Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2022 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 9 June 2022) . . Page.. 1920 ..
hardworking ACT public servants who have worked diligently on the government’s response since the bill came before the Assembly.
I am so pleased to see the ACT government’s response. I think it is sensible and measured, and I wholeheartedly support it. I believe that the model proposed by the ACT government is one that all Canberrans can support. It seeks to remove people from the criminal justice system for the possession of small amounts of drugs for their own personal use. It does this by placing diversion on an equal footing to that of a civil penalty. This will mean that if you are found in possession of these substances by a police officer, in small quantities for your own personal use, you will have the drugs confiscated and you will receive a fine or a diversion to an appropriate health service. If you possess larger quantities, above and beyond the thresholds of this scheme, you would still be liable to proceed through the criminal justice system.
I look forward to this bill being brought back for debate, where I think I will contribute more substantively. I will consult with colleagues in the coming days about a suitable sitting period for the bill to be considered in, as well as the time frame for the public release of the ACT government’s proposed amendments. I have said for a very long time that Canberrans are ready for a sensible conversation about our drug laws. For many years we have been having that conversation, and now I look forward to this Assembly taking the next sensible step. It is time to decriminalise the possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use. It is time to treat drug use like the public health issue it is.
MR HANSON (Murrumbidgee) (11.10): I wish to raise concerns about what is being proposed by the government. A couple of aspects in particular arise from Mr Pettersson’s bill. Mr Assistant Speaker Cain, as you would be aware, as you sat on the committee that inquired into this, although there was a committee report that supported the passage of this legislation, you provided a dissenting report that recommended that the legislation not be passed. You outlined your reasons in that dissenting report.
Without going through it in detail, you made the point that it fails to offer a whole-of-government approach to a complex policy area; it fails to consider the risks and unintended consequences involved in decriminalisation; it fails to recognise that criminalising possession is, for many, a deterrent to adopting such a behaviour; it fails to recognise that diversion in the ACT is already working reasonably well; and it fails to satisfactorily resolve the issues around the conflict with criminal law. I, certainly, and the Canberra Liberals, support that dissenting report that was tabled. I point members to that report.
I often hear in this place, “Listen to the experts. What are the experts saying on this?” We have heard a multitude of voices in this debate, but I would like to add the voice of our frontline police. That is a voice that has been absent from the speeches that we have heard from those opposite, but it raises concerns. I want to quote from the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police. He is our top cop. He is a most experienced police officer, responsible for AFP matters across Australia. He knows more about law enforcement, it is fair to say, than Mr Pettersson.