You have to wonder sometimes about the calibre of our current WA politicians.
We all know that hoon drivers are out of control these days. But exactly what to do about them remains an enigma.
Several years ago the then Police Minister (now independent) Rob Johnson had the answer. Confiscate and crush their expensive cars. Brilliant.
That would stop them in their tracks – or so he promised.
But turn the clock forward five years and it’s just got worse. Much worse. The whole policy has been a complete lemon.
Official figures show that the 900 cars seized and forfeited (since the new laws came in) have netted a total of $1m in sales. A little more than $1,000 per vehicle. All little more than junk material. They are hardly getting the Maseratis, Mercs and Beemers.
And that’s without adding in the cost of seizing and housing them, then selling them, which isn’t cheap. The whole exercise has probably been a revenue negative exercise for the government.
The offenders aren’t quite as stupid as the politicians. If they feel like letting off a bit of steam on the freeway they leave their pride and joy at home and do it in a heap of nuts and bolts that you won’t miss if you get caught. Something not even worth reclaiming. The statistics prove it.
So enter Liza Harvey. New minister; new, fresh ideas. Apparently.
We were all waiting with bated breath for her seminal announcement this week as to the ultimate new solution to the hoon debacle.
Something outside the square, a revolutionary initiative to replace the existing, catastrophically failed Johnson strategy.
And what was it? Wait for it. The great reveal. The revolutionary dynamic plan to fix the problem was, you guessed it. Increased penalties!
We’ve been increasing penalties since Captain Stirling arrived in 1829, with much the same result. Nothing.
The whole notion of upping sanctions as a blunt instrument to decrease crime has been categorically discredited for a generation. Ask any judge. Or any criminal, for that matter. It just doesn’t work. We have been doing it for decades in the area of drugs, with the same negative results.
That Rob Johnson, Colin Barnett and Liza Harvey haven’t worked this out yet is disappointing.
But the really disappointing aspect of it is that the McGowan Labor opposition (which includes quite a few pretty good lawyers) hasn’t either.
Their only, and frankly disgraceful, response to the proposed new legislation upping the penalties (and making permanent forfeiture available for even a first offence) is that it’s overdue, and that we probably need a few more police on the roads.
The community has a right to something more than a neanderthal approach to crime prevention. Increasing penalties is tantamount to saying we want to do something, but we are fresh out of ideas.
In the whole WA Parliament are there no original thinkers? Or even anyone who is prepared to think beyond the easy, well-worn and failed path of simply being more punitive?
The answer to hoon drivers isn’t simple, granted. It’s complex and requires a number of practical approaches at several different levels.
Its a real pity that neither party is prepared to even acknowledge this or make a genuine attempt to seriously and comprehensively engage with the problem.
Exactly what might work in the short or even medium term is far from clear or certain.
The only certainty in the whole situation is that increasing penalties won’t make a jot of difference.