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Matt Robson To Sensible Sentencing Trust

18 July 2002


Embargoed until 7.00pm To Sensible Sentencing Trust, Lower Hutt

Matt Robson, Deputy Leader

A sensible approach

Thank you for the invitation to speak tonight. I’m Matt Robson representing Jim Anderton’s Progressive Coalition Party.

Everywhere I go, people tell me they are fed up with politicians bickering over crime.

The bickering must stop. The issue is too important.

I believe that there are more areas of agreement than disagreement amongst all of us on this panel tonight.

We all agree everyone has a right to live their lives in safety and peace

We agree - violent offenders should be imprisoned for as long as necessary - for the worst that means the rest of their life.

We agree - we have to get to today’s kids in trouble before they become tomorrow’s hardened criminals.

We agree - justice must be victim focused

So let’s sit down and hammer out a consensus.

Getting to kids in trouble at the school gate or the front gate at home before they reach the prison gate makes sense.

Because once they reach the prison gate, they leave behind them a trail of victims, who will always carry the scars.

We have to get to them first.

I’m not interested in who’s soft, who’s tough, who’s right, who’s left - I’m just interested in WHAT WORKS.

That is why I have sent a letter to each party likely to be represented in the next parliament, asking them to sit down with me in a multi-party forum.

We can leave the politics at the door.

The Clark-Anderton government has increased sentences for violent offenders. Have no doubt about that.

I’m building four new prisons to cater for the increase in prison numbers.

But Act, the Greens and National have protested against my new prisons.

Well I have a message for those parties:

You can’t be anti-crime and anti-prison.

I call on these parties to immediately cancel their campaigns against the new prisons.

The Progressive Coalition takes a sensible, common-sense approach to crime prevention.

- Lock up the worst offenders for as long as necessary.

- Get to kids in trouble before they get to you.

- Look after the victims.

In the next government I want to build on my work as Minister of Corrections, and focus on those kids getting into trouble today.

I believe that we can intervene at any stage of the life of an offender, from birth onwards.

I know that some find that controversial, but I believe it is a challenge we must face.

Taffy Hotene - Paul Dally - Malcolm Rewa - all committed despicable crimes - but they were all babies once.

We are sticking our heads in the sand if we don’t face the fact that there are kids out there now who will become tomorrow’s -

- Murderers

- Burglars

- Rapists

- Arsonists

But we can do something to prevent it.

It’s common sense.

We have third generation unemployed. Whole families who have never known what it is to have a job.

We have third generation prison inmates.

Whole families who have made crime a career for generations.

We have kids getting into trouble at school and skipping class, sometimes for months.

We have one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the western world.

These groups in our society are at risk.

I don’t want to punish teenage mums. I want to give them the skills to be good mothers and the confidence to develop their own lives - to raise healthy and happy kids who know right from wrong.

That is why in government I am setting up Day Reporting Centres to get teenagers in trouble off the streets before they commit a violent crime and end up in prison.

The Progressive Coalition will target at-risk kids: we want:

- One Stop Shops in all low decile schools across New Zealand. That means a police officer and a social worker on tap in these schools.

- A nation-wide “drug-free’ publicity campaign to keep kids off drugs

- Harsher penalties for those who supply drugs to children

- Programs to reduce teen pregnancies

- Support for schools and high-risk families with kids in trouble.

What better way to keep the public safe than to intervene before kids start out on a life of crime?

And there’s something else we can do to prevent crime.

It’s very simple. Get all New Zealanders into jobs.

I was with Jim Anderton yesterday when he opened a new factory on my turf in South Auckland.

That’s 400 people who didn’t have jobs, who do now.

Some of those people hadn’t worked for over a decade.

Now those 400 people will have a decent wage, a chance of a better life, an income to raise their kids properly.

And their kids who may never have seen an adult in their family go out to work, now have a future.

The Progressive Coalition, as part of the next government will make sure that those kids are never on the dole.

We want all New Zealanders under the age of twenty to be either in a job, in training or education.

I believe the way to deal with crime is simpler than it seems:

- Lock up the worst offenders for as long as necessary - life can mean life. That’s why I need more prisons.

- Get to the kids at risk today, before they become tomorrow’s hardened criminals.

- Get kids off drugs

- And get all New Zealanders into jobs.

If you are serious about dealing with crime, then give your Party Vote to Jim Anderton’s Progressive Coalition.

Because we are the only party prepared to sit down with everyone here and work through the best of what each party has to contribute, to come to a consensus on stopping violent crime.

Can we fix it?

Only if we throw out the slogans, sit down together, put people before politicians and sort it out.

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