Labour's Willie Jackson and ACT leader David Seymour exchanged barbs during a fierce debate on their parties' justice policies.
At the Taxpayers' Union debate on Tuesday night, representatives from Labour, National, ACT, Greens, New Zealand First, and Te Pāti Māori battled it out for an hour and a half and dissected their major policies.
Jackson and Seymour got stuck into each other's plans to tackle crime and justice. Jackson said Labour is taking crime "very seriously", a statement which was met with jeers and shouting from the audience.
He said while ram-raids are "through the roof", $35 million is being given to shop owners to help protect themselves.
"It's not an easy area to fix. We've got kids [doing ram-raids] now that sadly we had to change the law," Jackson said.
He was referring to the Government's announcement in July where it introduced a new offence specifically targeting ram-raiding with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. It would mean 12 and 13-year-olds who carry out ram-raids will be able to be charged with the new offence in the Youth Court, giving Police and Oranga Tamariki more options to deal with child offenders.
During the debate, Jackson also took a jab at ACT while talking about the ram-raid law change.
"You put that against the ACT policy who want to bring back in assault weapons and assault rifles and keep the gun register, and we've got a very, very dangerous country because of David Seymour and his ACT mates."
Jackson said Labour will still use wraparound services to help offenders.
"We find out that when those kids get into those wraparound services, there's an 82 percent success rate," he said.
"So that's still happening but some of the public don't want to see it, they just want to throw these kids in jail and throw the key away.
"That's not how we're going to operate as a Government, that's not how a humanitarian Government should operate. Quite separate to a National and ACT Government."
Seymour wasn't convinced when Jackson said Labour takes crime seriously. Instead, the ACT leader believed the problem was that criminals don't take Labour seriously and "that's why we're in the situation that we're in".
"This massive experiment of letting criminals out of jail and pretending if we're kind to them, they'll be kind back, it's failed at great cost and often tragic cost to the people that I'm hearing from every day," Seymour said.
ACT has a number of law and order policies, including youth infringement notices and ankle bracelets for serious youth offenders.
As the local MP for Epsom, Seymour said he's tired of visiting people who have been the targets of ram-raids.
"If it's hard for me to do it, imagine what it's like for those people losing their livelihoods, their insurance goes up," he said.
"It's a direct result of the attitude Labour's taken that if you can diagnose a problem, then the solution is to run as hard as you can in the opposite direction.
"That's why ACT's alternative budget says that we will increase funding for prison space, we'll change the Sentencing Act, we'll ensure there are consequences for criminals and rights for those who are just trying to get by and make an honest buck."
Meanwhile, the National Party's justice spokesperson Paul Goldsmith, who was also at the debate on Tuesday night, also took aim at Labour and the party's approach to justice.
"Fundamentally what we've had is Willie and his mates came in, there was only one priority in the justice sector and it was to reduce the prison population, irrespective of what's going on in our community," Goldsmith said.
"And at the same time as they've reduced the prison population by more than 20 percent, there's been a 33 percent increase in violent crime and 100 percent in retail crime."
He believed the focus needs to be on reducing the number of victims of crime, rather than lowering the prison population.
The National Party wants to target serious repeat youth offenders, like the ringleaders of crimes including ram-raids. The new Young Serious Offender category would apply to those aged 10 to 17 who have committed a serious offence such as a ram-raid, other aggravated burglary, or serious assault at least twice.