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 honourab 1 e mi n i ster to hi s second-readi ng speech in whi ch he sa i d: 'Some people are ambivalent in their attitude to drugs in relation to so-called possession for personal use. I use the phrase 'so-called' deliberately. The reality is that comparatively few such people exist'. That statement is grossly inaccurate, as current statistics indicate. Firstly, 60 000 Austra li ans i ndul ge in i rregul ar recreat i ona 1, non-dependent use of heroi n. Secondly, 28% of the Australian population over the age of 14 years and 50% of males aged 20 to 39 have used marijuana at some time. These statistics come from 'Drug Abuse in Australia' published in 1988. Commercial quantities in these bills are generally set at lesser amounts than in other states and have no provision for differentiation between small and large commercial quantities. This indicates that the government will deal swiftly with those seeking profit from commercial trade. Trafficable quantities are a matter of much concern to those who work closely with the community and with people experiencing problems in relation to substance abuse. Phencyc 1 i di ne, whi ch has in the past demon strated dangerous acute effects such as acute behavioural toxicity, is well placed in schedule 1 with a small trafficable quantity. The same applies to lysergic acid. As far as cocaine is concerned, the view of the people from Amity House is that they have had insufficient contact to comment. The particular drug which I would like to discuss in relation to trafficable quantities is heroin. In the case of heroin, the government indicates its good intentions with a view to catching anyone who wishes to profit on a small scale. I refer to the second-reading speech in which the minister said: 'The trafficable quantity has been set at 4 times the therapeutic dose. This is far more than any individual can be expected to use at anyone time. There is, at the very least, a capacity to share'. This is a very naive perception of how things really are in the Northern Territory or elsewhere in Australia. The fact is that many people wi th a heroi n dependency can and do purchase between 1 g and 2 g of pure heroin for their own personal use. There is, of course, a capaci ty to share. Thi sis a mutua 1 arrangement between fri ends to ass i st each other in the ma i ntenance of thei r habit and to prevent the ill-effects of wi thdrawa 1. I am not suggesting for a moment that thi s behaviour should be encouraged. What we are saying is that the heavier penalties are an inappropriate means of dealing with illicit trafficking. They have proven unsuccessful in the past and there is a whole raft of authorities to support that view. I turn now to marijuana. A number of myths and misconceptions are quoted in respect of marijuana. Much has been documented about this drug. I am not going to take up a great deal of the Assembly's time in elaborating in that regard. It is sufficient to say that it has proven to be more harmful than alcohol in some respects and probably less harmful in others. It is widely used by a large cross-section of our population for recreational purposes. As has been mentioned in the statistics in 'Drug Abuse in Australia', 28% of the Australian population aged 14 years and over and 50% of males aged 20 to 39 have used marijuana. It is disappointing to see that the government has taken such an unimaginative approach to marijuana. In respect of circumstances and settings in which an offence occurs, the government has indicated good intentions. It has endeavoured to be original in addressing the problems according to specific Territory needs, and the minister gave an indication of that in his second-reading speech. We acknowledge that consideration of the context in which an offence occurs is a positive perspective. However, there are some concerns. Firstly, having identified these areas as those requiring particular attention, the 8831