Crime has indeed skyrocketed in the past 40 years, but experts say it is hard to tie this to what voters perceive as a recent weakening of discipline.
Victoria University criminologist John Pratt says reported crime was steady at around two crimes a year for every 100 people from 1900 until about 1970, and then climbed steeply to peak at 13 crimes per 100 in 1992.
But since 1992 - two years after the ban on corporal punishment in schools - the rate has actually fallen, levelling out at 10 crimes for every 100 people in each of the past four years.
Psychiatrist Sandy Simpson has suggested the increase from 1970 to 1992, which was common to much of the developed world, was related to economic instability and social changes such as birth control, welfare, the declining role of religion and women's move into paid work, all making it easier for women to leave unhappy marriages.
There is some evidence these trends may have stabilised in the past few years in line with declining unemployment. The proportion of sole parents dropped in the 2006 Census for the first time in decades, from 31 per cent to 30.2 per cent of all families with children.
"The decade which saw the biggest ever rise in crime was the 1970s, so I don't share the view that law and order is breaking down," Professor Pratt says.
"I think it's a good thing that we are moving to try to get rid of violence against children with the anti-smacking legislation.
"If the only way we can maintain discipline is by beating people, then I think there is something wrong with the education system."