Defence Force offered no policy advice to National on military academies crime idea

Ram-raiding kids need to be reprogrammed, according to Christopher Luxon

The National leader announced on Thursday the party would introduce military boot camps for misbehaving youths along with fitting ankle bracelets to kids as young as 10 years old, a policy he opposed just weeks ago. 

Sports Safari in Hamilton has been ram-raided three times over the past 18 months. They are sick of it and they don't want mediation.

"What, they wanted you to go down and meet with the offender and have a kumbaya session?" asked Luxon. 

They want consequences, so enter Christopher 'tough on crime' Luxon. He's rolled out a new, old National policy.

"We are going to create youth offender military academies," he said. 

Ram raiders, you're off to boot camp. 

"We're making an intervention, because we care about you, but I'm sorry, it will involve some tough love," Luxon said. 

But Justice Minister Kiri Allan said: "There's no better way to get fitter, faster, stronger, better, more well-connected criminals than by chucking them all together in an army camp."

Serious youth offenders aged between 15 and 17 would be shipped off to military bases to be rehabilitated.

"These are kids who need to be reprogrammed and redirected very strongly, be held to account, and understand there are rights and there are responsibilities to being a New Zealander," Luxon said. 

But the Greens' Marama Davidson said that is "absolutely disgusting". 

"The National Party need to be reprogrammed," she said. "That is what needs to happen here. The policies are lazy, they are dog-whistling, and they are not at all about what works and they are not going to interrupt the intergenerational trauma and harm that has happened." 

Forget three strikes, it's two strikes and bring in the army.

"What we are talking about here today is serious repeat offenders who may have committed two ram raids, said Luxon. 

A 2018 report on preventing youth offending prepared by then Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman concluded: "Boot camps do not work and 'scared straight' programmes have been shown to increase crime."

"The consequence of using this type of approach will mean we continue to see young people stuck in cycles," said youth worker Mahira Maihi.

Boot camps were used under Sir John Key's Government. A 2016 evaluation found 84 percent of participants went on to re-offend after the programme. However the frequency of re-offending dropped 47 percent and the seriousness of re-offending dropped 57 percent.

While it's only 15-17-year-olds for now, Luxon said the policy could be brought "down year by year to actually capture more". 

National's got other plans for the young ones in the meantime - ankle bracelets for over 10s. It's an ACT policy Luxon opposed just a couple of months back.

"If National need any more policies, Chris, just call me, we've got lots more policies for you," ACT leader David Seymour said on Thursday.

National's Erica Stanford has also previously commented on ACT's policy. 

"It just breaks my heart that we are actually even talking about this," she said last month.

On Thursday, she said she stood by her statement. 

"It is heartbreaking that we are even in a situation where this is a policy option." 

Luxon denies he's flip-flopping. But acting Prime Minister Grant Robertson said it's the fourth U-turn by Luxon this week.

"I think his caucus will be being sprayed in gravel." 

National's hoping this U-turn pulls up the handbrake on youth crime.

Jenna Lynch Analysis

Ignoring all the evidence that says they don't work, it's populist and possibly popular policy to send naughty kids to the army and it's something that will resonate with some voters.

But for a leader that was promising a new era, a new National Party, it does sound like the National Party of old - they're not new ideas

On the u-turn on ankle bracelets, 180-degree changes are becoming pretty common for Luxon and that could start to have an impact on trust. 

As for whether the boot camps can actually be done by our already-stretched Defence Force, NZDF told Newshub it has not offered policy advice to the National Party on military academies and they wouldn't be commenting on its feasibility.