The Guardian January 31, 2001


WA Govt steps up mandatory sentencing

by Andrew Jackson

With Western Australia leading the nation in Aboriginal imprisonment, 
Premier Richard Court has announced an expansion of mandatory sentencing 
laws in further violation of United Nations human rights treaties. Under 
his current "law and order" regime Aborigines in Western Australia are 
almost 20 times more likely to be jailed than non-indigenous people.

Latest statistics from the ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) say that 
West Australia has the highest rate of imprisonment for Indigenous people -
- 2905 Indigenous prisoners per 100,000 adult Indigenous population, almost 
double the rate of the next highest states of NSW (1781) and Queensland 
(1650).

Geoffrey Atkinson, from the National Aboriginal and Islander Legal Service 
Secretariat blamed the "shocking" figures on the failure of the Federal 
Government to intervene in the States, and implement the Royal Commission 
into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommendations.

Meanwhile, Premier Court feels that putting Blacks in prison is a vote 
winner, and triumphantly lauded the success of his "three strikes" 
mandatory sentencing policy.

He told the assembled Liberal Party faithful that it was building "stronger 
and safer communities".

Vic Williams, Secretary of the West Australian branch of the Communist 
Party of Australia said Court was "playing up big on community fears" in an 
effort to undermine the independence of the Judiciary.

"It is a very undemocratic process", he said.

Crime in West Australia's Aboriginal communities was caused by "very high 
discrimination against them in employment, and lack of opportunity in 
education.

"The rate of stolen children was also very high in West Australia, and that 
has significantly contributed to their social problems."

It was government attention to these issues that was needed, not harsher 
prison sentences, Mr Williams said.

While expounding on his vision of prosperity for the State, Mr Court 
clearly had the white population and private prison industry in mind.

"The needs of Aboriginal communities must be balanced with the need to 
ensure confidence and certainty in the system", said Mr Court, a clear 
indication of his intention to pursue sentencing and native title policies 
that will lead to their destruction.

Prime Minister John Howard, who was at the launch, again refused to comment 
on the issue. His commitment to giving "states' rights" priority over human 
rights makes him a willing collaborator to Court's genocidal policies.

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