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Keeping kids in watch houses: why the Queensland government could change the law to suit itself

Ben Smee and Eden Gillespie report in The Guardian (25.8.23) on the Palaszczuk government’s unexpected changes to the Youth Justice Act, explaining how the Human Rights Act could be suspended to allow children to remain detained in Queensland police watch houses.

‘Queensland Labor MPs found out on Monday that they were expected to vote to suspend the state’s Human Rights Act, for a second time, to allow for the indefinite detention of children in adult police watch houses.

‘No one else seemed to have any warning. On Wednesday afternoon – on a particularly dreary day in state parliament – the police minister, Mark Ryan, tacked the law change on to an unrelated child safety bill, allowing it to pass through parliament the following day with no committee scrutiny.

‘So why the secrecy and urgency? Behind the scenes, concerns had been mounting within youth justice circles about “a potential Robodebt situation”, sources say, following concessions in a recent court case that the practice of keeping children in watch houses for extended periods might not be lawful.

‘… Youth organisations say other options exist and would have been supported by the sector – such as keeping children temporarily in hotels or at the white elephant quarantine camp at Wellcamp.’

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