Indigenous Incarceration: Reform Policy Should Not Compromise Equality Before The Law

This piece originally appeared in The Australian on 6 April 2018. It is about the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Pathways to Justice report, which can be found here. It draws on my research on Indigenous incarceration, which can be found here.

The exceptionally high rate of incarceration among indigenous Australians requires a policy response that does not compromise equality before the law or community safety.

Over the past decade, the national prison population rose by 43 per cent, with more than a third of this growth the result of more indigenous Australians being incarcerated. Indigenous Australians are incarcerated at 12.5 times the rate of the non-indigenous. This statistic should be read against a complex background of higher offending rates, including higher rates of violent offending, and under performance on all metrics of socio-economic wellbeing.

This issue is back on the national agenda following the release last week of the Australian Law Reform Commission’ report on indigenous incarceration, Pathways to Justice. This is a welcome contribution to the debate around criminal justice reform in Australia.

Unfortunately, however, the report makes some recommendations that would undermine the bedrock principle of equality before the law. There are policy options available to governments that do not infringe on this principle, some of which are also recommended in the report, and these should be preferred.

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Dignity is obtained through opportunity, not redistribution

This piece was co-authored with Daniel Wild (Research Fellow, IPA). It originally appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 18 January 2018.

The most important task of public policy is to ensure the next generation of Australians have more opportunities to flourish than the last. But declining business investment, worsening school results, family breakdown, and youth joblessness suggest we are failing in this task.

This week, the left-leaning McKell Institute contributed to this important debate with the release of their report Mapping Opportunity: A National Index on Wages and Income.

Unfortunately, the report misses the mark.

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Public safety must always be the priority

This piece originally appeared in the Herald-Sun on 2 January 2018. It is behind a paywall here and on the IPA site here.

Under pressure, Victoria Police have now finally admitted that gangs of young people from African backgrounds are causing fear and havoc in Melbourne’s streets.

But despite that, Victoria’s police chief seems to think arresting people is somehow unfair. Acting Chief Commissioner Shane Patton appears to spend more time fretting about the “human rights” of juvenile rioters than he does about the interests of communities being terrorised and individuals being assaulted, robbed and worse.

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Inequality low and decreasing

This is a media release announcing the publication of a research report co-authored with Daniel Wild (Research Fellow, IPA) entitled Understanding Inequality in Australia and which can be found here

Free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs has today released a new landmark report, Understanding Inequality in Australia, authored by IPA research fellows Daniel Wild and Andrew Bushnell, which analysis the extent of income inequality in Australia.

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How to stop a crime wave

This piece originally appeared in the IPA Review and can also be found here.

In politics, the range of ideas that the public will accept is known as the Overton Window. Ideas from outside the window can shift the public discourse, changing what people think of as normal.

The same is true for behaviour. People’s conduct is governed by their idea of what is socially acceptable. The more that antisocial behaviour is tolerated, the more it will be normalised, and the more of it society will have. And that is how a crime wave forms.

As those of us living in Melbourne know all too well, this is not only an academic concern. Over the last two years, Victoria has seen robbery rates rise 20 per cent, theft rise 9 per cent, and assault rise 8 per cent. Crime has a habit of begetting more crime, and the failure to crack down on serious offending has seen Melbourne fall into a crime wave.

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