State government's 'tough on crime' approach questioned

Rene Hidding MP
Rene Hidding MP

The release of new figures suggesting crime is on the rise in Tasmania has prompted Labor and the Greens to criticise the government’s “tough on crime” approach.

On Saturday, Tasmania Police released its Crime Statistics Supplement, detailing the number of recorded offences for the 2016-17 financial year.

The report found that the total number of offences recorded in Tasmania increased by 9 per cent, or 2354 offences, compared to the 2015-16 statistics.

Indeed, the 2015-16 supplement recorded a 10 per cent decrease in total offences on the previous year.

Tasmania Police Assistant Commissioner Glenn Frame noted that crime rates fluctuated and that over the past 17 years, crime in Tasmania had decreased “significantly”.

Mr Hidding initially said the figures proved the government’s “tough on crime” approach was working.

He said the government’s move to increase the number of police on Tasmania’s streets had resulted in more crimes being detected.

The Liberals’ “tough on crime” agenda revolves around a commitment to introducing mandatory minimum sentences for certain serious crimes, including child sex abuse, assaults on frontline workers and evading police.

Labor, the Greens and some independent MLCs are against the idea of mandatory minimum sentences, saying they can actually exacerbate offending, undermine the discretionary power of the judiciary and cause overcrowding in the prison system.

But Mr Hidding said such views demonstrated that Labor and the Greens were simply “soft on crime”.

Opposition police spokesman David Llewellyn, meanwhile, said Mr Hidding was “spinning like Shane Warne”.

“Last year, when crime went down, the Liberals took the credit,” he said.

“Now crime has gone back up … they [are] pat[ting] themselves on the back.”

On Sunday, Mr Hidding amended his stance on the issue slightly.

“While it is encouraging that more criminals than ever are being caught, charged, and kept off the street, it is clear that there is still a lot more to do,” Mr Hidding said.

Greens justice spokeswoman Rosalie Woodruff was also unimpressed by the figures, saying the Liberals’ approach was not working and they were “trying to spin themselves out of a very difficult situation”.

“The government’s ‘war’ on crime is an epic failure,” she said.