Territory Stories

Parliamentary record : Part I debates (27 February 1990)



Parliamentary record : Part I debates (27 February 1990)


Debates for 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





Publisher name

Northern Territory Legislative Assembly

Place of publication


File type



Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

Copyright owner

Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



Parent handle


Citation address


Page content

DEBATES - Tuesday 27 February 1990 are so out of kilter as parts of this proposed legislation are, the law will be brought into disrepute. The police will be asked to take on an extremely unpopular target and the end result will be that the law will be ignored. That will have the reverse effect to what people are trying to achieve with this legislation. We will not have law-abiding citizens obeying what they consider to be a reasonable law but, in respect of the personal use of marijuana, citizens flagrantly disobeying the law. That will be the impact of this legislation and that is why we will oppose it. The emphasis is wrong. This legislation does not reflect the real problems relating to drug use in the Northern Territory and, more broadly, in Australia. There are good aspects to the legislation. For example, we support the aggravating circumstance provision which says that offences committed on or in licensed premises, schools, playgrounds, youth centres etc should attract additional penalties. However, I make the point again that very little drug pushing occurs in schools in the Northern Territory or, as I understand it, in other places. The evidence indicates that it is not outsiders who are pushing drugs in schools. It is school kids handing drugs on to each other and that is something that needs to be taken into consideration as well. We also support the flexibility which will enable the rapid inclusion of designer drugs in the appropriate schedule as they come on the market. That is sensible, and the government is to be congratulated for it. Also, we support the tougher penalties for traffickers in drugs. They are the real scourge. Particularly elsewhere, but perhaps increasingly in the Northern Territory, they are making life unpleasant for many people and, in many cases, are leading people into a life of addiction. We want to get them as much as members opposite do, and let there be no mistake about that. However, the experience in the Australian states and in other parts of the world is quite clear: prohibition and increased penalties do not work when they are out of kilter with existing community attitudes. When it took the government almost 12 months to bring on this legislation, 12 months after it had discharged its original legislation, I began to thi nk that it was starting to heed the message that was bei ng transmitted by increasingly prominent people such as Senator Peter Baume and Dr Steven Mugford of the ANU who is on the parliamentary Joint Committee of the NCA Inquiry into Drugs Crime in Society. People like that are saying that this indiscriminate, hardline approach to the problem of drugs in Australia is no longer appropriate and that we need to be extremely careful about the messages that we are trying to send our kids. We need to tell them, without any doubt or hesitation, that hard drugs are off the agenda and that anyone who deals in them will be dealt with severely. We need to tell them dealing commercially in drugs such as marijuana is off the agenda as well. I think that is appropriate. However, to go to the ridiculous situation, as the government has with this legislation, and make it possible for someone to be thrown into jail for 2 years or fined $5000 for the crime of having a marijuana plant on his windowsill is to make an ass of the law. Mr Manzie: $2000 actually. Mr SMITH: If it were taken seriously, I could say without fear of contradiction that 50% of the government staff in the TID building would probably end up in jail because that is how widespread the use of marijuana is in this community. If each of us were to be honest, we could all say that we know people in this community who smoke marijuana, and I defy any member to stand up in this Chamber and deny that. I want honourable members then to ask themselves a follow-Vp question. If that person is growing his or her own marijuana plant in a pot on the windowsill or in the backyard or 8838