Sleeper issue that could decide election
WHEN Queenslanders go to the polls later in the year, many voters will make their decision based on the state of the economy and whether they are prepared to forgive Labor for its integrity scandals and the lacklustre performance of its Cabinet.
Others will turn it into a popularity contest between the two leaders, Annastacia Palaszczuk and Deb Frecklington.
Then there are the disengaged who couldn't give a toss, and then you have the political junkies - educated types who read and appreciate this column - who will weigh up every facet of the political landscape before making their important choice.
In past state elections, the key issues have always been the economy and the correlation between cost-of-living pressures, health, education and, to a lesser degree, crime and law and order.
But on October 31, my sense is that while many voters will mark the Labor Government down on its handling of the economy and its Treasurer Jackie Trad's memory lapses, crime and soft sentencing will be front and centre.
In particular, the good folk of north Queensland are fed up with rampant crime.
If the LNP is to win the next election, they must win Townsville and Cairns seats.
In previous elections, voters in Townsville and Cairns have been somewhat accepting of high crime rates, particularly among juveniles.
There's a sense among some people in the north that residents may not be as forgiving this time around.
Latest police crime statistics show you are three times more likely to be assaulted in Townsville than in Brisbane, and you are four times more likely to be assaulted in Cairns than in Brisbane.
Forget the coronavirus. How do you conceal those figures from international tourists?
According to official police figures, in 2015, there were 722 assaults per 100,000 people in Townsville.
In 2019, that figure had gone up to 848 assaults per 100,000 people, an increase of 17.3 per cent.
In Cairns in 2015, it was 913 assaults per 100,000 people, rising to 1152 assaults per 100,000 people in 2019, up 26.2 per cent.
In Brisbane, in 2015, it was 242 assaults per 100,000 people, up to 286 per 100,000 in 2019, up 18.2 per cent.
Let's check the overall crime rates figures.
In Brisbane in 2015, there were 7604 crimes committed per 100,000 people, jumping to 8715 in 2019, up 14,6 per cent.
In Townsville, for every 100,000 people, there were 13,327 crimes committed in 2015, jumping to 14,636 in 2019, up 9.8 per cent.
In Cairns, there were 19,270 crimes per 100,000 people, rising to 21,729 per 100,000 in 2019, up 12.8 per cent.
Reporting of domestic violence and drug related offence is up sharply.
Member for Clayfield and former opposition leader Tim Nicholls - whose electorate has suffered a recent surge in crime - held a community meeting recently and more than 200 people turned up. Crime is a hot-button topic, he says.
In Cairns and Townsville, the local papers have banded together to demand action from north Queensland MPs, blaming George Street for its inability to bring the problem under control.
In Cairns, a major new community group, Crime and Justice Action Group, has been launched by residents and victims of crime.
A former police whistleblower has described Cairns as "incredibly dangerous'' and crime is "significantly under-reported'', laying the blame on the Youth Justice Act.
Much of the angst relates to juveniles being allowed to repeatedly secure bail, only to be allowed on to the street to commit further crimes.
The group gave an example of a 50-year-old woman being raped in her own home after a youth offender was allowed back into the community under the Youth Justice Act.
Then there's the judicial attitude that goes with being a magistrate or judge who imposes sentences that don't reflect community expectations.
A good example of this soft sentencing is the Extinction Rebellion activists, who glue themselves to bridges and roads and are arrested by police for public nuisance and disruption.
With faces only a mother could love, they parade before the courts, getting a slap on the wrist, before heading out to do it all again.
The same goes for the agitators who disrupt train lines in central Queensland.
They get fined, appeal to the District Court and then having their sentences cut back appreciably, to do it all again.
Left-leaning judges and magistrates are letting these people get away with thumbing their noses at authority, and the police are annoyed.
That's the judicial culture we have in Queensland and it's encouraging, fostering and empowering criminals to keep breaking the law.
A few months in jail for repeat offenders is surely not too much to ask.
The Opposition says it won't tolerate high crime rates and soft sentencing and we must take them on their word, if indeed they are elected.
But right now, many Queenslanders have had enough of out-of-control crime and they want action.
Will it be a vote decider? Only time will tell, but if ever law and order is going to play a role in a Queensland election, this may well be it.
If the LNP sweep Townsville and Cairns, it's all over for Labor and they only have themselves to blame.