The Northern Territory has moved to ward of criticism of its mandatory sentencing laws by launching a multi-million dollar "Say No to Biscuits" campaign.

These draconian 3 strikes and you are locked up laws have seen the prison population explode as more and more people are being locked away for up to a year for petty theft.

"Stealing is an offence," said a spokesperson for Denis Burke, the Northern Territory Chief Minister. "These people have to learn to take responsibility for their actions. We are not planning to change our laws which are designed to ensure law abiding citizens can sleep safely at night knowing that we will not tolerate crime."

The Northern Territory is clearly worried about the ability of their already crowded jails to cope with the influx of juvenile criminals and first time offenders.

In an effort to stamp out this petty crime and try to alert the public to the danger of a life of crime, they will start the "Say No to Biscuits" campaign with prime time television shock commercials showing the graphic horror of prison life.

The campaign, put together by a well known Sydney advertising agency will be partly sponsored by Gloria Marshall in Australia.

The Government has justified the campaign, pointing out the high cost of jailing these criminals. "It costs about $60,000 to jail someone for a year," said Denis Burke. "We have to do all we can to keep these people out of jail and give them a chance. It is no fun being in jail, and we have to do something to stop the number of deaths that occur in custody. We are not racist, Everyone is treated the same under these laws, and our campaign will target those most affected."

"The 'Say No to Biscuits' campaign will ensure every one knows the danger of stealing biscuits. Jail is no holiday camp, we have to do all we can to stop these people dying needlessly in our jails"

The Federal Government has been reluctant to intervene. "There is no quick fix solution," said Mr Howard in a recent radio interview. "We will work with the Western Australian Government and the Northern Territory to find a compromise that will work for everyone. However, I believe that no Aboriginal should be without biscuits."

In an effort to alleviate the problem, and placate the Democrats, the Federal Government has proposed bringing forward their coupon scheme.

Under the scheme every Aboriginal will be entitled to a weekly voucher they can exchange for a packet of biscuits and a cold drink, or a few crayons and some drawing pads.

The Federal Government originally wanted to set up biscuit galleries to administer the dispersal of the biscuits. However due to nervous backbenchers concerned about a voter backlash from local communities worried about the increased criminal activity likely to be attracted to these centres, this proposal was rejected.

Instead Aboriginals will now be able to redeem their biscuit vouchers from any cafe, corner store or newsagent. It is hoped that this will dilute the juvenile criminal elements and spread them out amongst the whole community rather than focus attention on one or two Government-controlled centres.

"We cannot interfere in these mandatory sentencing laws," said Mr Howard. We need to look at alternative approaches to juvenile crime. Any attempt to equate this with our overturning of the NT voluntary euthanasia legislation is just preposterous. Euthanasia cannot be equated with young criminals freely choosing to kill themselves when in jail."