Legislative Council: Tuesday, February 20, 2024


Crime Rates

The Hon. D.G.E. HOOD (15:29): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Attorney-General regarding rising crime rates in South Australia.

Leave granted.

The Hon. D.G.E. HOOD: Over the past 12 months, South Australia has experienced a very significant spike in crime, with police statistics revealing the following: robbery and theft-related offences have increased by 23 per cent; shop theft has increased by 31 per cent; assaults on police also a 31 per cent increase; homicides a 17 per cent increase; serious assaults resulting in injury a 16 per cent increase; abduction, harassment and other offences an 18 per cent increase; family and domestic violence and abuse related offences an 11 per cent increase; aggravated sexual assault an 8 per cent increase; and sexual assault itself a 6 per cent increase.

In light of these figures, late last year—before these figures were publicly available—Minister Tom Koutsantonis told the media that the state government would be reviewing the penalty thresholds for criminal behaviour, stating:

If there's any changes that need to be made I know that the Attorney-General and police minister will work day and night to make sure [they] do this.

My questions to the Attorney are:

1. Why has crime across so many categories risen so much in South Australia in the last 12 months?

2. Does the Attorney agree with the prevailing sentiment that perceived weak sentencing is somehow contributing and preventing deterrence to crime?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:30): I thank the honourable member for his question and, as I mentioned earlier, his very strong interest in making sure that South Australia is kept as safe as it possibly can be. It is true, as he has mentioned from the member for West Torrens, the Minister for Transport in another place, that it is and should be one of the top priorities of government to make sure we keep South Australia as safe as it possibly can be.

We have seen an increase in a whole range of different offences pass by this parliament over the last two years. Things that have been top of mind are to do with the driving without due care offences, after the Sophia Naismith tragic death, and we have seen very significant increases for child sex offences that this parliament has passed in the last two years. We always stand ready to look at what needs to be done to keep the community safe. In fact, there will be legislation we debate this week that aims to do exactly that in relation to keeping the community as safe as possible.

I note some of the categories of offending that the member has pointed out. My information is that the 2022-23 Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released on 8 February this year showed an increase of 1.91 per cent in the offending rate recorded by police from the year before. So yes, there will be some categories that will go up and there will be some categories that go down as well; however, I am informed that just under 2 per cent was the overall increase in offences recorded by police.

A Report on Government Services, I think, recently pointed out, and as the police minister in the other place and the member for Cheltenham, the Hon. Joe Szakacs, has pointed out, that per head of population we have more police officers than any other state in Australia. It is that dual commitment to making sure there is the legislative response in place, as the honourable member said, to create the deterrent, but also that we have police numbers and police with the resources necessary to combat those.

The honourable member makes a very correct observation. Much of the idea of what we have as criminal sanctions are aimed not only at making sure people are behind bars and the community safe because they are not within the community with a chance to reoffend, but to create that deterrent effect so that people think more carefully about the behaviour they might engage in because there are those significant penalties if they engage in the behaviour.