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 government has then resorted to the measure which it has criticised in other states - namely, instigation of heavier penalties. Secondly, the government has not thoroughly researched the type of drugs available in schools nor the process by which they are procured. Thirdly, if we succeed in getting drugs out of public places by means of legislation, the transfer of illicit substances will occur more frequently in the home. I wonder whether this is not the very place where we would hope children and young people would not be exposed to such activity. The fact is that both legal and illicit drugs are the subject of experimentation by young people. The concept of the drug pusher is a myth. Current research confirms that most drug sales take place at medium and low level between friends, that the buyer seeks the seller as mucH as the reverse and that drugs are not pushed at all. These are the views which are coming through from the authorities. These hard facts, the result of considerable thought by professionals in this area, disagree profoundly with the proposals in this legislation. The point I wish to make is that children will choose to experiment or not to experiment with drugs according to their education and the values instilled in them by parents and teachers. I do not believe, in that regard, that the sort of penalties and the approach implied by this legislation is appropriate. I turn now to the possession of things for the administration of dangerous drugs. One of the'concerns expressed in this regard is that, ironically, the bill's provisions may have an adverse effect on the needle exchange program. I say 'ironically' because, as I mentioned earl ier, the needle exchange provi sions were originally bracketed with thi s legislation. The main aim of the needle exchange program is to lessen the spread of AIDS by encQuragi ng the use of clean hypodermi c syri nges. One of the main avenues of education in this regard is by users educating other users. If this is discouraged by legislation designed to penalise those who supply their friends with a clean hypodermic, we will defeat our own purpose. I turn now to prescription drugs. It is pleasing to see these drugs included in the bill and it is worth drawing the attention of the government to the high number of'deaths in Australia related to prescription drugs. The Commonwealth Department of Community Services and Health statistics indicate that there were 581 such deaths in 1980, 590 in 1981, 519 in 1983 and 483 in 1984. These drugs have been and continue to be a major substance abuse problem. It is interesting to note that, whilst palthium is classified in schedule 2 to the bill, it very closely resembles heroin, is widely abused in Australia via forgery and theft and is sometimes fatal. Turning now to volatile substances, I note that the Attorney-General said in his second-reading speech that the 'bill contains proposals designed to deal directly and specifically with the problems we face in the Northern Territory'. He went on to say that the particular problems we have in the Territory are that young people make up a far greater proportion of the community than they do anywhere else in Australia and that, also, we have more Aboriginal people than live elsewhere. That, of course, is not the case. There are more Aboriginal people in New South Wales than there are in the Northern Territory. However, I digress. It may be suggested that, if the minister's comments in his second-reading speech are substantially true, perhaps the particular question of volatile substances should have been addressed in thi s bill. The decision to impose a penalty only on those who sell or supply a volatile substance is understood. I would like to stress that the use of volatile substances in Aboriginal communities is high, with consequent very serious 8832