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Curfew policy was around before many of these offenders were even born

Campaign Diary

The idea of a youth curfew for teens and preteens in Townsville is so old it would escape the net being cast by the LNP in its highest-profile election pitch this penultimate week.

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The original author of the tough on law and order policy was former federal Liberal MP for the far north seat of Herbert, Peter Lindsay, who rolled it out before at the 2004 national election.

Lindsay won his seat that year in a canter but because youth crime is uniquely a state responsibility he never got around to doing anything and it disappeared into the dustbin of unkept promises.

Deb Frecklington’s predecessor Tim Nicholls revived it in 2017 – although he was tougher than the LNP this time around.

Nicholls planned to not only keep young folk off the streets after 8pm but proposed hitting parents of wayward youths with a welfare freeze and on-the-spot fines.

Frecklington’s policy for an 8pm shutdown for those 14 and under and two hours later for kids aged up to 18 was the sit-up-and-take-notice promise this week.

The curfew pledge is almost cost-free politically. There’s every chance it will hit a hurdle or five when being implemented if the LNP wins power.

Meanwhile, the simple populism works a treat. The people of Townsville – and Cairns – will like any hardline plan to deal with what’s at least seen as an intractable problem, rewarding the LNP with cheers and possibly votes.

Predictable criticism from civil liberties groups and academics is the bonus validation the LNP craves – it keeps the story going and reinforces the appearance of being “too tough” when such a thing is never enough.

One reason these kinds of policies are popular and get voters nodding is that it is an emotional policy response to an emotionally based problem. Centre-left parties like the ALP too often forget that emotion drives much in modern politics – or they ignore it.

Of course, as well as the high probability it will never happen, the other downside for the LNP is explaining what suburb or street in Townsville or Cairns the youth refuges will be located within. That’s something the LNP won’t want to talk about.

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