Laws pass meaning 17-year-olds will be removed from Queensland’s jails
A plan to get 17-year-olds out of adult jails in Queensland has succeeded after the laws were passed on Thursday night.
Just before 10pm, the Youth Justice and Other Legislation (Inclusion of 17-year-old Persons) Amendment Bill passed the House.
The bill will increase the upper age of a child from 16 to 17 years and establish a regulation-making power to transfer 17-year-olds from the adult criminal justice system to the youth justice system.
With Labor and the LNP tied on 40 votes for yes and 40 votes for no, it came down to the crossbenchers to pass the bill.
Katter’s Australian Party MPs took opposing sides, with Robbie Katter supporting Labor in getting 17-year-olds out of adult prisons and Shane Knuth voting with the LNP.
Independents Rob Pyne and Billy Gordon also supported the government.
The LNP foreshadowed its position in opposing the bill in a committee report, with MP Verity Barton saying non-government members of the panel would not support the bill.
Queensland is the only Australian state or territory to include 17-year-olds in the adult criminal justice system.
Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said the bill was not a debate about whether young people who commit crimes should face the criminal justice system.
“What this bill is about is how we treat those young people that find themselves in the criminal justice system,” she said.
Opposition Justice spokesman Ian Walker told parliament the LNP would not support the bill.
Mr Walker said there was no broad consultation on the bill.
“We simply can’t afford to get this wrong,” he said.
“Labor still has not explained how they will manage the delicate process of transferring 17-year-olds alongside much younger children.
“These 17-year-old offenders presently include armed robbers, violent assaults and in the past have included even more serious offenders.”
Mr Walker also called for more detailed information on how much the changes would cost and how 17-year-olds would be accommodated in youth detention.
“Why would we support anything which is clearly half baked?” he asked.
“This is a reactive and poorly-thought through process.”
LNP member for Mermaid Beach Ray Stevens said the law showed Labor was “soft on crime”.
When Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the reforms in September, there were 48 17-year-olds in the state’s adult prisons.
The move was a 2015 election promise but came in the wake of criticism over treatment of teenage inmates in the Northern Territory and Queensland.