as an exemplar of how to deal with young people in the justice system. That has been because we have always differentiated between youth and adult activities, and we have tailored our approach to suit. The Government is rebalancing—it is shifting the balance—and we need to see evidence as to why it proposes to do so. Until that time, we will not support this bill.
I want to briefly cover off the additional measures that have been talked about. We have already mentioned the extension of certain orders. Again, we would like some explanation from the Minister as to why the ability of the Family Court—already within current legislation—to pass down those orders is not adequate.
The final point I make is that given that there is such a lack of evidence around these proposals, we should go back to what there is evidence around—that is, the risk factors and triggers for youth offending. We know that such offending comes out of drug and alcohol abuse; out of dysfunctional, disadvantaged, and violent families; and out of truanting. But the responses we have seen from the Government thus far in all of those areas have been shallow at best, and at worst those areas have been ignored. We on this side of the House have higher expectations. That is where our focus was when we were in Government, and that is where we expect—
Chris Tremain: On truancy? It was a disaster.
JACINDA ARDERN: Truancy? The response from the Government of raising fines on parents, who probably cannot afford those fines anyway, will do nothing to put children back in school.
I finish with one final quote. This one is not from Judge Becroft; it actually comes from Simon Power. He states that “The enduring solutions”—in reference to justice generally—“are not to be found in locking up offenders at younger and younger ages, but to reach them at the earliest stages of development, when character, empathy and responsibility can be shaped, and a future defined … And a future with something that’s perhaps become a four-letter word in politics these days. Hope.” I hope the Government produces something based on evidence and that this side of the House would be willing to support.
KEVIN HAGUE (Green)
: I rise to speak on behalf of my colleague Metiria Turei in opposition to the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill. We have not had any opportunity to look at the bill, as it has only just been tabled and made available to members and the public. Frankly, I am surprised that the Minister would allow such an abuse of the parliamentary process. I thought she would have been more upfront than that, because failing to give the House or the public advance notice of the legislation is an attack on
the democratic process. There is no way that the legislation can be properly scrutinised, and no means for the public to analyse the legislation and tell their representatives what their views are. That is disgracefully anti-democratic.
This bill provides a mixed bag of provisions; some we support, and some we cannot. Extending the breadth of orders for the Youth Court is a good thing. Some are a little dubious, such as the parenting orders for the parents of a young offender. It is contrary to the principles of justice that someone who is not the subject of the court proceedings could have a binding court order imposed on him or her, for which any breach would have legal consequences. I look forward to investigating that in the select committee process.
Other measures, such as the use of ankle bracelets to avoid residential sentences, enable the court to impose longer supervision orders. They have their problems, but they are not necessarily objectionable. I am aware that Judge Becroft, the Principal Youth Court Judge, suggested that this might be a useful option. I have read his work, particularly his address to the Prison Fellowship’s 25th anniversary national conference in May last year, where he canvassed these issues. I think that his analysis of what is effective intervention is faultless.
It is also very important that access to drug and alcohol rehabilitation and counselling is extended both in terms of breadth, and also in length of time on the programmes. Young people need to be able to spend reasonable periods—6 months or more—on these kinds of programmes if they are to be fully effective in the long term. There is a huge gap in the provision of these services, so it is not enough to give the court powers to require young offenders to attend them. Those services must be of the highest quality, and be readily available. We simply do not have the funding available at present to provide all the necessary drug and alcohol interventions that we need. These provisions will not be effective unless there are high-quality, best-practice, and properly funded long-term services for young offenders to attend.
One provision that is entirely objectionable is the extension of the jurisdiction of the Youth Court to those children aged 12 and 13 who commit serious crimes. This was the subject of a member’s bill; the policy was roundly condemned, and should continue to be so. When that bill was being discussed at the select committee, submitters reminded members that there are serious principles at stake in any attempt to increase the criminal responsibility of children.
The first issue, of course, is that the bill is contrary to New Zealand’s obligations under the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. The bill treats very young children of 12 in the same context as much older young people, denying them the opportunity to be treated in the context of their family and their age. There is no reason why children as young as this should be dealt with in more formal, criminal proceedings because of the nature of their crime. A child of 12 is no more likely to exhibit greater understanding of the effects of his or her actions simply because the crime is of greater severity. In addition, all the evidence shows that the younger the offender, the more likely the success of his or her rehabilitation if the intervention is family based and immediate. The best opportunity for that kind of systemic family intervention is in the Family Court. There is absolutely no reason why these children should be dealt with in the Youth Court. This provision alone renders the bill unsupportable, but of course there are the provisions for the establishment of boot camps.
Following the work of Judge Becroft and the address by Jacinda Ardern, it is clear that exposure to older offenders, time spent in prison, and explicitly punitive centres like boot camps at best have no impact on reoffending, and at worst produce the results already shown in New Zealand: reoffending rates in excess of 90 percent. The evidence of the old 3-month custodial sentence of corrective training proved beyond reasonable
doubt that these kinds of courses fail to reduce reoffending. Hence, they contribute to unsafe communities by producing stronger, fitter, and better-informed young offenders. By working with young offenders’ families, there is much less risk that any deviant behaviour is shared or becomes entrenched. The young person is reconnected to his or her family and community. The risk of reoffending is greatly reduced, and that is surely the point. By isolating young people with other young offenders, real opportunities to turn their behaviour around are lost, to the community’s detriment.
Young Māori offenders will suffer the worst from these measures. Research presented by Judge Becroft in May last year shows that young Māori offenders are more likely to come to the attention of the police, even though their offending is less serious than that of their Pākehā counterparts. Other New Zealand statistics show—by way of example, in diversion rates—that young Pākehā are four times more likely to get diversion than young Māori. Further research from Christchurch shows that if people are Māori, they are more likely to be stopped and arrested than if they are Pākehā. The system has filters that over-identify Māori, leading to higher imprisonment rates and longer sentences than those for non-Māori. This bill will mean that these failed boot camps will be filled with predominantly Māori young offenders, even when their crimes are of less severity than those of Pākehā. It will mean that many of our young Māori men and women will spend a large proportion of their youth in institutions that will encourage a greater chance of reoffending. When set against the “three strikes” legislation, these young people begin their lives on a slippery slope towards a lifetime of incarceration.
This bill is designed to deal with only a very small number of serious young offenders who need the highest level of intervention. Many of the interventions proposed in this bill are demonstrable failures, and will lead to increased reoffending. No doubt Government policy will not be blamed, despite all evidence clearly showing that it is wrong. No doubt young people and their families will be vilified when the policies fail to deliver the safer communities that New Zealanders deserve. We have evidence of that with the statement from Garth McVicar, of the Sensible Sentencing Trust, that an adult offender convicted of manslaughter of a young man should have been discharged because minor crimes like graffiti need to be “dealt with seriously”—“seriously”, in this case, being a euphemism for “fatally”. The Green Party will oppose this bill.
Hon RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT)
: The ACT Party rises to support the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill. It is part of the agreement with our confidence and supply partner—National—that has enabled us to get our “three strikes” bill referred to a select committee. The ACT Party looks forward to robust debate at the select committee and back in this House over the issues raised by this bill.
HONE HARAWIRA (Māori Party—Te Tai Tokerau)
: Kia ora, Mr Assistant Speaker. This bill has been branded as a fresh start, but it is not the fresh start we know of. This one is supposed to be about an exciting new opportunity for young hoodlums to turn over a new leaf, start with a new, clean slate, and get a second chance. But when I look through the bill I see that it is kind of like what Annette King was saying, and I suggest that some of the solutions are not very fresh at all. Some of them are already past their use-by date.
They are a bit like Borstals, which were designed in 1924 specifically to prevent crime and reform young offenders. Unfortunately, 70 percent of Borstal kids got straight back into trouble again afterwards, and it took the State 80 years to wake up to the failings of that system. Nowadays they call them “youth residences”, or something
as equally bland and meaningless. They are just as useless in terms of turning kids round, yet we still have them.
Clearly, there is a problem with youth offending, and, just as clearly, that problem is magnified in Māori society. We already know that half the Māori population is under 20 years. We know that nearly 50 percent of all teenage offenders are Māori, most of them young men just out of school. We know that Māori are already overrepresented in the criminal justice system. We also know that most of the kids targeted under this bill will be Māori. So we as Māori MPs particularly have to commit to taking whatever steps are required to reduce that reoffending and to give our kids a better shot at a decent future. We need to make sure that we push for the kinds of programmes, staffing, and resources that will make a difference.
We know, for example, that kura kaupapa work for Māori kids. We know that Māori kids respond to strong and positive leadership. We know that all kids develop well with good support from the whānau. We need to bring that same commitment to kaupapa Māori into this field, as well. So it was good to hear the Minister confirm in this House yesterday—and I repeat it for the record— that “The increased involvement of Māori providers is a priority. I have made a commitment to broaden the range of providers. This will be done by consulting with both the Māori Party and Māori in general. We recognise that Māori have different needs, and we will be implementing programmes that will have a real effect.” Those four statements recognise the importance of bringing Māori into the loop, but they are also a challenge to us Māori MPs and to all Māori providers who care about what happens to our kids to step up to the plate with programmes that work to help turn our kids round.
Like other Māori MPs, the Māori Party also wants to decrease Māori offending and victimisation, but we also support a restorative justice system. We want to change the nature of imprisonment in this country so that it actually reduces reoffending and enhances rehabilitation, neither of which happens at the moment, and in doing so we are not aiming to replace white bureaucrats with brown ones; we want to replace all bureaucrats with community people.
And because I know that people will ask, because I know that the media are anxious to know, and because I know that the liberals are hoping we were not serious about it, I might as well come right out and tell everyone that, properly run, there is nothing wrong with boot camps. There is nothing inherently wrong with expecting kids to get out of bed early, have a wash, have three decent meals a day, get a decent education, do some hard work, and go to bed early. And if the truth be known, I know for a fact, as do most other Māori MPs in this House—although some of them might not want to admit it—that young Māori men actually flourish in a disciplined environment, including boot camps.
I know that the jury is still out on whether these short, sharp shocks actually work, but most Māori are rightfully wary of what juries have to say, anyway. I know too that people have concerns about bullying, hazing, harassment, and other practices that run counter to good learning and good behaviour, but I have seen with my own eyes how short, and long, stints in the armed forces have changed our kids, many of whom were on the edge of going bad. I have seen kids whom our community had written off as being completely lost go away for a 12-week course in the army and come back completely changed people. I have to say that nearly every single one of those young people whom I have seen leave Kaitāia has come back a better person than when he or she went in. So forget the juries and never mind the advice of the liberals; the truth is that good boot camps work. Yep, they will not all be good ones, but we weed them out and make sure that the good ones operate. And if they do, I can tell members that I would not have any problem at all with Māori kids going to them.
I also note that another proposal is to allow Youth Courts to issue parenting and educational orders, mentoring orders, and drug and alcohol treatment orders, as well as the old “Home D” bracelet for kids to keep some of these kids under more regular surveillance. Although each of these ideas ain’t particularly cool, they are worth considering. But I also think there needs to be some very vigorous monitoring of the effectiveness of some of these proposals, so that we do not end up pursuing a policy to the point of stupidity, like previous Governments did with Borstals and current Governments do with kids’ prisons, and so that we can very quickly dump any programmes that have been brought in as a response to the blind panic generated by media hype and very little reality. The Māori Party will be monitoring all of these new initiatives closely so that we can pick out the good ideas and, quite frankly, dump the rest.
The Māori Party faces a big dilemma with this bill, because we genuinely care about these kids of ours who get into trouble. I wanted to talk about how Pita has taken kids in, how Tariana has taken kids in, how Te Ururoa has, and so have I, but then I realised that it becomes part and parcel of our whole lifestyle. We genuinely care about what is happening with these kids of ours who get into trouble—some of it very serious. We know that a lot of the proposals in this bill do not include decent research on the impacts on Māori families and the long-term effects on the Māori kids who will be chewed up by these initiatives, we know that this bill is more about immediate sanction than it is about long-term rehabilitation, and we know that this bill does not have all the answers—not by a long shot.
But we also know that the previous Government did not offer anything particularly positive for young Māori offenders, so this current lot can hardly do much worse. We also note that the previous Government pretty much ignored the opinions of its own Māori MPs. Well, this time round the Māori Party at least has the opportunity to get something positive happening in some of these areas, and we have decided that rather than just sit on the outside and throw stones, we want to have a shot at trying to make something happen. We want to try because our kids deserve the best that we can give, and we want to try because we are not afraid to try. Yes, we can criticise initiatives that we do not like, and we intend to do so, but we have chosen to step through the door and at least try to involve people who can offer positive ideas for the rehabilitation of young Māori offenders.
We know that the challenge is bigger than just youth crime. We know that society must take seriously its obligations to eliminate poverty, improve living conditions for the poor, offer decent education to all of its citizens, create the environment for a strong economy, provide decent wages, and throw aside the yoke of racism that still burdens our society and limits our potential. But we will support this bill’s first reading, to enable this debate to continue. Thank you, Mr Assistant Speaker. Kia ora tātou.
KATRINA SHANKS (National)
: It is my pleasure to speak on the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill tonight. Firstly, I acknowledge a young lady in the gallery, Emma Daken, who walked the length of New Zealand to raise awareness of cystic fibrosis. She is an inspiration for many young New Zealanders. She believed in a cause and actually got out there and did something about it, so I would like to acknowledge her tonight.
This bill fulfils one of our 100-day commitments, which was to get tough on crime and provide young offenders with a fresh start in New Zealand. This is a Government that will keep its word and deliver on its pre-election policy promises. This is a Government that New Zealanders can rely on to keep its word and deliver for all New Zealanders. This is a Government that passionately believes in every single child, that backs every child in New Zealand, and that will not let a child slip through the cracks.
We will not give up on a child. We will try and try again to make sure that every child in New Zealand has hope, because every child is precious to us. Every child can grow up to be a good, productive citizen of New Zealand who adds to the value of what we have here, which is a wonderful, wonderful country.
The Labour Government had no inspiration, no answers, it could not think outside of the square, and it let more than a thousand children slip through the cracks.
But what is even sadder is that a thousand children slipped through the cracks, and 54 percent of them were Māori children. That is not good enough; it is not good enough for Māori in New Zealand, and it is not good enough for all of the thousand children who slipped through. But this Government has some inspiration, this Government is thinking outside the square, and this Government will deliver for those thousand children.
The Opposition says this bill is the ambulance sitting at the bottom of the cliff. Yes, it is the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, because that is where the children are and we cannot let them stay there. We have to pick them up and we have to give them some hope. That, actually, is what this legislation is all about. It is about recognising that these children need a lot of attention to be given to them. They need a lot of wraparound services. They need to be accountable for some of their actions. We cannot just let them go.
Part of this bill extends the jurisdiction of the Youth Court to include 12 and 13-year-olds, which many previous speakers have spoken on a lot. But the part I want to speak on is the tool kit; the tool kit that we will give the Youth Court to actually add some value, to allow it to put in place more programmes for these children—programmes such as parenting orders, mentoring, and drug and alcohol rehabilitation. It is not actually rocket science. What one sees coming from the National Government is not rocket science; it is common sense prevailing. The Youth Court will be able to order parents to take part in education programmes. That is not rocket science, is it? Imagine being able to tell parents they have to take part in education programmes! That is a great thing. The thing is we can put children in programmes, but when they are released to their families they go back to exactly the same environment. It is about having a holistic approach. It is about ensuring that the children get looked after, and the families get looked after as well and get some skills with which they can move forward.
In concluding, I would like to say that I am proud to stand here to support legislation that will help our young children to move forward.
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Hauraki-Waikato)
: I rise to oppose this bill on three particular points. The first point was well made by the deputy leader of the Labour Party, Annette King. I say to Paula Bennett that purely and simply it is a matter of poor process. I say to the Minister that she will be developing policy that will affect the lives of a lot of children, families, and young people, but to have a bill tabled like this, with very little time for the Opposition to examine its pros and cons, I think is poor form on her part, and I am sure that that is not how she intends to go on. However, we cannot support the bill on that basis.
The second point concerns a lack of genuine input into the policy intent of the bill. When I look at the explanatory note of the bill, I see the list of who has been consulted. Sure, a lot of ministries have been consulted, but what about the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, what about Judge Becroft, what about Judge Henwood, what about the youth sector itself, which can offer a lot of important points in this space, and what about the community and voluntary sector, also? They have not really been consulted, or it is not demonstrated in the explanatory note that they have been consulted at all.
On the third point, I say—and it has been said again and again—that boot camps simply do not work. Let me explain that. In Hauraki-Waikato there are some really good
examples of how a community—in fact, how a region—is trying to tackle some of these very difficult issues, and they are very difficult. I acknowledge the youth workers, the social workers, the community providers, and the Māori providers who work in this space, and it is a very difficult space to work in. Nobody can deny that when we are talking about the most difficult cases in our community, we have to talk about a whole-of-Government, a whole-of-community, approach in order to be able to address these issues. Yes, it does take a village to raise a child.
If we look at Hamilton and at what is available—and I see my colleague Tim Macindoe over there—I note we have Te Hurihanga. That particular initiative emerged as a result of extensive work done through the Ministry of Justice with Judge Henwood. During the time when Phil Goff was the Minister of Justice, there was input from community providers who were involved in the youth justice sector, and input in terms of research for outcomes in this space. That led to the establishment of Te Hurihanga, a residential facility. I see Mr Paul Quinn smiling there; he would not know about it because he has not visited it. The point of this—and Te Hurihanga does some very serious work with some of the most difficult children—is that the initiative provides wrap-around services for these children, and their families, to ensure that while intensive casework is done with rangatahi, people are actually working with the whānau out in the community. We do not want to have a scenario where we are investing in these children and then they go back to the same old situation.
That is also why boot camps will not work. In a controlled environment it is easy to ensure the outcomes we are expecting, because it is a controlled environment. But when these kids go back out into their own communities, where very little has been done with their families, we find that repeat offences occur. I am sure members are aware of the work that John de Silva did on Great Barrier Island with families there, because Child, Youth and Family did a review of that initiative. Points will have been raised that although that programme in part was showing some very good outcomes, with a little bit of military-style work being done there, those kids were going back into communities where the same dysfunctional issues were happening.
But let us go back to Hamilton, because just across the road from Te Hurihanga is the Kauri Centre, a Child, Youth and Family - funded centre where young people go for educational programmes. The workers there will tell you that this centre is at the hard edge, but it provides a space just before those kids could possibly go into the criminal justice system. Members should be under no illusion whatsoever: if we are to make a real difference with those kids, we need to invest in the workers who work with them, and we also have to have a wrap-around support network with those children’s families because multiple dysfunctions are occurring.
I say to members to have another look at Hamilton, and they will also find Te Rongoātea, a drug and alcohol service, funded by the Ministry of Health through the district health board. But the greatest irony for Te Rongoātea is that many of the referrals that go there are not local to that community. So I raise the question to Paula Bennett, Minister for Social Development and Employment, and Minister of Youth Affairs: will she be prepared to channel some of that funding she has tagged for initiatives to fund existing services in the community that provide an integrated network of support for young people and their families? That is absolutely critical, and I know that community providers in Hamilton deserve that level of support because they are doing some very good things in that space. Let us not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Boot camps do not work in and of themselves, and the Minister needs to have another look at that particular issue.
I will also comment on the new sentencing order framework in the bill. Parts of this bill, I think, many members across the House might generally agree with, but they are
already happening. So the undertaking that I am really seeking from the Minister, which was not so clear when she answered a question in the House, is whether the Pathways to Partnership funding will be cut in preference to funding other initiatives. It is a very important question; it is one that many community providers and Māori providers are asking throughout a number of our communities. We would hate to see a number of those really good services, which provide a network of integrated services, cut solely to fund parenting programmes, mentoring programmes, and alcohol and drug rehabilitation programmes—albeit those programmes are important, but not at the expense of other critical services provided in the community and voluntary sector.
My message is quite clear: perhaps the Minister for Social Development and Employment should talk to the Minister of Education and the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector. I know that Hone Harawira knows the same communities I know, and I know his communities; we have to invest at the front end. That is the type of change that the Labour Government was driving by investing at the front end—trying to keep our kids at school longer, and making the education system and their learning environment more relevant to them. I urge Paula Bennett to talk to the Minister of Education to see what can be done at the front end to stop any of our kids having to end up in residential justice places, and to see what more can be done there. That will make the critical difference to turn around a whole generation so that we are not building more prisons or residential centres, as the National Government wants to do.
When Labour was in Government we certainly did not want to send out that signal. We had some very difficult times, because in my own community both Te Hurihanga and Spring Hill Corrections Facility were two facilities that met with a lot of angst from our communities.
We do not want to go down that track. We want to turn the tide before it is too late, but that requires investment at the front end. So I challenge the Minister to go into further discussions with the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector and the Minister of Education to see how we can put greater investment at that front end.
The last point I will make, and it is pure and simple, is that the Minister has not looked at the obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. If she did, she would clearly find that bringing 12 and 13-year-olds into the Youth Court system to be liable for prosecution totally contradicts that convention, and our report will look woeful in November when the National Government has to report on its track record of what it is doing for young people. That is sad, because we know that out there in the youth development sector, a whole lot of youth workers, and community and voluntary sector providers, are doing very good things with young people, trying at the front end—the hardest end—to deal with the issue. They know that yes, it is difficult, but boot camps are simply not the answer.
TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker. I am very pleased to take a call tonight and speak in favour of the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill.
I am particularly pleased to follow my Waikato colleague Nanaia Mahuta and I thank her for the analysis she has brought of some of the problems that exist in our local area. My electorate falls entirely within the boundaries of her electorate, and I respect the contribution she made. I am pleased to follow her contribution so I can acknowledge some of the comments she made about some of the intervention measures, such as Te Hurihanga and the Kauri Centre in my city, and to acknowledge the very good work that they are doing. But I say to the member that, surely, she has just explained why the measures we are introducing in this bill are a natural extension of what Labour members
offer, and that they are designed to put a very compassionate and effective measure around the major problem that we have in our electorate.
I say to members opposite that they need to reflect on the comments of their own leader immediately after the election. The new Leader of the Opposition told us that Labour would listen to the people and would learn from the experience of its pretty shattering defeat, not least because Labour is quite rightly perceived to be very soft on law and order issues. Yet in every debate we have had since the election, Labour MPs have reverted to type. They claim to support a tough stance on law and order and they claim to support Phil Goff’s leadership, but they argue against every measure that is put up. I find it incredible that every time a measure of this type comes before the House, Labour members say they will support it, then they speak against it, and then they vote for it. They may not be voting for this one, but they seem to be taking that approach most of the time.
I am very proud to be part of a Government that is listening to the electorate. I am very proud to be a member of a Government that is delivering on its election promises, because, whatever members opposite may think about the issue, the public of New Zealand voted for this measure. I am very proud to be part of a Government that is keeping its word and keeping faith with the electorate, which put us here to do exactly what we are doing in this measure and in all other aspects of our 100-day plan.
Nathan Guy: Very busy.
TIM MACINDOE: We are a very, very busy Government, indeed.
This is a bill and a measure that will be warmly welcomed wherever there is a problem with recidivist young offenders, and I invite members to tell me which part of New Zealand does not have that problem. Sadly, as Nanaia Mahuta has already pointed out, we probably have more than our fair share of such problems in Hamilton West. As a new member who knocked on many doors and got the feeling of the electorate time after time at meeting after meeting, I know that this issue really resonates with my electorate, where people are demanding some action. My constituents are fed up with the soft approach to such issues, which has quite clearly failed to deal with the problem of recidivist young offenders for far too long.
Jacinda Ardern, another Waikato member, asked us where the evidence is to support this bill. I say to her that the first evidence is the policies followed by her party while it was in Government over 9 years that were such an abject failure. If one can see that something clearly has not worked, why on earth would one keep arguing to go on doing it? I suggest very, very clearly that we do young offenders a great disservice if we do not make a serious attempt to intervene and turn their lives around. I am determined not to give up on the young offenders in my electorate, but that is why I will not give in to them. Secondly, there is very clear evidence that our 1,000 or so most serious young offenders require more time and more intensive intervention if they are to turn their lives around. We need to improve the measures that are there at the moment. That is what we must commit to doing and that is what we are committing to doing with this legislation.
I say to members opposite that the research that they have asked for shows that longer intervention programmes give young people essential ongoing support and treatment to be able to make a long-term positive change. There is research to show that intensive programmes for young offenders, such as what we are proposing to implement here, will work if they address the underlying causes of offending. That is a point of common ground right across the House, so let us focus on those underlying causes of offending, and incorporate therapeutic and educational interventions. They are provided for in these measures. When members opposite use that fairly derogatory phrase “boot camps” to try to avoid the harder issues and the more important aspects of the bill, they
actually do a great disservice to the people who would benefit most from the measures. That is why next year we will give the courts the option of a highly specialised residential programme centred on military-style discipline, which will have mentoring, drug and alcohol, literacy, and numeracy modules all attached—a thorough, wraparound programme and service.
We on this side of the House know that there is a small core of young offenders whose crimes have seriously impacted on the lives of their victims and continue to do so, and who pose a real threat to our communities. If we do not do something about the young offenders of tomorrow, they become adult offenders; they are destined for a long period of incarceration. Surely no one opposite wants that—particularly, I would have thought, not the Māori members of Parliament—and we must not forget that if that happens, there will be a long legacy of victims in their wake. I will do everything that I can as a member of Parliament to support measures that will prevent more people becoming the victims of serious crime. This Government believes that these young people need a fresh start, and we will do it for them.
This is just one of the 100 days of commitments; we have made a whole package of measures. Let us not see this measure in isolation; let us recognise that it is part of a major programme that is designed to recognise the real problems we have inherited. We can throw blame back and forth across the House, and I believe that a lot of blame rests with the approach of the previous Government, but I am even more concerned about doing something about it. By cracking down on these issues and by giving some real teeth to the system of dealing with young offenders, we can make a difference for young people. We are keeping our word, and we are delivering on what the electorate has asked us to do. My constituents asked me for this measure time and time again during last year’s campaign. At every meeting I attended, law and order seemed to be one of the major concerns. At every meeting I attended, speaker after speaker asked why we allow young people to go off the tracks and then just condemn them to a hopeless future.
I commend the Minister for Social Development and Employment, Paula Bennett, for her initiative; I commend the Minister of Justice, Simon Power, for the measures that he has taken; I commend this Government for having the courage to say we can do something about it; and I ask the House to say that if the system has not worked for so long and if young people have been cast adrift for so long, then we can, we should, and this Government will, do something about it.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD (Labour)
: For me, personally, it is a sobering experience to be in this Parliament addressing an issue that really has bedevilled, if you like, a part of my life and my professional role in working with families and children since the 1970s. It is really with a sense of sadness that I see that, in debating the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill, we are doing one of the very things that we as practitioners criticised. We tried to work with the laws that Parliament passed and, at times, wondered what real understanding the people had who had passed the legislation. We wondered whether those people took advice, whether they listened to those who knew the situation much better than them, and whether it would not have been more helpful and productive, if they, in addressing the problems that we were coping with, took all of that knowledge into account.
In the 1970s I was a senior social worker in west Auckland. I worked in Ōtāhuhu, Māngere, Ōtara, Papatoetoe, and Manurewa. We had a very, very punitive regime in operation. We took young people, often people with brown faces—and I recognise and identify immediately with what Hone Harawira talked about earlier—and we designed around these young people, who, yes, had transgressed, the most punitive, negative, and unhelpful series of responses possible. We gave them a chance at first; they would get a
warning. They went to the children’s court and were put on supervision. We were not able to work with them, because we just did not have the resources. We then sent them off to—and some members will recall these institutions—Kohitere, Hōkio Beach School, Kingslea Residential Centre, and places like that.
These places were miles away from their own homes, and there young people were taught to keep their elbows off the table, to eat with their mouths closed, to brush their teeth in the morning, to comb their hair, and to exercise, only to return later to their homes where nothing had changed. Very quickly, these young people were on their way to the adult justice system, and they became problems down the track.
When we worked with those cases and realised that was happening, I promised myself that if ever there was an opportunity to reflect on those experiences and to, at least, have my say alongside people with the same views as we on this side of the House have, then I would speak and speak clearly. I am trying to do that tonight. Having realised what we were doing to young people who transgressed, I have spent my life since then trying to find solutions by examining social problems, by looking at the evidence in my own and other people’s research, and by searching the world for the ideas that work—those ideas that, at least, have the best chance of helping to design solutions that will address the very problems we are looking at again today.
We realised very quickly that we could not resolve the complex issues that occur in the adolescent period of young people’s lives by addressing a single aspect of those problems, because those solutions simply become single acts of conscience. Nothing changes, and somebody else has to come back and fix the problems a few years or a decade later. We realised that we had to look at the multiple systems that affected that situation. Much of what we have done since then has been due to realising that. More recently, when I worked in the Families Commission, we looked at what makes families successful. What did 4,000 New Zealand families tell us? Again, they told us not to address just one single aspect of what was in their interests. They asked us to talk to them about how they might live better lives, but also to talk about their communities, the institutions that service them, the policies that they benefit from, and, indeed, the values of the society in which they live.
If we have that realisation, I ask what we are doing now to address the current problem. Let us see how we have got to this particular bill. We have got to it through a very widely publicised set of cases and, yes, like members opposite, we on the Opposition benches are concerned about those cases. We are concerned that we should address them constructively so that those lives are put back together again, those families are put back on pathways to positive growth, and those communities are made strong again.
But we have, in a sense, fed the public’s desire for blood, if you like. It has become a blood sport. I say that advisedly, and not in a manner designed to attack what my colleagues opposite have said. I say that as sincerely as I can. This must not become a blood sport, yet it is becoming one. People have the opportunity, at election time and at other times, to tell us about the very things that concern them, and maybe even about some of the solutions they might propose. That does not mean that, in discharging our role in this Chamber, we should simply take that on board and deliver it. That might earn us some brownie points in the short term, and a few more votes, perhaps, but I ask members whether they want to look back 40 years from now and say that they had an opportunity to change something and did not.
I come here after 40 years of practice, so this is my opportunity to say let us change the things that bothered us fundamentally as practitioners, and that bothered our families. I say that I will listen to what our communities tell us, and to the worries that people have. But we must also engage with them about those ideas that will achieve
positive change. I say to the ladies and gentlemen opposite that nowhere do we have evidence that Draconian measures actually work in addressing these social issues. I challenge anybody to show me where they work.
Craig Foss: Singapore.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: I am sorry, but the member needs to go and study Singapore again. I am really trying to make a point—
Hon Paula Bennett: Oh, come on! Make it practical. All your theories.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: Well, the Minister says “Make it practical.” You will know, Minister, what practical means. You have worked with these people—
Hon Member: You gonna let him do “you”?
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: My apologies. As the member knows—
Hon Paula Bennett: It’s time for action.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: It is time for action. I say to the Minister that we are lucky to have an opportunity, as members of this Parliament, to really take some action. But that does not mean we should take ill-advised actions so that her next successor, whomever he or she may be, will have to fix it up. If we as parliamentarians want to address this issue fundamentally—
Hon Paula Bennett: Not interested in the Google-Boogle theories. Action.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: You were trained well, Minister. You know how to do this, and this is not the way. My apologies again.
Nathan Guy: Talking about sheep again?
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: That is OK; I will get used to it. I say that there are other ways of doing this. Let us bring together the best brains in this country and the best evidence from around the world to address these issues. I say to members opposite that we will get a reputation for using in New Zealand solutions that have failed elsewhere. We did so with national testing.
Todd McClay: But you have a reputation for that.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: I ask the member to listen to the argument, and he will soon follow it.
I ask the member to look at the evidence about boot camps. Let us take just one aspect of this issue. Where have boot camps worked? International evidence demonstrates that military-style courses, at best, have no impact in reducing offending, and, at worst, increase offending rates. That is the evidence. There is case after case from all around the world that tell us that. Overseas countries are now closing boot camps down. We can look at Florida, which has closed its boot camps. It did so because a young person died from the terrible treatment that person received in a boot camp, which used some outmoded ideas about military discipline. This issue is not about military discipline, it is about giving to young people the kind of discipline that will help them to put their lives together in the context of their families and their communities. The Government can be as punitive as it likes, but I guarantee—and I will put money on it—that the Government will be redesigning these solutions in a very short space of time.
TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua)
: I have to say to you, Mr Assistant Speaker, that having sat here for the last hour and a half listening to this debate, I—along with much of the rest of the country for almost the whole of last year—have almost lost the will to breathe. All we have heard from the other side of the House is exactly where those members left off at the election last year. It has been about excuses. It has been about all the things they might have done, all the things they could have done, and now that they are on the other side of the House, on the Opposition benches, they have got all the examples of how to fix things. They think that they have all the answers.
It gives me great pleasure to rise tonight to speak on the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill. In doing so, I start as most other speeches given in this House by Government members have started, by saying that this is a Government that is meeting the commitments it made during the election campaign to deliver for New Zealanders in its first 100 days. I can see why the Opposition would be concerned about that. If I were sitting on the Opposition benches, I would be concerned about a Government that has done so much in such a short period of time—100 days. The people emailing us, calling us, and writing the letters to the editor are people who like action, and they have seen a lot of it here.
We started this debate today with a Minister for Social Development and Employment who cares. We started with a Minister who stood up and said that we have got to do something about the appalling record of youth crime. It is a legacy that has grown over 9 years. I am glad to support the Minister, Paula Bennett, in the measures she has brought forward today. On 2 March last year, during the campaign, one could have picked up the newspapers and read about how levels of child crime, youth crime, and violence were rocketing under the Labour Government. One can go back, find the newspapers, and read them. Simon Power, National’s justice and corrections spokesman at the time, said that Labour continued to fail dismally in the fight against violent crime. At least Labour is consistent. At least the message it was delivering to New Zealanders last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, is the very same message that it is delivering from the other side of the House today. Labour is saying that everything is all right in New Zealand and everything is OK. It is saying that nothing else needs to change and it is happy with its record. Well, New Zealanders got to cast their vote and their opinion on that. They had quite a different idea.
We have heard from the other side of the House: “Where is your evidence?” Let us have little look at this. [Interruption] The member is right; I gave him the courtesy of being quiet. I ask the same from him. The 2007 crime figures show that since Labour came to power in 1999, violence by youth offenders aged 14 to 16 rose by 47 percent—47 percent. Everybody on that side of the House would have to take off their shoes and socks to be able to count to 47—47 percent is far too high. That is 4,766 offences by young people of that age. That is amazing, and alarming. Perhaps what is more alarming is that in just one year—in 2007—violence by children aged 10 to 13 years increased by a massive 30 percent—1,201 offences.
Tonight, members on the other side of the House said that “It is OK and everything is all right. We did all the work that we had to.” That is far too much crime and that is far too many children whom Labour let down. Finally, we have a Minister who is willing to work hard to help families, and to help young people so that they will not go on to be criminals in the adult justice system. Labour will question these figures—and I expect nothing more—but I bet nobody on that side of the House can tell me how many young people get in trouble with the courts and then continue to get into trouble as adults. The figures are not there. The moment young people got to an age where they were adults, Labour said that the problem was solved and somebody else could deal with it. That is not what this Government is about.
Let me go back to the 14 to 16-year-olds in 2007. Robberies by 14 to 16-year-olds were up by 94 percent. Intimidation and threats were up by 69 percent. These are 14 to 16-year-olds; some of them would be taller than the members opposite, but that is intimidation and threats. Grievous assault was up by 122 percent.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Who wrote that joke for you?
TODD McCLAY: I am glad the member is proud of that—122 percent. Minor assaults were up by 20 percent. That is not good enough. I ask members what we should
do about it. Should we wait until these children reach the age of consent, give up on them, and let them go to jail forever; or should we work with them and their families to ensure they realise that there is another choice and that for every choice there is a consequence? We can help them to get back on the straight and narrow.
Do members know what this debate is about? It is about owning up, taking responsibility, and supporting the bill. It is as easy as that for members on the other side of the House—it is a matter of owning up and taking responsibility for the failure of the Labour Government over 9 years, and of supporting this bill.
I have heard others in the House speak tonight. I will not waste my breath or my words talking about the Green Party. I say that Green Party members are too busy jumping at shadows to realise we have a big problem in this House; for them, it is about waking up. I listened very carefully to some members in this House who represent the Māori constituencies in New Zealand. I have great respect for the Māori Party, and I listened very carefully and very closely to the things Hone Harawira said. Mr Harawira spoke with strength and passion, and he spoke of strong families and strong family values. I recognise what he said, and I support him in this. I will work closely with Te Ururoa Flavell in Rotorua, Kawarau, Murupara, and all the other parts of my electorate to help build and reinforce strong families. But sometimes it takes a sharp shock. Sometimes it takes intervention. Sometimes it takes outside help for families and children to get back on the right track, and that is what this legislation is about.
I said earlier that there is a consequence for every action, and equally there is a consequence for every inaction. When we look at the statistics today, we see the appalling record of failure created over 9 years by the other side—the previous Labour Government—and the consequence of far too many young people who are in trouble. I heard another member on the opposite side of the House say that 12 and 13-year-olds are children. I agree—they are children. But the sad fact of the society we live in today is that the very children whom members opposite purport to be so concerned about are committing serious, grown-up crimes. In 2007 and 2008 alone, eight 14 to 16-year-olds were apprehended for homicide, including five for murder, one for manslaughter, and two for attempted murder. Those young people are children, but the crimes they are committing are not the crimes of children. It is important that we have intervention, that we take responsibility as a society, and that we take responsibility as a Government and own up to some of these things.
Hon Paula Bennett: Talk about mentoring.
TODD McCLAY: Mentoring is a very important thing.
Let us think about military-style camps to help some of the worst of the young children who are getting into the most trouble. I am talking about young kids without help who will go on to fill up our prisons when they become adults. Maybe for the first time in their lives someone will treat them with a little bit of respect, and, in turn, they will earn respect. Perhaps those young kids will then realise that they can respect themselves and respect others around them.
The $35 million that this Government is committing to support these young people is a very small amount of money compared with the great cost to society, and compared with the cost of all the reports to sort out the problems that we have heard about over the last 9 years.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: That’s enough.
TODD McCLAY: No, we are just getting started.
National campaigned on this issue. We spoke widely on it. One of my colleagues opposite mentioned something about blood sports. I thought he was going to give us a bit of insight into the problem of youth crime, but he said that society has the ability to tell us what it thinks at election time. Well, guess what? Society did. At the last election
we campaigned widely on this issue. We said we have to do more on this. Every single thing members see in this bill is something we spoke about widely and received support for. New Zealand society said it liked that and wanted a bit more of it. Society wants us to help our young people.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill be now read a first time.
||New Zealand National 58; ACT New Zealand 5; Māori Party 5; United Future 1.
||New Zealand Labour 43; Green Party 9; Progressive 1.
|Bill read a first time.
referred to the Social Services Committee.