Thursday, 20 November 1997
The President (The Hon. Max Frederick Willis) took the chair at 11.00 a.m.
The President offered the Prayers.
Unborn Child Protection Bill
Petition praying that members of the Legislative Council exercise their free conscience and vote in favour of the Unborn Child Protection Bill, received from Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile.
OVERSEAS TRAINED DOCTORS
The Hon. FRANCA ARENA [11.05 a.m.]: I move:
(1) Notes the desperate need that there is in rural New South Wales and Australia for medical practitioners.
(2) Calls on the Minister for Health and the Premier, as a matter of urgency, to enter negotiations with the Australian Doctors Trained Overseas Association to ease registration restrictions for such doctors to enable them to practise in Australia.
(3) Requests the Government to make representations to the Federal Government to ensure that Australia establishes a National Medical Registration Board, as is the practice in most overseas countries.
(4) Requests that the current Australian system of accreditation of overseas trained doctors, which has been labelled by the Doherty and Fry reports as difficult and incomprehensible, be streamlined without lowering the high standard of medical practice in Australia to ensure a fair deal to both Australian trained and overseas trained medical practitioners.
I speak today on behalf of a group of Australian citizens - I am sorry that they are not in the gallery - who are on a hunger strike and have been outside Parliament House for the last few days. They are valuable members of our community who went to Australian embassies overseas, presented their qualifications, had their qualifications recognised, and were then told that they were allowed to come to Australia.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: That is not true.
The Hon. FRANCA ARENA: Unfortunately, it is true. I have spoken to engineers, architects and other professional people. They go to an Australian embassy overseas, they pass an exam on a points system, they are told that they will be recognised, then they come here and it is a completely different ball game. That is just not fair. When they arrived in Australia, in some cases they were able to work for a few years, but in other cases not at all; they were told that they should sit exams, and all sorts of impediments were placed in their way to prevent them from working as doctors. I am well aware that some people say that we cannot lower our standards in the medical field; and no members of this House present in the Chamber today would want to do that. However, these doctors are highly qualified, and their qualifications have been recognised. We should do something to ensure that they find a job, especially when one considers that today Australia is short of about 4,000 doctors, mostly in rural areas. The rural community is unable to get medical assistance.
I am informed by Dr Razaghi, of the Australian Doctors Trained Overseas Association Inc., that 1,200 overseas trained doctors are seeking work in Australia, where they have not been allowed to practise. Dr Razaghi’s group claims that tests used to assess their skills are discriminatory, and it wants the Government to establish a bridging course to allow the doctors to practise in Australia. Members often read that medical practitioners do not want to be based in country communities. They, like every other group in our community, look forward to a good return for all their sacrifices after having studied for so many years; they want to work in a place where there are plenty of people and they can earn good money. One does not blame the doctors for wanting that. But the problem is that in certain areas of Sydney there is a doctor for every couple of hundred people and in other areas there is a doctor for every 10,000 people.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett lives in country New South Wales and is well aware of the problem. Our rural communities are in desperate need of doctors, yet we are unable to ensure that these qualified doctors practise in rural New South Wales. I have been involved with ethnic affairs for a very long time. I have obtained from the Parliamentary Library reports that deal with the recognition of overseas
qualifications. I have only a small selection because the pile is about a metre high. The libraries of the Ethnic Affairs Commission and the Ethnic Communities Council also have publications containing millions of words written about recognition of overseas qualifications. I refer to a report entitled "Language Barrier", submitted to the Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications and produced by its working party in August 1974.
The Ethnic Affairs Commission was set up in June 1978 and handed down a substantial report to the then Premier of New South Wales, Neville Wran, entitled "Participation", dealing in detail with recognition of overseas qualifications, which has been quoted time and again. In December 1981 the Federal parliamentary Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications issued its thirteenth report on professional qualifications and the waste of talent. In December 1982 the then Federal Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, the Hon. John C. Hodges, was sent the Fry report entitled "The Recognition of Overseas Qualifications in Australia". This dealt with the non-recognition of doctors who come to this country. The Ethnic Affairs Commission issued an important paper, No. 6 of 1985, entitled "The Recognition of Overseas Qualifications". Another report dated February 1989 entitled "Recognition of Overseas Qualifications: Report of the New South Wales Committee of Inquiry", was sent to the then Premier of New South Wales, Nick Greiner. The report entitled "Council on Overseas Professional Qualifications: Four Year Plan", for the years 1987 to 1991, also dealt with this problem.
I obtained this small selection of reports from the Parliamentary Library to demonstrate the enormous work that has been done in this area. However, qualified doctors who have come to Australia are unable to practise their profession. Throughout the many years that I have been involved with ethnic affairs I have heard Premier after Premier, beginning with Premier Wran in 1982 - when I was elected to this House - Premier Unsworth, Premier Greiner and now Premier Carr, making grand speeches at ethnic community functions. They have constantly repeated comments on recognition of professional qualifications and the huge waste of those qualifications in the community. The result of those grandiose speeches is that overseas doctors still cannot practise, and that is very sad. I shall refer later to our pride in our multicultural society. Our Governor-General, Sir William Deane, whom I admire greatly, gave an important speech on 28 July on the topic "Multiculturalism Promotes National Unity". In his speech he said:
It follows that our multiculturalism does not detract from or threaten our national identity or national unity. To the contrary, while recognising and protecting our diversity of backgrounds, cultures and beliefs, it promotes that identity and unity by building upon and adding cohesion to what we are.
It follows that our multiculturalism is not only decent, just and right in that it reflects mutual understanding, tolerance and respect, it is in our own interests as a nation. It is our responsibility as Australians to protect and maintain it and to observe its standards and its dictates.
It is important to read that comment into the record to acknowledge that though we speak about multiculturalism and about Australia being a diverse society, we do nothing to recognise the qualifications of overseas doctors. I refer also to a letter addressed to the Hon. Dr Michael Wooldridge, Federal Minister for Health and Family Services, from Dr Asaad Razaghi, National President of Australian Doctors Trained Overseas Association Inc., which stated:
Yes we understand that registration is a State matter. We also understand that the Premiers and State Health Ministers have the discretionary powers to ease registration restrictions.
I hope someone will enlighten me on whether that is correct. The letter further stated:
While you do not have that power, there is an annual meeting between the Health Ministers where you do have considerable power. What have you done, as promised, to advocate a solution to our problem . . .
Both the previous and present governments have adopted discriminatory policies against Australian overseas-qualified doctors. Federal Department of Health bureaucrats have targeted us in "The National Health Strategy" and "The Future of General Practice - March 1992". We are an easy target because we are economically and politically vulnerable. It has obviously been thought that, like all minority migrant groups, it would be impossible to communicate and reach a consensus across 84 different nationalities, cultures and languages.
This group of doctors represents 84 different nationalities, cultures and languages. The letter continued:
The fact that we have achieved this will be an inspiration to the other 80,000 migrant professionals in similar positions and the Australian ethnic population as a whole.
It is important to consider this material and understand the difficulties facing these people in our country. This does not apply only to doctors. I attended a meeting of engineers in Sydney whose professional qualifications were recognised, who did a bridging course, yet still could not obtain employment. The usual answer from employers was that local experience was necessary and that they needed to work in this country to become familiar with the working practices here. If those doctors
were not given a chance, when would they ever gain that level of experience? I appeal to honourable members, many who display goodwill, to consider the issue and endeavour to find a way to assist these doctors. At the heart of the problem is the lack of a national medical registration board for Australia as exists in other countries. Every doctor in Australia, whether a local graduate, migrant or foreign guest worker, should have the right to sit the same examinations. Foreign guest workers especially would require some assessment. In fact, they too are required to sit the Australian Medical Council examinations under its charter but are somehow overlooked or exempted. This is a pity as they seem to be creating problems, if one is to pay attention to media reports of malpractice.
Dr Razaghi has said that the AMC examination process is flawed. I am sure that he is an honourable man, and I believe him. That has been the conclusion of a number of diverse bodies, including the Doherty report, the Fry report and even an AMC working party report. The examination process was heavily criticised by a report of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission entitled "The Experience of Overseas Medical Practitioners - An Analysis in the Light of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975". The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family and Community Affairs, in its report "A Fair Go For All: Report on Migrant Access and equity - January 1996", called for the assimilation of doctors in the system. Similar calls have come from various government departments, universities, ethnic community organisations and medical organisations, including the Ethnic Community Council of New South Wales, the Federation of Ethnic Councils of Australia, the Doctors Reform Society and the Overseas Medical Graduates Association. As honourable members can see, there is a lot of support for these doctors. The House of Representatives committee report stated:
In conclusion, the Committee believes that the current system of accreditation of overseas trained doctors is neither easy nor comprehensible; that its very complexity is deliberate and designed to protect various vested interest groups; that it is unfair and discriminatory and designed to exclude trained doctors from non-English speaking countries.
The AMA is a closed shop; professional bodies protect each area. People often talk about trade unions being closed shops, but professional organisations are also closed shops. The House of Representatives committee is in no doubt that the complexity of the accreditation process is applied not only to ensure the highest possible standard in medicine but also to maintain a closed shop. Before the AMC was created in 1979 to stop migrant overseas-trained doctors from practising in Australia, how many migrant doctors - no different to the ones protesting outside Parliament House at the moment - caused harm to their patients? What is the difference between them and the doctors protesting outside? They are from the same countries and universities; they have the same training and experience. Where is the proof that they are not good enough to practise Australian medicine? When people judge them they also judge every Australian migrant doctor who has lived and practised in Australia and given excellent service to the community for many years. Are they now not up to the Australian standard? What has happened in the meantime? Should they now be automatically deregistered because they are not good enough to practise?
These doctors are committed to Australia and are dedicated to their fellow Australian countrymen. They deserve a fair go and the House should do something to ensure that justice is done. I urge the Minister for Health, the Premier and everyone involved in this issue to ensure that justice is done to these people. This is not a party-political issue. These people have come to Australia with some expectation and we cannot throw them on the scrap heap and say, "We don’t have any need for your qualification." Migrant doctors have said in a letter to the Federal Minister for Health and Family Services, Dr Wooldridge, that they are no longer prepared to live in shame and poverty in Australia, the victims of discrimination and abuse; that they are proud and patriotic Australians who are prepared to die for our country; and that they are prepared to die in a hunger strike to fight the enemy in Australia. I do not think anyone would want to see any of them die as a result of the hunger strike. We are a civilised community and we believe in a fair go for all. I appeal to honourable members to give these doctors a fair go.
We all like to pontificate about our mulitcultural society. Australia is proud that it has integrated almost 200 ethnic groups, different religions and different cultures. We are all proud of living together in peace and harmony, despite the views of Pauline Hanson. We should ensure justice for all our citizens. These doctors are Australian citizens. They are demanding a fair go - justice for them is justice for all. I know that a lot of honourable members wish to speak to this important motion. The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti has foreshadowed that he will move an amendment to my motion. I am prepared to accept the amendment - I do not want this to be a party-political issue. It is up to the Minister for Health, the Premier, the trade unions and the AMA
to find a solution. These people have skills, skills that are needed in Australia, especially in rural areas. Let us do something about it. Let us see justice for migrant overseas-trained doctors.
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services) [11.26 a.m.]: The Government opposes the motion in its current form, notwithstanding the significant degree of sympathy that it has for the concerns expressed by the overseas doctors and our need to provide appropriate medical practitioners to country areas of the State. The Government has gone some considerable way to meeting the concerns expressed by the overseas trained doctors association, and I advise honourable members that I will move an amendment to the motion of the Hon. Franca Arena. The Australian Medical Workforce Advisory Committee has identified an overall oversupply but a maldistribution of medical practitioners in Australia. The recruitment of health service providers, including general practitioners, to rural communities is a difficult and multifactorial challenge.
The Government has undertaken a number of initiatives and measures in New South Wales to make rural practice more attractive. A rural health work force strategy was developed in 1996 because of widespread concerns about the recruitment and retention of health professionals in rural New South Wales, including medical practitioners. The Government has provided $2 million to implement initiatives arising out of the rural health work force strategy report. A range of medium- to long-term strategies are already funded by New South Wales Health to attract doctors in training to rural practice, including the rural resident medical officer cadetship scheme and the rural medical undergraduate initiatives.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: They have been going for a long time.
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I thank the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti for his remarks. Changes to the general practice training program are being implemented which will produce more general practitioners for rural practice. New South Wales Health is working collaboratively with the Commonwealth to introduce clinical assistantships to enable doctors to work in rural hospitals with rural general practitioners and with the Aboriginal Medical Service in supervised pretraining positions. Clinical assistantships will commence from 1 January 1998 and will consist of salary posts identified from within existing funds in areas of need, including rural hospitals. In the interim, until the medium- to long-term strategies come to fruition, short-term stopgap measures are being employed.
The rural doctors resource network provides locum services to rural general practitioners. Some divisions of general practice are funding a locum position to meet the needs of GPs in their division. Another measure is the existence of area of need positions in rural New South Wales, which is a category of temporary and conditional medical registration that may be granted by the New South Wales Medical Board to temporary resident overseas trained doctors. Each applicant to work in an area of need position is assessed by the New South Wales Medical Board against the statement of duties and criteria for the position, and interviewed in person before being issued with temporary registration. The registrant’s supervisor is required to provide the board with a monthly report on performance.
Unsatisfactory performance results in withdrawal of registration which, under area of need, is specific to a position and is not transferable. There is a responsibility to ensure that medical services in any community are provided by appropriately skilled and experienced medical practitioners. New South Wales Health provides a substantial amount of support to permanent resident overseas trained doctors undergoing assessment through the Australian Medical Council process, including funding of bridging courses in preparation for the clinical examination. Funding is provided for an independent office of overseas trained doctors and health professionals, which provides information to persons seeking recognition of health qualifications.
On Tuesday 18 November the Minister for Health met with representatives of the Australian Doctors Trained Overseas Association Inc. to discuss their concerns. Consideration will be given to the issues raised by the association. On the issue of the establishment of a national registration board, it is important to emphasise that throughout Australia all applicants for registration who have obtained their primary medical qualifications overseas are required to successfully complete the assessment procedure of the Australian Medical Council to gain full and unconditional medical registration. Medical registration boards have been at the forefront in developing national approaches to regulation. Mutual recognition arrangements have been the national norm since 1993.
The knowledge, skills and experience of doctors trained overseas vary widely. There is a need for a process to assess the knowledge, skill and
experience of an applicant against a common standard set for entry in the medical work force in Australia. The Federal Government plays a central role in this regard. The current examination system of the Australian Medical Council is reviewed constantly to ensure that it is not out of step with the standards required of graduates of local medical schools. With respect to the Doherty and Fry reports referred to in paragraph (4) of the motion, it should be noted that many of the recommendations contained in the reports have been adopted. In addition, since the release of the reports in the late 1980s numerous changes have occurred in relation to the method of registering medical practitioners. I foreshadowed my intention to move an amendment to the motion of the Hon. Franca Arena. Accordingly, I move:
That the question be amended by omitting all words after paragraph (1) and inserting instead:
(2) Calls on the Federal Minister for Health, and all State and Territory health ministers to convene an urgent meeting to resolve outstanding issues for the placement of employed doctors in rural areas of need.
As I indicated initially, the Government opposes the motion. However, I commend the amendment to the House.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [11.34 a.m.]: I will also move an amendment to the motion moved by the Hon. Franca Arena, whose motion notes the desperate need for medical practitioners in rural New South Wales and Australia. New South Wales Health produces a brochure every two months that contains a general guide to vacancies for practitioners looking for positions in rural New South Wales. Generally, the vacancies are in areas of need, but some are in areas in which there are plenty of doctors. The brochure lists practices for sale and practices that want full-time and part-time assistants. It is of enormous help for those who have finished their training, those who are practising in the city but who are no longer happy practising in the city, or for those who, for various reasons, decide they would like to enjoy the quality of life available in rural New South Wales.
The brochure also contains information about support from various organisations and programs available to those who choose to practise and locate in rural New South Wales, such as: New South Wales Health, the Rural Health Satellite Service, the Rural Fellowship scheme, the general practice rural incentive program, rural medical family networks contacts and the association of rural health training units. Locum projects and other locum schemes are also included. The address and telephone numbers of the rural health training units are listed in the brochure. Information is also provided about rural refresher days and health jobs available in Australia. Information from the Rural Doctors Resource Network, a very important organisation funded partly by the New South Wales State Government, is also contained in the brochure. Information from such bodies as the Rural Health Academic Unit, at Tamworth, is also included. The new unit is being established partly by the university and partly by other doctors. Other resource information, such as from the Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and various societies, is also included.
The vacancies listed in the brochure have been submitted by doctors, councils and the Aboriginal Medical Service. The advertisements detail pay and conditions, qualifications and special areas of interest for people for whom the practice is to be made available. I also direct the attention of the House to information provided by the medical work force in rural and remote Australia, produced in 1996 by the Australian Medical Workforce Council. The publication identifies areas in which there is a need for doctors and the difficulties faced in solving problems associated with working in rural areas. These reports went to Government in 1996. I am pleased to say that many of the recommendations have been acted on by governments of all political persuasions. As the Hon. Franca Arena clearly pointed out, this is not a partisan argument. There is a need to provide adequate access at the highest level and in an equitable way, under the principles of Medicare, to the people of Australia, wherever they are.
This document identifies the different stratagems and the difficulties facing rural practitioners and ways of overcoming those difficulties. It contains many of the issues that are part of the public debate that has been ongoing for some time. When the coalition was in government moves were made to improve the delivery of health services to rural New South Wales by awarding scholarships to country students in their last three or four years of medicine. Substantial payments were made to enable country students to overcome the difficulties of living in the city. Scholarships were also awarded to students who were prepared to work for two years in the country after they graduated, thus guaranteeing that they would complete two years of their training in the country.
Doctors who work in the country realise that they are not isolated, that they have the necessary resources to attend to their patients and that they have a good quality of life. That is the way in which
governments have approached the provision of specialist services. Peter Collins, as Minister for Health, negotiated an ophthalmology package to provide a rural training base at Lismore. Registrars who went to Lismore for three months as part of their four-year or five-year ophthalmology training course realised that they could undertake high-quality practices in a rural setting. Four of the first five registrars who attended that course in Lismore - they did not intend to practice in the country - went to Orange, Port Macquarie, Armidale and Albury, respectively. Their eyes were opened. The New South Wales Government and the Minister for Health are continuing those programs.
The Minister for Community Services outlined some initiatives that he is undertaking because of arrangements put in place by the Federal Minister for Health and Family Services, Dr Wooldridge. He is limiting the number of provider numbers but he is ensuring that there is adequate training. He is improving the quality of training and access to that training. As part of those arrangements people will be given access to rural training and, once they are placed, they will be provided with necessary supervision. These highly qualified, dedicated and committed people will improve the quality of services provided to country people. In its budget the Commonwealth Government strengthened its commitment to rural and remote medicine. This year $2.2 million will be spent; next year $3.6 million; the year after, $5.5 million; and in the year 2000-01, $6.3 million will be spent. A range of services will be provided to improve the quality of care in rural New South Wales - a matter to which I referred earlier.
The medical work force document, to which I also referred earlier, refers to the training of more ear, nose and throat specialists and specialists in orthopaedics and anaesthesia. That organisation identified a shortage of specialists in these fields. There is difficulty attracting such specialists to country areas where there are fewer patients. So we are trying also to extend the range of services in country New South Wales. The labour work force annual survey by the New South Wales Medical Board made a clear assessment of where people practise, how much time they spend in general practice, whether they are part-time or full-time workers and what their interests are. The Hon. Franca Arena referred to the important issue of overseas trained doctors. Dr Boris Seleki, one of my colleagues and a very fine neurosurgeon, came to this country from war-torn eastern Europe destitute and as a refugee because of fear of persecution in his own country. He was thrilled to be able to come to the safe haven of Australia and to be granted citizenship.
Dr Seleki, who had been a neurosurgeon in Hungary, did not quibble about the fact that his qualifications were not recognised in Australia. He worked on the docks for a number of years before he got into medicine. He then went to Sydney University and qualified in medicine. He undertook a training program at the Royal Australian College of Surgeons and qualified as a neurosurgeon. He is now one of the most senior and best neurosurgeons in this State. I met Dr Seleki when I was doing my medical training. He said that his move to Australia was the first change in his life. An ear, nose and throat specialist, Dr Canti Raikandalia, one of my colleagues in Lismore, was one of the last people to leave Uganda. He left that country with a pair of trousers, one shirt, one pair of underpants and no shoes. He was delighted to receive sanctuary in Australia. He obtained his qualifications in the United Kingdom and had undergone further and higher training in Sweden, and he was assessed as being suitable for recognition by the Royal Australian College of Surgeons as an ear, nose and throat specialist. That very fine doctor now practises in Lismore.
Some furphies have been bandied around by the Australian Doctors Trained Overseas Association Inc. It is important to note that it believes that the process of assessing qualifications is fatally flawed. The Minister for Community Services referred earlier to the way in which that process works. I will refer to it in more detail. Doctors who come to this country know, or should know - and if they did not know when they came and were misled they should take action against the immigration department - what the law in this country is and has been for a long time. The New South Wales Medical Board will automatically register a doctor if he or she has done one year of satisfactory training - it now registers students - and if he or she has qualified from an Australian university or a New Zealand university which has been approved by the Australian Medical Council. No qualifications from any other universities are acceptable.
I refer to a letter sent to one of the overseas trained doctors by Dr Refshauge in about 1992. The medical board may approve other qualifications, but mostly only specialist qualifications as they are obtainable only from a limited number of faculties and at a limited number of colleges around the world. Such applications for recognition are sent to the college in Australia and it is given the options of saying, "Yes, this person’s level of training is
comparative or equal to the Australian training program"; or, "This person may need some supervised work for a period"; or, "This person may work in a specialised area"; or, "We require this person to do the examinations and two years of formal training", which is what our specialists do. That is what the medical board would do if it found that a person’s training and experience were not appropriate for recognition. That is what Dr Refshauge clearly outlined in his letter. That situation has not changed; those criteria have been operating for a long time. Nobody can say that this is a sudden change of heart. People who sit for the AMC examination receive enormous support.
As the Minister said, New South Wales Health provides about $2 million for training positions. These supernumerary training positions give overseas-trained doctors two years experience in our hospitals and prepare them for the necessary examination. Last year the Commonwealth Government allocated approximately $900,000 to fund 153 places in the nine clinical examination bridging courses held in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. A wide range of bridging courses is offered. Equally, the New South Wales Government offers a subsidy for those attending the bridging courses. Although a fee must be paid by those sitting the Australian Medical Council examination - and properly so because the council is independent of government and has to be viable - last year the Commonwealth Government provided $500,000 for unemployed candidates or candidates who qualify for a subsidy on the basis of level of income. So overseas-trained doctors have access to supervised training and subsidies to sit examinations.
It has been said that the examination process is unfair. All examinations are unfair to some, but not to all. My son has just completed the higher school certificate. I am sure some of the 60,000 students who sat for the higher school certificate this year would say that the examinations were unfair, that they had not been properly prepared or they were not aware of the nature of the examinations. The AMC has endeavoured to overcome problems of unfairness in the examination process. Last year the AMC, unlike equivalent bodies in countries such as the United States of America and Canada, sought to assist candidates by producing the booklet "Annotated multiple choice questions" published for the Commonwealth by Blackwell Science Asia. It sets out 300 practice examination questions, answers and discussions. The booklet will be available this year. So the AMC is trying to assist overseas-trained doctors in the examination process, which obviously varies from country to country. The AMC has funded the publication of the booklet to help candidates understand the form of examination papers rather than relying on what friends have told them. It is informative and makes for a fairer examination process. I wish to dispel the myth that no candidate from overseas has ever been successful at examination. At a time when it has been recognised by the Commonwealth and by most of the States that there is an oversupply of doctors in this country -
The Hon. Franca Arena: There are too many general practitioners in the city.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: I accept what the Hon. Franca Arena says; there are too many general practitioners in the cities and too few in the country. Do we solve the problem by allowing more doctors to practise? No, we solve the problem by redistributing the talent that we already have. The Commonwealth Government says that there needs to be a greater work force in fields such as anaesthesia, orthopaedics and ophthalmology. But the Commonwealth Government does not pay for the training of those specialists. The Minister for Community Services and his colleague the Minister for Health pay for that training; the States pay for all specialist training. My training in anaesthesia was paid for by the New South Wales Government through the public hospital system. I was paid a salary as I learnt. It was not an inconsiderable amount, but I was providing a service at the same time.
How many people have qualified to practise? A limit has been set by the Commonwealth on the number, in the same way that the Commonwealth has set a limit on the number of medical training positions that can be offered by universities. It would come as no surprise to any member here that it is very difficult for one to attain a place in a medical school in Australia. It is a highly competitive field. I hope that it remains competitive so that it continues to attract dedicated and talented people to one of the most important services, particularly politically and financially, in this State: health. My two sons have applied to study medicine. One has missed out and the other has just completed his higher school certificate. My daughter is very happy studying economics and commerce. I would not dissuade my children from entering medicine. As both my wife and I have practised medicine, they have experienced the arduous lifestyle and the difficulties involved in the profession. But there are also enormous rewards to be gained from practising medicine and by being able to help people. Each year 220 overseas-trained doctors are permitted to come to Australia. That is more than the number of
positions available in the combined medical faculties of the University of Newcastle and the University of Sydney. During the past seven years about 1,600 overseas doctors have practised in Australia - a great number given the limited opportunities for training in our medical schools.
My wife and I investigated whether one of my sons could train overseas. For $25,000 a year we could send him to Trinity College, Dublin, which is considered to be one of the world’s premier medical training schools. However, after completing his training, if he wanted to return to Australia he would still have to sit for the AMC examination. If he trained at Oxford, in the United States of America or Cairo and wanted his qualifications recognised in Australia, he would have to undertake the AMC examination. He would be treated no differently from any other overseas-trained doctor - and that is as it should be. We allow a number of overseas-trained doctors to come here for short periods. This country is recognised as having one of the best medical and health institutions in the world. The Minister for Health said so in 1993, and the coalition says so now. It is slipping a bit but it is still up there with the best.
People come from all over the world to be trained here in anaesthesia, surgery, other specialities and research. Such doctors are given temporary residency to study and work in our public hospital system, usually in supervised conditions. Recently we heard of two doctors who came from Scotland on a two-year permit to practise near Kempsey. Their permits were granted for work in a specific area and for a specific purpose. When two years expired they went home to Scotland. That is what happens. The minute one’s time runs out, one has to go. Again this year the Commonwealth has provided $1.4 million to assist overseas-trained doctors and to publish a booklet. I was astonished by the conspiracy theories that have appeared in press releases issued by those protesting outside this Parliament, about the 1,500 overseas-trained doctors who have come to Australia in the past few years.
As I have indicated, that is perfectly true. Many come here for training and, quite properly, will return home at the end of that training. It would be wrong of Australia to keep the best doctors of other countries, the cream of the medical profession, especially those from Third World countries. It would be unconscionable and immoral to keep them in Australia. We train them, allow them to come here for research, give them opportunities for advancement. But when their training is complete, and after finishing an optional one-year residency, they return to their homelands. They can apply to come back as permanent residents - they are unlikely to be granted permanent residence - for their specialty training, which they generally do. It is not uncommon for doctors from Singapore, Malaysia or Hong Kong to do this. But very few are granted permanent residency and a provider number under those circumstances.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
NATIONAL PARKS AND WILDLIFE SERVICE PROPERTY PURCHASES
The Hon. M. R. KERSTEN: My question is directed to the Attorney General, representing the Minister for the Environment. Will the Minister tell the House exactly how many properties the National Parks and Wildlife Service has purchased in the Broken Hill and Barwon electorates since March 1995? What does the National Parks and Wildlife Service plan to do with the properties? How much money has the National Parks and Wildlife Service spent on the purchase of the properties, and how many more does it intend to purchase? Is it the intention of the Minister and the National Parks and Wildlife Service to let excellent land for the grazing and raising of livestock go to waste by neglecting the management and improvement of these properties?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: A less kindly Minister would take the view that this is a question for the notice paper. However, I would not do that. I undertake to put the honourable member’s question to the Minister for the Environment and obtain a response for him.
MINDA YOUTH CENTRE ESCAPE
The Hon. DOROTHY ISAKSEN: Can the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services advise the House of the circumstances surrounding the escape of a 16-year-old youth from the Minda Youth Centre?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: Attempts by the Opposition to link this escape with a pay claim by the Health and Research Employees Association are absolutely preposterous. The Hon. Patricia Forsythe has displayed a complete lack of understanding of the current claim by the Health and Research Employees Association, confusing staffing issues
with a pay claim. There are no current work bans in place in juvenile justice centres in relation to the pay claim. They were listed last week and the matter is now back in the Industrial Relations Commission. If the Hon. Patricia Forsythe had bothered to listen to my response yesterday she would have heard me say, "Justice Maidment advised the union that if work bans were reimposed prior to Thursday, he would decline to hear the matter." Justice Maidment is hearing the matter today and he is doing so against the background of no work bans being in place. They have not been in place since last week. The Hon. Patricia Forsythe has been going out of her way to suggest that there is some problem regarding staffing in juvenile justice centres as a result of work bans imposed by the Health and Research Employees Association. That is plainly not the case.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: Why does she not tell the truth?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I would like the Hon. Patricia Forsythe to be accurate in what she says but on this occasion, as on many previous occasions, she has not bothered to give accurate information. As the Hon. Patricia Forsythe would also be aware, the work bans imposed last week in no way weakened or even affected staffing levels in detention centres. The bans affected admissions and escorted visits by detainees only, not staffing levels. The Opposition is being deceitful in suggesting otherwise. If the Hon. Patricia Forsythe is suggesting that two youth workers allowed themselves to be assaulted to prove a point in a pay dispute she is setting a new low in political standards, even for her.
I can advise the House that yesterday afternoon a 16-year-old youth on remand in Minda escaped after assaulting two youth workers, who both suffered head injuries. I am pleased to advise the House that both men are in a stable condition, and one now has been released from hospital. Reports that the youth had a gun that had been smuggled in to him cannot be confirmed by the statements of anyone involved in the incident at Minda. Minda is not a minimum security centre. It is the most secure unit after the Kariong high security unit. However, Minda is also an old building. It will be replaced by new centres currently under construction at Dubbo and Grafton. New, more secure centres are also being built at Mount Penang on the central coast and in the Hunter to replace the Worimi Juvenile Justice Centre.
I am proud to say that I am the first Minister in many years to comprehensively rebuild the juvenile justice system. I have directed that the Director-General of the Department of Juvenile Justice, Mr Ken Buttrum, conduct a review of security at Minda. Workmen are today scouring the site to determine how the youth actually got out of the centre. If there is a weakness it will be immediately addressed. The security review at Minda will address the question of security for detainees as well as staff safety. The question of whether the youth was appropriately placed in Minda will be addressed in the internal review. I point out that, contrary to claims in the media, there is no such thing as a "level one" juvenile offender.
I place on record my sincere hope that the two youth workers injured in the assault fully recover. When the youth is rearrested he will go straight into Kariong and he will be charged in regard to the serious assaults committed on the two youth workers. On the issue of escapes in general, there are nowhere near as many now as there were under the previous Government: 1990 was a high point with 254 escapes and there were 235 the year before. In contrast, in 1996 there were just 75 escapes. Given that there were 6,804 admissions, this means that escapes represent just 1.1 per cent of all admissions. The Carr Government has allocated a total of $23 million for juvenile justice capital works in the current budget. Those funds, through the provision of new centres and upgrading work at existing centres, will enhance security measures and will serve to keep the escape rate at relatively low levels, certainly lower than under the previous Government.
GUNNEDAH SHIRE ABATTOIR
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT: I refer the Treasurer and Minister for State and Regional Development to his answer delivered to the House on Tuesday - for which I thank him - in relation to my question about Gunnedah abattoir. I remind the Minister that his department had advised him that the abattoir, which had closed at the time of my question, had reopened but unfortunately had been closed again on 17 November. Is the Minister aware of the news reports that the business of the proprietors of the Gunnedah abattoir has permanently closed? Will the department again work with the Mayor of Gunnedah Shire Council, Mr Marshall, to try to expedite the sale of the abattoir to a viable owner and to ensure that the works is reopened with a minimum of delay?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am not aware of the information which the Hon. D. F. Moppett has just given to the House. The latest advice I had
received on the issue was that the abattoir was hoping to recommence full operation when the export meat market improved.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: That is apparently not right. It is permanently closed.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: That is contrary to the information I have received. But I will certainly investigate the matter further.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: They have lost their export licence as well.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I knew there were problems with the Korean and Indonesian markets; however, I am not aware of the factors raised by the Hon. D. J. Gay. As I have said, I will look into the matter and provide the House with information when I receive better advice.
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY CONSOLIDATED REGULATION
The Hon. B. H. VAUGHAN: I direct my question without notice to the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations. Will the Minister provide an update on the progress of the proposed occupational health and safety consolidated regulation, in light of related amendments that were made to the Occupational Health and Safety Act last session?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: One of the objects of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1983 was to seek to consolidate or streamline the laws governing workplace safety and to avoid the miscellany of different prescriptions that applied under various statutes and regulations. The formulation of a consolidated occupational health and safety regulation has been a slow process, but that process is now drawing to conclusion. The idea is that that regulation will include all workplace health and safety requirements in a single document. Once approved, the regulation will allow the repeal of more than 40 separate occupational health and safety regulations under three different Acts. This represents a significant achievement in regulatory reform. It should greatly assist businesses of all types and sizes to understand their responsibilities to ensure the safety of workers and other persons at their places of work.
In line with the recommendations of the Industry Commission’s report into occupational health and safety, the consolidated regulation is intended to encourage a systems-based risk management approach to workplace safety. The proposed regulation will include general requirements on employers to consult with employees on safety matters, systematically identify all workplace hazards, assess the risks to health and safety arising from those hazards, take appropriate measures to control all risks, and provide necessary training, instruction and supervision. It will also promote national consistency of occupational health and safety standards by giving effect to a range of national occupational health and safety standards produced by Worksafe Australia. As honourable members would be aware, certain amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act were passed by this Parliament last session. Those changes were predicated on the advice of Parliamentary Counsel that they were necessary for the proposed new regulation to be legally made.
During debate on those matters it was suggested that there had been inadequate consultation on the proposed reforms. I recognise that close consultation with all relevant industry parties and the broader community is essential to the effective implementation of these reforms and their long-term success. The draft regulation has been developed in close consultation with the New South Wales Occupational Health, Safety and Rehabilitation Council, which includes all major peak employer and employee groups in New South Wales. Pending the drafting of the regulation by Parliamentary Counsel, by early 1998 the draft consolidated regulation is scheduled to be released for public comment for a period of three months. This will give further opportunities for all interested parties to provide detailed comments and advice on the proposals.
The draft regulation will be accompanied by a regulatory impact statement which will outline the likely costs and demonstrate the intended benefits of compliance with the proposed regulation and promote constructive review and comment. It is intended to publish the regulation in user-friendly language and format, with explanatory notes and references to codes of practice and other plain English advisory material which will assist employers and employees to understand and comply with the new requirements. A statewide seminar program introducing the principles of occupational health and safety risk management has already commenced, and will continue through to the implementation of the regulation and beyond. The proposed consolidated regulation is a significant achievement in regulatory reform, which underlines the Government’s commitment to improving workplace safety. I am pleased to report wide stakeholder support for the development, consultation and implementation processes for this important initiative.
CHILDREN’S COMMISSION ESTABLISHMENT
The Hon. FRANCA ARENA: I ask the Treasurer, representing the Premier, a question without notice. Will the Premier inform the House whether his Government will introduce legislation before the end of this session to set up the much-needed children’s commission, as recommended by the Wood royal commission? Will the Government ensure that the commission is well funded and effective? Will he also inform the House whether he will set up a register of convicted paedophiles?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I will refer the Hon. Franca Arena’s question to my colleague the Premier and obtain a detailed reply as soon as I am in a position to do so.
ATTORNEY GENERAL’S DEPARTMENT CHEQUE FRAUD
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS: I ask the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations a question without notice. Did the Auditor-General in part 2 of his 1997 report to Parliament find that a cheque issued for $155 to a third party by the Attorney’s department was amended by a third party to $986,155 and ended up in an overseas bank account? What are the circumstances of this situation, and what steps has the Attorney taken to ensure this does not happen again?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I believe that the facts as outlined by the Hon. J. M. Samios are a correct summary of the Auditor-General’s Report - certainly for the purposes of this answer I take them to be correct. The department took timely action in relation to that matter as soon as it was drawn to the attention of the director-general. The director-general consulted with me about the matter, prompt legal advice was obtained, and the bank was spoken to. I believe that the bank has accepted legal liability in relation to the matter. In any event, it is the position of the department that the bank is responsible for any financial loss.
Apparently all of the details on the cheque were changed, including the name of the payee. The alterations were discovered by the Attorney General’s Department during the July 1997 bank reconciliation process. The Auditor-General highlighted this issue to bring attention to the fact that the fraud was discovered promptly due to the timely completion of the bank reconciliation. Even though the fraud was discovered promptly and no loss was incurred as a result of it, I am advised that the Attorney General’s Department has reviewed the procedures relating to the preparation and presentation of cheques and some supplemental precautionary procedures have been implemented.
The Hon. J. M. SAMIOS: I ask a supplementary question. What action has been taken to prosecute the law in relation to the fraud?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: That is a matter for the police.
OLYMPIC GAMES REGIONAL BENEFITS
The Hon. A. B. MANSON: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer, Minister for Energy, Minister for State and Regional Development, and Minister Assisting the Premier. Will the Treasurer inform the House about economic benefits flowing through to regional New South Wales from the Olympic Games in the year 2000?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: As I have told the House on one or two occasions before, this Government is determined that Sydney will not be the only area to benefit from the Olympic Games. The Government is working hard to ensure all of the State’s regions secure a share of the economic benefits associated with the Olympic Games. The Government has set up the pre-Games training unit to promote the various regions of New South Wales to international athletic bodies looking for training facilities. The pre-Games training unit brings together the staff of Tourism New South Wales, the Department of Sport and Recreation and the Department of State and Regional Development.
Already a growing number of international teams have decided to set up training camps in rural and regional New South Wales. The list provides encouraging reading. For example, the 30-member Swiss rowing team will train on the Clarence River, on the New South Wales north coast. I congratulate the Grafton City Council on the hard work it has done to ensure that success. Either earlier this year or late last year my Cabinet colleagues and I visited Grafton, where we were given a presentation by Grafton City Council on the work it has done to promote the Clarence as a training location for rowing teams. It was a very professional presentation that was made to Cabinet and it is pleasing to see that success. Athletes from Finland and Africa will be training in Albury next year. As well, the Korean, Thai and Swaziland equestrian teams will be training at the New South Wales equestrian complex at Lochinvar in the Hunter Valley. International volleyball teams will train on Mollymook Beach in the Shoalhaven region from next January.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: Are you going down to watch?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: That is not a bad idea. I will let you know if I am going. Perhaps we should take a delegation down there. More than 30 different teams will compete in an international yachting event at Lake Macquarie next month as a curtain-raiser to the 2000 Games. Also, a number of European athletic teams are planning to follow the example of the United Kingdom gold medallist Linford Christie, who trained in Sydney during the British winter. Other teams being targeted by the pre-Games training unit include the Asian baseball, softball and volleyball teams. The training unit is also encouraging track and field athletes to look at New South Wales rather than southern United States for training during the Northern Hemisphere winters.
This is just the start of the list. Many of the national Olympic committees will not be making their final decisions on training locations until early next year. It is important to note that even the smaller nations can make a significant impact on regional and rural economies. It is estimated that a small equestrian team of three to five riders could spend more than $1 million on training alone in the lead-up to the Games. International visitors are extremely important to the New South Wales economy, with every 17 visitors creating one new job. The Olympic Games in the year 2000 is being used by the Government to deliver long-term economic benefits across the State. Those benefits will take the form of more jobs, more exports and more investment in New South Wales.
SPECIALIST HIGH SCHOOLS
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General, representing the Minister for Education and Training. In reference to media comments yesterday that the New South Wales Teachers Federation is pressuring the Government to scrap specialist high schools, is the Government aware of the popularity of specialist high schools, which have seen an increase of more than 20,000 students in five years? Is the Government aware that the reason for this popularity is that specialisation works by catering for individual differences and nurturing special talents? Will the Government, first, repudiate the outdated philosophy which tries to force all students into the same mould and, second, defend the excellent job being done by our specialist high schools?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I shall refer the honourable member’s question to the Minister for Education and Training for a reply.
KING STREET COURT COMPLEX REFURBISHMENT
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations. Will the Attorney inform the House about the refurbishment program for the King Street, Sydney court complex?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: One of the good parts about my job is doing things to maintain and improve courts in New South Wales, many of which are historic buildings which are aesthetically and historically important. The District Court vacated the King Street, Sydney court complex in 1995. As a result, the use of that building reverted to the Supreme Court. The complex has national heritage significance and is listed as an item of environmental heritage with the Australian Heritage Commission, the National Trust of Australia and in the Sydney City Council local environmental plan. The Attorney General’s Department conducted an in-depth study to determine the most appropriate and sensitive way for these buildings to be retained and adapted for use as modern courts. A staged program has been supported, updating and refurbishing selected courts in the complex to address the Supreme Court’s need for criminal court facilities.
Jury facilities will be provided to a modern standard, with technology and all other necessary services being sensitively installed in the complex so that the historic fabric remains intact and the building’s social significance is retained. When the program is completed, the complex will provide for five secure jury courts, with all support facilities for the legal profession, the public and the judiciary. Funding has been provided in this financial year’s allocations. I have approved the acceptance of a tender for stage one of the works - the refurbishment of court 5 and associated facilities. This stage will be completed by the commencement of the first 1998 law term and will provide a modern, secure trial facility for the Supreme Court. Work on this stage is scheduled to be completed for the new court year in 1998.
CONTROLLED POLICE OPERATIONS
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General. I refer to the announcement made this week by the Minister for Police in the other place that the Government will shortly introduce the Law Enforcement (Controlled Operations) Bill to ensure the admissibility of evidence gathered by law enforcement officers in drug-related sting operations designed to catch corrupt police. In view of the fact
that the Government has decided that sting operations are an appropriate mechanism to catch corrupt police, will the Attorney give consideration to the United States practice whereby the FBI has run a number of successful sting operations which have caught corrupt politicians?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I would give consideration to it, but then I give consideration to most things. The question of the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby takes me by surprise. I have not given the matter the necessary thought to reach any conclusion. It is true that legislation is proposed that essentially deals with the Ridgeway judgment of the High Court of 1995, which held that where police are involved in the commission of a serious crime, particularly a serious indictable offence, evidence gained by the usually undercover police officers in the course of the commission of that crime would not be admissible in a criminal trial. The Government took the view, as has the Commonwealth Government, that that principle ought to be overcome and that within quite specified guidelines the various agencies ought to be able to undertake undercover operations that might involve the authorisation of some criminal offence.
This will be the subject of external oversight by the Ombudsman, and that is an appropriate check and safeguard to the proposal. I would need to be refreshed on the text of the proposed bill, which all honourable members will see in due course, as to the scope of it. It may empower police officers to commit offences in the course of tracking down a whole variety of people engaged in corruption. I rather apprehend that might be so. If the honourable member will forgive me, I will reserve my position on that and deal with it when the bill is introduced, or perhaps slightly in advance. I understand the honourable member’s concern that not only police officers but people involved in the political process or elsewhere may be corrupt. I am sure honourable members of this House would want a vigilant approach to any corruption, wherever it might be found.
SALE OF BIDURA CHILDREN’S COURT
The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General. Is it a fact that the Government has placed on the market the Bidura Children’s Court? Why have no arrangements been made for the establishment of a new Children’s Court in the central eastern part of Sydney?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I believe the honourable member is correct that Bidura Children’s Court will not be used as a Children’s Court and will be disposed of, and that appropriate and timely arrangements will be made for a new Children’s Court.
The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Does the Attorney General have a plan for children’s courts in Sydney?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I have assured the Hon. Helen Sham-Ho that improved facilities will be made available for children’s courts in Sydney. The details of such arrangements will be announced when they are finalised.
The PRESIDENT: Order! Members wishing to ask supplementary questions must not seek to ask the same question again or part of the same question again. It is irrelevant that a Minister may not have answered the initial question or may have answered it only partially.
YOUNG BUSINESS PEOPLE ENCOURAGEMENT AWARDS
The Hon. A. B. KELLY: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer, Minister for Energy, Minister for State and Regional Development, Minister Assisting the Premier, and Vice-President of the Executive Council. Will the Minister tell the House what is being done to encourage young people to become the innovative business people of the future?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: On Tuesday night I attended a pleasant function in Parliament House for winners of this year’s New South Wales small business awards. Some 130 award winners, sponsors and representatives of industry bodies attended the function. My Parliamentary Secretary, the honourable member for Port Jackson, hosted the event.
The Hon. Virginia Chadwick: She works very hard.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Yes, she does. She is a first-class Parliamentary Secretary and a first-class member.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: Why isn’t she a Minister then?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: She did not run. If you were my Parliamentary Secretary, would you want to change your job for anything in the world? Perhaps the most interesting and encouraging aspect of the evening was the attendance of a large number of young people who have won different small
business related awards. Most of these young people are still at school and have participated in programs requiring them to undertake tasks, such as running a company on a computer-simulated program. Those from the young achievement Australia business schools program had the experience of forming a real company and marketing a product to the public for six months.
Other award winners attended from Operation Livewire for 18- to 25-year-olds. These young people already have a small business - or are planning to start one - and prepare a detailed business plan with advice from a Rotary mentor. My Parliamentary Secretary asked the adult award winners to seek out and talk to the young award winners. However, no encouragement was needed: the young award winners asked many searching questions and tested the knowledge of the award winners to whom they spoke. I am pleased that a number of award winners from around the State attended the function and met their peers. In case honourable members are worried that regional New South Wales has been left behind with new technology, Dallice Robins from Competent Appointment Services in Broken Hill, has an answer: she is developing a web site to provide community, business and tourist information on all regional communities of the far west of New South Wales.
The sponsors of these small business awards play an important role in encouraging high standards in small business. I was pleased to have the chance to meet a number of them, and to acknowledge their contribution. My Parliamentary Secretary was able to tell the gathering that TNA Australia Pty Ltd, which has its headquarters at Chester Hill in Sydney, won the Australian export award - the 1997 DHI Australian exporter of the year award - the same day. Future School, from the central coast, won the Austrade information industries category of the export awards.
GUARDIANSHIP BOARD OPERATIONS
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services. I refer the Minister to his answer to a question asked by the Hon. Ann Symonds last week in relation to the Guardianship Board. The Minster expressed concern about recent media reports undermining the integrity of the board. Is the Minister aware that last week the honourable member for Londonderry, Mr Gibson, in a private member’s statement expressed grave concerns about the Guardianship Board and called on the Government to inquire into the board? What response will the Minster be giving Mr Gibson?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: The Guardianship Board is a highly respected body that has always had bipartisan support. It does a particularly good job. The Guardianship Board deals with contentious matters affecting families, and some parties to the proceedings may have an axe to grind. An order made by the Guardianship Board does not always suit every party to the proceedings. I have great respect for the Guardianship Board and for its President, Nick O’Neill. I have always expressed the view - both in opposition and in government - that there is a need for a more readily accessible appeals mechanism regarding Guardianship Board decisions.
Currently such an appeal lies to the administrative law division of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, which is insufficiently accessible and rather expensive. For that reason, I support the proposal that when the Administrative Decisions Tribunal is established an appeal should be available from the Guardianship Board to that body. That will be a more readily accessible and a more inexpensive means of appeal against Guardianship Board decisions. An appeals mechanism is a healthy safety valve. However, I repeat that the Guardianship Board does a particularly difficult job well. I am aware of the concerns raised by the honourable member for Londonderry. My comments of last week specifically addressed the concerns that he raised.
WORKERS COMPENSATION INSURANCE
The Hon. P. T. PRIMROSE: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations. What is being done to ensure that all employers are paying correct workers compensation insurance?
The Hon. D. J. Gay: Not another day of boss bashing!
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: Contrary to the interjection of the Hon. D. J. Gay, the issue of appropriate workers compensation insurance is not one of bashing employers, it is one of equity. The majority of employers pay the correct premium and take out the correct insurance. However, employers who fail to do so obtain a competitive advantage by breaching the law. Employer bodies are in favour of a tougher policy to ensure that employers are insured for workers compensation and are paying the correct premiums. The WorkCover Authority is currently pursuing a number of strategies to seek to increase compliance across all sectors.
Towards the end of last year I announced an amnesty on workers compensation compliance monitoring prior to a major Statewide blitz. During the amnesty, $15 million - or 125 per cent - more than the average for the same period was collected in premiums and 1,721 policies were issued, or a 49.5 per cent increase on the average. The blitz which followed targeted 12,000 workplaces across New South Wales, which resulted in more than 4,000 requests to produce evidence of workers compensation insurance. As a result of those requests, more than 800 investigations have been conducted and several cases have been referred for possible prosecution action. Ongoing blitzes of this type, targeting particular industries, will be carried out by WorkCover inspectors. Certificates of currency, which provide evidence that an employer holds workers compensation insurance, have been revised and now carry sufficient information for interested parties to ensure that contractors and tenderers have proper levels of cover. Holders of these certificates are required to update the information every four months to maintain accuracy.
STAR CITY CASINO SHARE PRICE
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: I ask the Minister for Community Services, representing the Minister for Gaming and Racing, a question without notice. Is it a fact that shares of Crown Casino, the Melbourne rival of Star City have collapsed from a peak of $2.84 to a dramatic low of only 87¢ and, as a result, TCN 9 will not screen anti-casino television commercials? Is it a fact that the Sydney Star City Casino shares have already dropped from $2.45 to $1.55 before it opens next week? What will be the impact on government revenue and the viability of the casino if the Sydney Star City Casino shares continue to collapse as the Crown Casino shares have collapsed? Will the Government, therefore, conduct an independent judicial inquiry into the social impact of gambling, especially its pro-casino policy, which obviously does not have public support or share market support?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: In responding to the question asked by Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile, I would like to place on the record that my colleague the Hon. Richard Face, who is the Minister for Gaming and Racing and the Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development, has completed 25 years of service to this Parliament. I would like to congratulate Mr Face on that achievement. Mr Face is indeed a survivor. I know that many members of the House will have been monitoring the progress of Telstra shares this week, but I am not sure that I can with any accuracy say what the position is with Star City shares. However, I am sure that my colleague the Hon. Richard Face can direct his mind to that matter and furnish Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile with a full and considered response.
HORNSBY SHIRE COUNCIL GENERAL MANAGER
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: My question is to the Attorney General, representing the Minister for Local Government. Did the Ombudsman’s office recently make an adverse finding about the General Manager of the Council of the Shire of Hornsby? Is this same person now seeking a 10 per cent increase in remuneration? What steps will the Minister take to protect Hornsby ratepayers from this absurdity?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I shall refer that question to the Minister for Local Government to obtain a response.
WIK ABORIGINAL LAND RIGHTS DECISION
The Hon. I. COHEN: I ask the Minister for Community Services, representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, a question without notice. Will the Minister inform the House of the New South Wales Australian Labor Party’s position regarding the Federal Government’s 10-point plan in the form of the Native Title Amendment Bill?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: From the outset, the Government’s objective regarding Wik has been to achieve a just and lasting solution that provides fairness and certainty to all parties. However, this is a national issue requiring a national response. The New South Wales Government has talked at length with Aboriginal people, farmers and miners. The Government has participated in negotiations with the Commonwealth Government to improve the bill, and it has offered suggestions to make the legislation both practical and workable. However, the Government has some specific concerns. For example, while the New South Wales Government strongly supports land use agreements, the complex provisions required to reach an agreement may make these difficult to achieve. The Government does not support the insertion of a sunset clause in the bill. While recognising there have been problems regarding the right to negotiate provisions, the view of the New South Wales Government is that these provisions should be improved. Therefore the Government does not support State-based regimes for mining and compulsory acquisition on pastoral leases.
The Hon. I. COHEN: I wish to ask a supplementary question. What is the position of the Federal ALP? Does the New South Wales ALP support the position of the Federal ALP?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I doubt that the question is supplementary. But if it is, the position of the Federal ALP is not within the administration of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
COMMONWEALTH-STATE DISABILITY AGREEMENT
The Hon. ANN SYMONDS: My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Community Services. Will the Minister advise the House of the current status of negotiations with the Federal Government on a new Commonwealth-State disability agreement?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I am very grateful to the Hon. Ann Symonds for her intelligent question. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday 12 November accurately reflected the current situation for people with disabilities Australiawide. These figures, stating that 14,000 people with disabilities are failing to get proper care, are of great concern to the New South Wales Government, particularly in the current climate of Federal Government funding cuts in the health and family services portfolios. The confidential draft report mentioned by Ms Adele Horin was commissioned by the heads of disability services in all jurisdictions to inform the renegotiation of the Commonwealth-State disability agreement.
The CSDA signed in 1992 by all heads of government was due to expire in June this year, but it has been extended to accommodate continuing negotiations. The delay in reaching agreement with the Commonwealth is because the Federal Government is refusing to concede that its current funding levels are inadequate. The population of Australia is ageing, and significant levels of unmet need for disability services Australiawide are recognised. There is now adequate evidence to suggest that inflation in the disability sector, due to shifts in wages and labour cost indices, is growing at an annual rate of 3 per cent. All States and Territory Ministers are insisting that any new agreement with the Commonwealth must accommodate adequate funding to address population growth, as well as the sector-specific inflationary factor.
State and Territory governments now have to deal with the effects of years of Commonwealth funding neglect in this sector. Honourable members will recall the last Federal budget when $54 million was promised nationally for disability services, but these funds were never forthcoming because they were never intended to be applied by the Commonwealth. In the previous budget, that is last year’s Commonwealth budget, the Federal Government announced cuts of 6 per cent over four years from 1997, including a so-called efficiency dividend of 3 per cent to be imposed in the first year. These cuts more than cancelled out the ghost enhancements, leaving a national deficit across Australia of approximately $3 million to be carried by State and Territory governments. The New South Wales Government was successful in negotiating an outcome whereby this State was not disadvantaged.
However, the Commonwealth Government continues to attempt to bargain away the significant advances made in recent years in meeting the needs of one of the most vulnerable groups in our society. The Government of New South Wales will distribute approximately $490 million in 1997-98 on services covered by the Commonwealth-State disability agreement alone. The Commonwealth contributes only one-quarter of these funds which, I am sure the House will agree, is scandalous. State and Territory disability Ministers will meet with the new Family Services Minister the Hon. Warwick Smith in Canberra tomorrow week. I can assure the House that I will continue to fight for a just and equitable deal for people with disabilities and their carers in New South Wales.
OLYMPIC GAMES RENTAL ACCOMMODATION
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Community Services, representing the Minister for Fair Trading. Given that there will be a great demand for accommodation in the area surrounding the Olympic site in the period leading up to and during the year 2000 Olympics, is the Government aware that demand for accommodation and premium prices obtainable for accommodation because of the Olympic Games may well result in individuals and families having their rental agreements terminated and thus losing their homes? When will the Government act to ensure that people, especially families, renting in the Sydney metropolitan area do not become victims of such social dislocation in the year 2000?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I shall obtain a suitable response to that question from my colleague the Minister for Fair Trading, and Minister for Women.
SOUTH DOWLING STREET CABBAGE TREE PALMS
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: I ask the Treasurer, representing the Minister for Roads, whether the cabbage tree palms along South
Dowling Street affected by the Eastern Distributor will be allowed to die, or will they be maintained and transplanted elsewhere?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Honourable members would be aware that last year I set an all- time record for the greatest number of questions answered in any Westminster Parliament in any country. But it appears to me that this year there is a conspiracy between my colleague the Minister for Community Services and the Opposition to make sure that that Minister takes the record from me. So I am grateful to the Hon. R. S. L. Jones for his important question about the cabbage tree palms along South Dowling Street. I have to say that this matter has nothing to do with my portfolio. On coming into office I learned after the first question time that one should not venture outside one’s portfolio. I got into big trouble not only from the Minister for Education and Training but also from the former Minister for Education, Mr Rodney Cavalier, when I supported the suggestion by the Hon. B. H. Vaughan that the University of Western Sydney should have its name changed to Chifley University.
The Hon. Virginia Chadwick: On a point of order. The University of Western Sydney legislation is before the House.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: The bill does not propose to change the name of that university. My colleague the Minister for Education and Training and my friend the former Minister for Education pointed out to me that my answer was very stupid because if the name were to be changed again it would mean that some graduates would have a degree from a university that no longer existed. So the real sin was committed by those people who changed the name in the first place from Chifley University to the University of Western Sydney. I am reluctant to venture outside my portfolio and say something about the cabbage tree palms along South Dowling Street. But I have to tell honourable members and the Minister for Roads, and the Roads and Traffic Authority, that I thought those cabbage tree palms were a stupid idea right from the start. I do not know whether they will be relocated somewhere, but it is ludicrous to drive down South Dowling Street and see those silly palms growing there. They have no place in South Dowling Street; they look completely out of place. They have been struggling to survive for the last three years and, no doubt, just as they have got used to the site I assume they will be taken out. I hope that they are not put back. I will convey this question to my colleague the Minister for Roads.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: They are not native.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Precisely! They are certainly not native to South Dowling Street. No other cabbage tree palms have been planted or are growing anywhere near South Dowling Street.
ADULT EDUCATION CENTRE FUNDING
The Hon. D. F. MOPPETT: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General, representing the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs. Is he aware of widespread concern in the country about the future funding of adult education centres? Will he confirm that a new financial arrangement is being contemplated by the Government at this very moment? Will he assure the House that adequate consideration will be given to the needs of the rural adult education centres to provide transport and other costs associated with satellite centres which provide services to small rural communities?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I appreciate the honourable member’s interest in educational facilities in country areas of New South Wales. I will be more than happy to refer his question to the Minister for Education and Training and obtain a response for him.
GREENPEACE KIRRIBILLI HOUSE PROTEST
The Hon. HELEN SHAM-HO: My question without notice is directed to the Attorney General, who would have been aware that last month 17 protesters invaded the Sydney residence of the Prime Minister. Is the Attorney General aware that on Tuesday, 18 November, Magistrate Scott Mitchell at North Sydney Local Court let those people off with no conviction recorded and he imposed only a good behaviour bond with court costs of $51 dollars for each offender, after a plea of guilty was lodged by all involved? Is the Attorney General also aware that the magistrate condoned the protesters’ illegal activity by commenting "Australia would be a much duller place if protesters were not allowed their freedom of speech"? While I support freedom of speech I would like to know whether the Attorney General approves of the protesters’ behaviour, the lenient decision of the magistrate and the magistrate’s comment condoning the home invasion that took place. Does the Attorney General intend to take action on this issue? If not, does this characterise the Government’s soft approach to law and order?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: It is an obvious error to attribute to the Government a discretionary decision made by a judicial officer such as a magistrate. It is an elementary proposition in our system of government that judges and magistrates are entirely independent of government. That flows from the doctrine of the separation of powers. The honourable member should not assume that any observations made by a magistrate, no doubt obiter dicta, represent the policy or approach of the Government. I do not condone the activities of those demonstrators. I think that even politicians are entitled to the private enjoyment of their houses. But I need to consider Mr Mitchell’s observations in their full context. I will certainly take steps to ask that I be provided with his reasons for his decision in order that I might better comprehend precisely his reasoning process.
WOLLONGONG SHOWGROUND GRANT
The Hon. D. J. GAY: My question without notice is directed to the Treasurer, Minister for Energy, Minister for State and Regional Development, Minister assisting the Premier and Vice-President of the Executive Council. Why has the Carr Labor Government granted $18.5 million to the city of Wollongong for its showground and loaded the embattled city of Newcastle with a debt by offering only a $1.6 million grant for its showground, and then instructing it to borrow the remaining $1.1 million for airconditioning and new seating?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I will refer the question to my colleague the Minister for Land and Water Conservation, the Minister under whose portfolio these matters come. When I get a response from him I will provide that information to the Hon. D. J. Gay.
KANGAROO MEAT PARASITES
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Community Services, representing the Minister for Health. Has Professor John Goldsmid of the University of Tasmania expressed concern at the potential dangers of disease-causing organisms in native animals? Did he give details at a recent medical conference about the newly discovered trichinella-like worm parasite found in wallaby meat which has caused severe illness in people? Did Dr Erika Cox, a clinical microbiologist at Launceston General Hospital, also say that people who eat kangaroos and wallabies are at risk of all kinds of parasites that are not normally studied because they do not occur in livestock? What research is being done by the Department of Health, if any, into disease-causing organisms in kangaroo meat?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I am not familiar with the activities of the parasites in question. However, I will obtain a response for the Hon. R. S. L. Jones and convey it to him.
OLYMPIC TRANSPORT FACILITIES
The Hon. J. F. RYAN: My question is directed to the Minister for Community Services. Will the Minister inform the House what arrangements the Ageing and Disability Department is making with private transport operators in western Sydney to ensure that there is adequate access to transport during the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the year 2000?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: Transport arrangements are primarily a matter for the Department of Transport. The Ageing and Disability Department has a limited role to play in regard to transport for people with disabilities; the actual transport services are provided by the Department of Transport. I will take up the matter with the Minister for Transport and the Minister for the Olympics and will convey to the Hon. J. F. Ryan the information he requires as soon as possible.
YOUTH SUICIDE FORUM RECOMMENDATIONS
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: My question without notice is to the Treasurer. Has Wyong Shire Council written to the Premier to seek funding to ensure that the key recommendations of its youth forum on suicide held on 23 June can be acted upon? Will he inform the House when such funding will be made available?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I do not know whether Wyong Shire Council has written to my colleague the Premier. I will ascertain from the Premier whether that is the case and provide information to the honourable member as soon as possible.
In view of the time, if members have further questions I suggest they place them on notice.
OLYMPIC GAMES CLOSING CEREMONY
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: On 16 October the Hon. J. M. Samios asked me a question about the Olympic Games closing ceremony. The Minister for the Olympics has supplied the following response:
The issue of Olympics Competition and Sabbath observance is a vexed one and has been raised previously by Mr Peter Wertheim of the Jewish Board of Deputies.
I am advised that at the time of Sydney’s Olympic Bid, the International Olympic Committee, all National Olympic Committees and International Federations, were consulted on the dates proposed. No advice was received to indicate the dates would not be appropriate and arrangements were made accordingly.
RURAL HEALTH SERVICES
The Hon. R. D. DYER: On 16 October the Hon. D. F. Moppett asked me a question concerning rural health statistics. The Minister for Health has supplied the following answer:
The New South Wales Government is committed to the implementation of the National Rural Health Strategy. The strategy’s objectives to ensure social justice for all rural Australians, including a fair distribution of resources and equitable access to essential services have and will continue to guide developments in rural health in New South Wales.
NSW Health recently endorsed the development of a new national strategy to ensure a continued focus on the health needs of rural and remote communities for the period 1998-2000. The new Rural and Remote Health Strategy will place considerable emphasis on the need for the development of partnerships between health services and other sectors throughout rural and remote communities.
NSW Health has also undertaken to develop a policy framework for the development of primary and community health services in remote areas. A community health policy is being developed to provide a scope for the strategic direction for community health and the rural community health sector has made a significant contribution to this policy development process. In addition, NSW Health has commissioned the development of the Community Health Information Model as a strategic initiative for the future provision of community based services throughout New South Wales.
This strategic commitment, in conjunction with sustained increases in funding (there has been an increase of $97.8 million in rural health funding since the Government came into office) will continue a broad range of initiatives directed at achieving a better health future for families and communities of country NSW.
BUILDING INSURANCE PREMIUMS
The Hon. R. D. DYER: On 16 October the Hon. J. H. Jobling asked me a question concerning building insurance premiums. The Minister for Fair Trading has supplied the following answer:
Under the Home Building Act licensed contractors are obliged to arrange insurance covering their jobs. This form of insurance was introduced on 1 May 1997 as part of a range of measures to improve consumer protection in the home building industry and did not arise from the creation of the Building Disputes Tribunal in 1989. The concept of a private insurance scheme arose out of the 1993 Dodd Inquiry into the BSC which was commissioned by the previous Government. The insurance is to protect the client against defective and incomplete work. The legislation allows contractors to use job specific policies, that is, a policy issued for each project or else take out an annual policy covering all their work. Premiums are not prescribed by law but are set by the insurance market.
Insurers are free to set different rates for different work and to offer good builders lower premiums. In the case of job specific policies some insurers do specify the amount of the premium on the certificate of insurance or else seek to have the amount disclosed in the building contract. Where the contractor has an annual policy the insurance cost will likely be spread across all jobs in the same way the contractor deals with other annual or on-going fees.
In a competitive market the overall tender price for a project, including the insurance component, will be weighed up by the customer when deciding whether to engage the contractor. This, together with the information available on premiums for job specific policies, should help deter unscrupulous operators from overcharging.
SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT LICENCE CONDITIONS
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: On 16 October the Hon. I. Cohen asked me a question on sewage treatment plant licence conditions. The Minister for the Environment has supplied the following answer:
1. Monitoring for viral and prion contamination.
No current EPA licence requires monitoring of viruses from STPs.
Faecal coliforms, enterococci or other bacteria are normally used as indicators of the presence of viruses. If indicator bacteria are present, then it can be concluded that viruses may also be present. Where appropriate, the EPA requires monitoring of these indicator bacteria as part of STP licence conditions.
The final draft ANZECC, NHMRC and ARMCANZ "Guidelines for Sewerage Systems - Reclaimed Water" April 1997, page 11, states that:
Virus limits are not recommended because:
•there is a body of evidence demonstrating viral removal following filtration and disinfection
•virus monitoring is slow, expensive and imprecise
•up to 28 days are needed for virus identification
•there is no consensus on the health significance of low levels of viruses in reclaimed wastewater, and
•there are insufficient studies available to define appropriate benchmark levels for setting viral guidelines.
The EPA is not aware of any commercially available monitoring technique for prions in wastewater.
2. Water quality parameters in STP licence conditions.
Licences typically require monitoring of Non-filtrable Residue (solids), Biochemical Oxygen Demand and grease and oil.
Where appropriate, nutrients such as total nitrogen, total phosphorus, ammonia, pH and indicator bacteria, are also monitored.
The main ocean outfall plants also monitor for low levels of a wide range of toxic chemicals such as organochlorins, PAHs, metals and cyanide compounds.
CAMPBELLTOWN DRUG USE
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: On 16 October the Hon. C. J. S. Lynn asked me a question concerning drug use in Campbelltown. The Minister for Police has supplied the following answer:
The Minister for Police has advised me that the article in the Macarthur Advertiser related to a cleaner at the local bus depot who was stuck by a needle secreted under the back of a seat. There is no record of this matter having been reported to police and no other information is available.
The article in the Macarthur Chronicle was a response to community concern about drug trafficking in the Campbelltown Central Business District. The Minister for Police has advised me that police initiatives to decrease the level of drug related crimes are ongoing but to give details in other than the most general terms would prejudice police operations.
Questions without notice concluded.
[The President left the chair at 1.03 p.m. The House resumed at 2.30 p.m.]
WALKER TRUSTS AMENDMENT BILL
The PRESIDENT: I report the receipt of the following message from the Legislative Assembly:
The Legislative Assembly having had under consideration the Legislative Council’s message dated 11 November 1997 requesting the concurrence of the Legislative Assembly with the amendments to the Walker Trusts Amendment Bill as set forth in the Schedule to that Message, acquaints the Legislative Council as follows -
Amendment No. 1. The Legislative Assembly proposes a further amendment to the proposed Council Amendment No. 1:
Leave out all words after "The Minister must" and add instead:
"after considering the amount of funds paid to the Central Sydney Area Health Service under section 11(e)(ii) and such other matters as the Minister thinks fit, allocate out of funds available to the Government such additional funds (if any) as the Minister considers appropriate".
Amendments Nos 2, 3 and 4. The Legislative Assembly agrees to Amendments Nos 2, 3 and 4 made by the Council in the Bill.
And the Assembly requests the concurrence of the Legislative Council in its proposed amendment to the Council Amendment No. 1 in the Bill.
Legislative Assembly John Murray
20 November, 1997 SPEAKER
STOCK DISEASES AMENDMENT BILL
Bill received and read a first time.
Suspension of standing orders agreed to.
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [2.36 p.m.]: According to contingent notice, I move:
That standing and sessional orders be suspended to allow the moving of a motion forthwith that general business notice of motion No. 47 relating to membership of the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privileges and Ethics be called on forthwith.
The House divided.
Mrs Arena Mrs Nile
Mr Bull Rev. Nile
Mrs Chadwick Dr Pezzutti
Mrs Forsythe Mr Ryan
Mr Gallacher Mr Samios
Miss Gardiner Mrs Sham-Ho
Mr Gay Mr Rowland Smith
Dr Goldsmith Mr Tingle
Mr Hannaford Tellers,
Mr Kersten Mr Jobling
Mr Lynn Mr Moppett
Dr Burgmann Mr Macdonald
Ms Burnswoods Mr Obeid
Mr Cohen Mr Primrose
Mr Corbett Ms Saffin
Mr Dyer Mr Shaw
Mr Egan Mrs Symonds
Mr Johnson Mr Vaughan
Mr Kaldis Tellers,
Mr Kelly Mrs Isaksen
Ms Kirkby Mr Manson
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Order of Business
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [2.44 p.m.]: I move:
That general business notice of motion No. 47 relating to membership of the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics be called on forthwith.
The House divided.
Mrs Arena Mrs Nile
Mr Bull Rev. Nile
Mrs Chadwick Dr Pezzutti
Mrs Forsythe Mr Ryan
Mr Gallacher Mr Samios
Miss Gardiner Mrs Sham-Ho
Mr Gay Mr Rowland Smith
Dr Goldsmith Mr Tingle
Mr Hannaford Tellers,
Mr Kersten Mr Jobling
Mr Lynn Mr Moppett
Dr Burgmann Mr Macdonald
Ms Burnswoods Mr Obeid
Mr Cohen Mr Primrose
Mr Corbett Ms Saffin
Mr Dyer Mr Shaw
Mr Egan Mrs Symonds
Mr Johnson Mr Vaughan
Mr Kaldis Tellers,
Mr Kelly Mrs Isaksen
Ms Kirkby Mr Manson
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
STANDING COMMITTEE ON PARLIAMENTARY PRIVILEGE AND ETHICS
The Hon. ELAINE NILE [2.48 p.m.]: I move:
That Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile be appointed as a member of the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [2.48 p.m.]: I move:
That the question be amended by inserting at the end:
2. That Mr Primrose be appointed as a member of the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics.
3. That, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the standing orders, for the purposes of the inquiry into the conduct of Mrs Arena, the quorum is four members, of whom three must be Government members, and one must be a non-Government member.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for Energy, Minister for State and Regional Development, Minister Assisting the Premier, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [2.49 p.m.]: The first thing I point out is that the amendment moved by Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile is not in the same terms as the amendment that has been circulated.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [2.49 p.m.]: To make it perfectly clear -
The PRESIDENT: Order! Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile has already spoken in this debate. If he wishes to make a further contribution, he will have to seek leave to speak a second time. Does the member wish to seek leave?
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: I seek leave to answer the question asked by the Leader of the Government.
Leave not granted.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: The amendment is as I moved it.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The member has no right of audience, having spoken already in the debate. Has the Minister finished?
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: That is a silly interjection. The Hon. J. H. Jobling is a bigger boofhead than I thought he was. Mr President, I am still not sure what the amendment is that we are dealing with.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: As I moved it.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile is clear in his mind as to what he has moved but the records of the House might not reflect that.
The PRESIDENT: Order! There is nothing to prevent the Leader of the Government consulting privately with Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile, who has
spoken in the debate and without leave cannot speak again.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: I am not asking him to speak. I am asking you, Mr President, to inform me what the amendment before the House is.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The amendment that I have had supplied to me in writing is that which was moved by Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile:
That the question be amended by inserting at the end
2. That Mr Primrose be appointed as a member of the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics.
3. That, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the standing orders, for the purposes of the inquiry into the conduct of Mrs Arena the quorum is four members, of whom three must be Government members.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: And I added the words "and one must be a non-Government member". It will be in Hansard.
The PRESIDENT: Order! With the addition of the words "and one must be a non-Government member", that is the amendment moved by Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile, irrespective of what may have been circulated in writing.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN (Treasurer, Minister for Energy, Minister for State and Regional Development, Minister Assisting the Premier, and Vice-President of the Executive Council) [2.52 p.m.]: Now I know what I am speaking to. On behalf of the Government I oppose the motion moved by the Hon. Elaine Nile. If any change is to be made by the House, obviously it is desirable that there be two additional members appointed to the committee rather than one. My objection is to the notion of appointing additional members to the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics simply because there happens to be before that committee an inquiry of which a member of the House wants to be part. That is an absurd situation. It cannot become the practice that a member who wishes to be on a committee says, "Hey, I want to serve on that committee for the purpose of this inquiry." It is an absurdity. If that were suggested, I would have thought the House would have had the good sense to rule it improper. What the motion seeks to do is improper. Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile wants to be a member of the committee solely for a specific inquiry. The committee cannot be expected to conduct an impartial or independent inquiry when one of its number has become a member for the simple purpose of that inquiry. It is simply a nonsense.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: It is a rort.
The Hon. M. R. EGAN: It is a rort. I am surprised that the Opposition supports the motion and I am particularly surprised that members on the crossbenches indicate support for it. The Government will support the amendment but, if it is carried, will oppose the amended motion.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [2.55 p.m.]: I oppose the motion and the amendment. The Leader of the Government said it was wrong for another member who obviously has a partisan interest in a certain reference to a standing or select committee - and that is demonstrated by the behaviour of Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile - to attempt to be appointed as a member of that committee for a particular reference, its members already having been appointed by this House. It is a misuse of the committee system and is setting a precedent which could be abused in future. People with a strong interest in a reference could attempt to persuade the House that they should be added to the membership of the committee.
The Hon. Franca Arena: What is wrong with that?
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: I believe that is quite wrong. The Hon. Franca Arena asked what is wrong with that.
The Hon. Franca Arena: If the House decides.
The PRESIDENT: Order! If the Hon. Franca Arena wishes to speak in this debate, she may.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: I believe that in this case it is improper and, taken as a precedent, would make the committee system unworkable in the long term. I will take a hypothetical case. The Standing Committee on Social Issues reference at the moment is to inquire into hepatitis C. A member of the Liberal Party in this House, the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti, is a medical practitioner and because of his training has some detailed knowledge of the condition hepatitis C. However, it would still not be proper for the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti to try to persuade the Leader of the Opposition to move a motion suggesting that for the purposes of the hepatitis C inquiry he become a member of the Standing Committee on Social Issues.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: I am overworked already.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: That does not preclude the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti putting forward a submission to that committee if he so wishes and if he has the time. The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti has just said by way of interjection that he is overworked already. However, it might well be that he would have time to prepare a written submission, and that would be perfectly proper. No-one would prevent him from doing that. Making a submission to a committee is quite different to actually having membership and a vote on the committee.
I am informed - I do not know how accurate my information is - that one of the reasons Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile has moved that he be included on the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics is to make perfectly certain that the Hon. Franca Arena gets a fair hearing. That is a dangerous statement, if it is true. Does Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile suggest that the privileges committee as presently constituted will not give the Hon. Franca Arena a fair hearing? I cannot believe that that is what Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile intends, but that interpretation could be put on his suggestion. The privileges committee has to deal with a delicate matter. It is rare for the privileges committee to deal with a matter relating to a member of the Chamber and it is even more rare for it to deal with a matter that has been the subject of national and international media comment. Increasing publicity - in many cases hysterical publicity - surrounds paedophilia, the way in which the report of the Wood royal commission has been received and the way in which the findings of the Wood royal commission have been widely publicised.
Therefore, we must be particularly careful that when the privileges committee brings down its report no-one can say that this was not really the privileges committee that was originally established; that it was a committee with additional membership and the way the votes fell - if it is necessary for the committee to vote - altered the result and the way the report was prepared. This is the danger faced by the House. Before the Government decided to establish the Nader inquiry, members of this House voted against the Government and said that this matter should never go to an outside inquiry and that it should go to the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics. I did not support the views in that regard. I stated that if the matter went to a parliamentary committee honourable members inevitably would be accused of trying to hush up the matters raised by the Hon. Franca Arena. Therefore, I supported the reference to the inquiry headed by Mr Nader.
When the Nader inquiry was established the Hon. Franca Arena said that she would appear before the inquiry. However, she later changed her mind - she says on legal advice - and did not appear before the inquiry. As a result of discussions and disputes in relation to the conclusion of the Nader inquiry, the House decided to refer the matter to the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics. The Hon. Franca Arena has made it clear that she is prepared to appear before the committee. At no time has she ever said, "I will appear in front of that committee only if its composition is changed." Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile decided - I believe not as a result of any action by the Hon. Franca Arena - to attempt to serve as a member of the committee. The actions of Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile will be interpreted by the media - which is hungry for anything to do with the Wood royal commission, paedophilia and the stand taken by the Hon. Franca Arena - as an attempt to influence the outcome and modify the report of the committee.
Unfortunately, Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile has made many public statements on this matter and it is quite obvious that he is partisan. He issued a press release which said that if every member of this Parliament were penalised for telling lies very few members would not have to be penalised. The Hon. Franca Arena is to appear before the privileges committee not because it has been suggested that she told lies but because she accused the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition and a royal commissioner of a criminal conspiracy. I believe - other honourable members may not agree with me - that is a far greater offence than simply either misinforming or lying to the House. The public statements of Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile must be taken into account. His press release has been widely circulated.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I remind members of the seriousness of the matter under consideration: the reputation and integrity of this House. Members should listen to the debate in silence.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: The press release of Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile, which strongly supported the Hon. Franca Arena, was issued to the commercial media and was published in the organ of his party, its newspaper, which has a wide circulation. I receive a copy of that newspaper every time it is published. I read it because it is usually critical of the Australian Democrats. Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile’s views on this matter are widely known outside the Chamber. It cannot possibly be said that his membership of this
committee would not have a bearing on the way the committee would report or the sanctions the committee might impose on the Hon. Franca Arena. One of the committee’s terms of reference is that it shall make a decision about how it believes this matter should be dealt with. I have been vehement about this debate. I tried to oppose the debate being brought on because, obviously, I find it extremely distressing and perturbing to stand here and state why I believe it is improper for another member of this Chamber to take part in the proceedings of the Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics.
However, it has come to debate, which means it is now necessary for me to make my views on this matter totally and absolutely clear. I am well aware that many people, possibly members on both sides of the House, do not agree with my views. In fact, I may make some enemies and cause people to feel resentful towards me. I am sorry, but I cannot help that. If this motion is carried it will create a very bad precedent. It could be totally misrepresented in the media. We should not allow it to happen. I am certain, and I am sure that other honourable members will not disagree with me, that when the hearings of the privileges committee commence next Monday they will attract the widest media attention.
Television cameras from stations from all over New South Wales will be in the committee room and the public gallery will probably be full. I know what has happened, and so does the Hon. Franca Arena, when committees have had hearings that have dealt with matters as delicate as paedophilia. A committee hearing was broken into by members of a determined, extreme homosexual group - ACTUP - who behaved in a very vociferous manner and demanded that members of Parliament either out themselves as homosexuals or out other members whom they believed were homosexuals. It is the misreporting and exaggeration of such delicate matters that result in bad media in the eyes of the public, who are given the totally wrong perception.
As you have said, Mr President, the debate about paedophilia is of enormous importance and delicacy. Earlier today I spoke to a man who went to a meeting last night, a normal meeting attended mostly by males. When expressing to me the feeling of those at the meeting he said, "Now that we are having all this debate about paedophilia, if we see a lost child in the street we are afraid to go up to that child, we cannot go up to that child and assist that child, in case improper motives are imputed to us. Even our attitude to our children has changed. We dare not touch them in case it is suggested that we are sexually molesting them. If we meet a group of children walking down the street coming home from school we dare not look them in the eye in case a complaint is made against us for improperly trying to attract their attention."
The Hon. D. J. Gay: On a point of order. Whilst I may be sympathetic to the last statements made by the honourable member, I find it hard to understand how they relate to the motion before the House. At the very least I ask the honourable member to explain their relevance. If not, I ask you, Mr President, to instruct the honourable member to return to the motion before the House.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: On the point of order. That was an example of how, in the public arena at the moment, this paedophilia debate - and it is the allegations by the Hon. Franca Arena that relate to this very serious matter - is interpreted and how public opinion is manipulated by the media. That is the reason I brought it into the discussion.
The PRESIDENT: Order! No point of order is involved.
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY: This problem was brought to my attention in a very sincere and perturbed way. That is one of the dangers society faces when the media reports wildly and hysterically about any particular matter, whether it be paedophilia, the Wik judgment or drugs. Parliaments of Australia are currently dealing with all three of those very serious matters. When this matter finally comes to the vote I hope that what I have said will be taken into consideration, especially by other crossbench members, that the composition of the privileges committee is left as it stands, and that this Chamber shows that it has the fullest confidence in the ability of the current membership of the privileges committee to assess the material supplied by the Hon. Franca Arena, to come to a fair and honest assessment of the material, and then to report to this House accordingly.
Obviously, the privileges committee of this House can be trusted to deal with this very serious matter. It does not need additional members to enable it to consider the matters that will be brought before it. I am very much convinced that if we tamper with the composition of that committee, the media, for whatever reason, will attempt to put a wrong interpretation on what we are doing, which will be further exacerbated by rumour and exaggeration. The report of the committee, whatever it may be, will never have the validity it might have had if the committee had been allowed to get on
with its work without any further debate on this matter.
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD [3.17 p.m.]: This is an extremely serious matter. I will oppose the motion moved by the Hon. Elaine Nile and the amendment moved by Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile for very clear reasons.
The Hon. R. T. M. Bull: You support the expulsion of an honourable member?
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD: That is exactly what this debate is not about. It is not about whether the Hon. Franca Arena should be expelled.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: So you disagree with Lis?
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD: I am not here to defend the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby. I would ask honourable members opposite to rest their mouths for a while and give me a chance to put my views on the record. If they want to have a rowdy session, I am quite happy to have it. The motion is not about whether the Hon. Franca Arena should be expelled. It is not a motion that judges the matters raised by the Hon. Franca Arena in her speech to the House about six weeks ago. It is about the operation of committees and how the precedents of this House, and the precedents of numerous committees across the country, are flouted by this motion. I will demonstrate that this is both an unprecedented and an extraordinary step.
The Hon. R. B. Rowland Smith: Put the microphone on.
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD: I know the Hon. R. B. Rowland Smith is becoming hard of hearing, but I thought I was speaking loudly enough for him. I am quite happy to speak much louder, and at length.
The Hon. R. B. Rowland Smith: Put your microphone on, you twit!
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD: I will move down here so that he can hear me. I am not in charge of the microphones here. Give me a break!
The PRESIDENT: Order! Personal comments are out of order and do nothing to enhance the dignity of debate.
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD: This motion, which is inappropriate on a number of grounds, does not refer to the way in which the committee should hear these matters, or to what future course of action should be adopted, and it does not reflect my views in relation to these matters. There are a number of reasons why this House should not deviate from previous practices. The committee as it is presently constituted is competent. It has produced some erudite reports on a range of matters, including the code of conduct, which I believe demonstrates that it is quite competent to handle any task assigned to it by this Chamber. The motion and the amendment moved by the members of the Christian Democratic Party are contrary to the standing orders and precedents of this Chamber.
To demonstrate that I will refer extensively to Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice, Odger’s Australian Senate Practice and the House of Representatives Practice, which deal with the operation of committees. After listening to my contribution all honourable members will be clear in their minds that the proposal to alter committee membership midstream, not following the discharge or resignation of a member, is unprecedented and outside the framework of the normal operation of committees not only in this place but in every other jurisdiction in this country. There is a strong framework of action for committees in this Parliament. This motion and the amendment to it will extend the operation of committees in this House. I refer firstly to page 660 of Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice which makes reference to committees of privilege and states:
It has been the practice of the House of Commons from the seventeenth century to appoint a Committee of Privileges. It was until recently customary to appoint the committee by means of one of the sessional orders at the opening of every session, and to nominate it at an early date in the session instead of waiting until some matter had been referred to its consideration.
Erskine May makes it clear that the members of committees of privilege should be appointed at the beginning of the session. One should not wait until a complaint has been made in relation to that membership. Erskine May goes on to say:
Since 1974-75, however, the appointment of the committee has been extended to last for the duration of the Parliament by standing order and its seventeen members -
in the case of the United Kingdom -
have been nominated for the duration of the Parliament; these requirements were then incorporated in Standing Order No. 121.
Erskine May is saying quite clearly that the members of privileges committees should be
appointed at the beginning of each session of Parliament. I said earlier that the members of our privileges committee, who are serving this Parliament with distinction, should be appointed at the commencement of this Parliament and should serve in those positions for the duration of the Parliament. They are not appointed for a short period; they are appointed for the duration of the Parliament. The members of our privileges committee who were appointed at the beginning of this parliamentary session have a duty and the right to serve for that full period. A committee of privilege of this House - and of most Houses that operate under the Westminster system - is appointed at the beginning of a parliamentary session and maintains that appointment.
There is nothing to suggest that such a committee could be altered or changed. However, I will demonstrate later, by referring to other learned authors, that they cannot be altered midstream in relation to a particular inquiry. Erskine May has made that point very clear. At the commencement of each parliamentary session the members of the privileges committee are appointed and they should serve for the duration of the Parliament. Reference is made also to committees of privilege in the third edition of House of Representatives Practice. That further amplifies the procedure relating to committees and how they should be constituted and conducted for the duration of the Parliament. The House of Representatives Practice, which is very informative, states on page 719:
In order to assist the House in its examination of issues of privilege the House appoints a committee of privileges at the commencement of each Parliament . . . The committee was first established, by standing order, on 7 March 1944. The provision in standing order 96 for the Speaker’s opinion as to whether a prima facie case has been made out in order to justify precedence over other business was incorporated into the procedure of the House when the standing orders were adopted on 21 March 1950.
So a procedural matter was added subsequent to the establishment of the committee and the House of Representatives Practice makes it clear that a committee of privileges is appointed at the commencement of each Parliament. However, the reference in the House of Representatives Practice to the terms of membership is slightly different to the terms of membership for our privileges committee. Honourable members would find, when taking into account the composition of committees of privilege across the nation, differences relating to the historical and political make-up of a House of Parliament. The House of Representatives Practice states:
. . . a Committee consisting of the Leader of the House or his or her nominee, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition or his or her nominee, and nine other Members . . . The chairman of the committee is normally a backbench Member of considerable parliamentary experience.
Our committee of privileges has an extremely experienced chair - the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann - a member of Parliament since 1991 who has had a distinguished parliamentary career. The House of Representatives Practice continues:
During the 28th Parliament (1973-1974) the chairman was also a Minister -
Mr Enderby, a good friend of mine, who is now ably serving this State in another capacity -
and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was a member of the committee. The committee usually has a number of lawyers amongst its members. A Member may be discharged from the committee and another appointed in his or her place for the consideration of particular inquiries.
Clearly, that goes to the heart of the matter. I will quote that section again because it goes to the heart of the matter. It states:
A Member may be discharged from the committee and another appointed in his or her place for the consideration of particular inquiries. This may occur if a member of the committee raised the matter in the House, or if a member is absent or will be absent for a significant part of the inquiry or for some other reason such as a Member having had some prior involvement in respect of a particular issue.
Those two sentences encapsulate the reason that the motion of the Hon. Elaine Nile and amending motion of the Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile cannot be adopted by this House. The motion is contrary to all parliamentary practice on privileges committees in this country. I shall highlight some points so that honourable members can clearly see how this proposition is directly contrary to parliamentary practice. The first point is:
A Member may be discharged from the committee and another appointed in his or her place for the consideration of particular inquiries.
There has not been a member of the privileges committee of this Parliament who has been discharged from an inquiry. According to House of Representatives Practice, a member who has not resigned or been discharged from the committee cannot be replaced. All members of this Parliament’s privileges committee as currently constituted have not sought to be discharged from this inquiry. A change to the committee has occurred in the proper way by the member seeking, for whatever reason, to be discharged from the committee. That was done and the House then appointed another member. Clearly the motions of the Hon. Elaine Nile and
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile fly in the face of that practice. Further, in relation to having a member serve on this committee, the House of Representatives Practice clearly states in relation to the discharge of a member:
This may occur if a member of the committee has raised the matter in the House, or if a member is absent or will be absent for a significant part of the inquiry or for some other reason such as a Member having some prior involvement in respect of a particular issue.
The motions are outside the terms of that part of the practice. No member of the privileges committee has raised a matter relating to the proposed inquiry. No member of the privileges committee has indicated an inability to attend the inquiry in due course. No member has asked to be discharged from the committee because of absence during the inquiry. Further, no member of the committee has had prior involvement in the issue that would tend to a bias. Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile should think twice about that provision in the amendment that he has moved. The House of Representatives Practice states:
. . . such as a Member having had some prior involvement in respect of a particular issue.
In the contribution of Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile to this House on 12 November he said in principle:
We do not believe that the matters relating to the Hon. Franca Arena justify her being expelled. As I have said on a number of occasions in this House, if there was concern about her speech on 17 September 1997 the first step should have been to refer her comments to the privileges committee, a peer group that represents most parties in this House.
His stance is made very clear in this statement:
We do not believe that the matters relating to the Hon. Franca Arena justify her being expelled.
The Hon. Franca Arena: The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann said that I should be expelled. She is biased the other way.
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD: There was not a vote on the honourable member’s expulsion. There was no vote on this matter in the Chamber. The number of matters set out in the House of Representatives Practice make it clear that every test that is put to the membership of a privileges committee is being transgressed by this motion and its amendment. It is clear cut, there is no way around it. The practice over time is clearly on the record. Further, this learned work states:
A Member on being elected Speaker (for example, Speaker Macleay) withdraws from the committee and a Member is appointed to fill the vacancy.
Again it is about the withdrawal of a member for one reason or another that can lead to a change to the composition of the committee. There is no example that the membership of a committee of privilege established for the duration of the Parliament can be increased once the committee is up and running. The House of Representatives Practice also states that in other cases members have not participated in inquiries, for example, because they were also members of a committee involved in the inquiry, but they have not been replaced. So there are examples when members have not been replaced. But there is no credible example of members being added to the inquiry. It is an extraordinary step in the operation of our privileges committee and it makes a mockery of the committee as a group that finally determines and proposes recommendations to this House on matters relating to our privileges as members of Parliament.
If one reads the complete section about membership of a committee of privileges it will be seen that there is no precedence for the step proposed by the Hon. Elaine Nile and amended by Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile. It is ultra vires parliamentary practice both here and at a Federal level, and at other State levels. A rare work on parliamentary privilege in New South Wales, a report by a committee which consisted of able people such as the Hon. D. D. Freeman, the Hon. D. M. Grusovin, the Hon. B. H. Vaughan, the Hon. Max Willis from the Legislative Council, and Mr D. J. Bowman, Mr J. H. Brown, Mr G. D. McIlwaine, Mr T. J. Moore and Mr W. T. J. Murray from the Legislative Assembly, was tabled in the Parliament in 1985. The committee, which was appointed in the early 1980s, produced a comprehensive report on the matters that we are dealing with this afternoon. It contained recommendations for the establishment and composition of privileges committees. It provided the basis for the establishment of privileges committees in this State. The eminent people I have just named reported:
Your Committee concludes that Standing Committees of Privilege of the Houses of the New South Wales Parliament should be established. To permit this to be implemented your Committee recommends:
1. Each of the Houses of the New South Wales Parliament should resolve to establish separately a Standing Committee upon Parliamentary Privilege.
2. That no specific terms of reference should be included in such resolution in each House as such terms might limit the scope of the authority of such a Committee.
3. That for joint sittings of the House of Parliament or when a matter arising constitutes a contempt of the Parliament rather than either of the Houses, the Committee should be empowered by specific resolution at that time to sit as a single Joint Committee.
For some time now this Chamber has followed those three steps to the letter. It has not strayed minutely from the recommendations. In the case of this specific matter that has been referred to the privileges committee, the third recommendation has been followed in every respect. The report continues:
4. Each House should invest its Standing Committee upon Parliamentary Privilege with the power to confer with the equivalent Committee of the other House.
In recent times that has been pursued by the committee in relation to a number of matters. As the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann would be well aware, it has been followed in relation to a code of conduct. The joint sittings have been very productive in allowing members to ascertain the relevant viewpoints in relation to the matters at hand. The fifth recommendation is very important. It reads:
5. That the Committee should be of the same size and comprise seven members with four of those members being members who are supporters of the Government.
The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann: Repeat that. That is important.
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD: It states:
5. That the Committee should be of the same size and comprise seven members with four of those members being members who are supporters of the Government.
The Hon P. T. Primrose: That is the crux. You should repeat that.
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD: For the benefit of some members who probably are not listening to the debate as well as they perhaps should have, the recommendation is:
5. That the Committee should be of the same size and comprise seven members with four of those members being members who are supporters of the Government.
That is the path that the Houses have followed in relation to this matter. The report does not say that there should be nine members or any other number of members. It does not say that there should be eight members. When the motion was moved by the Hon. Elaine Nile the Christian Democratic Party considered that there should be eight members of the committee. Ipso facto, that ran contrary to the recommendations of the joint House committee in relation to parliamentary privilege in New South Wales. After consideration in great detail of matters of privilege by the committee comprising the eminent people I have named, the conclusion was that there should be seven members - four of whom should be members of the Government. It did not recommend that there should be eight members of the Parliament, as the original motion of the Hon. Elaine Nile suggests, breaking the entire thrust of the recommendation of the joint House committee: that there should be a majority for the Government on a privileges committee.
That has been the course that has been adopted. Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile realised this point, but a bit late. If the motion had been sincerely thought through the honourable members would have come to the conclusion that the original motion proposed by the Hon. Elaine Nile and the amendment moved by Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile should have been one motion and moved by the Hon. Elaine Nile. They realised that it was untenable for them to move a motion that wiped away the Government majority on the privileges committee. Therefore, a subsequent motion was moved by Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile to ensure that the Government retained a majority, albeit in a new framework, right away from the recommendations of the joint House committee of 1985 that there be seven members and that membership be increased. The sixth recommendation of the committee states:
6. That the Presiding Officers be specifically excluded from the membership of such Committee.
Mr President, I am sure that, with your knowledge of the procedures of this House, you would be an asset to the committee and could serve ably on it. However, this Chamber has strictly followed the precepts and recommendations of the joint House committee that gave us the blueprint for how this matter should be dealt with. Consequently, Mr President, you are not a member of the privileges committee. The report continued:
7. That it be considered undesirable for Ministers to be appointed to such a Committee but that they be eligible for membership.
That is another important principle of a committee of privilege of this Chamber: Ministers in practice should not be members of the committee. Again, the House has followed that path and no Ministers serve on the committee. Another recommendation is that a Minister should not be a chairman of such a committee. In every respect the House has followed the recommendations of the 1985 committee report. Mr President, I might say that you did serve very
nobly as chairman of the committee before you became President of this Chamber.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: On a point of order. Mr President, on two counts the honourable member is breaching the standing orders of this House. One is that he has been repetitious - tiringly so. In fact, on the subject of numbers he has revisited the situation not once, not twice, not three times but six times. On the second count, he is reading from a book that is freely available to the public. In fact this committee report was issued to each member of this House. He is clearly tampering with the precedents of the House and wasting the time of the House.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: On the point of order. I do not think I have ever heard a more ludicrous point of order. To take a point of order on the basis that a member reads from a report of some committee -
The Hon. D. J. Gay: He is just reading straight from it.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: No, he is not. He is referring to it, analysing it and evaluating it. Obviously the Hon. D. J. Gay believes that unless a member’s speech is completely uninformed it does not comply with the standing orders. That is an absurdity, and the Hon. D. J. Gay knows it. I suspect that he is taking numerous points of order simply to waste the time of this House.
The Hon P. T. Primrose: On the point of order. I am new to this place, relatively speaking. I have not seen or heard of the report that has been referred to, and I am actually taking a great deal of interest -
The Hon. D. J. Gay: It is available in the library, if you go and have a look.
The Hon P. T. Primrose: The Hon. D. J. Gay says the report is available in the library. Voluminous amounts of information are available in the library. I am trying to bring myself up to date with this material. As you have said, Mr President, this is an important debate; it goes to the heart of issues to do with privilege. Past reports have examined this issue, and I for one am very interested to hear the key points of those reports. I have been taking notes and listening with great interest to all the points raised by my colleague -
The Hon. D. J. Gay: You haven’t even got a pen.
The Hon P. T. Primrose: I have a pen, and I have made voluminous notes. In fact, at a later stage in this debate I hope to be able to make a contribution relating to my own humble understanding of these points. I am informed by the references being made by the Hon. I. M. Macdonald, to whom I defer as having a much broader understanding and a longer interest in these matters than I do because of his longstanding membership of this House, and I look forward to continuing to hear those erudite references.
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD: On the point of order. The Hon. D. J. Gay must not have been listening with enough attention to what I have been saying. In relation to his assertion that I am simply reading from this document, I make it clear that I have been dealing with each point in the recommendations of the joint House committee by way of discussion and dissertation, without notes.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I presume the point of order is based on the argument that the member’s speech is tediously repetitious. Although the speech of the Hon. I. M. Macdonald is lengthy and detailed, it does not yet fall into the category of being tediously repetitious. However, I entreat the member to endeavour to make his remarks a little more receptive to the ears of those who might regard it as tedious and repetitious.
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD: When I am speaking off the cuff I will endeavour to highlight aspects for the benefit of the Hon. D. J. Gay, so that he gets the full benefit of the wisdom that I am rendering to the House. In relation to the eighth recommendation of the joint House committee, it is clear that Ministers have not been, and I do not think will be, chairmen of such committees. The ninth recommendation states that the Clerks of both Houses should be the clerks to the respective committees. That practice is religiously followed in this House. The tenth recommendation states that the three members of the committee, not being members supporting the Government, should be nominated by the leader of the largest minority party in that House. In effect, the recommendation made it clear that the three non-Government members should be nominated by the Leader of the Opposition. The motion moved by the Hon. Elaine Nile and the amendment moved by Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile are directly contrary to that recommendation of the joint House committee, which comprised members of all parties in both Houses of this Parliament. I repeat that recommendation: the Leader of the Opposition shall nominate the three non-Government
members of that committee. The recommendation does not provide that the House shall then appoint a number of members of any other party, or indeed Independent members, as members of the committee. The recommendation clearly provides that there should be four Government and three Opposition members -
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: Three non-Government members.
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD: The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti is correct. The recommendation provides that three non-Government members should be appointed by the Leader of the Opposition. By and large that is the practice of this House. I do not recall that the Leader of the Opposition in this place has recommended in any shape or form that the Hon. Elaine Nile and Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile be appointed as members of the committee. Recommendation 11 states that consideration of a report by such a committee should take precedence over all other parliamentary business when it is presented to the House. Indeed, that is the practice that is conducted, without divergence, by this House. Page 115 of the report reads in part:
During the deliberations of your committee considerable discussion took place with respect to the terms of paragraphs 5 and 10 of the above recommendation, 5 being that the committees should be of the same size and comprise seven members with four of those members being members who are supporters of the Government, and 10 being that the three members of the committee, not being members supporting the Government, should be nominated by the leader of the largest minority party in that House.
A minority of your committee believes that in cases when the Legislative Council is not controlled by the Government, the majority party or group in the Legislative Council should have the majority on such a committee. The majority of your committee whose view prevailed took the view that the Government of the day was entitled to a majority on a committee of the Legislative Council even when that Government did not have a majority in this House.
Indeed, that is the practice that has been adopted in this House. The practice of this House follows fairly closely the recommendations of the committee. Every step outlined by the joint House committee has been adopted by this House in relation to the operation of its privileges committee - indeed, every step has been ably pursued by the current committee.
The report details the role and functions of the committee. The Parliament subsequently adopted a methodology for the conduct of inquiries, the adoption of recommendations, the scope of the committee and the rights of witnesses. I urge honourable members, in particular the Hon. Elaine Nile and Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile, to read the detail in the report because it is obvious from the wording of the motion and the amendment that they are not cognisant of the important historical precedents of this Chamber through the Westminster system. Guidelines have been established from precedents on the operations of our committee system and, in particular, the privilege and ethics committee, which is perhaps the most sensitive of our committees. That committee is charged with the protection of our most important right, that is, the freedom to speak to the issues of the day in a full, frank and meaningful way.
The Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics is central to maintaining and defending our collective privilege. The hard-fought-for right was first sanctioned in the Parliament of England in the 1700s and 1800s. It was not attained through some divine right fiat; it was won by elected representatives, who over time fought for the privilege. In 1689 the right to parliamentary privilege was enshrined within the Bill of Rights, and it has remained unchanged. This important committee is empowered to protect the most sacred right of members of Parliament: the right to speak freely without fear of being sued for defamation. Whether in the House of Commons, the House of Representatives or the Senate, the framework of privilege committees has been handled with great sensitivity.
James Odgers, author of Australian Senate Practice, was the Clerk of the Senate in the 1970s when I was a research officer in the Senate. His work should not be altered without careful consideration. The knee-jerk motion and amendment of Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile and the Hon. Elaine Nile are inappropriate. I am confident that all members of the committee will pursue this issue with justice and fairness. Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile shakes his head at my statement. The committee members, who have great integrity, will examine the issues carefully and recommend an appropriate course of action. It will then fall to the 42 members of this Chamber to consider the recommendations, if any.
I have every confidence in the committee giving due attention to the matters raised by the Hon. Franca Arena. It will cautiously evaluate the material to the satisfaction of all honourable members. For a number of years privilege has been an issue of considerable conjecture for our sister chamber, the Senate. I remind honourable members of the 1950s case of Browne v Fitzpatrick. Over time the Senate has maintained a carefully constructed regime for dealing with matters of
privilege. I commend to honourable members the work of Odgers. At some stage Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile and the Hon. Elaine Nile might read those references.
The Hon. Elaine Nile: We will read your speech.
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD: The Hon. Elaine Nile said she will read my speech. She should instead read my source documents; they have great import. By and large the Senate follows the practice of the House of Representatives and, indeed, both Houses of this Parliament, with regard to the constitution of committees, how members are discharged from service on such committees and a range of other matters. This century Australian parliaments have had an opportunity to examine these matters, determine how they should work and how they should be approached.
The Standing Committee on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics is not an ordinary committee; it is charged with protecting the privileges of this Chamber. Mr Odgers clearly outlined what should be contained in privilege legislation. He did so within the framework of protection or immunity from proceedings for impeachment or question from proceedings outside the Parliament. In effect, it is an indemnity. Mr Odgers referred to the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987 and made a number of judgments about how privileges committees should operate. A number of such cases were before the Supreme Court and other courts of the land. That Act provides the basis on which parliamentary privilege is determined in the Senate. R v. Murphy played a major role in the drafting of the legislation. I shall give honourable members an idea of the sorts of discussions that led to the introduction of the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987. Page 35 of Australian Senate Practice states:
It was pointed out that the second judgment would allow members of Parliament, as well as witnesses, to be called to account in court for their parliamentary speeches and actions and to be attacked and damaged for their participation in parliamentary proceedings, provided only that those proceedings were not the formal cause of the action.
The judgments, even in the absence of statutory correction, did not represent the law. It was unlikely that they would be followed by other courts, and subsequently there were contradictory judgments, including one by another judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
R v. Jackson & ors, a 1987 case, involved a former Minister being charged with receiving bribes. Remarks made by him in the New South Wales Parliament were deemed highly relevant to the proceedings in the Supreme Court. The Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987 was the result of the consideration of matters relating to privilege before various judicial tribunals in the country. Page 36 of Australian Senate Practice states:
The Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987, unprecedented in being introduced by the President of the Senate, was enacted for the express purpose of overturning the adverse court judgments. It made use of the legislative power under section 49 of the Constitution to enact the traditional interpretation of article 9.
The statutory declaration of the formerly established scope of freedom of speech was accompanied, in section 16 of the Act, in several stages.
The Hon. B. H. Vaughan: Will you remind me about section 16?
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD: I am sure that the Hon. B. H. Vaughan knows what is contained in section 16.
The Hon. B. H. Vaughan: I was a valuable member of the committee.
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD: There is no question that the Hon. B. H. Vaughan was an able and erudite member of the committee. Australian Senate Practice continues:
The first stage made it clear that the Australian Houses possessed the privilege of freedom of speech in the terms of the Bill of Rights:
(1) For the avoidance of doubt, it is hereby declared and enacted that the provisions of article 9 of the Bill of Rights, 1688 apply in relation to the Parliament of the Commonwealth and, as so applying, are to be taken to have, in addition to any other operation, the effect of the subsequent provisions of this section.
Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted. The House continued to sit.
DRUG MISUSE AND TRAFFICKING AMENDMENT BILL
Debate resumed from 19 October.
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER [4.16 p.m.]: I speak in this debate as a member of the New South Wales coalition, which is committed to opposing the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Amendment Bill; as a member of the coalition, which is vehemently opposed to any attempt by the Government to legalise drug use in this State; and as a member of the coalition, which firmly believes that the brave new world order being proposed by the legislation
does nothing more than give drug dealers the green light to carry out their socially destroying trade. The Attorney General will have an uncomfortable time during the next 45 minutes: in that time he will hear the truth and he will wish that he were somewhere else. The truth will hit him like a freight train.
We have heard from some honourable members that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol, that prohibition has failed, and that the Government should legalise it and tax it. These comments have been made by individuals who have formed their views on what they have observed or as a result of their life experiences. We are in a position to put forward our observations and beliefs on this issue. We will hear and have heard horrific stories about poor little children being gaoled for merely possessing a small amount of cannabis. Supporters of this legislation will often cite these examples as reasons why the fight against drugs has failed, why society should accept this situation and why we should change our community to fit in with their agenda.
I ask the supporters: where are the facts? Give me the name and full particulars of any person who has been gaoled in recent times for possession of a small amount of cannabis and give me evidence of that person’s previous criminal history, together with any other charges that the person faced at the time. Honourable members should not come into this Chamber and cite anecdotal evidence merely on the basis of what they have been told by someone who knows someone who heard about someone else who was gaoled for possessing a small amount of cannabis. They should give us the full story, the facts, the truth.
I have no doubt that some members of this Chamber have presented their cases and others will present their cases on this debate based on their observations and experiences. Their cases will be, and have been, built on the argument that marijuana has not done them any harm, nor has it done any harm to people whom they have met or whom they have read about. But not one of them will tell of the instances in which the use of illicit drugs has gone seriously and terribly wrong. How many in this Chamber have met with family members of predominantly young people who have been diagnosed with the development of a psychological disorder that correlates with that person’s increasing personal use of cannabis? Honourable members should imagine, if they can, what it is like to talk to the families of such affected persons because of an incident involving an affected person.
Sometimes it is because the affected person has suffered a total psychological breakdown and has been placed under care, sometimes it is because the affected person has committed an act of violence, and sometimes it is because the affected person is deceased. In every case one finds oneself listening to family members - unlike some of the so-called experts in this Chamber who prefer to talk, one listens to the family members - listening to their concerns and listening to them ask one simple question: Why? Honourable members should imagine, if they can, what it is like to talk to family members about a person they knew and loved, and within hours to be present at that loved one’s post mortem. Seeing a young person’s body opened up before one’s eyes, numerous body parts removed, together with bodily fluids, for toxicology examination, is a sight that never leaves one’s memory, and the smell never goes away.
The Hon. B. H. Vaughan: Are we talking about marijuana?
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: The Hon. B. H. Vaughan asks by way of interjection whether I am talking about marijuana. I am talking about marijuana. If the Hon. B. H. Vaughan knew anything about fatal motor vehicle accidents he would know that if a deceased person is believed to have been using either marijuana or alcohol a post mortem is conducted. If the Hon. B. H. Vaughan knew anything about suicides, he would know that when a person kills himself or herself, the body of that person is subject to a post mortem. When there is no obvious sign of death, toxicology examination is used to find the cause of death. I believe I am right when I say that it is not that honourable members who support the legislation do not want people to know about these things; it is that they themselves do not want to know.
Supporters of this legislation have based their views and their arguments only on what they want to hear. They rely heavily on the so-called experts, like Professor Pennington and his ilk, people who base their understanding on what they have read, what they have been told or what they have examined under clinical conditions. How many of these experts have seen the human side of the debate? Not the strong, healthy, intellectual advocates opposite whose bodies can cope with the continual use of cannabis; not the ones who say, "This stuff has been used by mankind for thousands of years. It has not done me any harm. There is nothing wrong with it." I ask honourable members who are truthfully considering their position in this debate to please consider the message and the effect the passage of this legislation will have on the community.
I accept that there are individuals in our community who can use cannabis to varying degrees with little obvious effect. But, as with alcohol and
cigarettes, there are those in our community whose physiological make-up is such that they cannot handle it and who will quickly fall into a world of constantly increasing drug use and dependence. This is not a view I have based on extensive study or discussion with sociologists and other theorists, it is based on something glaringly unique to this debate: on real life. The people I am committed to protecting by my position are those who, by virtue of the criminality that currently attaches to using drugs, do not use them; the very same people who will use cannabis in the future because they perceive that it is no longer a criminal offence and whose physiological make-up is such that they have a propensity for dependence.
Many of these people are not necessarily the earlier mentioned academics or committed individuals who, for example, become involved in organisations such as political parties and community welfare groups. I am talking about the ordinary individuals in our community who lead relatively simple private lives. They are not those the Hon. R. S. L. Jones would know personally as people committed to fighting tooth and nail for the environment, or those the Hon. Ann Symonds would know as people committed to social justice. I am talking about Mr and Miss Average who can, and do, go off the rails through the use of illicit drugs and who, unfortunately, end up in the morgue far ahead of their time. It is true that we will all die one day, but this legislation forces people to push in.
The so-called experts will say that cannabis use among young people in this country is increasing, as most young people no longer believe the rhetoric about the dangers of drug use. They prefer cannabis over alcohol. It amazes me, however, that none of the theorists want people to consider the relationship between increased drug use and suicide. No-one can convince me that there is no relationship between increasing drug use by young Australians and the fact that Australia has one of the highest youth suicide rates in the western world. It is surprising how the strongest advocates for decriminalising drugs have either no children or have children who have passed through the high-risk years - the teenage years - to the young adult ages. The ones who are truly committed to their children, their families and the children of others are those who will stand with the Opposition to oppose this legislation.
It is important at this juncture to recognise the role of the crossbench members of this House in this debate. Before today Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile and the Hon. Elaine Nile have placed their positions on this matter firmly on the record. So, too, has the Hon. R. S. L. Jones. It is therefore imperative that the remaining members of the crossbenches consider their positions. I ask seriously that they do so with the best interests at heart of all those young people who are currently trying to work out their role and future in our society, whilst they are surrounded by pressure and expectation. Do not send them the wrong signal by passing this legislation. When I sat down to write this speech the Hon. A. G. Corbett had not committed himself. I held a glimmer of hope that the Hon. A. G. Corbett would consider what his party allegedly stood for: a better future for our children.
I thought he would vote, not necessarily for what he sees as a better future for his children, but for the children of everyone else in New South Wales. He knows firsthand what it is like to be publicly ridiculed as a result of his decisions, together with some of his more salubrious actions outside the Chamber but still within the confines of the Parliament. I will not publicly pass judgement on his past decisions because who is to say who is right and who is wrong? Unfortunately, the Hon. A. G. Corbett pinned his colours to the mast when he put on record his views or, should I say, his views as a clandestine member of the Government, when he spoke earlier in this debate. In simple terms the Hon. A. G. Corbett is -
The Hon. M. R. Kersten: - a dope.
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: Put it this way, I do not think one would be allowed to export the Hon. A. G. Corbett, because it is an offence to export dopes. I find his actions and his words offensive, because he stood for a better future for our children.
The Hon. I. M. Macdonald: On a point of order. I have listened with some interest to the Hon. M. J. Gallacher render to this House his views on cannabis and law enforcement. But he has just described another member as a dope, which is highly outrageous. He is reflecting on a member, and he should withdraw the comment. If we start calling one another dopes where will it end?
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. D. J. Gay): Order! No point of order is involved.
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: In reality, I will not waste any further time on the Hon. A. G. Corbett. It is an act in futility.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: He is an act in futility.
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: He is an act in futility, and the people of New South Wales would agree with me. We do not like to wish our lives away, but may 2003 arrive as quickly as possible so that he can be turfed out with the rest of the refuse that goes out at the end of the day. There are alternatives to decriminalisation by stealth, which is what is advocated in this legislation. The legislation is severely flawed in a number of ways. This bill which, as yet, is unamended, will permit each individual in our community to possess up to $10,000 worth of cannabis without fear of incarceration. I hope that the Attorney General is aware that $10,000 worth of marijuana can be possessed by anyone in the community without fear of incarceration. That is clearly spelled out in the legislation. Anyone considering holding marijuana for other than personal use is being given the green light. Some honourable members might ask how I arrive at a figure of $10,000 worth of marijuana.
The Hon. A. B. Kelly: That is a good question.
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: The newest member of this Chamber - he replaced me as the youngest member of this Chamber - said that was a good question. Each marijuana plant has an agreed value of $2,000, a figure set by the Attorney General for this State’s drug laws. A person owning five marijuana plants in New South Wales could possess up to $10,000 worth of cannabis - a simple and straightforward equation. I am told that the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby proposes to move an amendment to reduce to three the number of plants that any one person is able to grow. If her amendment to the legislation is accepted that could result in a reduction from $10,000 to $6,000. Those members on the crossbenches who have still not made up their minds should not be fooled by the suggestion that that will somehow reduce the effect of the black market.
Many people will still be incapable of growing their own plants, for a variety of reasons and, therefore, they will rely on dealers for their supply. What is more likely to happen, however, is that previously law-abiding people will be unable to resist the temptation of making a bit of money on the side and will maintain a constant supply of five or three plants, depending on what figure is decided upon. More people will be prepared to gamble with a fine to make some extra cash, whereas previously the fear of a gaol sentence would have been too strong an influence. This bill will also encourage drug dealers to enter into consortiums so as to defray the possible impact of police action. Take, for example, five young people renting a house. Each person decides to grow five plants - 25 in total - with a street value of $50,000.
The Hon. Elaine Nile: A cottage industry.
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: The Hon. Elaine Nile referred to it as a cottage industry. To continue with my example, the police execute a search warrant, each person is arrested and charged in respect of their five plants. All five are charged, are given bail, and immediately return home. Shortly afterwards they move to different premises and, to use the term used earlier by the Hon. Elaine Nile, they open up their cottage industries somewhere else. If they are unfortunate, however, to come under notice again, under this legislation they can simply continue the cycle, safe in the knowledge that they cannot go to gaol provided they stick to the story that the five plants were for their own personal use. At $50,000 a throw, go drug dealers, go! If one of those five people is caught dealing, the remaining four stick to the story that the plants were for their own personal use, and the fifth syndicate member is replaced with a new participant.
The Hon. J. H. Jobling: He goes for a holiday.
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: He goes for a holiday, but his position is quickly taken up by someone else and the cycle continues. The legislation is seriously flawed in another way. Growing five plants is not an offence while those plants are still in the ground, but the moment the plants are removed from the ground, dried and the leaves removed, weight becomes a factor. I have seen plants with stalks as thick as my wrist. In fact, I once took custody of five marijuana plants that were so big that I could get only two at a time into the back of a police caged truck. A drug dealer cannot be gaoled whilst the five plants are in the ground. Previously dealers were prepared to sacrifice a plant and not allow it to grow to its fullest potential just to avoid detection. However, under this legislation a drug dealer will be encouraged to leave the plant in the ground for as long as possible, thereby maximising his potential profit
Honourable members should bear in mind that it is not an offence for which people can be gaoled whilst the plants are in the ground. Whilst the plants are in the ground the drug dealer is safe from incarceration. Whilst the plants are in the ground, maximising the dealer’s potential, he or she is busily taking orders for the expected crop. Once those orders are filled, cultivation takes place as quickly as possible in an endeavour to further reduce the risk of being caught with more than five grams. It is this
period, between cultivation and distribution, when a drug dealer would be at his or her most vulnerable to prosecution for dealing. Once the cultivated amount is reduced into bags of five grams or less, the total amount would be either immediately distributed or stashed away awaiting sale. At no time from that moment on would a drug dealer have more than five grams in his or her possession.
I am not presenting fiction to the Chamber. These are not Grimm’s fairy tales that I have concocted in my room; these are the facts. I am referring to the time when, as a former police officer, I and other police officers investigated the modus operandi of drug dealers throughout this State. They use the most cunning methods to ensure that they are not caught. This legislation does nothing more than assist them. I am sure that the Attorney General when drafting this legislation did not take into account the fact that the legislation will enable dealers to move through three potential sentencing stages - from non-custodial through to custodial and then back to non-custodial. They are in a non-custodial stage while the plants are in the ground. During the cultivation process when weight is a contributing factor they run the risk of being taken into custody and, when the cannabis is packaged into bags of five grams or less and they distribute them in such a way that they appear not to have more than five grams in their possession, they move back to the non-custodial stage.
This legislation, which is seriously flawed, will be difficult for the courts to administer. It will be more and more difficult for law enforcement officers to be effective in this area. It is not an equitable system. The courts will be faced with a sentencing nightmare that does nothing more than work to the advantage of drug dealers. There are other alternatives to keeping out of the gaol system those who possess cannabis for nothing more than their personal use. The Hon. R. S. L. Jones went on at length - which he does from time to time - castigating the Opposition for wanting to send drug users to gaol and for allowing them to be raped in gaol. I do not know where he gets his information from, but he is obviously reading too many editions of Framed. The Opposition and I are not of that view. Unfortunately, the law is not strong enough in relation to drug dealers. But that is not the point of this debate.
Greater use could be made of the formal cautioning procedure. When I was a police operative I was often called upon to arrest young people for drug possession and use. In the course of many of those arrests I would regularly consider the implications of arresting a 17- or 18-year-old, with no prior criminal record, as the Hon. Ann Symonds has detailed at length, and who are on the precipice of adult life. I still consider the implications of such an arrest. How many of those would give up their goals and dreams because they would be scarred by having a criminal history that would remain with them for the rest of their lives? It was also my view that removing the threat of imprisonment for those who continue to offend was not a proper course to take.
The Government says that drug use and possession will still be criminal offences; the only difference is that offenders will be incapable of being imprisoned for possession of small amounts of cannabis. The process that is being considered as a consequence of this legislation is that terms of imprisonment will no longer be available for such offenders, irrespective of how many times they are convicted of possessing small amounts of cannabis.
This legislation is flawed in yet another way. For example, under the existing legislation a person arrested by police for having in his possession five grams of cannabis and a large sum of money, say $10,000, would be charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana and goods in custody. The police must prove how the money was illegally obtained. Even though police might suspect the person of drug dealing, no other evidence is available. Under the amending legislation, if the same person is arrested for the same offence, again he would be charged with possession of a small amount of a prohibited drug and goods in custody.
Under this legislation police would be incapable of showing how the money was illegally obtained. If they could not prove that the person was dealing, he or she could continue to reoffend every day and it would be up to the police on each occasion to show how that person got the $10,000. In each case when the police are incapable of proving that the money was illegally obtained the offender keeps the money. It might be of assistance to members if I detailed the current street price of cannabis as compiled by the undercover branch of the Special Services Group as at June this year.
As I mentioned earlier, a cannabis plant is worth $2,000. On the street $2,000 would buy approximately half a kilogram of marijuana. However, if bought in one gram lots it would cost $50 per gram. Therefore, it is better to buy in bulk. Bearing in mind that the legislation permits the growing of five plants per person, that potentially means attaining up to $10,000 worth of marijuana. So possession of five plants equates to possession of 2½ kilograms of marijuana. That is contrary to what
the Government has asserted. Major parts of this legislation are increasingly being revealed as flawed. The Government has not seriously worked through the legislation from the stages of investigation, through to arrest and to sentencing by the court.
Even if the Government were to agree to the amendment proposed by the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby, $6,000 worth of plants per person would equate to 1.5 kilograms. The figures that I have given to the House relate to cannabis leaf. Street prices for the head portion of a plant are between $400 and $700 per ounce. So, as I alluded to earlier, the potential net profit from growing cannabis plants is dramatically increased.
The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann: Just boring.
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: If the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann continues to interject I will be happy to listen. But she should be aware that a drug called Meredith is working its way through the streets today and it comes in a suppository form. She should keep that in mind. Instead of making a mandatory rule that no-one charged with the possession of the aforementioned amounts of cannabis will go to gaol, the Government should consider a wider use of the formal caution process. The old saying "But for the grace of God go each and every one of us" is true. Some of us might have consciously driven above the speed limit or walked across a pedestrian crossing against a red signal. Others might have knowingly accepted too much change from a shop assistant, and thereby committed the offence of larceny. Others might have committed a criminal office by writing a personal cheque knowing that at the time not enough funds were in their account to cover the amount. Every one of us has done something wrong at some stage that in retrospect we wish we had not done.
The same can be said of young people who are arrested for self-administration and/or possession of small amounts of cannabis. For many it will be the first and last time that they transgress the law; for others it may well be the start of a life in decline. The Hon. A. B. Kelly is nodding in agreement and is totally supportive of what I have said to date. It is my firm belief that everyone is entitled to make a mistake in life and no-one should go to gaol for a first conviction of self-administration of drugs. In fact, I would suggest that no-one in this Chamber could give particulars of any person in recent years who has gone to gaol for a first offence of self-administration of a small amount of a prohibited drug and has no criminal record or outstanding warrants. Any honourable member who knows of any such case should supply the name.
Instead of providing a system that protects drug dealers and sending the wrong message to our youth, the Government should consider a system that will formally recognise that each individual is entitled to make a mistake with respect to possession and self-administration of a prohibited drug, and at the same time enforce a commitment by our society that recidivism will not be viewed with such compassion. The Government should introduce a formalised penalty system that ensures that every individual is entitled to one formal caution for such offences - a caution that is not formally recognised on the criminal history administered by the police system and is not a barrier to employment, passport and visa applications or viewed as a scar for the rest of a person’s life.
Of course the Government is not prepared to look at putting in place a formalised cautioning system. It wants to use this bill for decriminalisation by stealth. A computer-operated police system, COPS, is currently in place in New South Wales in which a formal caution for self-administration of drugs could be recorded, rather than under the criminal record system. A record can be kept and if a person reoffends and goes before the court, it can be said that the offender has used up the entitlement to one formal caution, has elected to reoffend and, therefore, will be dealt with accordingly.
The Government will not consider that system; it wants to introduce a system that is simply decriminalisation by stealth. The Government has bleated constantly about the Opposition’s position, claiming it does not care for young people. The system I have put forward is equitable for young people and older people. It gives everyone an opportunity to make that one mistake in relation to self-administration or possession of small amounts of drugs. But it sends a fairly clear message to the community: you will get your one chance but if you use it and abuse it you make that decision at your peril. The Government is not prepared to consider the alternatives. It will not listen to the views of others.
I refer honourable members to the outrageous act of the Government in another place in gagging debate on this issue. In doing so it denied Opposition members an opportunity of putting on the record their views and the views of their constituency. A member who was very much looking forward to speaking in the debate was the honourable member for The Hills, Michael
Richardson, MP. He is committed to a better future for everyone, including our children, unlike other people in this Chamber. He has conducted considerable research into the subject. He is to be congratulated for doing more than just talking about the problems associated with drug use. He has extensively studied the drug problem, not limiting his research purely to cannabis. Honourable members would be assisted by studying the literature on drug reform throughout the world.
I encourage those who have not experienced the effects of drugs in the community first-hand to study the documents available, especially those written by people who are not academics. I am talking about people who live in the real world and who have first-hand experience of the drug problem. I note that the Hon. J. R. Johnson is nodding in agreement, wishing he were in a position to read the wealth of information that I have had put before me recently. I will make it available to him.
The Hon. B. H. Vaughan: He wants to raffle it.
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: He does that sort of thing. Had Michael Richardson, MP, been allowed to speak in the other Chamber before he was gagged by the Government - his treatment was disgusting - he would have addressed the myths being peddled by the snake oil salesmen who sit opposite. He would have commenced by presenting an up-to-date report on what is happening in the much-touted Netherlands. We hear about the Netherlands all the time. The truth is that the Netherlands has started to wind back its previously very liberal drug laws. Some might suggest that we are only taking our drug laws to a position now held by the Netherlands authorities. However, as I said earlier to the Hon. A. G. Corbett - it makes me nauseous every time I mention his name in the Chamber - he continues to amaze the Opposition with his dedication to youth and the way he shafts them at every opportunity.
If the Netherlands is winding back its drug laws, does that not tell us something? Does it not tell us that the Netherlands has conceded that it got it wrong. It is now trying to regroup from the previous untenable position. It is now trying to counter the cancer it released into the community in the best way it can by winding back the previously very liberal drug laws. Who said the Netherlands had to be right on this legislation and who said that we have to follow? Why do we not set the agenda? Why do we not look at some of the initiatives that I have raised in the Chamber this afternoon, instead of taking this huge step into no-man’s land? Why do we not start to look at the question seriously and accept what I said earlier: young people and a lot of older people - and we can see this every day looking across from this side of the Chamber - make mistakes. The Hon. A. B. Kelly has made mistakes: he wants to be here. It is a cry for help. He wants to be here.
The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann: He is not vulgar enough to be on your side.
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: You would do very well on our side, if that is the case. You would probably lead the pack.
The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann: Why are you being vulgar? You are a vulgar little man. You are trying to be a Minister and you are never going to make it because you are too little.
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: I love it when you talk dirty. The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann has just challenged me to a drug test across the road. She wants to go for a drug test with me. I have just understood her to say: we will go for drug tests together and if there is any illicit substance in the drug test the person from whom the illicit substances were obtained in the drug test will resign from the Parliament. I accept the challenge. We will go over there first thing tomorrow morning. I congratulate her for having the guts and the courage to say it. As a concerned parent I agree with Michael Richardson.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: Blood test all politicians.
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: We will be the first to go. Government members will all be getting someone else to do the tests. How does one tell a year 7 or year 8 student not to smoke marijuana when the Government is busily trying to dismantle drug laws? It is hard enough on parents these days trying to negate the influence of peer group pressure on their children as they progress through their adolescent years. Now the parents will also have to fight this Government to protect their children. Shame on the Government. It will carry it to its death in 1999. Earlier I mentioned the myth that is being promoted by supporters of the legislation that people are going to gaol merely for possession of small amounts of cannabis for self-administration. The honourable member for The Hills informed me that his extensive research into this subject revealed that in 1995 - Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile will correct me if I am wrong -
5,760 people were charged with possessing or using cannabis. Of those, only 62 were given gaol sentences and a further nine were given periodic detention.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: And those 60-odd were probably trafficking.
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: The statistics are worthy of some discussion. First, even those who are convicted of commercial supply of an illegal drug are also charged with possession. It is a back-up charge. So even if someone were to import a billion dollars worth of cannabis or to be found to have -
The Hon. M. R. Kersten: Personal use!
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: Yes, a huge bong. People with that huge amount would still be charged only with possession. That suggestion is a bit of a worry, from the people who try to peddle this rubbish. I further call upon the Government to reveal how many of the 62 were convicted of offences other than possession and self-administration of cannabis. How many of them had previous criminal history for drug or more serious matters? Government members do not know. They want to tell the story about the little old lady who was sent to gaol because she had a matchbox full of marijuana. They cannot remember her name or which court she went to or her date of birth, but they know it happened.
The Hon. M. R. Kersten: They would not lie. They could not; they are the Government.
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: Some of them could not lie straight in bed. I challenge them: if they have the facts, let them come forward, and not play with us any more. They should get out of here and leave the people who know what they are talking about to handle the matter. Another important aspect of this question the honourable member for The Hills reminds me of is that the bill will become law in early 1998. That is something that the Attorney General has not discussed in this Chamber. Let the Government reveal what provision the New South Wales Police Service has for testing drivers for drug use throughout the State. Police will be required to take suspected drivers to hospital for certain examinations and for the obtaining of certain body fluids. The people of New South Wales are crying out for more police to be put onto the streets. Yet the Government, through this legislation, is committed to ensuring fewer police will be available to protect our streets because they will be spending more time taking offenders who are suspected of drug use to hospitals for blood and urine samples so that they can be charged with driving under the influence of a prohibited drug.
The Government has not thought this through. It has not brought into this country the scientific breath testing equipment that is capable of conducting roadside tests in relation to drug use. More and more, police will be dragged off the streets as they endeavour to line up in the casualty sections of hospitals all over New South Wales waiting for someone to perform a blood test on a person who is suspected of using marijuana. The honourable member for The Hills has also looked at what is happening elsewhere in Australia. The Deputy-President is concerned that I am winding up my contribution. He can rest assured that I am not; I have plenty more to say. I know he would be more than happy for me to continue to put these facts firmly on the record.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: You are about the only person in this Chamber who knows what he is talking about.
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: I am not the only one who is telling the truth, as other honourable members on this side of the House have also told the truth.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: You know what you are talking about.
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: At least I know what I am talking about.
The Hon. M. R. Kersten: Tell us more, Mike.
The Hon. M. J. GALLACHER: I will. I was going to wind up my contribution, but I will keep going because I know honourable members want to hear more. There has been an increase in drug use in South Australia following the introduction of on-the-spot fines for cannabis offences. Since decriminalisation in 1987, the issuing of these notices has escalated from 4,600 to 15,700, whilst at the same time over half the $150 on-the-spot fines that were issued for possession of marijuana have not been paid. This shows what the people who are prepared to use drugs think of a government that does not have the guts to stand by its convictions. It also shows the community perception that we should not become more and more liberal with our drug legislation, and that we should stand firm in the fight against drugs. But the Government is prepared
to go down the rocky path that the Netherlands went down, and of course it will take a couple of years from now to get to a position where a Liberal coalition Government can wind back the legislation.
Apart from driving offences involving drugs, what mechanisms will the Government put in place to protect individuals in the workplace, either from their own actions or from the actions of others? Employers have the benefit of their own sensors in determining whether an employee is working under the influence of alcohol, but sensory perception of drug use in the workplace is far more difficult to perceive. If an employee denies that he or she is working under the influence, what rights does the employer have to protect the other employees? What right to protection do other employees have? They do not have any rights. One can imagine people who use machinery smoking marijuana. What rights do employers have to protect their workers under their duty of care? The Government has not spoken about that either. The Government is taking the farcical position: "There are children going to gaol for a matchbox worth of marijuana - and we are going to save them!" We all know that is a joke. It does not occur. I ask the Government to give us the facts.
I thank the honourable member for The Hills for the extensive briefing he has provided me, together with a copy of his book No Quick Fix, which I recommend to all honourable members. I would like to conclude my contribution by again pleading with crossbench members to consider the full implications of their decision on this matter. I hope the clear-cut evidence that I have produced today will be sufficient to show how aspects of this legislation are severely flawed. The doubt over the integrity of the bill is now, more than ever, clearly displayed. I am sure all members on the crossbenches would have had sufficient opportunity to consider the cases for and against the bill, and I believe there is a considerable wealth of information that reveals the presence of considerable doubt as to the full impact of it. I request that honourable members err on the side of caution and vote with the Opposition, until such time as the Government addresses the shortcomings I have raised. I am sure many members of the Government will reconsider their position.
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD [5.05 p.m.]: I wish to place on record my wholehearted support for the bill, and my congratulations to the Minister and the Premier on ensuring that this legislation is put before the Parliament. I particularly congratulate the Hon. Ann Symonds, who has fought hard and for so long in this Parliament in relation to these issues and has led the campaign for proper drug reform not only in this State but also nationally. Much of the credit for this legislation goes to the Hon. Ann Symonds for her work in this area over many years. There is no greater example of failed public policy in the western world than the enforcement regimes against the use of marijuana. There is no greater example of failed public policy standing in many countries today than the way law enforcement in relation to cannabis offences is treated. In saying that, I am not debating in detail the relative merits of cannabis in terms of health. I believe that in many instances there is a lot of evidence to suggest that cannabis is far less harmful than other forms of drugs that are widely used - indeed, widely used by most members of this House. The evidence in relation to cannabis shows that it is a relatively mild drug and that it is far less harmful than a number of other drugs that are used on a regular basis.
When listening to the Hon. M. J. Gallacher I wondered what types of drugs he was talking about. For much of his contribution he seemed to put drugs together in one big group and deal with them as though they had an equivalent impact upon the health of the community, but clearly they do not. Some of these drugs, whether they be nicotine, alcohol or amphetamines, or any other form of drug, have far more negative impacts upon the human body than marijuana. I do not want to speak at great length on this issue. It has been said that marijuana has become a commonly used drug, particularly by young people. Surveys show that about 50 per cent of Australians between the ages of 20 and 39 have tried cannabis. If a truthful regime were set up in this Parliament, if it were permissible under privacy laws to put lie detectors on members of Parliament - there would be exceptions, of course, for example, the Hon. Elaine Nile and Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile - one would probably find that most members in both Houses of this Parliament have tried cannabis at some point in their lives.
Members simply think that by being involved in law and order campaigns somehow they can deny their past. This is particularly true of those who have had a tertiary education and those fortunate enough to have gone to one of the universities or colleges of advanced education. At some point most members would have experimented with cannabis. Honourable members opposite should not now act with such indignation because that is denying that increasingly a large percentage of Australians have experimented with cannabis. This bill is not about the merits of cannabis but about punishing those who try it. The bill is a sensible measure. The Hon. M. J. Gallacher in his statistics showed the necessity
for the change when he said that of the 5,760 persons in this State who have been charged with offences relating to cannabis, only 62 went to gaol and nine were served with community service orders.
In effect, the system is suggesting that community attitudes are changing in relation to cannabis - not other drugs - and that cannabis is regarded as less harmful than has been suggested during this debate. It suggests that the enforcement of penalties, including a gaol sentence, is contrary to community expectations and standards. That is the problem facing the Hon. D. J. Gay and the other troglodytes in the National and Liberal parties. They have not moved with the times, grasped the issues, or seen that punishment is only one way of attempting to handle the complex issue of drug taking. A humanistic approach should be taken to the reasons people engage in various forms of drug taking, be it alcohol, smoking, relatively harmless drugs, or hard drugs. There are a raft of reasons why people take drugs.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: But isn’t this drug worse than alcohol or tobacco?
The Hon. I. M. MACDONALD: I do not believe this drug is worse than alcohol or tobacco. I have read many scientific studies that suggest it is not, though some have suggested that cannabis has bad effects in some circumstances. I have not seen substantive and overwhelming evidence though I have looked extensively because of my interest in this issue ever since I attended university. Many of my friends have engaged in this activity and I have witnessed them affected by it. At least the individuals I have seen on cannabis have been far more friendly than those affected by alcohol. Very little crime, be it violence or robbery, can be linked to possession and use of cannabis. The Government has taken a sensible approach and is finally realising that strict laws against the taking of cannabis lead nowhere except to police corruption, as evidenced by the findings of many royal commissions. In the Fitzgerald royal commission in Queensland, Commissioner Fitzgerald stated:
Laws should reflect social needs, not moral repugnance. Unless there are pressing laws to do so, it is futile to try and stop activities which are certain to continue and upon which the community is divided. To do so takes resources away from policing other activities which the community considers undoubtedly wrong, such as violence and fraud. Drugs have caused more incursions on the civil liberties of ordinary people, more corruption and more interference in the normal life than almost anything else. There is no benefit in blinkered thinking. The starting point must be an acceptance that illegal drugs are established in the community and that prohibition has not worked. Various options must be assessed, including whether enforcement should focus on some drugs.
The Government is suggesting that cannabis should not receive the same focus of attention as other more dangerous drugs. A strong policy of education must be maintained with regard to some drugs to try to minimise their usage. Law enforcement has not worked and will not work, basically because the vast majority of people, particularly young people, are voting with their lungs and against the various law enforcement approaches taken on gaol and retribution. Those policies have not worked; they have not worked in the United States of America, in Canada or anywhere else. A sensible attitude should be taken to punishment and we should examine what is happening with our youth and the various ways they cope with crises.
We must return to social responsibility and understanding people today. We should not be running around playing little policemen, believing that these crimes can be solved with a strict regime. Dr Neal Blewett, when he was Minister for Health, said that the greatest danger to be faced in taking cannabis is that one is immediately put into contact with the criminal culture. That is the greatest danger and the quicker we distance ourselves from a regime of criminality, the more sensible will our social policy be. I wholeheartedly endorse this legislation.
The Hon. R. D. DYER (Minister for Community Services, Minister for Aged Services, and Minister for Disability Services) [5.16 p.m.], in reply: I thank honourable members for their contributions to this debate.
The Hon. C. J. S. Lynn: Mr Deputy-President -
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. J. R. Johnson): Order! The Minister replied to the debate when no other member sought the call.
Question - That this bill be now read a second time - put.
The House divided.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: On a point of order. The debate was still continuing. The last speaker was still speaking when the Minister got to his feet. It was a pre-emptive strike by the Minister. I request that you, Mr Deputy-President, allow the debate to continue, given that the previous speaker had not sat down when the Minister asked for the bill to be read a second time.
The Hon. R. D. Dyer: On the point of order. Mr Deputy-President, the previous speaker had completed his remarks and resumed his seat. I looked around the Chamber for someone on their feet. There was no such person. I then rose to my feet, sought the call, which you gave me, and I then replied to the second reading debate. You then, very properly, put the question, That the bill be now read a second time.
The Hon. C. J. S. Lynn: On the point of order. The speaker had not resumed his seat. I then stood up; I realised he had stopped speaking and I stood up for the call.
The Hon. I. M. Macdonald: On the point of order. I had clearly finished. I had stated, in my final flourish, that I supported the bill. I came over and I was speaking to the Hon. A. B. Kelly and the Hon. B. H. Vaughan.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: Further to the point of order. That is not correct. The member was answering an interjection that I made during his speech and the Hon. C. J. S. Lynn, who was listed next to speak, was ready to speak.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: I seek the leave of the House to call off the division to allow the second reading debate to proceed. However, members must realise that if they want a debate to proceed, they must seek the call from the Chair. If a member does not seek the call, the matter will go to a vote. The Hon. C. J. S. Lynn has been a member of this place long enough and should not need to be treated like a kindergarten child. He is confident when he is trying to undermine his leader, but he is a babe in the woods in the place.
The PRESIDENT: Order! If any lecturing is to be done, it will be done by me. It is not necessary for me to rule on the point of order because the Leader of the Government in this House has sought leave to withdraw the division so that debate may proceed. Is leave given?
Division, by leave, called off.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: The Hon. C. J. S. Lynn had better learn what he should be doing. He is a dope.
The Hon. C. J. S. Lynn: On a point of order. I ask the Minister to withdraw his statement and his use of offensive language.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: If the honourable member is offended by my calling him a dope, I will happily withdraw my comment.
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN [5.25 p.m.]: I guess this proves that the Labor Party does as Graham Richardson said in his book: whatever it takes to get its way. I speak in opposition to the Government’s disgraceful abrogation of its responsibility to provide community leadership in the important area of drug abuse. This issue has been driven by the ageing trendoids of Labor’s left wing and other fringe dwellers in our society, but I cannot accept that we should gamble with the future of our youth to satisfy their craving for some sort of relevance in our community. If the bill is passed by the House, it will remove the option of a gaol term for possessing what is said to be "a small quantity of marijuana". A person will be able to legally possess five marijuana plants, 30 grams of cannabis leaf, two grams of cannabis oil, or five grams of cannabis resin. I am seriously concerned that this irresponsible proposal of the trendoids of the Left sends the wrong message to the community.
The Government is saying through this bill that it will ignore medical and moral concerns that suggest that marijuana is a debilitating drug, capable of destroying the lives of users and others in the community. Premier Carr has clearly forfeited any right of respectability in the wider community by failing to live up to his pre-election promise to be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. Mr Carr is now effectively saying to the community that he believes that the possession of up to 4,000 marijuana joints is acceptable. Anyone with half a brain knows that the possession of such a quantity will allow people to trade in the substance and will lead to a lucrative cottage industry. The next step for local entrepreneurs will be to consolidate groups into growers, into a supply chain, and to market the drug, with the full support of Bob Carr’s Labor Government.
The use of marijuana raises serious health concerns, and it is widely acknowledged as a gateway drug to more serious substance abuse. I am amazed that Bob Carr has not considered the objections of numerous community and welfare groups that oppose the bill. These groups are concerned because of the overwhelmingly evidence regarding the effects of marijuana usage in the short and long term. The shadow minister for police, Mr Andrew Tink, has already placed documents on the record in another place that reveal that more questions are to be considered in relation to the medical effects of marijuana.
Dr Kernohan, the honourable member for Camden, is a scientist who thoroughly researched the subject to make an informed contribution to the debate. However, she was effectively gagged in another place. Dr Kernohan was not the only
member of the Opposition to be shut out of the debate by the disgraceful application of the gag by Bob Carr, who should be condemned for such an outrageous tactic on this important issue. I have consulted Dr Kernohan in this regard and she has kindly provided me with the results of her painstaking research, which puts a forward view from Drug Watch, Oregon. I quote from volume three of the "Marijuana Research Review" of October 1996:
Daily marijuana smoking, even in the absence of tobacco, appears to be associated with an elevated risk of adverse health outcomes, including an excessive use of health care resources.
Internationally, decriminalisation of marijuana has proven disastrous. Statistics are indeed most difficult to come by, such is the reluctance of countries to admit their mistakes. Spain has suffered an enormous increase in the consumption of marijuana and hashish, and heroin, since the decriminalisation thereof.
Holland decriminalised in the 1970s. Sweden, Norway, Germany and other European countries complain that Holland has become the drug capital of Europe, such is the availability of marijuana and all other drugs to the young populace.
We are all aware of the dismal failure of this Labor Government in the area of law and order in this State since 1995, when Bob Carr lied his way to victory. One only has to visit the electorate of Campbelltown to witness the severity of Labor’s failure. That city, with so much beauty and potential, has been targeted by drug users who have been forced from the streets of Cabramatta by increased police activity in that area - which, unfortunately, has been provided at the expense of policing in other areas. Dealers are simply disappearing and regrouping in areas such as Campbelltown. Local business leaders are now calling for urgent action because of the blatant increase in drug-dealing activities in public areas in broad daylight. Bob Carr’s response has been to introduce a new system of policing based on phone rangers acting as claytons cops.
The Government is treating Campbelltown with such contempt that its local member - who lives in the distant, plush north shore suburb of Roseville - cannot even be bothered to attend an urgent community meeting to discuss the issue. He chose, instead, to make himself available for a photo opportunity on his horse before jumping into his ministerial limousine and scarpering back to rub shoulders with his silvertailed mates. Rather than effectively decriminalising the use of marijuana and encouraging peddlers to enter Carr’s new cottage industry, we should be adopting stronger penalties for drug pushers. Elaine Walters, in a book entitled Prohibition - It Really Works stated that cannabis and other illegal drugs are used solely for the purpose of making the user intoxicated. She said:
Therefore users are at greater risk from accidents, suicides and criminal behaviour. Our present system of prohibition actually saves lives and millions of dollars in economic resources.
In a study undertaken by two senior economists for the Australian National Campaign Against Drug Abuse in March 1991 the total cost estimate of drug abuse was $14.31 billion.
According to basic economic principles, increasing availability and decreasing price will increase the demand for a commodity.
Decriminalisation has clearly failed in South Australia, where the use of marijuana has increased. A report to the Parliament of South Australia of the Select Committee on the Control and Illegal Use of Drugs of Dependence revealed that adolescents:
. . . with a history of poor school performance may have their educational achievement further limited by the cognitive impairments produced by chronic intoxication with cannabis.
The report stated that adolescents who:
. . . initiate cannabis use in the early teens are at high risk of progressing to heavy cannabis and other illicit drug use, and to the development of dependence on cannabis.
Not only does Bob Carr and his aged trendoids want to encourage drugs in schools as opposed to encouraging a drug-free regime, they also want to make it easier for the drug dealers - the absolute scum of the earth - to infiltrate the lives of our youth. I wish quote a 17-year-old Kiama High School student who, in 1994, wrote anonymously to a local newspaper to urge the community to consider the debate on marijuana. She wrote:
I have smoked pot regularly (almost every day) for about 12 months. Although I was lucky to come to my senses, see the bad side of the drug and give up, many of us teenagers do not. The hardest part of giving up is that it is around you all the time. I hate the stuff now. I’ve seen how it destroys people, separates friends, depresses, confuses you and takes away your drive, alertness, and emotions. It makes you paranoid - you end up twisting things around in your head and blowing them out of proportion.
I believe in the old saying that today’s youth are the leaders of tomorrow. If this issue is not dealt with properly, then where will we be in 10 or 20 years?
It may only be a "passing phase" for the lucky ones, but what about the ones who carry on the habit to adulthood/parenthood? This town will be known as having a "Pot Haven" instead of a "Blue Haven". A mass of pot using, unenthused, unemployed, inhibited, confused, schizophrenic people trying to function together.
They are the views of a 17-year-old. I listened with interest to the defence of the bill delivered by the
Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann. I expected an academic approach with reasoned arguments supported by factual research, but I was surprised to witness a histrionic performance that bordered on the hysterical. Her shallow mantra was based upon the false assumption that first-time users of marijuana would go to gaol and that we, in the Opposition, would throw away the key. What absolute rot! Her statement that we are prepared to send to gaol people who are otherwise totally law-abiding citizens of this land is incredible.
Ivan Milat was a law-abiding citizen for most of his life, but he had this bad habit of nicking off every now and again and killing people. According to the view of the universe of the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann, he should probably be on periodic detention for his transgressions. The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann also chided members of the Opposition by accusing them of having smoked marijuana as they studied through university. We were accused of taking a "hypocritical, head-in-the-sand, sanctimonious position, as if no coalition member has ever smoked marijuana". She went on to say:
I cannot believe that all other Opposition members were so boring on their way through university that none of them ever smoked a joint.
What a condescending put-down from one who obviously regards herself as a member of the intellectual elite; an absolute legend in her own mind! I remind the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann that, unlike her inner-city, university-educated, cappuccino-sipping elite comrades, many of us on this side of the House are from solid, working-class families who never had the opportunity to go to university. I can claim that I have never smoked marijuana, I have never wanted to smoke marijuana, I have never needed to smoke marijuana and I never plan to smoke marijuana. If that makes me a boring person in the elite circles of the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann’s elite community, then so be it. I noted that two of my colleagues, the Hon. Helen Sham-House and the Leader of the Opposition, also stated on the record that they had never smoked marijuana. I am sure that a number of other honourable members are in the same category.
These factors totally discredit the spurious and hysterical argument presented by the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann. Her claim that we in opposition "would have to put a million of our citizens in gaol if we were to stage an all-out war on drugs" is as ridiculous an assertion as one could expect to hear in this Chamber, and totally disqualifies the member from making any contribution to the debate. The Hon. A. G. Corbett has also spoken in this debate. I would have expected him to vote against this bill, given the platform on which he stood for election to this Parliament: a better future for our children. This is the bloke who was swept into power at the last election with a massive 1.2 per cent of the primary vote by purporting to stand for a better future for our children!
I wonder if those who fell for this fraudulent message would vote for him again now that they have had the opportunity to analyse some of the profound statements he has made since his election. One of the most astute observations ever uttered in the history of mankind was the quote by the honourable member in the North Shore Times of May 1995 when he said, "Children are our investment in the future and it starts from birth." What about this one from the same article, "Children’s welfare and safety is paramount, and I will be concentrating on kids from birth to age five." If ever I noticed somebody like the Hon. A. G. Corbett concentrating on my 18-month-old grandson, I would instinctively deck him. What was his contribution to the most important issue concerning children since his accidental arrival in this Parliament? He spoke about this Parliament loving our children enough not to send them to prison. He then stated:
Our young people may make the mistake of engaging in illegal drug use to rebel against an environment or a society that does not respect or understand them, or as a means - and this is an important point people ignore - of temporarily alleviating the emotional pain with them, pain which we, as adults, are primarily responsible for because we neglect their needs, we treat them without respect . . .
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: On a point of order. The Hon. C. J. S. Lynn is not only reading his speech, but he is reading his attacks on the Hon. A. G. Corbett who, if I remember rightly, had an identical point of order taken on him in this debate. I find what the Hon. C. J. S. Lynn is doing to be quite offensive.
The PRESIDENT: Order! If the standing orders as they relate to members reading speeches were to be rigidly enforced, one beneficial effect would be that the sittings of this House would be infinitely shorter. No point of order is involved.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: On a point of order. The Hon. Jan Burnswoods, when taking a point of order, said that she found the Hon. C. J. S. Lynn totally offensive.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: Quite offensive.
The Hon. D. J. Gay: That is unparliamentary. I ask the honourable member to withdraw that statement.
The PRESIDENT: Order! It is not unparliamentary to claim that one finds something offensive. No point of order is involved.
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: I thank my colleagues for coming to my defence. I regard such a comment, coming as it did from the Hon. Jan Burnswoods, as a badge of honour. I said earlier that the Hon. A. G. Corbett accused us, as adults, of being responsible for the pain and suffering inflicted on children. I find that statement offensive. I spend a lot of time working with youth.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: You are the one who took the point of order.
The PRESIDENT: Order! Will honourable members please stop this pettiness.
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: I have raised three children, I have a grandson, I have six or seven brothers and sisters and there is not a single broken marriage in our family.
The Hon. Jan Burnswoods: You do not even know how many siblings you have.
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: I have six. One of my brothers was killed in a car accident when I was serving in Vietnam, so I sometimes get the numbers confused. As I said, there is not a single broken marriage in that entire family structure.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I counsel the Hon. Jan Burnswoods against further interjection.
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: I am proud of the fact that there is not a single broken marriage in our family structure. We are all good friends. I have raised three daughters, I have been married for 32 years, I have a grandson, I work and I spend a considerable amount of my time working with Youth Insearch and other organisations helping disadvantaged kids. It was quite offensive and ignorant of the Hon. A. G. Corbett to brand us as being responsible for the pain inflicted on children. He said in debate on this legislation that we ignore their signals of distress. I understand that Youth Insearch sent him a signal of distress. I am sure that the honourable member knows Anthony Humphries. Young Anthony told me that he rang the honourable member and advised him that his mother started smoking marijuana and that she eventually went on to other drugs and committed suicide. He also told the honourable member that his father started smoking marijuana and that he went on to other drugs and committed suicide.
The Hon. A. G. Corbett: Why did they start smoking marijuana in the first place?
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: Both his parents committed suicide. I am just making the point young Anthony Humphries pleaded with the Hon. A. G. Corbett to vote against this bill. Anthony, as a result of his parents committing suicide, was placed in a number of foster homes where he was sexually abused. He contemplated suicide. Fortunately, he was eventually referred to Ron Barr’s Youth Insearch organisation, and he is now a leader in his community, spending all his time giving talks in the community. Ron Barr’s organisation has dealt with 16,000 disadvantaged youth. Ron Barr thinks that the Hon. A. G. Corbett is a living fraud; his organisation has zero respect for the Hon A. G. Corbett. That position has been reinforced because of the honourable member’s position in relation to this legislation. The honourable member is a fraud. He is like a gecko, which is transparent if held up to the light.
The PRESIDENT: Order! Interchanges are becoming far too personal.
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: The Hon. A. G. Corbett and his party purport to support disadvantaged youth, but he has forfeited any responsibility in that area. Last night the Hon. A. G. Corbett concluded his speech on this legislation by saying:
The threat of gaol or the actual gaoling of a person for the possession of small quantities of marijuana is not a preventive measure; it is a form of retribution from a society that continuously sends mixed messages about drug use and continuously fails or misunderstands its youth.
What sort of message does he think this bill sends out to kids? He simply says that drug use is okay - which is probably one of the most irresponsible messages ever sent out by this Parliament. All that the Hon. A. G. Corbett did last night was prove that one does not have to smoke dope to be a dope. In Campbelltown, where I live - I understand that Labor would not get a lot of feedback from Campbelltown since its member moved to Roseville - there appears to be an increase in youth gatherings and the prevalence of drugs. I refer to an article which appeared in the Macarthur Chronicle
on Tuesday, 4 November 1997, which highlights a study by Renee Moreton, a 22-year-old bachelor of health honours student of the University of Western Sydney. She reveals in her thesis that drug use at rave parties is infiltrating western Sydney. I quote directly from Renee’s thesis:
A 1991 Sydney-based study by the Drug and Alcohol Directorate, found that 72% of those taking ecstasy chose to do so at a rave (cited in Yann, Campbell, Hoare and Wheeler, 1995, page 3). Other drugs used at raves include amphetamines, cocaine, ketamine, cannabis/marijuana, inhalents and LSD.
Renee went on to say:
. . . accessing the rave scene today is as easy as turning on the television. It is easier these days to access marijuana or another illicit drug than it is to buy alcohol and cigarettes.
Her research with past and present ravers about the changing climate of raving has identified that children as young as 12 are buying and using anything from ecstasy and acid to amphetamines and heroin. Renee continues:
What’s happening now is that there’s a lot of people getting into the rave scene without really understanding it and therefore you end up with tragedies like Anna Wood.
Anna Wood’s case was tragic. I have been to a number of meetings at which Anna’s parents have spoken. Anna came from a loving, caring and successful middle-class family, which provided all the love in the world to its two daughters. I have raised three daughters of my own and I know that it is difficult for children in that age group to resist peer pressure, to resist getting involved in things that are cool. Parents need every bit of support that they can get to help their children withstand that peer pressure. If we send out a clear message that it is okay to smoke dope, we are disarming parents or taking away from them a very effective weapon that they may use in the inevitable discussion and conflict that goes on as children go through puberty. We are trying to protect our young children as they go through puberty.
When children are going from childhood into adulthood they have to flap their wings and try to establish their independence and, in so doing, they become subject to peer pressure. It is a harrowing time for parents. When my children went through that stage my wife and I forfeited our social life to ensure that we were home at all times to drive them to and from parties. We had to do that to keep them on the straight and narrow. If a message is sent out that dope is okay, the consequences for many of young people will be tragic. I often do not agree with the views expressed by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones but I respect his views because he states them publicly. At least he stands for something, unlike the Hon. A. G. Corbett, who does not stand for the very principle on which he was elected to this Parliament. A number of speakers argued that young people will go to gaol if they are caught with a marijuana cigarette. That is simply not the case. Magistrates must have discretion when handing out penalties to people who break the law.
I know that first-time users appear in court before magistrates who have seen the cycle. It is a shock for many kids to be caught and to have to go through the court process. They are facing a magistrate, they think that something bad is going to happen to them: it is a daunting experience. That experience can often be enough for them to decide to live within the confines of the law and not to reoffend. Magistrates understand that, they give them a lecture and send them on their way. But if they come back the following week and continue to flout the law, the magistrate should have in his armoury the ability to say that an offender who has already been given leniency and continues to flout the law will be gaoled for a period of time.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: A judge has a discretion.
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: That is right, a judge has a discretion and it is a fair system. A judge can refer an offender, as often happens, to organisations such as Youth Insearch for rehabilitation. Recently I was at the Reiby Juvenile Justice Centre. Even though it is a penalty to be in that institution, for many children there it is probably the first time in their lives that they have been cared for by people who are devoted to teaching them new skills, to improving their literacy and so on. I support such institutions; it is not punishment to be sent there. They take the young people in, correct their lives and put them back on the straight and narrow. If that type of assistance is not available, many of these children will go on to harder drugs, they will come before the court system charged with much more serious crimes, and the results will be much more serious. Opposition to this bill is prevalent amongst community organisations that have to deal with the problem of drugs on a daily basis. One such organisation is the Salvation Army, which does a marvellous job in our society. The opinions of organisations such as the Salvation Army, Odyssey House and Youth Insearch should be valued because they work with this problem every day and night of the week. In a letter to me Major Brian Watters, Commander of the Rehabilitation Services Command, wrote:
We have two major concerns that are based on our experience and on practical considerations:
People in this State believe that this bill decriminalises Marijuana:
During the weekend I spoke to a well known media personality and to a doctor specialising in neuropathology. They both believed that this bill "decriminalises Marijuana".
Whilst this is not the intention of the bill it is part of the mixed message that is going out into society.
The Hon. I. Cohen: Deliberately put forward.
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: It is a mixed message that is being sent.
The Hon. I. Cohen: Do we make laws according to the Daily Telegraph?
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: This document is from the Salvation Army. It is all right for honourable members in the plush confines of Parliament House going about their daily lives, but the Salvation Army gives its opinion based on experience and practical considerations. Major Watters continued:
Young people do not go to gaol for the first time use of Marijuana:
It is unfortunate that this highly emotional and untrue image of young people being picked up with one joint and thrown into jail with rapists and murderers is being promulgated by people who should be more responsible.
The Hon. J. W. Shaw: That is what the National Party is saying. It says an offender goes to gaol for 12 months for smoking one joint.
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: Almost every speaker on the Government side has said just that. Read what Government members have said in this debate.
The Hon. J. W. Shaw: No gaol for one cigarette.
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: That is what the Government members have said.
The Hon. J. W. Shaw: What does the document from the National Party say? Mr Armstrong has never repudiated that.
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: I urge the Attorney General to read Hansard to check what Government members have said in this debate. That is exactly what they have been saying.
The Hon. J. W. Shaw: I will.
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: Major Watters continued:
A look at the court records will show that young people do not get sent to jail simply for possessing and smoking Marijuana. I have spoken to numerous magistrates and I have the support of our court officers who are represented in every major magistrate and district court in the state that this does not happen.
The Hon. J. W. Shaw: It does not normally happen, but it happens from time to time.
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: But surely the Government agrees that a magistrate should have the discretion.
The Hon. J. W. Shaw: No, I do not think that mere possession should lead to gaol.
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: The Opposition is not saying that. People do not go to gaol for a first offence, but if a person keeps offending what power does a magistrate have? At least now someone who keeps reoffending can be referred to Youth Insearch or to the juvenile justice system for rehabilitation. But they are not gaoled for a first offence.
The Hon. J. W. Shaw: The existing laws allow that to occur.
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: But they are not gaoled. Our argument is that the bill is sending the wrong message. Major Watters goes on to explain:
This bill will remove magistrates’ discretionary powers.
Currently dealers use the well known strategy of hiding their "stash" and keeping a small quantity on their person for individual deals. The current legislation allows the magistrate to respond to the known record of the dealer and commit him to prison because he is a known dealer with a record. The effect of this new legislation will mean that these people will walk free! The end effect of this bill will be to protect dealers and allow them to continue their trade - even near schools.
That serious concern of the Salvation Army should be taken on board because its members are working at the coalface every day and night trying to help people with these problems. I have received a letter from the Australian Family Association expressing the same concerns. It states:
Parents are aware that for many, marijuana is a pathway to harder drugs of addiction, such as heroin.
The other night I heard a very moving talk given by Anna Wood’s parents and by a woman who was accompanied by her son.
The Hon. I. Cohen: That was about a designer drug, Ecstasy.
The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: It does not matter. It is about the message that we are sending. According to experts I have spoken with, marijuana is fat soluble. It is not like alcohol and cigarettes - and I am not promoting the use of them - which are water soluble drugs that are flushed out of the system. Marijuana is fat soluble and sits in the brain. It is a matter of scientific study and record that it causes anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. Recently on my way back from Papua New Guinea I read an article in a newspaper about a footballer who tragically died last week from a heroin overdose. The article said that he suffered from depression and I said to myself that I would bet he smoked marijuana. On my return I learned that though he died from a heroin overdose, he started on marijuana. So it is a matter of concern that there is a link between depression and marijuana.
A person of 21 years of age can make an informed choice to smoke marijuana. The Opposition is concerned about children who are coming into puberty and adulthood and might suffer from peer group pressure. They should be protected from the pushers of marijuana during that vital stage of their lives. The mother who spoke at that meeting the other night said that marijuana had robbed her son of his adolescence. That is our argument. After young people reach adulthood, they can make an informed choice to take drugs, although I will not support their decision. But members on this side of the House are concerned about the vulnerable in our society.
There is a lot of pressure on young people. There are major campaigns against cigarette smoking and advertising but in movies and all sorts of stuff on the screen now it is seen to be cool to take drugs. Young kids watch the people appearing, who become role models for them. PRYDE in Australia, which is Parents Reaching Youth through Drug Education, wrote to me stating that the group has been established for many years in the fight against drugs, especially in relation to children and our youth. It is a parent movement concerned with preventive education through the supply of knowledge as to the danger of drugs. The letter states that the concern is that the Government’s move will send the wrong message to the people of New South Wales, and young people in particular, that marijuana is a soft drug - a terrible mistake. The bill completely ignores the different strengths of the newer cannabis varieties, as well as the quantity of leaf that can be produced from five plants per person. That is the quantity it was intended to deregulate but an amendment is proposed. However it will still allow people to establish a fairly lucrative cottage industry.
Drug Watch Australia, a division of Drug Watch International, wrote to me saying that at a time when marijuana use amongst the young is epidemic it is not sensible policy not to be tightening the laws surrounding its use. The decriminalisation of marijuana in the Australian Capital Territory has been a failure in reducing drug use, particularly by young people. The recent figures from the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research show that 39 people were gaoled in 1996 for possession of marijuana only. It is more likely that these were offenders who possessed large quantities of the drug, who were suspected of dealing or who had criminal records. It is dishonest to claim that this legislation will help young people by not gaoling them. The legislation will lead young people to understand that marijuana is now decriminalised in New South Wales and that they will not receive a criminal record for growing five plants of marijuana, enough for 6,000 joints, or possessing 30 grams of cannabis leaf, enough for 40 joints. This is misleading our youth as they will, if caught, still receive a criminal record for possessing marijuana.
Attempts internationally to decriminalise marijuana have similarly failed. Between 1973 and 1978, 11 American States decriminalised the possession and use of marijuana. In Alaska it gained legal status. Later, use of the drug by high school seniors rose by 4 per cent to 10 per cent. The experiment with legal status in Alaska was such a failure that the law was rescinded in 1992. The official newsletter of Drug Watch International in spring of 1997 also supports the views put forward by the parent body. Various newspaper articles mention the outcomes of the decision with young people. In the Chamber of Commerce newsletter issued on 1 June 1994 a writer detailed her experience of the effects of marijuana. The Salvation Army newsletter "On the Scene" states that the Salvation Army helps thousands of addicts every year and sees the devastation drugs can cause to families and individuals.
The Opposition believes that the community should never give up the fight for a drug-free society. One of the major problems nowadays is that parliamentarians are not showing leadership but continue to take the line of least resistance. Just because something is in common use does not mean that it is right. Just because everybody thinks it is cool does not mean that legislators should make it legal. The young and the vulnerable, during their
formative years, need the full support of laws to make sure that they can withstand the peer pressure I have alluded to already. The Salvation Army newsletter said that the Salvation Army, in addition to its extensive work in drug and alcohol rehabilitation, will continue its wide education and community awareness program regarding the dangers associated with drugs. This bill will make that task that much more difficult.
A couple of days ago I was making my second visit to Odyssey House. Talking to the young heroin addicts in the Odyssey program, which is magnificent and is run by some very dedicated people, I was told that they all started with marijuana. It is a gateway drug to harder drugs. I say again and again that marijuana use leads to the use of harder drugs. In 1991 a National Campaign Against Drug Abuse national household survey in Australia found that marijuana is the most common illicit drug used with almost one in three persons aged 14 and over having tried it, representing a slight increase in marijuana use since 1988. At the moment the only clear message that Bob Carr is sending to the community and to addicts is to stock up and to bong on. In the current issue of the Macarthur Advertiser the President of the Campbelltown Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr Walter Dinale, has called for a bigger effort from local parliamentary representatives to give support for getting more police and fighting drug trafficking and crime generally.
The Government’s response to this plea is to introduce a new police telephone answering service. Because of the latest policy of closing police stations by stealth people do not even know where the answering service will be located. I doubt that the local chamber president’s call will be heeded, because the local member, Michael Knight, has moved his family over to the north shore. The only way to entice him back to Campbelltown is to offer him a photo opportunity, which he will accept in the hope that he will be able to dupe people into believing that he still hangs around the local area. Under Bob Carr the Campbelltown chamber president has Buckley’s chance of addressing the serious drug problem in the local area.
In summary, there is much scientific evidence to prove the adverse effects of marijuana on the developing mind and brain of young people. There is a war on drugs and the outcomes of the use of drugs in the community. I have been a victim of crime about eight times while living in the Campbelltown area. I have had my vehicle stolen, my office burgled, and my house robbed. In the opinion of the police the crimes have been the outcome of people trying to get money to feed their drug habit. This has an incredible impact on law-abiding citizens. They have to develop a fortress mentality to protect themselves in their homes against people who are continually hanging around the area intent on breaking the law, bursting into homes and doing physical damage to people if they stand between them and their objective. This is a cause of great concern. The breakdown of law and order probably will be the major issue at the next election. It is an issue that has no borders. Virtually legalising marijuana is sending totally the wrong message to our society. I urge the crossbenchers in particular to reconsider their views if they have any honour and any commitment to the protection and development of our young people in a safe society. I urge them to vote against the bill.
The Hon. I. COHEN [6.09 p.m.]: In speaking in this debate on the Drugs Misuse and Trafficking Amendment Bill I am not surprised by the nonsense I have heard in the debate about this legislation. I am not shocked by the hypocrisy of the Opposition. Certainly this is the world that politics creates. I realise that as we are nearing the period of end-of-year madness drugs are running amuck in the veins of those in this establishment, the Parliament - I think it is called alcohol. It seems that the media, and not the Government, are running the State, and the elected representatives are responding like obedient pets. I am not shocked, but I am rather disgusted and saddened by this state of affairs. As elected members we are responsible for people’s lives and for determining the future of the State.
Every piece of legislation we consider affects people’s lives, particularly young people’s lives, some more than others. This legislation affects many people’s lives. I have heard numerous figures quoted in the debate. I accept the statement that at least one million people in this State will be affected by this legislation. The Greens have a policy position on the legalisation of drugs. I am not sure how other parties determine their policies - for example, whether they take the pulse of society via the media, or work out what might be the most popular policy - but I am proud to say that the Greens do a lot of research and undertake exhaustive grassroots consultation to finally reach policy positions. I shall refer to the Greens’ drugs and addiction policy. I believe that alcohol abuse is rampant in this society and also in this establishment.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: Not by me.
The Hon. I. COHEN: I do not say that all members engage in alcohol abuse, but I have witnessed many members come into this House
inebriated. I have suggested to the Standing Committee on Privileges and Ethics that something be done about the matter, that perhaps during late-night sittings a breathalyser could be placed at the door of the Chamber so that the fitness of members could be assessed. Some members would not be allowed to drive a motor car, yet they come into the House and participate in making laws. I am extremely concerned about such hypocrisy. The Greens’ drugs and addiction policy provides in part:
Alcohol abuse has been proven to cause brain damage, hepatitis, pancreatitis, gastritis and foetal abnormalities. It is a big factor in motor traffic accidents and domestic violence. In 1977 the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare presented its report Drug Problems in Australia - an Intoxicated Society. The report pointed out:
that 73% of the men who committed a violent crime had been drinking prior to committing the crime;
that alcohol is associated with half the serious crime in Australia; and
that 1.2 million Australians are affected personally or in their family situations by the abuse of alcohol and that two in every five divorces or judicial separations result from alcohol induced problems. Yet, alcohol is legally available and promoted.
The health problems resulting from tobacco addiction are widely recognised, though strongly denied by the tobacco lobby.
Marijuana and cannabis are significant drugs. I should like to deal with the issue of soft and hard drugs. I am not a great proponent of any drugs. I am not a great proponent of marijuana, and obviously I am not a great proponent of alcohol, tobacco or heroin. Hard drugs are drugs of addiction. Obviously, soft drugs can also cause significant problems. Ecstasy is a soft drug: it is not physically addictive, but it is potentially dangerous. Marijuana is a soft drug, although it can be potentially dangerous. I agree with much of what has been said in this debate about personality disorders and problems marijuana causes in people who use it. However, marijuana is not physically addictive; although psychologically and emotionally anything can be addictive.
The Greens believe that the time and resources spent on bringing about convictions for marijuana use are disproportionate to its physical effects and that there is a deliberate attempt by some of those involved in law enforcement to take attention away from the corruption and organised crime that are so entrenched in the illegal supply of drugs. Therein lies a great part of the problem. The stated position of the Greens is that we will work towards the decriminalisation and eventual legalisation of all drugs.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: Is that legalisation of heroin and marijuana?
The Hon. I. COHEN: With proper regulation of production and distribution.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: Alcohol is legal with regulation.
The Hon. I. COHEN: That is correct. I am aware that the amendments that will be moved in Committee in the name of the Greens will be unsuccessful, but I will still move them and divide the House on them. I am proud to support reasoned arguments without being influenced by scurrilous, misinformed media reports and hypocritical ravings by the Opposition on this important issue. I am pleased that this debate is being recorded, that technology makes it possible for these issues to be assessed by the community, that the web sites of Parliament are finally operating, and that the people of this State no longer have to rely on the low standard of journalistic reporting of issues driven by mad, maniacal media moguls - all the narrow-minded, self-interested parochial editors who have the power to distort and disrupt the duty of government to respect its obligation to a duty of care.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: The Packers and Murdochs?
The Hon. I. COHEN: Absolutely. How can members opposite sit there and accept the injustices of power they give to this media madness? I wonder how many of them are aware of the technology that now allows people to be aware of their decisions and the pain they inflict on people through negligence. A new generation of informed people are out there making informed decisions, due to the wonders of technology. And the Government does not even have a portfolio and a Minister to drive the ship of technology. Members opposite are behind the times. They are being led by the old powers who cannot control the real power: knowledge. Finally knowledge is becoming available, and that is why I am glad this is all out in the public domain. While parties go on around us and the inhabitants of this place indulge in the silly season, imbibe their legal drugs and try to present positions justified by a clouded perception, the press gallery has been turned off its responsibility in a drug-induced parliamentary torpor.
I have spent a great deal of time travelling in other cultures. From what I heard of the argument put forward in this debate, that has not been the case with a lot of honourable members. Some members
of this House may have taken many trips overseas, but for many years I travelled at a base level through other societies, not staying in expensive hotels but hopefully imbibing the cultures of many different societies. There is a great deal of difference between a cannabis-based culture and an alcohol-based culture. When I visited central America, as opposed to places such as India and Nepal, I became aware of the level of violence that occurs in an alcohol-based culture. That level of violence was clearly evident in places such as Mexico. In my life I have found that, of the many people I have met and come into contact with, most of those whom I respect a great deal have used cannabis, whilst some of those I have met and been most appalled by in social situations have used alcohol. I cannot but be aware that the people whom the media focus so much attention on and place so much commercial value in, the celebrities, are people who have drug problems. That is another contradiction. The media control our focus on people whom we celebrate - the movie stars, the writers, the television stars, the artists. The creative and sensitive people we rely on to give us our cultural identity are so often associated with drugs. They dabble, inhale, drink, inject, have affairs, visit prostitutes - they are not perfect. The media feeds them to us yet on another level finds offensive the things they do if mimicked by mere mortals, particularly the young. Why do we have this hypocrisy and how do the media justify it? They do not and no-one questions it. Politicians do as they are told.
The Hon. Patricia Forsythe: This is just rubbish.
The Hon. I. COHEN: You will have an opportunity to speak. The issue is about people’s lives, about whether they are allowed a choice and, if not, whether choice should be taken away from others as a means of equity. If the argument on drug use centres on responsibility for health issues, why have I not heard any honourable member suggesting prohibition of alcohol and tobacco?
The Hon. Patricia Forsythe: Because they are legal drugs.
The Hon. I. COHEN: That is an incomplete answer. If criminality is to be associated with marijuana, there should be equity with alcohol and tobacco. The dangers of alcohol and tobacco have been clearly proven with lives lost, violence and tragedy. They are all equal.
The Hon. C. J. S. Lynn: You are saying, "Let’s add to it"?
The Hon. I. COHEN: I am saying the Opposition should be consistent and should prohibit all drugs, but it will not. There will not be equity because it is political suicide for the major parties. Many people in the community are disenchanted by the fact that such draconian attitudes exist in the minds of people they elected to represent them. It is a disgrace that people have choice taken away from them by silly decisions. Many people do not have an active role in the community because they live in fear. Their human rights are violated by the fear that if they draw attention to themselves and stand up against the hypocrisy and ill-informed madness of governments, the media, transnationals and foreign dictatorships they will lose their jobs, they may be disadvantaged in their choice of travel throughout the world, or they may end up in gaol.
People who are sensitive, serious, caring and intelligent live in fear because they choose to use a drug of their choice. This is madness. I respect the right of people to have a choice and to use the drug of their choice. Imagine how honourable members would feel if they were told they may end up in gaol, not for drink-driving, for violence associated with alcohol or the despair caused by it, but for the consumption of one glass of alcohol. I refer the House to Hansard of Tuesday, 18 November, in which the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. John Hannaford, said:
Local Court figures released by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research for the period ending 1996 identified that 93 people were in prison for the possession and use of cannabis . . .
That is totally inappropriate. People should not be put in gaol for the possession and use of cannabis. Much has been said about the bill legalising marijuana. People will still be fined and charged. However, people will not be sent to gaol for minor, victimless crimes where lives are changed irrevocably through bashing or sexual abuse. Cannabis is no worse than other legal drugs.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: It is not worse than cigarettes and nicotine?
The Hon. I. COHEN: I fail to see how Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile can say that it is worse than nicotine when the health dangers and loss of life associated with nicotine smoking has been proved. People smoke 50 to 60 cigarettes a day. Very few people would smoke 50 to 60 marijuana joints a day, and anyone who is of that view is extremely misinformed and has completely missed the point. I refer to Hansard of 19 October 1995 in which the Hon. Ann Symonds said:
In the Australian Capital Territory possession of small amounts of cannabis is equal in status to a traffic infringement. Those in possession of not more than 25 grams are fined $100, and no criminal conviction is recorded against these offenders who are fined.
I wonder why? Could it be that many are the children of politicians and liberal laws are introduced to protect them?
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: You are joining the conspiracy theorists, are you?
The Hon. I. COHEN: We all have our conspiracy theories. I wish also to quote from Hansard a contribution from the honourable member for Manly about what Justice Wood said:
Alternate solutions however need to be found in order to address drug use - the criminal process does little to reduce the availability of drugs or to discourage their use . . . The commission received a number of submissions urging that the personal use of prohibited drugs be dealt with as a medical problem and not as a criminal offence . . . The commission considers that a cautious move towards this approach is well worthy of consideration.
I draw attention to an anomaly that exists in the north of New South Wales, where significant funds appear to be available for chasing and prosecuting people involved with marijuana.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: In Nimbin, where they smoke openly on the streets?
The Hon. I. COHEN: They do smoke openly on the streets and they also drink alcohol outside the pub on the footpath. It is part of the social scene of that area. I wish to quote from a keynote speech at a Beyond Prohibition conference in Nimbin at which David Heilpern referred to the results of prohibition and spoke from a humanitarian point of the suffering that people endured in prisons as a result of this victimless crime. He mentioned police discretion and said that age, race, class and lifestyle mean that certain people are targeted, often in favour of those involved in much more dangerous drugs, such as heroin and amphetamines. He said it can simply be a choice of policing tactics. As a duty solicitor on the north coast for seven years David Heilpern said that more than 80 per cent of his cases had involved cannabis. He stated:
If you ask people what they think is more important, child sexual assault or cannabis, even National Party members would say child sexual assault. Yet there are only two police officers in the child mistreatment unit in this area while often 20 police are on people’s properties for busts - they put domestic violence and child abuse in the much too hard basket. They spend their money on the Drug Enforcement Agency, the plantation squad. Real crime, crime that concerns the community, has been forgotten in the pathetic search for cannabis.
Two articles in the Northern Star said that the number of police assigned to child sexual assault cases had been reduced because of the unavailability of funds.
The Hon. Patricia Forsythe: So plantations are okay?
The Hon. I. COHEN: I am not saying that, but the authorities are able to build up their war against drugs. It has never succeeded and unfortunately never will. The growers in the north of the State are against drug law reform because if marijuana is legalised their profits will be reduced and their businesses will suffer. Business people, pushers and drug runners are the ones who profit, and that is the problem. Instead, law enforcement agencies are throwing vast amounts of money at trying unsuccessfully to control the drug problem while child sexual abuse is not being properly investigated in the north of New South Wales. There are not sufficient personnel because the Government has decreed that there is not enough money to go around. That is absurd.
[The President left the chair at 6.30 p.m. The House resumed at 8.00 p.m.]
The Hon. I. COHEN [8.00 p.m.] This bill is a small step towards a more just society - where people are able to exist without being harassed and where there is equity before the law, whether people decide to smoke a cigarette or marijuana, to eat marijuana or to drink alcohol. A number of Opposition members referred to the dangers of smoking - an issue on which I have been clear for a long time. I am strongly against the smoking of cigarettes - in fact, smoking in general. A number of honourable members have said that marijuana has a higher tar content and more carcinogens than tobacco, which may well be the case. However, on average those who smoke marijuana joints do so once or twice a week, but those who smoke cigarettes - such as the good doctor opposite - do so many times a day.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: Some people smoke both.
The Hon. I. COHEN: Yes, some people smoke both. Despite the brave attempts that the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti has made to give up tobacco - the demon drug - he has failed. I am sad to see the effects that it has on him. Tobacco is a scourge on our society, yet it is legal. I would like
tobacco advertising to be banned. The secret to solving these problems lies in appropriate education. We have to create an environment in which drugs are not so groovy or acceptable. When people start to smoke tobacco they do not think about becoming addicted. They followed a fad when they were children or they were attracted to it by advertising. I smoked as a kid - but the addiction takes over in many people, and for some it is a lifetime addiction.
The smoking of marijuana is not a good thing. It has deleterious health effects. The position I take is: smoke less, enjoy more, be discerning. I say the same thing about alcohol consumption. Those things are part of the social scene. Some people eat marijuana in the form of hash cookies and the like. Through this practice people avoid the impact of smoking the drug, but some people still suffer the hangover, the loss of mental dexterity and the loss of ability - I do not say all people because people are affected in a variety of ways. The Victorian Drug Advisory Council has stated:
The use of agents that alter mood has a long history in human society. Records or evidence of use of the opium poppy, of marijuana and of alcohol go back over thousands of years.
Contemporary Australian assessments indicate that law enforcement agencies, despite rigorous efforts, are having only a relatively small impact on the availability of drugs.
In Byron Bay heroin is cheaper than marijuana, which should concern law makers, members of Parliament and parents. Good quality heroin comes to town, the price of heroin is deliberately lowered, and young people are offered heroin by the dealer who normally sells marijuana: the heroin addiction problem expands. There is an argument that marijuana is addictive psychologically, but physically it is not. I can only say that part of that statement comes from my own experience, having been a light marijuana smoker for many years. I refer to information gathered by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre in relation to the South Australian experience. Personal possession was decriminalised in South Australia in 1987 with the introduction of an on-the-spot fine system. In 1986 4,000 people were convicted in South Australian local courts for possessing a small amount of cannabis. In 1994 17,700 people were given on-the-spot fines for possessing a small amount of cannabis. Of those 17,700 people, approximately 9,000 failed to pay within the six-month period allowed and faced court proceedings and a criminal conviction. A law reform measure designed to save court time and the stigma of criminal records for minor drug offences resulted in a doubling of the number of people who went to court and received a criminal record. Cannabis consumption in South Australia since 1987 has increased no more than the national rate of increase.
The law proposed by the Government is a low-key change to our legal system. It recognises that young people, in particular, should not go to gaol for a minor offence. In 1993 85 people were gaoled for the use or possession of small quantities of cannabis and there were 20,000 recorded drug offences in New South Wales. Just under 12,000 people were charged with the use or possession of small quantities of cannabis. The 1993 national campaign against drug abuse household survey showed that more than 60,000 people in New South Wales had used cannabis in the previous year. A lot of people choose cannabis as their social drug. I refer to the impact on people of being busted for something that has little more impact than drinking a few schooners of beer or a six-pack of stubbies. I quote from the Australian Institute of Criminology report of October 1995, entitled "Cannabis and Social Impacts in Australia", which stated:
A conviction or an arrest for even a minor cannabis offence can be the cause of some nations refusing to grant tourist visas to incoming travellers. The seriousness of these impacts on individuals over the longer term is an area for further research.
Major areas of uncertainty remain as to the social impacts of the various legislative options for cannabis in Australia. It is very important to recognise the sorts of impacts that these small drugs busts can have. The impact on society of people staggering out of hotels blind drunk, sometimes to drive their cars - and, I would hope, to get caught by the police - staggering on the streets, getting drunk on pay night and becoming violent is monumental. Yet, the impact on people such as me, who are caught in small drug busts with tiny amounts of marijuana, can go far beyond the type of crime committed, no matter what way one looks at it.
In about 1979 I was giving out environmental information at markets in northern New South Wales. People reported me and the police were following me because they presumed I must have been some sort of drug dealer. The police pulled me over, they searched my car and they tore it apart. It was quite a traumatic experience. I gave them what was in the back of my car - eight grams of marijuana, including the sticks and including the plastic bags, enough for a few joints. I had almost forgotten about it. I was taken to the police station. I was fingerprinted. I was charged. Other police who came into the station said to the cop who charged me, "You’ve got to be joking!" I went through the
process. I went before the magistrate. I decided to defend myself. I got off on a 556A under the Crimes Act.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: Were you smoking dope?
The Hon. I. COHEN: Yes, but I was charged with possession. The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti was not listening. But here I am telling the Parliament a few home truths, and I think it would be worth your while listening. I went through the court, I defended myself and I got off the charge on a 556A.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: No you didn’t, you still got a conviction.
The Hon. I. COHEN: It does not proceed to a conviction. I was then assured by my legal advisers that that was the end of the matter. I am a trained teacher and some years later I applied to be a relief teacher in the northern area.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: And you had to declare it.
The Hon. I. COHEN: No, I did not have to declare it, because I got off on a 556A. There was supposed to be no record, yet somehow or other officials from the education department up there had the record and refused to allow me permission to be a teacher, after four years of training. And for what? For eight grams of marijuana, which is probably the equivalent of a six-pack of beer. I was prevented from embarking on my career as a high school teacher. It took eight years before I was able to get anywhere with the education department and that was only because the Teachers Federation came to my assistance.
The Hon. A. B. Kelly: A good union.
The Hon. I. COHEN: It is a good union. The Teachers Federation had a go at the education department, whose representatives pulled their heads in very quickly. They did not have a leg to stand on. I got permission to teach. Unfortunately, by that stage I was known by the office of the department of education around the northern region and I was still not accepted because headmasters in the high schools had been told about me - and that was all for eight grams of marijuana, including the sticks. What a joke!
The Hon. A. B. Kelly: What a disgrace!
The Hon. I. COHEN: I was unable to get a job as a teacher. As a matter of fact, I was unable to get a job in any bureaucracy, which is why I became a member of Parliament. It was the only job I could get.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: You might not keep that for much longer.
The Hon. I. COHEN: We will see. That is the sort of thing that can happen even to a person who has had education and who is relatively skilled in dealing with the community and authority. I was not particularly intimidated by the police. I know that many of my friends would have been intimidated. I know many of my friends whose only crime is to smoke a joint at the end of the day. I know judges, lawyers, barristers and politicians who smoke the odd joint at the end of the day. Are they all criminals? No. You have to be joking! The law has been totally out of touch with the values of society, as I quoted. The number of people who have smoked marijuana is a significant section of society. It is about time we recognised the fact that these people are doing nothing wrong. We live in a society that has an alcohol-based culture. Many other societies in this world choose marijuana as the basic social lubricant of their culture, and that is no better or worse than alcohol.
Certainly there can be long-term effects for heavy users of marijuana, but that is the same with alcohol. There can be emotional problems, but that is the same with all drugs used in society. But no-one on the other side, not one, has brought up the absurdity of the value system of this society that drives young people, particularly, to step outside the bounds of society to choose a different way of life because of the hypocrisy that exists in this system, with its values that allow so many people to be unemployed and thrown on the scrap heap of life with no answer. The half-cocked statements delivered in this Parliament so often put the blame on the wrong person. Society is to blame for any reason that makes people need to take drugs and then be taken over by them. Why do we not see that link? Why do we not see the responsibility of the lawmakers, the brutality of the system or the way in which police treat young people in our society?
Why do we not see the inappropriateness of the education system? Why do we see so much control of the media that prints the gutter tripe in our daily tabloids that has politicians jumping up and down like puppets obeying that value system, that poor quality communication system? That is why I talked about the Internet earlier. That is why I said we need to communicate outside that tabloid
system. Society has got it wrong! When there is so much wealth on the one hand and so many people living in poverty on the other, when the Government subsidises the Indonesian regime, yet ignores the poor both here and in needy places such as Papua New Guinea, the inequity of these systems is so clear. That is why young people, with the clarity that comes from not having vested interests, do not want a bar of this society, and I cannot blame them. Therefore they choose a drug that is a little illegal, which gives them the social -
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: How can something be a little illegal? That is like being a little pregnant.
The Hon. I. COHEN: There are different levels of legality in different countries. In Saudi Arabia the drinking of alcohol is a major crime. There is an absurdity to all of this. But we all have our addictions. We have seen them in this House. It is interesting.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: Yours is not an addiction to the truth.
The Hon. I. COHEN: I have an addiction, I must admit, and I am sure the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti will appreciate my problems. I have an addiction about an activity that results in people ruining their backs, ruining their knees, and having heart attacks as they run along the streets as they overdo their exercise. A whole medical industry is set up to cater for this addiction. It is an endorphin addiction. So far as I am concerned it is better than the rest, but it is still an addiction. Do we ban exercise?
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: High on your own drugs?
The Hon. I. COHEN: Exactly, high on my own. Do we ban exercise? Do we stop people from swimming in the pool? Do we close down the parliamentary gym? Do we stop them from running around the streets in the middle of the day? We all have these addictions. I might suggest it is a part of human nature. Everybody has their foibles.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: In your case we would call it an affliction, not an addiction.
The Hon. I. COHEN: Be it an affliction or an addiction, it is an overriding controller caused by love of a drug that is induced by the body’s own mechanisms. So be it. It has a similar effect. It is no better or worse, and it has its pitfalls, just like all other dalliances with social drugs and such like.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: What about the limits that have been imposed? Those five plants could be as big as coolibah trees.
The Hon. I. COHEN: I thank the Hon. D. F. Moppett for reminding me about that matter, which can be discussed now. Quite simply, if the plants are large a person can get busted because they would be capable of producing large quantities of marijuana. Why is the Government limiting the number of plants that are to be grown? The Hon. D. F. Moppett, a man who grows many plants, understands the man on the land.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: All the plants we grow are big.
The Hon. I. COHEN: The honourable member would know that there are female and male marijuana plants and that their sex is identifiable only when they reach a certain stage of maturity. The only plant of real use to the connoisseur of such products is the female plant. The female plant produces a flower head and it contains the resin. The leaves of the male marijuana plant give the consumer nothing more than a headache. People growing a few plants would let those plants mature and, once they had identified the sex of the plants, they would throw away the male plants - they are usually not even used - and the female plants would be cultivated. A person in possession of five small plants cannot be gaoled for committing an offence as, at the end of the cultivation period, he or she would end up with only one or two plants that could be used.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: It is quite feasible if they had five big female plants.
The Hon. I. COHEN: It is highly unlikely but, if that were the case, that person could fall foul of the law, depending on the quantity of dried plant in his or her possession. I know from experience that the police weigh a plant whether it is wet or dry, and a grower could be in trouble just because of its water content. A professional grower could be convicted of an offence, depending on the weight of his or her plants. It is quite clear that the weight of plants must also be taken into account. Many honourable members and the media have ridiculed this suggestion, but it is not an unreasonable one. I am sure that the Hon. D. F. Moppett accepts that that is a valid argument. I quote again from a
document produced by the Victorian Premier’s Drug Advisory Council, which refers to the comparison between alcohol and tobacco:
While the number of deaths attributable to alcohol or tobacco in any year is far greater than those due to illicit drugs the problems of illicit drugs are feared and clouded, in many people’s minds, by moral considerations.
Victoria and Australia have led most of the world in enlightened responses to the problems of abuse of alcohol and tobacco, but our approach to illicit drugs has lagged in terms of innovation.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: This has nothing to do with alcohol and tobacco.
The Hon. I COHEN: If the honourable member will let me finish quoting from this document he might learn something.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: Are you going to ban alcohol advertising?
The Hon. I. COHEN: I agree with Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile. I am working towards a ban on alcohol advertising. If he introduces legislation to ban alcohol advertising, I will support him. There is no difference in our positions in that respect.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: What about your convictions for working for BUGA UP?
The Hon. I. COHEN: That is a fine institution with fine Australian traditions.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: Did you get convicted for it, or were you not caught?
The Hon. I. COHEN: Read my book.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: I have read your book.
The Hon. I. COHEN: I hope everybody else reads my book. If they do they will find out. The document produced by the Victorian Premier’s Drug Advisory Council continues:
In contrast, the widespread use of marijuana, because it is illicit has not been subject to any education programs to help people to distinguish use from misuse.
We must be able to distinguish between a wise use of drugs and a misuse of drugs. That is why there has been a great deal of success in the Netherlands, where there has been a reduction in the consumption of heroin. One of the reasons for that reduction is the education campaign that the authorities conducted on the marijuana issue on the one hand and the hard drug issue on the other. They have divided the argument. I visited the Netherlands a few months ago and saw what was happening. Opposition members should visit the Netherlands and establish for themselves that the level of heroin use has decreased. I am talking about saving people’s lives; this debate is more than just an intellectual exercise. The Netherlands has been able to save people’s lives by separating the arguments between heroin and hard drugs on the one hand and marijuana on the other hand. People not die from using marijuana.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: They do. I will tell you why.
The Hon I. COHEN: People do not die from overdosing on marijuana. Evidence of deaths was referred to earlier, but those incidents would have involved people taking marijuana with alcohol and other drugs. I refer to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on 18 November that states that the South Australian Coroner’s Court was told of a rare and highly potent designer drug referred to on the streets as the death drug, which was easily mistaken for the less toxic ecstasy. This is one of the arguments put forward in support of a reduction in the severity of the penalties for cannabis. It is reasonably easy to assess the quantity and strength of marijuana. Persons taking or smoking large quantities of the drug fall asleep and wake up the next morning with a headache, and that is all. This death drug and ecstacy, which are in tablet form are undefinable. The article in the Sydney Morning Herald refers to the fact that this drug is killing our youth.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: Heroin and other drugs.
The Hon. I. COHEN: Heroin causes damage to the respiratory system.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: He wants to give it away for free.
The Hon. I. COHEN: I find it quite offensive that the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti, a medical practitioner, does not regard as serious the number of deaths caused by heroin each year.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: I do.
The Hon. I. COHEN: The honourable member is ridiculing my arguments because I wish to see fewer deaths of young people in this State each year from heroin overdoses. He should be ashamed of himself!
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: I am not. You should be.
The Hon. I. COHEN: The honourable member will not accept the less severe impact of marijuana -
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. D. J. Gay): Order! The debate is becoming far too personal.
The Hon. I. COHEN: Death drugs, ecstacy, designer drugs, heroin, cocaine and drugs taken intravenously, are causing major problems. I am a member of the Joint Select Committee into Safe Injecting Rooms, which has taken into account various overseas examples.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: Shooting galleries.
The Hon. I. COHEN: Only the narrow-minded and prejudiced use the term "shooting galleries". Only those who are extremely ignorant do not realise that the purpose of the committee is -
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: On a point of order. It is not proper for the honourable member to refer to a matter that is still the subject of investigation. The honourable member should not refer to that matter until the committee’s report has been released for public discussion.
The Hon. I. COHEN: I accept that I should not refer to these matters and apologise to the Chair. I quote briefly from a letter sent to me by the Law Society of New South Wales in relation to the Drug Misuse and Traffic Amendment Bill. The letter states:
As you may be aware the Society supports the decriminalisation of all offences relating to the personal use of cannabis and the abolition of criminal sanctions (including the recording of criminal convictions) relating to the growing of cannabis for personal use.
That simply shows that such august bodies as the Law Society of New South Wales believes that we need to take the modest step towards rationality that the Government is now taking. A survey of community attitudes carried out by the National Centre for Research into Prevention of Drug Abuse in 1993 showed that 52 to 55 per cent of people across the country supported legalisation of personal use of cannabis.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti: Do you approve of that?
The Hon. I. COHEN: Yes, I do. If the honourable member listened he might learn some valid information that would assist his party at the next election, despite his belief that this jingoistic crusade to ban marijuana will get the coalition into office. The survey showed that 75 per cent supported decriminalisation, that is the removal of penalties for personal use. Further, Denis Byrne in a document from the Bar Council, January-February 1989, on the subject of marijuana said:
The view that has attracted most attention is the one that says the personal use (I emphasise the word personal) of cannabis should either be lawful or should be regarded as a minor regulatory offence similar to a traffic offence and able to be enforced as such.
The last thing the Law Council wants to do is give anyone, especially young people, the impression that there is nothing wrong with cannabis, and that it is therefore quite in order to use it. In fact there is an urgent need to do far more to spell out the dangers of all kinds of drugs, and to discourage people from using them. What is of great concern is that the present approach is not achieving those objectives.
It is simple. Our information has to be relevant and balanced. The differences between drugs - including alcohol and tobacco - should be acknowledged, and the information should have a sense of relevance so that children are not instantly alienated from the educators and older people in society. The information should be relevant to their health throughout their life as they become exposed to drugs of various sorts. Choice magazine stated:
Should the use of marijuana continue to be a criminal offence?
The laws relating to cannabis have been shown to be largely ineffective and may be unsuitable for a number of reasons:
•As a general rule, older people use alcohol as their main recreational drug, younger people use cannabis. Although alcohol is the more dangerous drug, there are no restrictions on its use but cannabis is prohibited. This double standard is divisive. Indeed, young cannabis users are more likely to be arrested than older, "respectable" users.
The article stated further:
•The use of marijuana is a victimless crime - there is no one to complain. As a large proportion of the community is breaking the law and there are large profits to be made, the situation is wide open to corruption of public officials.
•Commercial dealing in marijuana should remain a criminal offence.
•Possession and cultivation of marijuana for personal use should not be an offence.
•Tobacco advertising should be banned; severe restrictions should be placed on the advertising of alcohol; and a
systematic long-term campaign should be conducted to take the glamour and ignorance out of the use of all types of drugs.
As a Green I concur with that very reasonable position. I support the Government’s bill. I wish that both sides in this debate could see that we are trying to minimise harm and create a situation of relevance, particularly for the young people in society. The resources of police and institutions should not be used senselessly chasing these people, who otherwise are law-abiding citizens.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: So long as you do not inadvertently cause more harm.
The Hon. I. COHEN: I have given the facts proving that it does not increase usage. In fact, in Holland, which has a long history of these types of policies, the use of drugs is reducing.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI [8.35 p.m.]: Before the Hon. I. Cohen leaves the Chamber - and I am sure he will because he is a busy person - I wish to address a couple of the issues that he raised. Some members of the Labor Party have argued that marijuana does not kill. The Hon. I. Cohen carried on a treat and got a severe case of steroid overload from his exercise. I assume he is not taking steroid drugs. Marijuana does kill, but not necessarily the person who takes the drug. The Attorney General would be aware that many of the people who commit crimes under the influence of marijuana are treated as forensic patients as a result of being found not guilty of a crime by reason of mental illness. The reason is that occasionally, but not commonly, marijuana produces a paranoid schizophrenia-type reaction. That is precisely what happened in the case of the four girls who died when attacked by an individual under the influence of marijuana on the upper north shore. The man was found not guilty by reason of mental illness, and he is not the only one.
From memory, 27 people in the prison system have been found not guilty by reason of mental illness, and a strong association with marijuana was made in their defence in court. Several days later these people return to absolute normality. I wonder what the Attorney General’s view is on that. Where does one keep a forensic patient who is no longer mentally ill but has committed serious criminal offences? The Hon. I. Cohen should remember that. It is easy for him to check. He can ring ward A at Long Bay gaol and ascertain the number of forensic patients. Perhaps he could ask the Minister for Corrective Services how many mentally ill patients in ward A were found not guilty or were unable to plead by reason of mental illness. They are kept at the Governor’s pleasure and reviewed every six months by the Mental Health Review Tribunal.
A report is made every month, signed off by the Minister for Health and sent to the Governor. The Attorney General receives notification of some. Any member who thinks that marijuana is a drug that does not cause any harm to society should think again. My information was gleaned from signing off some of these matters during the two years that I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health, and from my interests since. I refer to another matter that the Hon. I. Cohen raised. I have a tape recording, which I am not allowed to play because it cannot be reported in Hansard, of an interview with Mr Heilpern from Southern Cross University.
The Hon. I. M. Macdonald: A very good bloke.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: He might be a good bloke but he does not tell the truth. The day before the Hon. R. S. L. Jones and I, and I think Mr Rixon, took part in a debate at the campus, Mr Heilpern said on ABC radio in Lismore that the Salvation Army called for the decriminalisation of marijuana.
The Hon. I. M. Macdonald: Who won?
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: I was not on your side. In that interview, of which I obtained a tape, Mr Heilpern said that Major Watters of the Salvation Army was calling for the decriminalisation of marijuana. If the honourable member would like to hear the tape he is more than welcome to do so. Major Watters has not called for the decriminalisation of marijuana. In fact he as written the coalition a letter from the Rehabilitation Services Command of the Salvation Army. It read:
I am writing to you to express the very serious concern that the Salvation Army has in respect to this bill [the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Amendment Bill].
People in this State believe that this bill decriminalises Marijuana.
During the weekend I spoke to a well known media personality and to a doctor specialising in neuropathology. They both believe this bill "decriminalises Marijuana".
Whilst this is not the intention of the bill it is part of the mixed message that is going out into society. I can tell you that young people across the State are believing that from Tuesday forward they will be allowed to grow 5 marijuana plants in their back yard without fear of prosecution!
To me that does not sound like somebody who is keen on decriminalisation of marijuana. So Mr Heilpern lied to people on the north coast. His
contribution to the debate was full of such lies. Major Watters also said:
Marijuana is not a soft drug!
It is unfortunate that terms like "recreational" or "soft" -
used by the Hon. I. Cohen and the Hon. R. S. L. Jones and by the lefties opposite; I will come to them in a minute -
are used in relation to this substance. There is mounting and consistent evidence that marijuana is at least as harmful in terms of cancer and respiratory diseases as is tobacco. Added to this are the various psychotic effects of this hallucinogenic substance.
I referred to them earlier. The letter continued:
Also, those of us working in this field have the consistent testimony of hard core addicts coming to us for treatment, that Marijuana was "a gateway to other heavier substance abuse".
That is what they keep saying. When I was parliamentary secretary for health I had occasion -
The Hon. I. Cohen: What qualifications does he have?
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: Major Brian Watters from the Salvation Army’s Rehabilitation Service Command has a 10- or 12-year history of dealing daily with the people who are drug addicted. He runs a major rehabilitation service and detoxification service in this city at the William Booth Institute. I have visited it a number of times. In his letter he extended an invitation which I bet Government members do not take up. He wrote:
You have my open and free invitation to come to the William Booth Institute in Albion Street, Surry Hills and choose at random any of the clients that are there for treatment and ask them what they feel about relaxation of Marijuana laws. Please accept this sincere and serious invitation.
I bet the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann and the Hon. Ann Symonds did not take up the invitation. The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann travelled across the world to Switzerland but she will not go to see Brian Watters, who has had 15 years of caring. The letter continued:
I have enclosed for your information random press cuttings in respect of court cases in which the findings in relation to often quite horrific crimes are related to the person’s use of Marijuana.
Earlier I stated that whether marijuana harms the person is one thing; whether it harms other innocent bystanders is another matter. I quote again:
Australia already has the dubious distinction of having the highest youth use of Marijuana in the Western world - double that of the USA!
On behalf of the Salvation Army, the concerned parents that we speak to, and the addicted people that we work with, I sincerely enjoin you to consider the impact of this bill on the potential use of Marijuana in New South Wales and therefore to vote against it. We should be strengthening our drug laws not appearing to relax them. We should be sending clear messages.
I will not be able to go through all of the press clippings. One of the press clippings refers to a man who bashed his father to death with a hammer while suffering from a mental illness, possibly induced by marijuana. That was an interesting case. Another article headed "Killer gaoled for three years" referred to a man who smoked up to 60 bongs of marijuana a day for 15 years. He was sent to gaol for stabbing a friend to death in a frenzied attack. An editorial in the Innisfail Advocate stated:
In the Townsville Bulletin newspaper on Thursday was the shocking story of two teenagers, facing committal proceedings for murder, who, after smoking 20 cones of marijuana, allegedly battered a man to death with a shifting spanner and a large lump of wood. Police asked the youth (about the marijuana): "How effective was it?", to which the youth answered: "Well, I can’t remember much after it happened." . . . This horrifying, yet pathetic, story involving . . . an isolated case of marijuana smoking leading to a shocking, alleged criminal act.
That is pretty serious. Another case is reported in the Daily Telegraph Mirror, not a newspaper that I read with great conviction, I must admit. It relates to a matter that many members will appreciate. It stated:
On the night Miss Richardson was killed, Mr Seib said he had approached them at a nightclub at the Mooloolaba Hotel, later smoked marijuana with them at Meninga’s flat . . .
That is a report about a serious offence on the Sunshine Coast. Another report is from the Daily Telegraph of 29 October 1990. It refers to a person who was paranoid and obsessive after smoking marijuana. The article stated:
The night he murdered Leigh Leigh, Matthew Grant Webster had -
smoked 24 twist tops -
drunk 24 twist tops and smoked 14 cones of marijuana.
He boasted to his mates at the party: "Hey dudes, we’re going to get Leigh Leigh pissed and -
go after her. I accept that a combination of drugs was involved in this case. Mr Deputy-President, the attack on Leigh Leigh by Matthew Grant Webster is
one of this State’s worst crimes, and I draw the attention of readers of Hansard to the giggling from the Hon. R. S. L. Jones and the cackling from the Hon. I. Cohen.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: On a point of order. I ask the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti to withdraw that comment because he is implying that I was laughing at what he was saying. I find him tediously boring. I was laughing at something totally different.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: On the point of order. While I was trying to make the point about Matthew Grant Webster the Hon. R. S. L. Jones was giggling and pointing to me and making comments about the statement that I was making. I think he was giggling and I think that it is revolting.
The Hon. I. Cohen: On the point of order. The Hon. R. S. L. Jones was giggling about the ridiculous statement made that the person inhaled 24 twist tops of beer. It is indicative of the inaccuracy of the delivery of the speech that such a mistake could be made. It is absurd. We were laughing at the idea of someone imbibing as the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti had said. It is not appropriate to accuse us of anything else.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. D. J. Gay): Order! I do not uphold the point of order. However, I did hear some laughter when reference was made by the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti to a tragic murder in this State.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: We were not laughing at the murder.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT: Order! I accept the assurance of the Hon. R. S. L. Jones. The Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti obviously misunderstood the reason for the outburst of laughter. I take this opportunity to counsel members against trading insults of a personal nature alleging abuse of drugs, legal and illicit. Such behaviour is demeaning and does little to enhance the standard of debate in this Chamber.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: I am pleased to say that I have not reflected on any member’s use of drugs, although many of my colleagues before me, in an hilarious example of their irresponsibility, have done so. I draw honourable members’ attention to the many other statements that are appended to Major Brian Watters’ report. Once again the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann has left the Chamber when an important issue is being debated. I decided to undertake some research into this matter because I was concerned about criminal charges being laid against young people. I also wrote a letter to the former Attorney General, Daryl Williams. I drew my research - which took me quite some time to complete - from a document produced by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, entitled "1992 Marijuana Conviction Statistics".
The Hon. J. W. Shaw: There are more up-to-date figures than those. That is going back a fair way.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: I am aware of that, but I do not think anyone else has done this research. I would not have done it myself if it had already been done. I hope to incorporate this research in Hansard, but if the Attorney General has more up-to-date statistics I would be delighted if he could provide them. The research shows that of 4,594 cases of either possession or use of cannabis, imprisonment was the punishment for 103 people who had previous court appearances and only one person who had no prior conviction; periodic detention was given to 21 people who had previous court appearances, and no such sentence was imposed where there had been no prior convictions; 134 people were released on recognisance with supervision if they had been previously convicted; 18 people were given that sentence if they had not been previously convicted; 169 people were released on recognisance without supervision if they had been previously convicted, and 29 people were given that sentence if they had not had a previous conviction. No conviction was recorded against those people after the period of the recognisance.
A nominal sentence was imposed against 15 people who had a previous conviction and against only three people who had no previous conviction; compensation was ordered against one person who had a previous conviction, and no compensation was ordered against those who had no previous conviction; 185 people had no conviction recorded if they had previous convictions; 130 had no conviction recorded if they had no previous conviction; a fine was imposed on 3,697 people who had previous convictions and on 1,043 people who had no prior conviction. I ask the Attorney whether that means that when an offender receives a fine he also receives a conviction.
The Hon. J. W. Shaw: Yes.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: A total of 6.4 per cent of cases were not proceeded with. Ninety-two per cent of people who had previous convictions ended up with criminal records even after bonds had been lifted. Eighty-one percent of people who had no prior conviction finished up with a criminal record. That means that 81 per cent of people who go along to court and get a fine end up with a criminal conviction. That is a tragedy. I conducted that research as part of a research project that I undertook with my research officer to determine whether the criminal record of persons who turn 30, or who get past the youthful exuberance of experimentation, could be expunged; to give them a clean slate. When such people get past the experimental stage, as it were, they might want to become teachers or nominate for a parents and citizens' board or sign documents of a responsible nature. To have records expunged is a difficult exercise. That question has been the subject of a number of Law Reform Commission reports. One such report, on spent convictions, is well worth reading. I researched, a number of other documents, including a document entitled "Criminal Records" and the Law Reform Commission discussion paper of December 1985, and a number of learned articles.
I received letters also from the Federal Attorney General, Daryl Williams, as recently as 29 August 1996 on the subject. I am hoping that the research and the matters I have put before Mr Williams will bear some fruit. I instance the case of a young person who, in a country town, gets involved in a brawl at the local pub. When the police are called to such incidents they usually arrest the closest two people and charge them with affray. The result is a fine and a conviction for a violent crime, which is carried by those convicted for the remainder of their lives. They might receive a section 556A recognisance, but it is still on their record. Later in life they would be prevented from, for example, working with children because a search of their records shows that they have been convicted of a violent crime. No matter how hard they try, they cannot have that conviction expunged. That is an injustice that needs to be addressed. That is why I decided to undertake this research. I seek leave to incorporate the document to which I have referred in Hansard.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. J. R. Johnson): Is the document not available elsewhere?
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: No. It is my own personal research.
Source: NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.,
NSW Criminal Courts Statistics 1992 - Local Courts
* No criminal record after period of recognisance etc. eg. Section 556A. Crimes Act.
** Persons, with NO prior conviction, found guilty in Local Court cases for possessions\use of marijuana
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: Many young people go to court without telling their parents. They receive a fine and they think that is the end of the matter. But that is not the end of it, and they should be made aware of that. They may have to pay a fine of $50 and court costs, but as the Hon. I. Cohen said, they then have a record for ever. I urge the Attorney General to take an interest in that matter. I am sure he would agree that this has serious consequences for many young people. The issue of whether marijuana is a safe drug has been addressed in some forensic detail by my colleagues the Hon. J. H. Jobling and the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith. This drug, which is highly fat-soluble, remains in the body for a long time. For young people, particularly students, the drug interferes with
the learning process. Young people who take the drug do not learn. I remind honourable members of the following important finding:
|1992 MARIJUANA CONVICTION STATISTICS1992 MARIJUANA CONVICTION|
|Type of principal offence: possess\use cannabis Total Cases-4594|
Court appearances and penalty for possession or use of MarijuanaNo Prior
|Imprisonment 103 1|
|Periodic Detention 21|
|Community Service Order 96 8|
|Recognizance with Supervision 134 18|
|Recognizance without Supervision 169 29|
|Recognizance without Conviction 173* 129*|
|Nominal Sentence 15 3|
|No conviction recorded 185* 130*|
(Not Proceeded With - 6.4%) 3697 1043
|TOTALS 4594 1361|
|Percentage with Criminal Records even after Bond has been lifted 92% 81%|
Since THC becomes stored in body tissues and is only released into the bloodstream over a period of days or weeks, accumulation of THC may occur. As a result of this accumulation regular cannabis users may be under the influence of cannabis at any time and be unaware of that.
Over a period sometimes the drug returns to the bloodstream. As the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith and the Hon. J. H. Jobling have said, major problems and major symptoms can result, including occasional delusional hallucination, usually of the paranoid variety. These people feel that someone is attacking them, and they lash out and cause enormous damage. They have been known to cause deaths. The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann would know that what I am saying is the truth. I encourage honourable members to read the "Handbook for Medical Practitioners and other Health Care Workers on Alcohol and other Drug Problems" produced by the Drug Offensive. It relates only to cannabis. The Drug Offensive is the product of the of New South Wales Government and the Federal Government, enjoined by Dr Refshauge, the proud proponent of this bill in the Legislative Assembly. The Hon. Dr Andrew Refshauge signed off on the inclusion of cannabis in the Drug Offensive, which is still current. It contains documentary evidence about the nastiness of this particular drug. I urge honourable members to read the document. In terms of tolerance and dependence, factors which the Hon. I. Cohen denied, this authoritative document from the Federal and State governments stated:
The signs and symptoms of tolerance, and also dependence, may persist for months in very heavy users. THC accumulates in adipose tissue and can take weeks or months to be totally excreted.
Frequent use of cannabis can produce mild physical dependence and as a consequence, withdrawal symptoms.
The withdrawal usually starts several hours after cessation of use, is usually mild and is over within a matter of days for most users. Some of the symptoms experienced may include anxiety, depression, sleep and appetite disturbances, irritability, tremors, perspiration, nausea, muscle twitching, restlessness, weight loss and gastrointestinal upsets.
I have received a letter from Mrs Judy Gibson, the honorary secretary of PRYDE in Australia Inc. - Parents Reaching Youth through Drug Education - of which Lady Angela Carrick and Ms Ita Buttrose are patrons. The letter stated:
After softening the laws in South Australia "ever used" escalated 50%.
In other words, the number of people who have ever used marijuana increased by 50 per cent. It continued:
At the same time "ever used" in New South Wales actually declined.
This gives the lie to all the rubbish that has been put up by members opposite. The letter stated further:
There is no question that reduction of penalties will result in even wider use in NSW with escalating problems that will occur with more persons, especially children, using this drug.
It is claimed that the new Act will keep children out of jail. Juveniles under 18 who appear in a Children’s Courts cannot be jailed and if under 16 cannot even be convicted. The fact is children are not going to jail for simply using and possession. In practice known dealers, supplying children, have been sent to jail on occasions, when the police have not been able to prove the dealing charge absolutely, they have been sentenced on the lesser charge of possession, at the lower courts discretion. Under the proposed act this option will be removed.
That highlights community concern. The Government claims to be hard on crime and drugs. I remember an interview that Bob Carr gave in Lismore on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. He was asked whether, when in government, he would approve of the South Australian system of on-the-spot fines. He was very cagey and said, "If the police commissioner recommends that it is practical, I may consider it." When challenged by the interviewer about views expressed that same day by the Hon. Ann Symonds he said, "She’s in my party, but you’ll have to understand that the left wing is in the party just so that we have something to have fun with." It is not uncommon for the right wing of the Labor Party to say such things. The animosity on this issue between the left and right wings is quite obvious.
Bob Carr said he would take a hard stand on drugs but when he introduced the provision of life imprisonment for drug dealers, he added a rider. Such a sentence would be imposed only if they could not prove that they were addicted to drugs, that they had not been introduced to the drugs by somebody else, and a whole lot of other outs. No drug dealer in New South Wales is likely to face life imprisonment for drug dealing, and since 1995 there have been no such sentences handed down. This is the stamp of Bob Carr. Not one drug dealer, even those convicted for being in possession of 13 kilograms and more of heroin, has been sentenced to life imprisonment. On the other hand, John Howard and the Federal Government have taken a tough stand on drugs - a zero tolerance attitude, which has been applauded by the community. The day after Mr Howard made his announcement Steve Gibbons,
Editor of the Northern Star, said:
Anyone who has been touched by the scourge of hard drugs and who wants to find a way out knows full well the size of the problem.
It’s not much better for the law enforcers or for the welfare agencies. The sheer numbers of crooks and their victims make for an increasingly difficult task.
So take a "too little too late" shot at the Federal Government’s $87.5 million pledge to help fight the war if you must, but realise this: to do nothing would be the greatest crime of all.
The Carr Government has done nothing but positively encourage possession and use of marijuana. Mr Gibbons concluded:
The Howard Government’s move, combined with a growing awareness of the need to take a pro-active and sensible approach at a State level, represents a key, first step in fighting back.
With further support in the years to come, it will prove to be a vital step in the right direction.
That is true. Bob Carr is sending out all the wrong messages. He indulged in a public vote grabbing exercise by promising to decriminalise marijuana use. I draw attention once again to the table that I incorporated into my speech. In a recent press release my leader, Peter Collins, said:
Bob Carr has an obligation to get tough on drugs - but on every test he is failing.
He said further:
The Carr Government has watered down drug laws through amendments to the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act, removing jail terms for ‘gateway’ drugs such as cannabis.
He said further that the Carr Government supported the Australian Capital Territory heroin trial - but then withdrew support - and now seems to favour heroin shooting galleries. The press release stated further:
The Carr Government refused to stand by the principal in the Castle Hill High School drugs matter.
The Police Integrity Commission said in its annual report there was a ‘disturbingly high number of complaints about police involvement in drug manufacture, cultivation or supply’ but did not have the resources to investigate all of the 84 companies.
Under the Carr Government, not one drug dealer has gone to jail for life, despite Bob Carr’s Mandatory Life Sentences Act.
Last week, the Opposition revealed the case of a list of drug dealers given to police six months ago that was never acted on.
Bob Carr has some serious work to do in his own backyard on the drugs issue.
A sparring partner of mine over the years, Pat Boydell, President of the Northern Beaches Mental Health Support Group, is known to the many members of this Chamber who receive her monthly newsletter. She wrote to the Hon. A. G. Corbett, which I would suggest was a waste of time, and said:
Our Group is totally opposed to the proposed Marijuana Decriminalisation legislation that is currently before Parliament on the grounds that for mentally ill people in particular, marijuana is a very dangerous substance as it is retained in the fatty tissue in the brain.
Justice Athol Moffitt’s book "Drug Precipice" which is due for release in February, states that per capita with New Zealand, Australia has the worst marijuana problem. His book is co-authored with magistrate Craig Thompson and John Malouf, President of Australian Pharmacists Against Drug Abuse.
Justice Moffitt warns that any attempt to decriminalise or legalise drugs such as marijuana only encouraged further use and increased the power and wealth of organised drug syndicates. Marijuana also leads to a massive increase in the use of speed, cocaine, cocaine and heroin. Sweden has invested in a strong education and media awareness programme and heavier penalties for drug pedlars which is working.
That is a strong statement from Pat Boydell, a woman who is committed to the care, support and treatment of people with mental illness. She raised two important issues in her letter: where is the drug education campaign that is being fostered by the Government? There is none. Where is the treatment for people who want it? There is none. A drug rehabilitation centre has been promised to the town of Lismore. This year’s budget has allocated $180,000 for it. The Government is going to plan for it. The north coast needs a drug treatment regime. If I wanted to waffle in this debate, as a number of honourable members have, I would now speak about heroin and other drugs of addiction.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: Because we are talking about marijuana.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: Yes, we are and I intend to speak only to the legislation. I will not waffle in this debate. I have received a letter from Susan Bastick, the New South Wales President of the Australian Family Association. The patrons of the association include the Hon. Kim Beazley Senior, Dr C. Isbister, Dame Elizabeth Murdoch, Professor A. H. Pollard, Mr. B. A. Santamaria, Judge Frank Walsh, and Professor Jerzy Zubrzycki, who is on a number of pontifical
commissions. He is held in high esteem, and he is in good company. The letter stated:
This legislation raises similar issues to those raised by the Victorian Pennington enquiry. Our National Association considered these issues at the time of the Pennington enquiry and rejected the suggestion that sanctions against marijuana use be eased. I have enclosed a copy of the National memorandum for your information.
Parents are vitally concerned about the drug issue, and the possibility of their children developing a drug addiction. They want the support of the community in telling their children that drugs will harm them. They want the support of legislators in protecting their children from drug addiction. They do not want this legislation to pass.
Appended to the letter is the association’s policy on cannabis, which I will not read onto the record. The third paragraph of the letter stated:
Parents are aware that for many, marijuana is a pathway to harder drugs of addiction, such as heroin. They do not want their children to embark upon this road. Parents have read the research linking youth depression and youth suicide with marijuana use.
I made that point at the beginning of my contribution. The letter continued:
They want to protect their children from this prospect. They do not want this legislation to pass.
Please help NSW parents help their children to stand firm against drugs. Don’t change the law in a way which sends a message to kids that drugs may be acceptable.
I also received a letter from Drug Watch Australia, a division of Drug Watch International, signed by Jill Pearman, which stated:
Re: Drug Misuse and Trafficking Amendment Bill
I am writing to draw to your attention the seriousness of the above proposed legislation, and the consequences of the impact of marijuana on the health and future of our children.
Presently Australia’s youth are in an extremely vulnerable position. The medical evidence on the harm that marijuana causes is overwhelming, so too is the evidence that reduction in drug usage occurs when good prevention practice and effective laws are endorsed by our leaders and practised by all levels of society.
The letter also stated:
It is clear that this legislation should not be supported.
It further stated:
This is misleading our youth as they will, if caught, still receive a criminal record for possessing marijuana.
That is true. It continued:
Our young people deserve, and are entitled to responsible and protective leadership.
Ms Pearman appended her latest document to the letter, which is entitled "Prohibition - It Really Works" by Elaine Walters. The document is well worth a read. It is available through the Australian Parent Movement, PO Box 230, Malvern, Victoria, 3144. I have read the majority of the contributions made during the debate in the lower House. I believe that the most important contribution was made by my colleague Andrew Tink. He pointed out that the legislation will allow drug dealers to avoid gaol. For example, they will say that they have a small quantity of the drug for their personal use. They will carry around only enough of the drug to sell to an individual, and then they will go back to their stash. Andrew Tink has introduced a private member’s bill - the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Amendment (Regular Drug Dealings) Bill - in another place. The Government should read it very carefully. His bill presents a realistic attitude towards dealers. It provides that if a person is caught and convicted three times for possession he is deemed to be dealer. Serious penalties attach to conviction: 2,000 penalty points - I think the fine is $100 a penalty point, so this is serious stuff. The bill provides:
the penalty for a third offence, and for any such subsequent offence, is a fine of 2,000 penalty units or imprisonment for a term of 15 years, or both.
The bill talks the language that most people in the community want to hear. Andrew Tink stated in a press release issued on 23 October:
What the Carr Government is now doing is singling out cannabis as a drug where dealing in a small quantity will no longer make the dealer liable to jail.
Thus by splitting up their deals in the same way referred to by Commissioner Wood, commercial dealers in cannabis who repeatedly deal in small quantities will no longer face jail.
That is absolutely terrific!
Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile: They have no idea how law enforcement works with marijuana.
The Hon. Dr B. P. V. PEZZUTTI: That is right. This proposal will allow people to possess a sufficient quantity of plants to make literally thousands of joints, enough to send a whole school high, or if you like a whole high school low. But the Premier’s proposal is to redefine a small quantity from five plants to three, which is a suggestion of
the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby not the Hon. Bob Carr, enough plants to make enough joints for a small school district. So much for the Premier’s actions. I have spoken long enough and certainly my voice will not carry much longer because of my current affliction. It is important for people to understand that under this bill people can have five marijuana plants, 30 grams of cannabis leaf, two grams of cannabis oil or five grams of cannabis resin without incurring a gaol term.
This legislation sends all the wrong messages. Honourable members should read the debate in the lower House and the debate in this House. They will then see exposed as fraudulent most of the comments made by the Hon. I. Cohen, most of the comments made by the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann, whose research on this issue is appalling for a senior lecturer, and much misguided information provided by the Hon. Ann Symonds. If we want to be good to kids it is best to act to reduce the risk to them. By throwing out this legislation we will reduce the risk.
The Hon. J. S. TINGLE [9.21 p.m.]: I oppose the bill. I have heard some very strange arguments in the debate, arguments about whether alcohol or drugs are better or worse. I have heard viciously personal arguments that have done nothing for the standard of debate on this issue, and a lot of it has been off the point. My concerns are different. Honourable members should not only oppose this amending legislation, but they should also vociferously oppose the legislation it seeks to amend. The flaw in both pieces of legislation is that they make an unsupportable and totally illogical assumption, an assumption that is without the slightest scintilla of evidence: that it reflects public opinion. The assumption is that some level of drug abuse is acceptable to the community. The assumption that while drug abuse generally is recognised as a dangerous, antisocial, crime-generating activity, there is, just the same, a degree of it that we can tolerate.
That is a very weird and totally self-contradictory idea. It is what I call partialism, which is having half a law. This is confusing, misleading, half-hearted, gutless political dithering. This is how to have an almost law: a law that cops out on the real fight against drugs by saying, "We want drug abuse stamped out. Almost." This is like St Augustine saying, "Lord, make me chaste - but not yet." Where is the determination, the clear message that drug abuse is an unacceptable, disastrous, social menace? This sort of lollipop law-making springs from the now discredited harm minimisation notion that is 12 years out of date and has made the job of the drug pedlar and the drug user easy and more lucrative, but which has also opened the door to drug abuse for a whole generation of young people who have been misled into believing that just a little bit of drug usage is all right, even socially acceptable, and possibly rather clever.
Harm minimisation is a contradiction in terms when it is applied to the abuse of drugs. It should rather be called harm promotion. Sometimes it seems people need to be reminded that marijuana is still in fact a prohibited substance. Let us not forget that all that is under examination here is the question of what is a suitable penalty for owning and using a prohibited substance. In other words, what should the law impose by way of sentence when someone has been convicted of using what the law says is a prohibited substance, a substance that the law says you may not own or use? Some honourable members have criticised others, claiming that they have insisted on debating the question of marijuana rather than concentrating on the fact that the bill is about "removing the penalty of imprisonment" and, in some cases, reducing pecuniary penalties for certain drug offences involving a small quantity of cannabis.
Yes, of course, the bill is about penalties and what are appropriate penalties. But how on earth can one discuss appropriate penalties without discussing the substance the possession and use of which invokes those penalties and without discussing the effect of that substance in deciding whether the offences are serious and whether they merit the existing penalties? Members, including the Attorney General, have stressed that the bill does not decriminalise marijuana, but merely seeks to change the judicial opprobrium flowing from its use. They have stressed that it is still an illegal substance. Of course! But that really confirms for me that the House should be debating the whole concept, promoted by the existing law and the amending bill, that some drug usage is tolerable.
We should seek to wipe out that false, dangerous and ludicrous idea, and reinforce the situation that the law ought to sustain. The diametrical contradiction in the existing law, a contradiction that is compounded vastly by this new legislation, is that the law says one must not use marijuana, but it also says that one can use a bit of it, so long as one does not do anything naughty with it. The present law is wrong. For a start, it allows a degree of breach of itself, and then it sets far too high a threshold of permission for that breach. The allowance of five marijuana trees for personal use is plain silly. As a magistrate suggested the other day, one could make up to 4,000 joints from five
marijuana plants. Some people have hotly disputed that, saying it all depends on how big, how old and how successful the trees are. And is that not exactly the point? Surely the point is that the law does not say how big or how prolific these trees are supposed to be, or how much marijuana each is supposed to yield?
Speakers in this debate have said that trees can vary from an inch high to two metres. I point out to honourable members that in a recent raid at Mudgee, marijuana trees five metres high were discovered behind the town, which would produce enough marijuana to keep the whole Mudgee district high for months. As we contemplate that, let us not overlook the words of Professor Graham Starmer from the Pharmacology Department of the University of Sydney, an academic and expert hugely respected in this field. He said that the potency of marijuana has doubled in strength compared to its strength in the 1960s. He said that more sophisticated growing techniques are being used, selective breeding, propagation of the plants that have the most tetrahydrocannabinol - THC - which is the active ingredient in cannabis. He said, "You need less to produce the effect you are looking for." What effect? How much effect?
Only on Tuesday, in the context of discussing driving under the influence of drugs, some honourable members pointed out that marijuana can be detected readily five hours after use, and that somebody tested five hours after using it could be accused of driving under the influence of drugs, even though the person said the drug was not actually affecting him or impairing his driving at that time. We know that traces of marijuana have been found in the blood of people as much as five years after they have ceased to use it. And personal use? By its very culture marijuana is not a strictly personal use substance. People who use it share it. The joint or the bong is passed around from one user to another so that everyone can get high. Perhaps that is why these so-called allowable limits were set by a previous government, to make it possible for people to have it for personal use, for themselves and for their friends.
Would it be too much to suggest that somebody with five healthy large marijuana plants could in fact keep a whole neighbourhood supplied for years, or could in fact become a distributor? The limits are too high. But if we now just start fiddling with the limits, as suggested in some foreshadowed amendments, and if it is suggested that three or even two plants would be enough, we are merely throwing a few deck chairs overboard from the Titanic. We are not addressing the main problem. The main problem is that we are allowing something which is illegal to be a little bit legal. I do not need to remind honourable members of the old saw about being a little bit pregnant. It is very obvious.
It seems to me that we have two options. We either decide that we were wrong, that marijuana is not actually bad and so we decriminalise it, or we confirm its dangers to health and society, reaffirm that it is prohibited and insist that its use is illegal - not just a bit illegal but altogether illegal. The second option is our only option unless we want to throw in the towel and legalise the stuff. But until we do that and we legalise it, while it remains prohibited we diminish all law if we do not apply this law properly, if we do not insist on the law being enforced properly, as all law should be. I have received a large volume of mail in relation to this issue and not a few phone calls. Other honourable members have quoted from letters, which we have all received, from Major Brian Watters, Commander of Rehabilitation Services in the Salvation Army. His letters express the serious concerns the Salvation Army has about this bill; concerns drawn from its wide experience in attempting to salvage the lives of people who have been seriously damaged by drug abuse. One of the things Commander Watters is concerned about is the curious arguments raised by the pro-marijuana pushing brigade, including some who have rung my office, claiming that this bill will stop young people being gaoled for first-time marijuana offences. In his letter he simply says:
Looking on the experience of Salvation Army officers in district and magistrates courts, this simply does not happen.
First-time offenders are not being gaoled for the use of marijuana. Even the Attorney General stressed in his second reading speech that the courts have not been sending young people to gaol for minor first offences. If they have not, why then do we need to remove a penalty that we know will not be applied? Somehow we seem to have slipped the cog in our logic mechanisms when we advance emotional arguments about young people being sent to gaol automatically if they are caught with marijuana, and then we wail and gnash our teeth about what a dreadful thing this is. This claim is an abdication of logic. Surely when a law states that some marijuana is all right to own that tells young people that they will not get into trouble for having it; therefore we are suggesting that it is all right for them to use a bit of it. And so they are tempted to try it, believing that they are not really quite breaking the law. We are predisposing them to breaking the law and exposing them to being caught and punished.
This law actually sets them up. Would it not be better to make it quite clear to them that the stuff
is prohibited and that they will get into trouble if they are caught with it, rather than giving them a false sense of security and leaving them wide open to trouble with the law? Surely an orderly and responsible society must encourage its members to understand that there are laws, there are prohibitions, like them or not, and that if people break those laws and defy those prohibitions, they are liable to punishment if they are caught. But no! To serve God only knows what purpose we have half a law, which leaves the door invitingly open to young people to experiment. We have harm minimisation, which pretends that we can deal with the problems of drug abuse by going soft on it and, in allowing some usage, control its use and the harm it does. Piffle! What has the harm minimisation program done for the control of drug abuse in Australia? It has given us the appalling situation where Australian youth has the highest use of marijuana in the western world. Our young people use marijuana at twice the rate that it is used in the United States of America and 10 times the rate that it is used by Swedish teenagers.
In South Australia marijuana was decriminalised for personal use in 1987. The National Drug Strategy, in its paper entitled "Patterns of Cannabis use in Australia", states that weekly use of cannabis increased by 77 per cent in South Australia between 1988 and 1993 - a 77 per cent increase in just five years. What has harm minimisation given us? We have research which links the twin horrors of youth depression and youth suicide with marijuana use. Advocates of harm minimisation say that it is preferable to prohibition because prohibition did not stop the drug problem. It did not because, as has been made clear in such forums as the police royal commission, drug prohibition has never been faithfully and diligently enforced. It has never been properly enforced, as we now know. But my answer to that argument about harm minimisation and prohibition is that harm minimisation does not seem to have done much about curbing the problem either. I quote from a letter from Colliss Parrett, former Deputy Director of the Drugs of Dependence Unit in the Commonwealth Department of Health:
If you believe our drug policies have failed, the failure has been the policy of "harm minimisation" over the past 13 years, not the policy of abstinence.
Tobacco smoking rates have dropped from 74 per cent in 1947 to about 26 or 27 per cent today. This reduction was achieved under a policy of abstinence.
What has brought the rate of tobacco consumption down has been a very long educational program on the adverse effects of smoking . . . by all governments, by the medical profession and by voluntary anti-drug organisations to the point where smoking is now socially unacceptable.
When, and only when we see similar co-operation by the same group aiming for a policy of total abstinence from illicit drugs will we have similar success in our efforts to curb their use.
That brings me to the frequent claim that we ought to legalise marijuana because "it is no worse than alcohol". The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann, in debate on this legislation, made a point of comparing marijuana with alcohol on several occasions. Nobody could possibly argue about the havoc that alcohol has wrought in many people and many communities. I say that as somebody who likes a drink at least as much as the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann does, and I make no apology for that. But when people say that marijuana, or any other drug for that matter, is no worse than alcohol, I can never resist the rejoinder that there is another way in which that can be said. Instead of saying marijuana is no worse than alcohol, we should try saying marijuana is just about as bad as alcohol. And speaking as someone who loves his drink - his wine and his beer - let me ask honourable members this question: if alcohol was not widely in use in Australia, if it was not legal, and if we knew from unarguable evidence what damage it can do physically, neurologically, socially and economically at a personal and community level, would we gladly urge its legalisation, its wider use or even a softening of restrictions on its abuse?
My objection to this bill is not just because it unnecessarily removes penalties which are scarcely applied anyway; my objection is that it makes even worse the situation applied by a previous government which made some use of marijuana legal, even though it did not decriminalise the drug. My objection is that by harm minimisation, by legal thresholds, we are driving our children into the arms of the drug dealers who can exploit this ridiculous legal limit to avoid prosecution by carrying only small, legal quantities to deal, while at the same time helping young people move through the marijuana phase into other drugs. Honourable members should note that I did not refer to harder drugs. There is no such thing as a harder drug because no drugs are soft. In the case of marijuana, the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby read from a leaflet distributed to schoolchildren which documented a frightening list of physical, emotional and even sexual effects that marijuana can have. The only thing soft about marijuana is that it makes some long-time users a bit soft in the head, and they make loud, strident noises during discussions and debates on this legislation, such as those we have heard tonight.
But all this discussion, all these proposed changes to the law, rotate at a distance around the central argument like rocking horses on a merry-go-round. It baffles me why this Government will not tackle the central problem of usage by setting up an investigation to find out why people turn to drugs in the first place; why they become such easy targets for criminal exploitation; why we go down the politically correct road of being seen to understand the problems of drug abusers, instead of treating this abuse as the debilitating nation-destroying scourge that it is. John Howard has produced a pathetic apology for a drug strategy - misguided, misdirected, underfunded, out of date and out of touch. But it has one good factor. In schools it embraces the zero tolerance idea and asks school students to say no to drugs.
The Attorney General and other speakers in this debate have ridiculed the zero tolerance idea, and the say no idea. They suggested that they have not worked anywhere in the world and will not work here. I remind honourable members that the zero tolerance concept, and indeed the phrase itself, was coined by the Mayor of New York, Rudolf Giuliani. He applied it to the massive street crime problem in New York and, in a remarkably short space of time, cleaned up that crime to the stage that the city of New York is now one of the safest places in America to be outdoors at night - a remarkable transformation. His historic re-election for a second time was largely due to the success of that zero tolerance program and the final understanding of so many people that if they really want to deal with dangerous social problems they have to find a way to say no.
It is much easier to say yes or to give in. But even though it is harder, people can learn to say no. How can we ask our children to say no, when the existing law and this dangerous amending legislation invites them to say maybe? How can anyone who cares about our children, or their own children, even consider supporting this bill? How could anyone leave them exposed to this insidious menace? The only answer to drug abuse is that same policy of zero tolerance that has been used so successfully in New York. Until we follow that successful lead, we are not tackling the drug problem, we are dancing around the problem. In fact, we make it worse by not moving against it. We must say no to crime and to drug abuse. The policy advocated by the new Federal strategy for our schoolchildren, which ought to be asked of all of us, is that the only answer to drug abuse is no, no, no! Why won’t we say it? I vehemently, fervently and implacably oppose this bill.
The Hon. D. J. GAY [9.40 p.m.]: A lot has been said on both sides in this debate and I will not rehash the argument. Several allegations that were made are not true. The allegation, which was made by a number of members, that the National Party wants to lock up everyone who smokes marijuana is untrue. The allegation was made that National Party members want to lock up any first offender who has had one joint. Have any National Party speakers in this House or in the other House spoken along those lines? Has anyone seen an amendment from the National Party? Did honourable members watch the Stateline program on Friday night in which I said I was opposed to a gaol sentence being imposed in such a situation? The answer is no. It was a deliberate misconception that the Hon. R. S. L. Jones has continued to peddle in this House. Opposition members have a different view from that of the honourable member, a view that they believe is valid. I do not approve of the personal vilification that has taken place in this debate on people’s so-called drug habits, as the Hon. Richard Jones referred to them. That has not helped this debate at all. Not one member from this side has said that drugs, whether licit or illicit, are not harmful. I do not pretend that excess alcohol consumption is right; nor have I pretended that smoking tobacco is good for one’s health.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: Should they be illegal?
The Hon. D. J. GAY: They are not illegal but vigorous advertising campaigns highlight the dangers of alcohol and tobacco. I have asked the question on numerous occasions: where are the advertising campaigns highlighting the dangers of marijuana? The Hon. I. Cohen was the only member who spoke in support of the bill and admitted that marijuana was dangerous. Marijuana is not a soft drug. Honourable members on this side of the House mounted an argument that showed that there are distinct dangers in the use of marijuana. Marijuana is worse than tobacco and alcohol, although it is not as bad as some of the so-called harder drugs. At one stage I seriously considered putting my name to an advertisement favouring the decriminalisation of marijuana, to which the Hon. Ann Symonds can attest.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: Why didn’t you?
The Hon. D. J. GAY: Because I looked carefully at the message it would send. It would send a message originally that alcohol taken in excess is bad and that tobacco is bad for people’s
health, yet a drug that is worse than tobacco and alcohol is okay. This legislation, whilst it does not decriminalise, sends that clear message. The message that Bob Carr and members opposite, aided and abetted by some of the crossbenchers, would send is that alcohol and tobacco are bad but we are softening on marijuana. I do not want to be a party to that message; it is the wrong message. The rhetoric of Bob Carr on this matter is right, but the message is wrong. If this legislation is passed, the message that it will send to the young people in this State is that it is okay to use marijuana. I know that the Hon. R. S. L. Jones deliberately wants to send that message but I am sure some of the other members who will vote on the legislation tonight do not want that message sent. I will not name them because I know that they are tied in with caucus votes and perhaps their personal point of view is at complete variance to the way they will vote.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: And your side too.
The Hon. D. J. GAY: No, that is not so, because virtually all members on this side of the House who have spoken today and on previous days have been clear in the message that marijuana is a very harmful drug. It is not as harmful as heroin or cocaine but it is more dangerous than tobacco and alcohol. Yet the passing of this legislation will send a message to the young people of this country that it is okay to use it. The Hon. R. S. L. Jones, amongst others, said that marijuana does not kill.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: Tobacco and alcohol do.
The Hon. D. J. GAY: I could say that one glass of wine, spirits or beer does not kill, one cigarette does not kill, one joint does not kill. If I were to smoke five cigarettes and get in a car, I would be safe to drive. If I had five whiskies I would be at risk and other people would be at risk. But what if I had five joints? The results of accident surveys in America, as quoted by the Hon. J. H. Jobling, clearly show that marijuana is responsible for many fatalities in heavy vehicle accidents. And members opposite say that marijuana does not kill! It is a seriously stupid argument and this is a seriously stupid piece of legislation. Some honourable members opposite pretend that they want to protect children, yet by supporting this legislation they will send a clear message to the community that it is not okay to smoke cigarettes or to drink alcohol to excess, but it is okay to smoke marijuana. The message that they have imparted in this debate is the wrong message; they have got it completely wrong.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: Your message is that you want people to go to gaol for using marijuana.
The Hon. D. J. GAY: We hear the parrot down the back. It is very sad. He has personally vilified people during the debate in this Chamber because they might have a drink or a cigarette - people who have genuinely tried to give up the habit. He continues to vilify people with the stupid suggestion that we want people who use marijuana to go to gaol. The facts speak for themselves. The magistrates are using their discretion in this matter. We are not planning to amend this legislation to make it tougher. What we are about is stopping the wrong message from being sent to the electorate. The message that will go out of this place tonight is that Bob Carr has pushed his Caucus, along with the cuckoo part of the crossbenches, to try to get the numbers to pass legislation that says that it is wrong to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes, but that it is right to smoke marijuana. And that is an absolute disgrace.
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS [9.51 p.m.]: I support the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Amendment Bill. I start by saying that as a member for some time now of the Australian Parliamentary Group for Drug Law Reform it is a pleasure to speak in support of a small but nevertheless sensible amendment. On the other hand, like many members of this House, I have not enjoyed listening to the debate. It has not been pleasant, apart from being tedious and longwinded. It has been particularly sad to listen to the debate because of the hypocrisy that has marked the speeches of so many members, particularly Opposition members. So much of the debate has been about - correctly - the definition of "drug". The issue of drug usage has to involve discussion of alcohol and tobacco use as well. Even Opposition members who have waxed so hysterical on the subject have not denied that alcohol and tobacco are drugs. Somehow they seem to think that it is perfectly all right for people to speak against personal use of a small quantity of marijuana yet at the same time defend the use of very large quantities, in some cases, of alcohol and tobacco.
I remind the House that we know about the effects of alcohol and tobacco. As a member of the Standing Committee on Law and Justice I have become familiar with the terrible record of road deaths and injuries that result from the abuse of alcohol, particularly affecting young men, and leading to lifelong spinal injury and brain injury. Every member of this House is aware of the link between abuse of alcohol and levels of violence. I draw attention particularly to violence against women. Young men are at particular risk in pub brawls and - I do not like the new term - from
"social violence". No-one can deny the terrible effects of alcohol.
The effects of tobacco on health are well known as well. But somehow all of that seems to be forgotten in the speeches about the supposed effects of using small amounts of marijuana. I do not want to speak long on the bill but I reiterate that it does not seek to decriminalise the offences that it deals with, contrary to the suggestions from Opposition members. Very simply, it removes gaol as a penalty option for the possession and use of a designated small quantity of marijuana. The Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby has foreshadowed an amendment to reduce the amount specified originally in the bill. It is hard to understand why this sensible step has aroused so much hysteria from the Opposition. Very few people genuinely want to fill our gaols with people who have committed very minor offences.
We have often debated issues such as what to do with fine defaulters and people convicted of minor offences who are sent to gaol. Being sent to gaol for a minor offence is well known not to lead to rehabilitation but to a hardening of the offender, as well as all the other evil effects that being in gaol can have. I cannot understand how the introduction of a bill to remove gaol as a penalty option for a very limited number of offences can be portrayed in the hysterical terms that members of the Opposition have portrayed it, except by considering that some of them are hypocrites, particularly those who are well known to consume large quantities of alcohol and those who around the corridors and in the lifts will admit to having used marijuana, perhaps many years ago. Yet we have been forced to listen to such speeches.
Much of what has been said in this debate reflects what often happens in this Parliament. How unrepresentative and how thoughtless we are of the beliefs and interests of young people. It concerns me that so many members can speak in such a debate and absolutely ignore the attitudes of young people, further alienating young people from the political process. It is not surprising that young people should be alienated from listening to the sort of claptrap we have been forced to listen to in this debate, from people who are perfectly content to abuse alcohol and tobacco and who cannot accept a different attitude to different drugs that young people have. Supporting the sending of young people to gaol for very minor offences is an absolute dereliction of our duty to represent not just the age group that is unfortunately overrepresented here, including me; young people have a right to have their members of Parliament listen to their views and to reflect those views rather than uttering a set of pious hypocritical platitudes. As I said, I found it sad to listen to the debate. Some very sensible points were made by members supporting the bill but the opposition to it has been a disgrace to the proper standard of debate in this Chamber.
The Hon. M. R. KERSTEN [10.00 p.m.]: Much of what I have heard in this House over the past couple of days and during many private discussions I have had with honourable members has given me a great deal of food for thought. Points of view have been put to me which I have accepted. In the last day or two I have even had discussions with the Hon. R. S. L. Jones. I do not doubt for one second the sincerity of some honourable members in some of the points of view they have put forward. I make particular reference to the Hon. I. Cohen. I accept that he is a sincere man, and I largely accept the points of view that he has put forward - or at least 50 per cent of them. Whilst I will never agree with him, I accept his sincerity in these matters, and I believe that he has the best interests of young people at heart. I will grudgingly accept that even the Hon. R. S. L. Jones also has the best interests of young people at heart. Whilst I feel that most of what he said is incorrect and he has largely been misled, I do not doubt his sincerity, but I do not agree with him. I take umbrage at the Attorney General’s statement which was reported in today’s Broken Hill newspaper, the Barrier Daily Truth.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: Is there another paper?
The Hon. M. R. KERSTEN: No, there is no other paper. I accept the Hon. D. F. Moppett’s interjection. The Attorney General stated - I cannot believe this - that New South Wales would be forced to build 45 new prisons if it adopted the National Party’s drug policy. That statement is so ridiculous that it simply does not require an answer, but I intend to respond to it. I believe that it is a deliberate and mischievous attempt by the Attorney to divert attention from the serious flaw in this legislation.
The Hon. M. R. Egan: Don’t you believe in a year’s gaol for smoking one joint? That’s what Ian Armstrong says.
The Hon. M. R. KERSTEN: No-one in the National Party, including me, would condone such a draconian measure as sending a young person to gaol for a first offence, and I am proud to put that statement on the record. In fact, the National Party is the only party in the New South Wales political spectrum with a drug policy that covers detoxification, rehabilitation, assisted employment,
education, as well as put drug dealers in gaol for a minimum of 50 years. I do not think that is long enough. I am extremely surprised that the Attorney General would make such a statement. I respect and admire him; he is a sincere man, and I believe he has the best interests of this State at heart. However, I disagree with him. The Attorney has conveniently omitted to mention that under his Government’s new laws magistrates will be stripped of their discretionary authority in relation to first-time marijuana offenders. Under the present legislation magistrates always have the discretion to avoid a custodial sentence. Additionally, the opportunity has always existed, and still exists, for a first offender to be released without a criminal record. The Attorney has stated publicly that the reason the Government is changing its policy is that magistrates will not impose the law as it stands. I believe it will be a sad day for New South Wales, Australia and our youth when magistrates simply become a rubber stamp for government. I live for the day when both sides of this House can be -
The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann: You are in favour of mandatory sentences.
The Hon. M. R. KERSTEN: No, I am not. The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann is wrong again. She should be quiet for a while. I long for the day when both sides of this House put their energies together. At one time in my life I admired the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann greatly; I thought she stood for something.
The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann: Then you ratted!
The Hon. M. R. KERSTEN: The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann ought to take a look at her own party sisterhood. What about Cheryl Kernot? I repeat, there was a time when I thought the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann was okay. Time mellows everyone, but she never got out of the time warp. As I said previously, I long for the day when both sides of this House put their energies together. We saw the energy that the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann put into her vehement argument against the tirade of the Opposition - these disgusting people who want to lock up all Australian youth, she claims. If one day we can put all of our collective energies together and come up with a law that fights the drug war, that will be the day, but it will never happen - not as long as the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann is a member of this House. But I can dream; I am a dreamer. I come from that neck of the woods where we dream about -
The Hon. B. H. Vaughan: There are no woods at all up there.
The Hon. M. R. KERSTEN: The Hon. B. H. Vaughan has a way with words. I accept that there are no woods at all in Broken Hill, although occasionally there is a bit of scrub. The most vitriolic comments have been thrown across this Chamber in the past couple of days. The most vile allegations have been made, and members on both sides of the House have been accused of being soft on drugs, or hard on drugs, or whatever the mood dictated. Where has it got us? It has got us nowhere. The issue that this House ought to concentrate on, and the issue that most people in this country want this House to concentrate on, is the war against drugs - not making it easier for our kids to get hooked on drugs in the first place. That is a simple message that is coming from the people of New South Wales. That simple message is easy to understand, and we should take notice of it. Honourable members of this House expend all their energy debating ad nauseam matters such as points of order and whether this side of the House is soft or hard on drugs. Most people, especially the public, are sickened by such debates. This Government came to power on a platform of law and order. It was going to get tough on drugs; it was going to get tough on law and order - it was going to raise the Titanic - but never did.
This is not rhetoric that has been force-fed to me by my colleagues. This is not some catchphrase that has been driven by the media, as the allegations I have heard tonight suggest. It has been said that marijuana is an extremely dangerous drug. The most insidious part of that statement is its direct relationship to the mental disorders that it causes in young people. I wonder whether any member in this House tonight has seen or been involved with loved ones who have been affected by marijuana. I have been in contact and directly involved with many people who have suffered that trauma, and I assure members of this House that it is not nice. To see a young man or young woman affected so severely by drugs, especially marijuana, that the person’s mind is not what it should be is a frightening and debilitating experience for any family.
Marijuana affects not only the user but the user’s family. Many statistics have been bandied about today and I shall refer to a few. Statistics from the Australian Pharmacists Against Drug Abuse Association show that marijuana is not just a stepping-stone drug but an end in itself. The Parliament ought to be looking at ways to fund more
research into the direct association between marijuana use and suicide, especially youth suicide. Australia already has a critical drug problem in which the adolescent weekly use of marijuana is more than double that in the United States and is 10 times higher than that in Sweden, which is the model used by the Government. Cannabis use is directly associated with heroin use. Despite denials, marijuana is a gateway drug and most heroin users still continue to smoke dope for its mind-altering effects. As we are seeking to reduce heroin use, so, too, should cannabis use be reduced, because the two go hand in hand.
I have witnessed many young people affected by drugs, particularly in western New South Wales. Most people groan when I raise this matter; they say, "Not the same tired, worn out thing again." But I travel to places like Bourke, Walgett, and Brewarrina, where I see the unemployment, the hopelessness and the abuse of drug and alcohol. I do not deny for one second that alcohol is a contributing factor to many of society’s ills. However, the use and availability of drugs in outback New South Wales is frightening. Coupled with unemployment and the sense of hopelessness, it is a dangerous cocktail. Most of these young people have nothing to do and all day to do it in.
On many occasions I have spoken on the high crime rate in western New South Wales. Bourke has the highest crime rate in New South Wales. There is a direct link between that crime rate, unemployment, alcoholism and drug use. I am not saying that drug use is the main factor, but it is certainly a major contributor. I do not accept, and I never will, that having a couple of joints or having a small quantity of marijuana in possession is okay. It is like saying that it should be legal to drive down Macquarie Street at 100 kilometres an hour because some people will do it anyway. That is a ridiculous argument which I will never accept.
The bill is dangerous because it treats cannabis as a single substance. It ignores the widely varying quantities and strengths of its major psychoactive drug, THC. Cannabis contains a further 425 different chemicals, more than 60 of which are unique to that plant. That is a salient point, yet I have heard all this crap about cannabis-based societies. How much longer do we have to put up with the tired, useless, worn-out and old-fashioned rhetoric that cannabis is a safe drug? It is not. The statistics prove that it is a dangerous, mind-bending drug. The stuff that was smoked back in the 1960s, when we had long hair, headbands and Roman sandals, was of a different strength to what is being peddled today. Even the leaf and the flowering tops of the plants these days vary in THC strength from about 1 per cent to 5 per cent, to 15 per cent and up to 30 per cent, depending on the hybrid. This is of major concern because only 6 per cent THC is needed for hallucinations to occur.
Five plants are capable of producing in six weeks 5,000 grams or 5 kilograms of cannabis. The plants may be grown in a continuous cycle but will not attract a continuous offence. From this one fact alone it is obvious that dealing must escalate because five plants will produce quantities far in excess of 30 grams. Cannabis resin - five grams of which will be deregulated - can have strengths up to 10 and 20 per cent THC. Hashish oil contains 40 per cent to 60 per cent THC. Following all these useless arguments, has anyone given any thought to what THC does to young minds? I refer to the failure of softening drug laws in South Australia. Many times today I have heard the argument about South Australia deregulating its restrictions in 1987. Fines were introduced for so-called personal use, but more than half of those fines were not paid. It is also a well-documented fact that since that time and after the escalation of penalties weekly use of marijuana in South Australia escalated by 77 per cent but at the same time usage dropped 15 per cent in other Australian States. This clearly shows that reduction in penalties relating to cannabis has only led to wider use, often because of the resultant public perception. Will New South Wales go down the same track and repeat the same error? I hope not.
This bill will do nothing to lessen the drug problem; in fact, it will do the opposite. The critical heroin problem will merely escalate with the deregulation of cannabis as wider use of the former will invariably follow. Much has been said today about Sweden. It is more than 20 years since Sweden, the most successful country in the world for combatting drug use, went down the liberalisation path. The outcome was a disaster and that approach has now been discarded. Three plants grown under the right conditions will produce three kilograms of leaf and flowering tops. One plant can be grown over and over again. The universal term "cannabis" is used to identify the psychotropic product from cannabis sativa. Cannabis sativa is one of man’s oldest cultivated plants. At one time cannabis sativa was largely used for making rope, and I understand some honourable members have suits and sandals made from it.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: Yes, and that is where the word "canvas" came from. Sails were made from it.
The Hon. M. R. KERSTEN: Suits, sandals and ties made from it have been flaunted around this Parliament.
The Hon. D. F. Moppett: The Hon. R. S. L. Jones has a suit made from it; or he did, until he smoked it.
The Hon. M. R. KERSTEN: I think he smoked his tie at one stage, but that is another story. Recent studies have documented a number of health, social and psychological problems related to the regular use of cannabis. Major health concerns revolve around the knowledge that the cannabis of today is stronger than the stuff I smoked back in the 1960s. I am not ashamed to say that I did take a smoke back then, and I have heard other honourable members say they did also, as did everybody. I take great offence at the comments of the Attorney General, who said that National Party policy is to put young people in gaol the minute they take one puff of a cannabis cigarette. That is absolute garbage. Not one member of this very fine party, which represents country New South Wales - in fact, all of New South Wales - would condone such a draconian measure. I would not be party to such a measure, nor would any of my colleagues.
Can honourable members imagine the Hon. D. F. Moppett - one of the finest men I have met; certainly one of the finest members of this Parliament - condoning putting a young person in gaol for making one mistake? The Attorney General has deliberately misrepresented the facts, and he must apologise publicly for his incorrect statement. The National Party has taken more steps than the Labor Party ever will to combat the drug problem in this country. The National Party has a responsible drug policy, which it will follow through. The National Party is united in its stand, unlike the factionalised Labor Party. I am proud to be a member of the National Party, which has taken the hard decisions and will do something about this problem. The New South Wales public will welcome our policy, which we will be able to implement after the 1999 election.
The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann: The smoking of one marijuana cigarette will result in a one-year fixed gaol term. I am reading from a press release from your leader.
The Hon. M. R. KERSTEN: I usually take great delight in stomping on the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann. However I feel a statesman-like aura around me tonight so I will not do so on this occasion.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: It refers to smoking one joint.
The Hon. M. R. KERSTEN: I take offence also at the Hon. R. S. L. Jones casting aspersions on my colleagues and making statements to suit his ends.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: It is your policy.
The Hon. M. R. KERSTEN: No, it is not my policy. The honourable member will think what he likes - he will not listen to sense. He has gone down this path, smoking his ties and sandals. He is off with the fairies most of the time. I am glad that he has interjected because I have reached the stage in my speech where I intend to tell honourable members about the effects of cannabis. He will love this! The effects of cannabis include feelings of self-confidence, euphoria, wellbeing and relaxation; lung cancer, cancer of the upper respiratory and digestive tracts, and head and neck cancer; emphysema; increased susceptibility to respiratory infections; and mild airway obstruction.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: You want to gaol people for one year for one joint. Tell the people of Broken Hill that.
The Hon. M. R. KERSTEN: I will tell them that the honourable member is coming to visit Broken Hill - I am sure that will go down well. I refer to the cardiovascular effects of cannabis. Cannabis inhalation results in an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and conjunctival injection. Persons with hypertension, cerebral vascular disease and ischaemic heart disease may be at increased susceptibility to these effects. I paid tribute to the Hon. R. S. L. Jones and to the Hon. I. Cohen earlier in my speech. I have never doubted their sincerity in these matters - I just do not agree with them. Other effects of cannabis include mild anxiety; impairment of motor co-ordination, short-term memory, tracking ability, sensory functions and learning ability; headaches; and dizziness. Adverse reactions occur more frequently in individuals who are under stress, anxious and depressed. They are predisposed to functional psychoses; panic and paranoia; confusion and delusion; acute psychoses, detachment from reality, hallucinations or illusions; and paranoid schizophrenia.
It is not yet known whether cannabis precipitates schizophrenia or whether those with schizophrenia are more likely to be attracted to using it as a form of medication. Perhaps at a later date the Hon. R. S. L. Jones can enlighten me on this; time constraints do not make that possible tonight. Effects of cannabis use also include
dissociation of ideas, distortions of time and space, compulsiveness, sleeplessness, depression and motivational syndrome. Cannabis has been associated with apathy and antisocial behaviours, an observed inability of users to incorporate and use new skills, which may delay the maturation process - that describes the Hon. R. S. L. Jones perfectly.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: Have you tried it?
The Hon. M. R. KERSTEN: Yes, I have. I did not interrupt the Hon. R. S. L. Jones during his speech. I listened to him with great respect. I even agreed with some of the things he said, such as, "Mr President, I rise to speak to the bill." Signs and symptoms of tolerance and dependence may persist for months in heavy users. THC accumulates in the blood and fat cells of the body and can stay there for years. The social groups most at risk include: young adolescents, especially males; persons with a predisposition to schizophrenia and mental illness; those of a lower socioeconomic status and with fewer years of formal schooling; and young people with friends who are illicit drug users. The physical complications of heavy marijuana use include a decrease in libido and impaired fertility. Cannabis is known to be both mutagenic and carcinogenic. It contains 52 carcinogens, which is awful. I make no secret of the fact that I have smoked cigarettes. I gave it up a week ago - I am on the straight and narrow. I have seen the error of my ways.
This is a very serious bill. I have had one or two conversations with the Hon. I. M. Macdonald, who has pointed out some of the advantages of smoking marijuana. I even accepted some of matters he raised. However, I still think that the message that is going out to young people in New South Wales is wrong. Marijuana is not a soft drug. I concede that on occasions I have been flippant in my speech, but this is not a laughing matter we should make light of. I say to members in all honesty and sincerity: I pray to God that no loved one or family member of any member of this House ever becomes addicted to drugs. If that were to happen, God forbid, those who support this bill might take a different view. Drug addiction is debilitating for any family. It is never forgotten. It touches not only the affected person. It destroys everything and everybody associated with it. It destroys friendships, relationships, marriages and, most important, families.
On Monday, 3 November, the Hon. Athol Moffitt, a former royal commissioner and Chief Justice of the Court of Appeal of New South Wales, emerged from retirement to express his disappointment at this bill. He said it is potentially one of the most dangerous pieces of legislation ever to come before the New South Wales Parliament. The bill ignores completely the strengths of the new cannabis varieties, as well as the quantities of leaf that five plants can produce. This is inconsistent, to say the least. The South Australian experience should prove to everyone that this proposal is doomed to failure. As a result of South Australia decriminalising so-called personal use of marijuana in 1987 the usage rate increased by 77 per cent. Is that the outcome Government members want? Their silence answers the question.
The tables show that in 1993 South Australia had the second-highest reported usage rate amongst 14- to 19-year-olds, and the equal highest usage rate in the 20- to 39-year-old age bracket. Between 1985 and 1983 the proportion of South Australian respondents in the 14- to 19-year-old bracket who said they had ever used cannabis increased by 50 per cent. Since 1985 the proportion of South Australian respondents in the 20- to 39-year-age bracket who said they had ever used cannabis increased by 31 per cent. Is this the outcome that Government members, as decent reasonable people and as parents, want? The figures reflect what happened in South Australia; I have not made them up. It is fact - documented.
Smoking any drug is dangerous. Marijuana has 50 per cent to 75 per cent more carcinogens than tobacco. That is also fact. Further numerous studies confirm debilitating effects on the cardiovascular, respiratory and reproductive systems. It also reduces the body’s immune system and lowers resistance to further infection. Whether or not we like the United States of America, that country is a world leader and always will be. On the very grounds that I have just stated the United States health department firmly rejected marijuana as having any medical value. This bill is absolute folly. It sends the wrong message to the young people of New South Wales. It sends the wrong message to the people in the electorate. We are treading a very stupid and dangerous path.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [10.35 p.m.]: The Christian Democratic Party strongly opposes the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Amendment Bill, the object of which is to remove the penalty of imprisonment, and, in some cases, to reduce pecuniary penalties for certain offences under the Drugs Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 involving not more than a small quantity of cannabis. "Small quantity" is defined in section 3 of, and schedule 1 to, the Act to be:
cannabis plants 5 plants
What is the public perception of what is happening in the Parliament tonight? A deal of pressure is being applied by the Greens, the Australian Democrats, the Independent Democrat and the socialist left of the Australian Labor Party to ram this bill through the Parliament. Public perception is very important. In the Daily Telegraph of 19 November, under the headline "Marijuana plant limit cut to 3", Rachel Morris, one of the senior Parliament House journalists, reported:
cannabis leaf 30g
cannabis oil 2g
cannabis resin 5g
NSW citizens will be able to grow three marijuana plants for personal use under legislation set to be passed by State Parliament.
The Government has agreed to accept an amendment from Democrat MP Lis Kirkby that reduces the number of cannabis plants from five to three.
The Government will say, "That is not correct, because there will still be a fine." But the public perception is that tonight in this Parliament members are saying, "Yes, it is okay for you to grow five plants for personal use," or three plants if the amendment of the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby is agreed to.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: Legally?
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: I am quoting the article.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: I know.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: People will not come and ask the Hon. R. S. L. Jones, "Is it legal or illegal? Is there a fine?" They will have the impression that we are soft on marijuana. But we will only be soft on marijuana if, for some reason, we reject all the evidence as some members, such as the Hon. R. S. L. Jones, have already tonight. But we have come to expect that of the honourable member. Members of public will say, "That is strange. We have been reading all these articles about how harmful marijuana is, yet here is the Parliament passing a bill to say that we can grow five plants. We must have misunderstood." Young people will say, "The Parliament is wiser than we are," so we will go down that path, believing that marijuana is a harmless, recreational drug. That is the message that this legislation is sending to young people in our society. That proves the point I was making in my earlier statement: public perception is all important.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones said, "This is one small step." But one small step to what? Obviously one small step towards decriminalisation and legalisation. I hope that is not in the mind of the Attorney General, although I see he is nodding his head. One step leads to another step and yet another. This bill will not toughen the law, it will soften it. The next step is decriminalisation and then legalisation. That is what the Parliament is being set up to do tonight. Anyone who votes for this bill has fallen for a confidence trick. I was sad when I heard some Labor members in this House, whom I greatly respect, say, "We must support this bill. We cannot put teenagers in gaol as they will be raped." They have been brainwashed. They have been given false information. They are sincere in their belief, but the premise of their belief is false. Bob Carr said that he wants to stop putting young people convicted of a single marijuana offence in gaol with rapists and murderers. That emotional argument has been advanced in an attempt to force people into accepting this legislation. Obviously, that strategy worked in the Australian Labor Party caucus. But research shows that only a small number of people in prison have been charged with possession of marijuana, but only because a charge of supplying marijuana could not be proved against them.
That is what happens in Cabramatta, where video footage is taken of young people selling heroin at the railway station. Very few are charged with the possession or sale of heroin; the police cannot catch them in the act. It is even more difficult to catch people selling marijuana. All that the police can do is to charge them with possession. The police know that the cases would not get to the courts. We all know of the attitude of the Director of Public Prosecutions. So a small number of people are in gaol for the possession of marijuana because charges of selling marijuana cannot be proved. They certainly are not in gaol because police have raided a twenty-first birthday party and arrested people for smoking their first marijuana joint. That ridiculous proposition is the background to this phoney debate. It is ludicrous to say that young people go to gaol simply for smoking pot.
I have been asked by universities in Sydney to be the guest speaker at marijuana smoke-ins. I could be the guest speaker at such a gathering and be surrounded by hundreds of young people smoking pot and the police would be nowhere in sight. Would all those people be arrested simply for smoking pot? Of course not. That is rubbish! The Government is promoting a myth. At Nimbin, for instance, bags of marijuana are openly raffled on specified drug days. Again the police are nowhere to be seen. It is equally ridiculous for anyone to paint a picture of a ruthless police crackdown, with police grabbing kids smoking reefers and putting them in gaol. That is the argument that has been advanced today. Do honourable members remember the
pot-smoking day in Martin Place? Hundreds of people gathered in Martin Place, just across the road, to smoke pot yet no-one was arrested.
The Hon. R. S. L. Jones: Should they have been?
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: I am just pointing out to honourable members that nothing happened. This emotional argument has been presented to encourage honourable members to vote for a bill which has no justification. Anyone tuning in to radio station 2JJJ - a government-run radio station - can hear the going prices for marijuana and be told what a great product it is. There is no crackdown on marijuana. Nothing is happening at all. I and other speakers strongly reject those false assertions. The members who oppose this bill have been accused by the Hon. R. S. L. Jones and others of wanting to send young boys to gaol where they will be raped. It has been suggested that we want to lock up young people and throw away the key. Rubbish! I and those who oppose this bill do not hold that view. All we want to do is protect young people from drugs. We want to prevent a dangerous and false message being sent to young people that marijuana is harmless.
Much has been said about the drug war. Those people who support the legislation say that they are opposed to a drug war, and those who oppose the legislation support a drug war and wish that there were one. I say that there is no drug war; that there has not been any real war against illegal drugs in Australia. There has not been a real war against drugs in the United States. Pop bands promoting marijuana and heroin have created a drug-use culture. Where is the war against drugs? Young people have been brainwashed into believing that drugs are a part of modern society. If there is a drug war, it is taking place in this House tonight between the pro-drug lobby and those who want to protect children from drugs and encourage a protective approach. The Hon. R. S. L. Jones said that the Government, in implementing this legislation, has taken one small step forward. The policy of the Greens in relation to drug use states:
The decriminalisation and eventual legalisation of all drugs, with regulation of production and distribution . . . The supply of drugs through government agencies as part of a drug rehabilitation program.
The policy refers to all drugs. The use of marijuana, heroin and cocaine would just be taken for granted. Those in favour of the bill claim that all it does is seek to make some minor changes to the law, but in fact the Greens really want to legalise all drugs. That is the battle that is being fought tonight in this Parliament. The New South Wales Greens’ policy platform applies also in the Federal sphere. The Australian Democrats have a similar policy, which states:
The Australian Democrats will legalise the possession of any drug designated for personal use up to defined limits.
The reference there is to any drug, not just marijuana. The policy states further:
The personal use of such designated drugs will be decriminalised by the Australian Democrats. The personal use of marijuana we fully legalise.
The people who are in favour of the bill say that it is just a fiddly little measure, but they want to decriminalise all drugs. Those of us who oppose it have drawn a line in the sand and said, "We will not accept that. We will not send any false messages to the youth of this nation." I tried to obtain, for the benefit of the Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann, the policy of the International Socialist Organisation, which obviously would be in favour of legalising all drugs. I was not able to obtain a copy of that policy. The honourable member might like to send me the policy statement of the organisation she has said she represents.
The Hon. Dr Meredith Burgmann: I did not say that I was an international socialist.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: The honourable member said she belonged to the International Socialist Organisation. I want to protect our youth from illegal drugs such as marijuana and heroin. I want our youth to be healthy and to be able to achieve their full potential. I want our youth to be able to think clearly. Everyone agrees that those who use marijuana are not able to think clearly. The passage of the bill through this House would mean that the pro-drug lobby has won the war tonight. However, if the bill is not passed, those who want to protect the youth of Australia will have won. The bill must not be allowed to pass through this House. The Hon. R. S. L. Jones said that it is only one small step forward, but the next steps will include: reducing fines, decriminalising marijuana use, decriminalising heroin use and setting up shooting galleries. I hope I am wrong and that we do not at some stage debate some of those propositions. Support for this bill is as phoney as the proposition that the bill must be passed to stop young boys being raped in gaol. If this bill is passed, the pro-drug lobby will have won a major victory.
Some people might say it would be only a minor step; but it would be a major strategic victory for the pro-drug lobby. There would be celebrations all over the country among its supporters. The passing of this bill would give some credibility to the pro-drug campaign. It would also give the public the perception that all recent evidence on the
harmfulness of marijuana is false, and it would influence young people to think that the drug is harmless. I had intended to quote from a number of documents, but to save the time of the House I will table them. Any members who are sincere, perhaps even members who are in favour of the bill, may look at some of this evidence. Some documents have already been referred to by other members.
I refer to a letter from Major Brian Watters, Commander of Rehabilitation Services, Salvation Army, dated 10 November 1997, pleading with us not to pass this bill. I received from the National Institute on Drug Abuse a document entitled "Marijuana: Facts for Teens" dated 2 January 1997. It is a very valuable document which I assume some people, even the Hon. R. S. L. Jones, have not read. Another valuable document from Drug Watch Australia dated 5 November 1997 deals with this bill and provides clear evidence of a large increase in marijuana use by young people as a result of similar changes to South Australian laws. It includes graphs showing that the level of marijuana use in South Australia has increased to 56.9 per cent, whereas in other States it is 25.6 per cent. Members can read that document at their leisure.
Drug Watch World News, Volume 1, No. 1 Spring 1997, reports similar debates in Sweden and other countries. A detailed letter from the Australian Family Association dated 10 November, signed by the State President, gives the association’s position in opposition to the bill and includes material dealing with the harmfulness of marijuana. An important document from PRYDE in Australia - Parents Reaching Youth through Drug Education - dated 5 November 1997, by Mrs Judy Gibson, honorary secretary, opposes the bill and attaches documented evidence. An academic paper entitled "Schizophrenia in users and non-users of cannabis", is a longitudinal study in Stockholm County, Sweden, of the behaviour and development of Swedish army conscripts who used cannabis.
A paper entitled "What every GP should know about marijuana", written by Dr Hardin B. Jones, Professor of Medical Physics and Physiology at the University of California, Berkeley, and Assistant Director of the Donner Laboratory, now deceased, reports on a study of the effects of marijuana involving about 1,200 students conducted over a long period at the university. Another paper presented to me by Teen Challenge New South Wales entitled "Legalisation - the Mood Altering Debate", and written by Reverend Lance Mergard, former executive director of Teen Challenge, addresses the subject of legalisation of certain current illegal drugs.
A publication by Elaine Walters entitled "Prohibition, it really works" includes statistics. For example, during the time of acceptance of marijuana in the United States of America, in 1979 some 17.6 per cent of 12- to 17-year-olds said that they had used an illicit drug in the past month. After a tough policy on drugs was introduced the figure decreased from 17.6 to 6.1 per cent. For 18- to 25-year-olds use dropped from 37.1 per cent to 13 per cent. The same occurred in Sweden when that country adopted a tough policy of zero tolerance on drugs. The following comparisons were made in the paper. Lifetime prevalence of drug use amongst 12- to 14-year-olds in 1991: in Australia 52 per cent, in Sweden 9 per cent. One-year prevalence of drug use amongst 14- to 24-year-olds in 1991: in Australia 33 per cent, in Sweden 2 per cent. That is an indication of what can be achieved when nations wake up. Sweden originally went in the wrong direction, but the reversal of its policies has had a remarkable effect on the attitude of its young people to marijuana use. Education works, and that is why we support that policy. I seek leave to table those documents.
To conclude, it is important to note, perhaps more important than some might realise, that during this debate here and in the other place the Prime Minister announced his policy Tough on Drugs on 2 November. The Prime Minister said:
I am pleased to announce a tough new campaign to combat the drugs menace facing Australian families.
He outlined his plan as the first instalment being in three stages: attacking the drug barons, protecting our children and rehabilitation and research. What a tragedy that at the same time as the Prime Minister, with a genuine sincerity and desire to protect the youth of our nation, set up that new policy this Parliament was debating a move in the other direction. Other speakers, such as the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith, have related detailed material on the medical aspects of marijuana use. I will not add similar material. In the interests of time I conclude my remarks by urging the House to reject this bill. Let us not take that first small step that will lead us down a certain pathway. Let us say no to soft policies on drugs.
The Hon. J. W. SHAW (Attorney General, and Minister for Industrial Relations) [10.56 p.m.], in reply: I thank all honourable members who have made contributions to the debate. Certainly a wide diversity of opinions have been expressed, and in many cases with some passion. It is important that several points are stressed. First, the bill is directed only at those offences which, I imagine all honourable members would agree, lie at the lowest end of the spectrum of illicit drug offences. That is
true because the bill relates on the one hand only to cannabis and on the other hand only to small quantities. The bill ensures that it is only the most minor offences that will no longer be punishable by gaol sentences.
Secondly, as the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby explained at length, the bill in no way alters the criminal status of those offences. Offenders will still be liable to arrest, still be required to attend court, still be liable to substantial monetary penalties and to enforcement of those penalties, and still be liable, as for any other offence, to criminal conviction. The bill is not about decriminalisation; less still is it about gradualism. It is about harm minimisation. A number of speakers claimed that is not the perception of the bill in the community. If to some extent the community has misunderstood the bill, one tends to suspect that opponents to the bill have contributed to that misunderstanding. The observations of the Hon. R. S. L. Jones regarding the comments of the shadow attorney general on radio 2BL are instructive in that regard.
Thirdly, despite what has been asserted about offences of supply, the bill does not alter in any way the provisions of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act that deal with supply. Any act of supply that involves cannabis, no matter how small the quantity of drug involved, will continue to carry maximum penalties of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $220,000. Arguments about the health impacts of cannabis and about its role as a gateway drug could continue, and of course have continued well into the night. Quite simply, medical knowledge is incomplete. During the course of debate members on both sides of the House have quoted from a number of expert sources, but there is little sign of an emerging consensus on this point.
It is perhaps a matter of some regret that at times there has been a tendency for some members to refer selectively to authoritative sources. That can never be instructive. It is pleasing that the publications that may well be the most instructive are those prepared on behalf of Australia’s own National Drug Strategy Committee, such as that referred to by the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith - National Drug Strategy Monograph Series No. 25, "Health and Psychological Consequences of Cannabis Use". A 1995 publication prepared by the Australian Institute of Criminology and entitled "The Social Impact of Legislative Options for Cannabis in Australia" summarises the research done by the National Drug Strategy Committee prior to that date. That publication says of the study to which the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith referred:
A central conclusion which may be drawn from the review is that, although adverse impacts on health and psychological functioning certainly result from cannabis consumption, those impacts are not so serious as to justify (on their own) the total prohibition of the drug.
Significantly, the review also accepts that the health consequences of cannabis are certainly no more harmful than those of legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco. Furthermore, unlike alcohol, cannabis is not associated with violent behaviour. A 1992 study quoted by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research found that 34 per cent of New South Wales adult offenders had been drinking before they had committed their most serious offence. Of that 34 per cent, 67 per cent had consumed more than 12 standard drinks. Furthermore, the majority of offenders convicted of assault admitted to being under the influence of alcohol at the time of the offence.
From a different perspective, referring again to the National Drug Strategy Report No. 25, there is reasonable evidence that the THC component in cannabis has a number of legitimate therapeutic uses. For example, the paper says that there is reasonable evidence that THC is an effective anti-emetic agent for patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy, especially those whose nausea has proved resistant to other anti-emetic drugs. There is also reasonable evidence for the potential efficacy of cannabis in the treatment of glaucoma, especially in cases which have proved resistant to existing antiglaucoma agents. To quote from the report:
Further research is required to establish the effectiveness and safety of long-term use, but this should not prevent its use under medical supervision in individuals with poorly controlled glaucoma.
The report goes on to state that there is sufficient evidence of the potential usefulness of various cannabinoids as antispasmodic and anticonvulsant agents to warrant further clinical research into their effectiveness. Moreover, there are other potential therapeutic uses which require more basic pharmacological and experimental investigation, including analgesic and anti-asthma uses. One area of particular interest is that of assisting patients with HIV-AIDS related conditions, particularly in terms of counteracting weight loss, improving mood and easing pain. In any event, to enter into argument about the health consequences of cannabis use, whether those consequences be harmful or beneficial, is ultimately to miss the point. Unless it were clear that the bill would result in an increase in cannabis use, its effects on health are irrelevant to this debate. On that point, the most reliable sources indicate that the removal of gaol penalties for minor
cannabis offences will not lead to an increase in cannabis use.
The 1995 publication entitled "The Social Impact of Legislative Options for Cannabis in Australia" to which I earlier referred has examined this question in depth. The report states that in a number of countries - including Australia, the United States of America and The Netherlands - it has been observed that a small degree of liberalisation of the law such as removing criminal sanctions for minor cannabis offences or not prosecuting such offences does not appear to have resulted in significant increases in levels of cannabis use; nor, it appears, in changes in the patterns of use. It is true, as described by the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith, that statistics from South Australia reveal that the total number of minor cannabis offences detected in that State has increased significantly since the introduction of that State’s cannabis expiation scheme. However, according to the report to which I have referred current findings indicate that at the same time as that increase in offences the use of cannabis in South Australia has increased only slightly and at a rate similar to that in States which do not have expiation schemes.
In the light of that material it is all the more understandable that the rather conservative government in South Australia is showing no signs of changing its decriminalisation law - a more radical position than that which is suggested in New South Wales. Nor are the Liberals in the Australian Capital Territory suggesting any change in their laws - again a more radical position than that which is proposed in New South Wales. Researchers believe that the increase in detected offences in South Australia is due largely to changes in police enforcement activity rather than to an increase in cannabis use in the community. Essentially, expiation notices can be issued in situations in which police previously may have chosen to issue warnings, especially when very small amounts of cannabis are involved.
Anyone wanting verification of these facts need only to read thoroughly monograph No. 27, "The Social Impact of Legislative Options for Cannabis in Australia". However, even if it were true that decriminalisation - that is, the expiation approach - had led to an increase in use, it certainly does not follow that the removal of gaol penalties would have the same effect. Unlike in South Australia, offenders in New South Wales will continue to be charged, taken before court and subjected to the possibility of a criminal conviction. As to the frequency of offenders being gaoled for minor cannabis offences, there appears to have been some confusion among members of the Opposition as to what argument they should adopt. The Leader of the Opposition asserted that gaoling is used and that is precisely why it should be retained as a sentencing option. Others argued that gaoling is not used and therefore the bill is simply unnecessary.
Some facts are clear: while in the vast majority of cases judicial officers accept that a gaol penalty would be inappropriate, the fact is that some people are still being sent to gaol for offences involving simple possession. According to New South Wales Criminal Court Statistics 1996, published by the BOCSAR, in that year the number of people sentenced to full-time imprisonment for possession or use of cannabis, when that offence was the principal offence charged, was 93. The Government is committed to seeing that that does not continue to happen. The level of criminality involved in such offences does not justify the real risks that prison entails. Those risks have been described during the debate in general terms and also quite graphically in relation to several specific cases referred to.
If the law is ever to triumph in the battle against drugs one thing that is certain is that the law must have the respect of the community. When the law makes a pretence of asserting that minor offences should be met with the full force of the law, including incarceration, it simply loses credibility. Countless assertions were made in debate that the community is opposed to the bill and that the Government is out of touch with the community. The facts are to the contrary, as was demonstrated by a Herald, Nielsen, McNair poll published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 19 August 1997. According to the poll, 68 per cent of New South Wales voters support the abolition of gaol sentences for possession of small amounts of cannabis. Only 27 per cent were opposed to such a reform. Moreover, the consensus in favour of reform exists across the age spectrum, as demonstrated by the fact that the level of support amongst those aged 40 to 54 years was 66 per cent.
Most interesting of all was the finding that the reforms proposed by this bill were supported by a substantial majority - 65 per cent - of coalition voters. So much for the Government being out of touch with the community! On a separate point, the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby raised in her speech the question of whether there is perhaps good reason for the repeal altogether of the offences of self-administration in section 12 and of possession of equipment for use in self-administration in section 11. She pointed out that amendments that have been made to those provisions for the sake of harm minimisation have given rise to what are arguably anomalies in those sections. We regard those arguments as matters of interest but subjects for another day to be separately considered, and we do not intend to deal with them in the current debate.
I conclude by observing that, as those entrusted with the welfare of the community that we serve, it is our duty to ensure that the laws of the State are built upon sure and realistic foundations. In other words, criminal penalties should be congruent with the degree of moral culpability attached to the offence. The criminal law retains its legitimacy if the penalties are seen to be in proportion to the moral turpitude of the crime which is alleged against an individual. If we have penalties, including gaol penalties, which are generally not being applied or being applied only in an aberrant and perhaps unsatisfactory way, the duty of a government, the duty of a parliament, is to adjust those penalties in order to get them into rational proportion to the gravity of the offence. This bill presents honourable members with an invitation to show leadership to the community by taking a mature and informed step in response to the issue. I urge honourable members to grasp that opportunity.
We must turn our attention to the larger issues concerning drug abuse. We must do something to address the more than 300 heroin overdose deaths that occurred last year. We must establish legal structures that will allow the Mr Bigs of the drug trade to be caught and punished. We must invest in scientific and medical research that will allow us to more successfully go about rehabilitating members of our community who are victims of the illness of addiction. In short, the task is to deal with this problem calmly, carefully and effectively. The concept of not sending to gaol young people who simply use or possess small quantities of marijuana is part and parcel of a rational strategy or package.
I do not understand many members of this House to be saying that gaol is appropriate for young persons who use or possess small quantities of marijuana - and it is a young person’s pattern of behaviour. For all the red herrings, for all the tangential points, at the end of the day I do not think the many civilised and liberal-minded members of the Opposition are in fact saying that these young people ought to go to gaol. If that be the case, if there be that common ground, we must get the criminal law into alignment with what members of this House think is a proportionate and appropriate penalty. I commend the bill to the House.
Question - That this bill be now read a second time - put.
The House divided.
Dr Burgmann Mr Macdonald
Ms Burnswoods Mr Obeid
Mr Cohen Mr Primrose
Mr Corbett Ms Saffin
Mr Egan Mr Shaw
Mr Johnson Mrs Symonds
Mr Jones Mr Vaughan
Mr Kaldis Tellers,
Mr Kelly Mrs Isaksen
Ms Kirkby Mr Manson
Mrs Arena Rev. Nile
Mr Bull Dr Pezzutti
Mrs Chadwick Mr Ryan
Mrs Forsythe Mr Samios
Mr Gallacher Mrs Sham-Ho
Miss Gardiner Mr Rowland Smith
Dr Goldsmith Mr Tingle
Mr Kersten Tellers,
Mr Lynn Mr Jobling
Mrs Nile Mr Moppett
Mr Dyer Mr Willis
Question so resolved in the negative.
INTERNATIONAL TRANSFER OF PRISONERS (NEW SOUTH WALES) BILL
HEALTH SERVICES BILL
PUBLIC HEALTH AMENDMENT (TOBACCO ADVERTISING) BILL
Bills received and, by leave, read a first time.
Suspension of standing orders agreed to.
Motion by the Hon. M. R. Egan agreed to:
That this House at its rising today do adjourn until Tuesday, 25 November 1997 at 2.30 p.m.
House adjourned at 11.21 p.m.