A Country Liberal Party branch has circulated a proposal to fight the Territory’s high crime rates by flying in “hooded cane masters” from Singapore to apply “six doses” at a time to anybody sentenced to less than a year for breaking the law while wearing masks to “protect them from possible revenge attacks”.
The hooded disciplinarians could alternatively be locals and used in the remote circuit court system, the proposal added, “so sentences are carried out quickly and effectively”.
It’s an idea the party’s president has called an “option to our real problems”, but was criticised by political opponents as being “straight out of the KKK playbook”.
The proposal was sent to the Litchfield branch last week by a party member and circulated amongst party members for consideration. It was also sent to Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro in response to an email she sent the party seeking feedback on the CLP’s proposed Sentencing Amendment Bill that the party introduced into Parliament last sittings that would see automatic jail sentences for anyone assaulting frontline workers.
Ms Finocchiaro declined to comment on the proposal or rule out considering it.
The plan, sent from a member named Geoff, stated that the hooded cane masters initiative would be “a half way measure between traditional Indigenous punishment and European punishment”.
It would also save money, he argued, and “would only kill [offenders] a little bit”.
“In my younger days I have witnessed traditional punishment being applied, two rows of men stood with Nulla-Nullas at arm’s length to each other, the young man concerned ran between the two rows of men who hit him as he ran through,” he wrote in the email to members.
“He was not to be hit in the head as it was said, ‘we only kill him little bit not kill him dead’. That event was never spoken of again and the young man bore no malice against those who punished him.”
Geoff continued that the cane would be used to beat people “in doses of six only at a time, on a Friday afternoon/evening if the recipient has a job (otherwise any time), the idea is they have the weekend to get over it so as to not interrupt their work schedule or family life”.
“The ‘Cane Masters’ could be flown in from Singapore and hooded to protect their (identities) or a pool of say 5 locals all hooded on the day to protect them from possible revenge attacks. I prefer the FIFO approach,” he wrote.
Geoff also provided a rough crunch of the numbers, suggesting the proposal could keep people out of jail saving the Territory $72 million per year.
“Food for thought,” he concluded. “I think if the Elders were asked their opinion they would back it, this programme is to be for all offenders not just a few!!”
The proposal was warmly accepted by Litchfield branch chair Danny Skewes who said in an email to Ms Finocchiaro and party members that the idea was “well and truly overdue” because the justice system is “broken and requires drastic measures to fix”.
“As can be seen with this push to stop the use of spit hods [sic] how else do they propose to stop these horrible cockroaches (they sleep all day and come out at night) from spitting on the people we ask to control them,” Mr Skewes wrote.
CLP president Fiona Darcy said the idea was being considered.
“This great Australia is a democracy and all of us can discuss and consider many options to our real problems,” she said in response to questions from the NT Independent.
‘Straight out of the KKK playbook’: Senator Sam McMahon
Liberal Democrats senate candidate Sam McMahon said her new party does not support corporal punishment such as the “caning of Indigenous children by hooded cane masters” and called the CLP’s idea “abhorrent”.
“Australia has not had corporal punishment in any form for decades and this proposal is straight out of the KKK playbook,” she said in a statement.
Liberal Democrats Solomon candidate Kylie Bonanni also denounced the proposal.
“We are all frustrated by the lack of action on crime in the Territory and it is one thing to punish someone, but it is an entirely different thing to physically cane them,” she said.
Ms McMahon said she was shocked CLP president Fiona Darcy had refused to rule out the policy idea.
“[That’s] not democracy in action, but stupidity in action,” she said.
This story was updated to include the comments from the Liberal Democrats