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Key wraps Labour Party policy in blue ribbon

Key wraps Labour Party policy in blue ribbon

Justice Minister Annette King says National Party leader John Key's so-called state of the nation speech today is short on alternative policies to the ones being pursued by the Labour-led Government.

"In fact, National is packaging Labour's policies with a blue ribbon," she said.

"His 'state of the nation' speech on youth virtually ignores the hundreds of thousands of good young New Zealanders who are making such a positive contribution to our communities. Instead he focuses his slogans on about 1000 young offenders, and what he doesn't do is tell us how he will stop that number swelling.

"John Key talks right at the start of his speech about dealing with kids who already pose a serious threat to the security of our communities, and that comment alone shows little commitment to young people," Ms King said.

"It's no good waiting for a young person to become a serious threat before you do anything. The teenage problems we face now involve the children of the 'Mother of All Budgets'. New Zealand was warned by social commentators at that time that this is what we faced.

"Labour's approach is about intervening far earlier and galvanising community responses. John Key in his speech pooh poohs early intervention, although he adopts most of the rest of our policies," she said.

"It didn't take a Labour Government long to recognise that developing an effective youth justice system must become a major priority. Within less than a year of taking office, Labour had begun work on a youth offending strategy that was released in 2002. Labour's approach to youth justice is multi-pronged, involving children and families from an early age right through to youth gangs."

Ms King says the Government already has in place many of National's so-called policy initiatives. "Family courts can already require parents to attend parenting courses, for example, and they do so. Mentoring and drug and alcohol treatment programmes can already be made compulsory, and are.

"Their so-called tougher sentences are no more than a repeat of current government initiatives. Longer residential sentences are already before Parliament in a Bill introduced last year, and will be in place long before the election. We are funding many community programmes that Mr Key refers to.

"For example, we are spending over $82 million in parenting support and development programmes, almost $30 million on programmes for families with young children identified as vulnerable, and almost $12 million on youth services aimed at young people at risk of offending. We are also trialling residential programmes for recidivist young offenders, and we have opened new youth justice residences."

Ms King says that anyone with common sense knows that serious youth offending is a complex issue not to be addressed by quick-fix slogans.

"What we need is the sort of investment Labour is putting in over the long term to get the sort of inter-generational changes that New Zealand needs. Police and other agencies say they are now working with far more effective tools than they have ever had before."

Ms King said the Government was also putting policing resources where they were needed. "By the middle of next year we will have established 250 additional community policing positions in three years. We are already two-thirds of the way there. And this year the Police Commissioner has signalled there will be a far great emphasis on appointing more Youth Aid officers.

"That's the point. Government agencies are already doing far more than what John Key says National will do."

ENDS

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