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Monday, 18 March 2013
Page: 2437

Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (21:28): The former US President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that read, 'The buck stops here.' Perhaps every home should have one of those signs. Someone in every home needs to take responsibility. In a family home, that 'someone' must be the parents.

But the clear links between parenting and juvenile delinquency seem to be ignored when it comes to youth crime. Youth crime is an apprenticeship for adult crime. Not all juvenile offenders complete their apprenticeship and stay in the trade, but many do. I wonder how much future crime would be prevented if parents were held accountable for the actions of their children, if punishment for offences were handed to the parents or if parents of juvenile offenders were forced to better their parenting skills as a result of the juvenile crime.

There is a good case for stronger linkages. In the meta-analysis by Machteld Hoeve et al in The Relationship Between Parenting and Delinquency, the following conclusion is drawn:

A significant relationship exists between parenting and delinquency and confirms previous research that behavioural control, such as parental monitoring is negatively linked to delinquency.

Closer to home, Kevin Ronan, foundation professor and Chair of Clinical Psychology at CQUniversity, has publicly said:

Not knowing, or caring, where the kids are perhaps when drinking or at other times has been found to be linked to what is often the single most powerful predictor of violent, antisocial outcomes for youth, associating with other kids who have come from similar backgrounds and who are also on an antisocial trajectory.

I recently held a community forum in Wulguru, in Townsville, to talk about the rising incidence of crime in the suburbs of that city that fall within my electorate. As an example, in the past two months eight homes have been burgled or broken into in Annandale. In addition, thieves broke into eight cars and another three cars were stolen. It was a similar tale in Wulguru: 10 homes were burgled or broken into; five cars were broken into or stolen. In Idalia, nine homes were burgled or broken into, thieves broke into seven cars and another five cars were stolen. Stuart, Cluden and Oonoonba have also been targeted. In the past two months, three schools in that area have been broken into.

Residents I spoke to at my community forum in Wulguru were concerned about the escalating crime rate. They live in fear of the next break-in and feel nothing can be done to stop young offenders. Wulguru resident Geoff Winstanley, who could not make it to the forum, wrote to me, saying:

I'm very concerned about crime in the area. Most people are. My neighbour across the road had his car stolen last year. He was lucky to get it back. Hundreds more people in Townsville have endured the same or worse. I have had kids that looked to be 12-14 years old trying to break into my car and house at 1.30am.

Whose children are they? Do their parents know where they are at 1.30 in the morning, or why do they not know where they are? Whether they do not know or do not care does not really matter. The parents should be held responsible for those children and must be held to account for their actions.

When these concerns were raised with me, and residents in Townsville suggested that parents should be fined, I looked into what was currently available to magistrates. Under Queensland's Youth Justice Act 1992, orders can be made against a parent. According to the act, when a child is found guilty of a personal or property offence, 'it is reasonable that the parent should be ordered to pay compensation for the offence'. It also states:

The court may decide to call on a parent of the child to show cause, as directed by the court, why the parent should not pay the compensation.

If the law exists, it actually should be used, not as an option but as a first port of call. I believe a fine of, say, $2,500—and higher for more serious crimes—would be a significant deterrent. Under the act, the fine can be up to $7,370. If parents are unable or unwilling to pay—and this is something new that I suggest to the Queensland government—then an ability for a court to order the parents to take an intensive parent training course and counselling sessions with their juvenile offending child should be incorporated in the act. It certainly would not be the first time parents have been held to account for the actions of their juvenile offending child. I note that in 1993 a magistrate in Far North Queensland, in the town of Innisfail, ordered the parents of a juvenile found guilty of property damage to pay almost $8,000 restitution. Rather than this being an isolated case, such actions should be the norm if we are to truly break the cycle of juvenile crime.

The SPEAKER: The question is that the House do now adjourn.

Question negatived.