Shooting highlights 'law and order election'

Issue 

By Bill Mason

BRISBANE — The shooting death of a 16-year-old youth during a confrontation at a suburban Rochedale house on April 25 has provoked a nationwide debate on vigilante justice for home owners in the face of break-ins.

The death of Matthew Easdale, when he apparently broke into the wrong house in search of people who had assaulted his friends and damaged a car, follows the highly publicised trial of a Clontarf pensioner, after he shot a man at his home in February 1994.

The acquittal of the pensioner provoked a chorus of approval from National and Labor Party politicians anxious to appear the most gung ho on the law-and-order issue.

Queensland Civil Liberties Council vice-president Terry O'Gorman claimed political interference in the "hasty" police decision not to charge the householder who fired the fatal shot at Matthew Easdale.

"It's just showing what a plaything the law has become in this state in the lead-up to an election", O'Gorman said.

Federal justice minister Duncan Kerr said on April 26: "The bidding war we are starting to see in Queensland over which political party is tougher on crime, coming after the massive focus on crime and punishment in the New South Wales election campaign, can be utterly counter-productive.

"Law-and-order extremists and the radical fringe of the pro-gun lobby just draw us into a cycle of violence and revenge."

State coalition police spokesperson Russell Cooper has led the way on the hysteria about law and order in recent times. On April 25, he described the shooting of the teenager as a "warning to all potential thugs", and as one of the "occupational hazards of home invaders".

ALP attorney-general Dean Wells has joined the chorus with the assurance that the government backs the right to use lethal force to defend property.

Inserting a note of sanity into the debate, criminologist Paul Wilson wrote in the April 26 Courier-Mail, "Let us not get carried away by an irrational and paralysing fear of crime ...

"The last thing we need are politicians who propose solutions to crime that will lead to more bloodshed."

Zanny Begg, Brisbane organiser for the youth group Resistance, condemned the irresponsibility of both Labor and Coalition politicians, playing with the lives of young people for electoral gain.

"Where is the analysis of the causes of youth crime, for example, such as high unemployment, poor youth social and leisure facilities and a society based on the culture of greed?

"What we need is a thorough transformation of society to create jobs for all, a social infrastructure and welfare system that allows everyone a fulfilling life.

"These are the kinds of issues that need to be raised in the coming state election", Begg said.