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New Attorney General, Home Affairs and Defence Ministers have opportunity to lead on raising the age, ending offshore detention, and halting arms-sale to Saudi-led coalition

Amnesty International Australia today congratulated Senator Michaelia Cash, Peter Dutton MP, and Karen Andrews MP on their new ministerial appointments. 

As the new Attorney General, Senator Cash must take the opportunity to lead the States and Territories on raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14.

“We need to have the courage to make long-lasting systemic change, continuing to delay this vital reform condemns kids as young as 10 to a system they are simply not equipped to pull themselves out of,” Amnesty International Australia National Director, Sam Klintworth, said.

“Children who are locked up are three times more likely to reoffend. And there is a large and ever growing body of evidence to show that diversion programs are much more effective in tackling youth crime.”

Under the previous Attorney-General’s leadership, the last Council of Attorneys-General (CAG) had received a report from a working group on the issue, and in July 2020 resolved to undertake further work regarding the need for adequate processes and services for children who exhibit offending behaviour. That is, it needs to understand the alternatives to prison for children under the age of 14. 

Amnesty is concerned that the cessation of the Council of Australian Governments meetings, and the formation of the National Federation Reform Council has left this work in limbo. The Attorneys-General Minister’s Meetings have been designated as only ‘time-limited and when needed’. It isn’t clear what this means for the ongoing work related to the minimum age of criminal responsibility. 

“If our governments are serious about Closing the Gap targets, there’s no more simple legislative reform that has widespread community support, as well as the support of health and welfare experts around the world than raising the age.”

More than 75,000 people have signed the Amnesty International petition calling on all Australian governments to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility from ten to at least fourteen.

Meanwhile the incoming Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has the ability to immediately resolve the interminable suffering of those trapped in Australia’s cruel offshore detention regime.

“We’ve already seen more than 100 people released from so-called alternative places of detention (APODs) into the community, so there is no reason for the rest of the people held for eight years in limbo to continue to be detained. We urge the minister to take up New Zealand’s offer so we can allow the more than 200 people still languishing offshore to get on with rebuilding their lives.”

Amnesty is also calling on new Defence Minister, Peter Dutton MP, to immediately halt the flow of arms and military assistance to members of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition for use in Yemen.

“Minister Dutton, use Australia’s leverage as an ally to call for the Saudi-led Coalition to fully comply with international humanitarian law in conducting airstrikes by ensuring that civilians and civilian objects are not targeted,” Klintworth said. 

More than 22,000 people have signed Amnesty International’s petition calling for Australia to stop arming the coalition against Yemen.

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