Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 4731 ..
MS TUCKER: And he continues to do that. I don't know why he thinks it is an effective tool. But as Ms Gallagher has said today, if it makes people feel better to do that, I guess we just have to let them feel better in that way.
But basically, of course, all of us in this Assembly want to protect the community. That is a given. The question is not whether we want to protect the community or not; the question is what is the best way to do it. And that is what this debate is about.
What we can see from various governments around Australia, the Liberal opposition here and Liberal oppositions around Australia as well is this tendency to pick up concern in the community about crime. Instead of actually looking at the causes of crime and taking a thoughtful and evidence-based response to it, they actually fan the fear in the community. You see the kind of media that is put out by people who are promoting this particular response-and it is the law and order campaign, that race to see who is going to be the toughest on criminals.
As Mr Stanhope and I think Ms Dundas said, that may have some electoral advantage. I imagine that is why politicians of both persuasions tend to pursue it because, if people are frightened, they will be reassured to some degree if the people in authority tell them that this problem will be dealt with by just imprisoning and incarcerating more people.
But in fact you find, when you talk to members of the community, many people do understand that the question is much more complex than that. Many people do understand that, to produce better outcomes, it is better to actually look at what is going on on the ground in the community by people who are committing these crimes. What you also see from the notion of restorative justice is that the outcomes in many cases are much better, not only for the victims of crime but for the perpetrators as well-for both victims and perpetrators. When you actually have a look at what the causes of crime are in our community, it makes even more sense to take this approach.
First of all, we can look at crime in Canberra. The majority of it is drug related. The blueprint that was produced recently-from memory, it was a blueprint to look at the questions of crime in our society and how to prevent crime-had a list of offences. But very unfortunately they actually did not, in that document, make clear the link to how many of those offences were actually committed by people who had a problem with substance abuse. However, if you want to find those statistics, they are available.
I can recall, from one of the committee inquiries that I did looking at young people-and I think in a recent one as well, by the committee that looked at the rights of the child-a very large percentage of particularly young people who go through the courts do indeed have trouble in their lives due to substance abuse. If you also look at a profile of people who are committing crimes, you will find that people with a mental illness are, unfortunately, quite highly represented in that group.
You also see, as Mr Stanhope said, people who are indigenous Australians are over-represented. You also see a relationship between children and adults who have been abused as children. If you look at the statistics on women in prison, a very high percentage of them actually suffered sexual abuse as children. When you have a look at the relationship between poverty, family dysfunction and family chaos in people's lives, you will also see a relationship between that life experience and their incapacity to work