Parliamentary record : Part I debates (27 February 1990)
Debates for 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Tuesday 27 February 1990 about the penalties that are being imposed. They will realise that the absurd rhetoric that we have heard from the government on this issue simply does not measure up to the world in which they find themselves. We wi 11 be creating more problems for them and we should stand condemned. That is the reason why the oppos it ion is not prepared to sha r.e the government's vi ew on this. We are not prepared to stand condemned in the same way as it will be. This was an attempted political fix. As all honourable members and the Northern Territory community remember, the government tri ed to attach thi s to the sensible needle exchange legislation. Mr Speaker, you can almost hear the Cabinet debate on it: 'Look, this needle exchange business is a bit soft and therefore we will jack up the other side by being as tough as blazes on drugs'. It is absurd. It simply does not stand up to a moment's investigation. People who have kids of their own and who are trying to steer them through to some sort of sensible approach to the world around them will not be impressed by this type of simplistic approach to drug abuse. I believe that the government's approach to this matter is something for which it should be condemned. Of course, mine is not a lone voice in that regard. We note that there have been serious concerns expressed about this legislation by various organisations, and I refer to organisations such as the Darwin and District Drug and A 1 coho 1 Dependence Foundation. It has expressed seri ous concern about this legislation and, among other things, it says: 'Substance abuse is a complex social, cultural and political problem. To address this issue in a positive manner, we must have a united effort by government, pol ice, correctional services and health and community services. It is our desire as drug educators and counsellors to work closely with the legal and judicial system. Law enforcement should be swift, but it must be balanced with an educated assessment of the problems'. The foundation went on to outline areas of concern with respect to this legislation. Its particular concerns relate to the drug types contained in the schedule to the Misuse of Drugs Bill and the amounts of drugs contained, the circumstances and settings in which an offence occurs and the possession of things for the admini strati on of drugs, the prescription of drugs, and the question of volatile substances. I propose to comment on each of those matters. The lists contained in schedules 1 and 2 are the subject of an agreement between the Commonwealth, the states and the Territory and they are common to all jurisdictions. This national continuity is good. However, I query the criteria used to determine which drugs should be placed in schedule 1. I suggest that many of the drugs in schedule 2 are equally as dangerous as those in schedule 1. I cite as examples morphine, opium, pethidine, fentanyl and amphetamines. I refer also to clause 3, the interpretation clause, which refers to drug analogues - the illicitly-designed drugs. This aspect of the bill is to be commended. However, I wish to query whether it has covered the possibil ity of a drug being designed from a schedule 2 drug and whi ch has the potential to be more dangerous than those in schedul e 1. Fentanyl and its derivatives provide a good example. In 1980 in California, it was determined that 15 deaths in 1 year were a result of a synthetic heroin called china white. Subsequently, china white was found to be derived from fentanyl. Considering the significant difference in penalties for the 2 schedules, I feel that this issue requires more attention. I turn to the question of amounts of drugs. Quantities have been set rigidly in order to avoid problems encountered in the past due to presumption and deeming provisions. However, this precaution has led to a bill which has no provision for that sector of the community which indulges in ill icit . drug use for experimental and recreational use. I refer the 8830
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