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





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Northern Territory Legislative Assembly

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Tuesday 27 February 1990 wherever, should he or she be arrested, taken before a court and thrown into jail for up to 2 years? That demonstrates the ridiculousness of this proposal. It will be seen to be ridiculous that the government can sit here and argue an extreme position like that because, as I said before, it tells the people of the Northern Territory a lie. It asks them to accept a set of penalties which are far higher than penalties elsewhere in Australia and far higher than people believe should apply to such an offence. That is the problem that the government has and that is why this legislation will not work. Significant elements of it will be ignored by the community in general, by the police and by the legislators. The problem is that it makes the law an ass. It is easy to crit i ci se and I want to propose an a 1 ternat i ve approach. I hope that, at some future time, the government will consider an a 1 ternat i ve approach, not that thi s government will be there a 11 that much longer to be able to do it. However, before I talk about that alternative approach, as a gesture of our concern, I want to say that this is a sufficiently important problem and there is sufficient doubt about the effectiveness of this proposed legislation in coming to grips with the problem that there needs to be some type of committee established to monitor the legislation. Mr Collins: Who was anti-committee a little while ago? Mr SMITH: At one time, I had intended to propose that it should be a parliamentary committee. In fact, my briefing note says that, but I no longer think that is appropriate. That is probably too high-powered. However, I hope the Attorney-General will put in place a monitoring committee, as he did with the new police powers, to assess the effectiveness of this package of legislation and to determine whether it is meeting the the government's objectives because there is a serious doubt in the community about whether those objectives will be attained. Let me suggest an alternative approach: that we design penalties to fit the nature of the offence and penalties that are consi stent with current social values and legal practice in other places. For example, in terms of existing social values, growing one's own marijuana is regarded as a minor offence and the penalties should reflect that and people should not be jailed for it. On the other hand, there is growing abhorrence of the activities of drug traffickers and that must be reflected in the legislation as well. By doing that, the legislation will reflect what the community is saying and a very clear and strong message will be delivered to the kids. Of course, much of thi sis aimed at those kids. That would deliver a very strong message to them that we take the issue of drugs seriously and we take it responsibly, instead of this largely window-dressing exercise that we have in front of us. We would not have 2 years jail and a $5000 fine for the personal use of marijuana, but perhaps smaller fines and community service orders. That is a judgment that is more in line with the attitude and the thoughts of most people on that question. We need also to focus on drug prevention, and we need to include alcohol and tobacco in that. The member for MacDonnell is right in saying that alcohol and tobacco kill far more people than other drugs do, even when you include hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Lung cancer, caused directly by tobacco, is the largest killer of adult people in Australia at present and it has been for the last 15 to 20 years. What does the Territory government do about that? Not too much, Mr Speaker. Nevertheless, it is content with sending people who have 1 marijuana plant in their windowsill to jail for 2 years. That says a great deal about priorities. 8839