Liberal democracy and the politics of criminal justice in Australia

Andrew Parkin

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Liberal democratic states like Australia manage criminal justice issues in ways which reflect an inbuilt tension between liberal and democratic values. Liberal democracies are responsive both to liberal claims and to democratic claims. As a result, policy debates and strategies can oscillate between (on the one hand) liberal sensitivity to individual rights and opposition to enhanced state capacity and (on the other hand) democratically legitimised community norms and collective values. Four crime-related policy debates - about the creation and operation of the National Crime Authority, about strategies for combating drug-related crime, about gun control legislation and about identity systems to counter money laundering, tax evasion and public benefit fraud - illustrate the characteristic liberal democratic mode of politics in operation. The spectrum of policy responses to crime issues within liberal democratic political systems corresponds to an analogous spectrum within criminology which encompasses individualistic and structuralist conceptions of the nature and causes of crime.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)445-469
Number of pages25
JournalAustralian Journal of Politics and History
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 1998


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