Controlled Substances (Simple Possession Offences) Amendment Bill | SPEECH


Second reading

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 17:30 :22 ): I will be fairly brief and I highlight the fact that I am not the lead speaker. The member for Morialta will be our lead speaker. As you might know, I have quite a bit of history in this place with this issue and I support the government in what it is trying to do by bringing forward the Controlled Substances (Simple Possession Offences) Amendment Bill.

In summary, this bill essentially tries to deal with the fact that currently, if someone is charged with serious drug offences like manufacturing but they happen also to possess a personal quantity about themselves, they are caught up in the drug diversion process in addition to their serious charges. Given that these offenders are already caught up in the criminal justice system, this is a pointless waste of time. The government’s bill would stop a person charged with a serious drug offence from also being diverted under this scheme for a simple possession offence that has arisen at the same time, and that is sensible. The reason that is sensible is because the drug diversion system at the moment is not sensible in that it can be applied to a person an unlimited number of times.

I put a bill to this house to propose that if a person was caught with a small, non-trafficable amount for personal use for whatever ridiculous reasons—and I cannot accept that that is necessary—but if they were caught with small personal use quantity of drugs on their person, they would not go to court but they would get an opportunity to redeem themselves and participate in a drug diversion program. If it happened again, they would get another opportunity to do that, to see the error of their ways, get educated, try to improve their life and their whole situation. But if they got done a third time, bad luck, off to court is what I think should happen, but the law at the moment is that that can happen over and over again, and there is a case of one person where this has happened 34 times—that is, 34 times caught with a small personal use amount of drugs. They say, ‘I’m really sorry, I’m a terribly bad boy, send me off to a drug diversion program again.’

People deserve a chance to redeem themselves, people deserve a chance to improve, whether it is because they are just going through a dreadful time in their life and they need something to help them recognise that and get out of it or whether it is an addiction or the edge of an addiction problem and they need help to get off of that—no problem, people deserve a chance to get themselves back on the straight and narrow. I would not want to clog up the courts either with sending every single person who was ever caught with a tiny amount of drugs straight to court. However, an unlimited number of opportunities is absolutely ridiculous. When somebody does it five, six, 10, 20 or 30 times, they are either not redeemable—and let’s hope they are redeemable—but if they are redeemable the system is not helping them redeem themselves. One way or the other, it is crazy to keep having to send them off.

So, the government knocked me back on that, I think, under very poor judgement. The member for Morialta then, when we changed portfolios and he became the shadow minister for police, tried to do exactly the same thing hoping that the government had a bit more time, seen the error of their ways and really could understand that an unlimited opportunity to go to a drug diversion program was ridiculous. The government could easily have said, ‘Look, we understand the principle. We are not comfortable that on your third time you lose the opportunity and you must face a magistrate.’ The government, if it wanted to, could have said, ‘Oh, maybe it should be the fourth or maybe it should be the fifth,’ but it just said, at the time, ‘No, we are happy with the unlimited opportunity for people to go.’

It is important to point out that sending somebody off to court does not mean they are going to gaol, it does not mean they going to get their head chopped off, it does not even mean that the magistrate could not, if he or she wanted, decide, ‘Do you know what? I still think you deserve another turn.’ The magistrate could say, ‘You’ve been caught twice, you’ve gone—apparently—and participated in the drug diversion program twice, and you have come to me because you’ve been caught a third time. I actually do think you deserve a third opportunity.’ It does not preclude the chance for that person, if a magistrate thought he or she deserved it, to get another go with a drug diversion program. The key thing is that the magistrate would decide, not the offender.

That is a quick summary of the history of how we got to where we are today with the government’s bill, which essentially—and I just read a quick summary of it—says, ‘Look, if you are busted for both at once, a serious drug offence and a very minor drug offence, then you don’t get the chance to just opt for the drug diversions. We will only deal with you, essentially, for the serious drug offence,’ whether that be manufacturing or trafficking or dealing, or whatever it might happen to be, but something far more serious than being in possession of just a small quantity of low level drugs for personal use.

I support that principle entirely, but it still leaves wide open the opportunity for somebody who is not caught as a drug dealer—they may, in fact, be a drug dealer but they are not caught as a drug dealer—to just keep going endlessly, an unlimited number of times, off to the drug diversion programs. So I think there is still work to be done in this space, but I certainly support the government at least making the effort they have made at the moment with this bill. I support it, and the opposition supports it.