Page 2287 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 3 August 2022
but it will build a more compassionate society that cares for those who need our care the most.
I am grateful to all of those that have supported our work on this policy to date over the decades, years, months and weeks which have led to this point. That includes—it is by no means an extensive list—the Australian Drug Foundation, ATODA, ACTCOSS, CAHMA, the ANU Drug Research Network, the Drug Policy Modelling Program at the University of New South Wales, Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform, Unharm, the Uniting Church, the Ted Noffs Foundation, Directions Health Services, the ACT Justice Reform Group, and Canberra Community Law.
I encourage the sceptics in this place to pick up the phone and educate themselves. There are incredibly bright, diligent, hardworking people in our community who know what they are talking about in this space. If your intent is to reduce harm rather than use some of our most vulnerable in the intersecting diagram that I mentioned before as your cheap political football, you will make an effort to educate yourself and come to a more enlightened view.
We have seven weeks from today to synthesise this work down to the detail of the bill that is before us. Now is the time, in keeping with my old man’s expression, that we should do the job, and do it properly.
MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Families and Community Services and Minister for Health) (3.43): I rise in support of the Drugs of Dependence (Personal Use) Amendment Bill in this in-principle debate. This bill is a private member’s bill, originally introduced by my colleague Mr Pettersson into the Assembly on 11 February 2021. As you will recall, Madam Speaker, the bill was referred to a select committee, which tabled its recommendations at the end of November 2021, and the government responded to these in June this year.
The government is supporting the private member’s bill, but I have circulated significant government amendments to help it to better meet Mr Pettersson’s intent when he introduced this nation-leading proposal to ensure a health-focused response to illicit drug possession and increase diversion away from the criminal justice system. The proposed accompanying changes to the Drugs of Dependence Regulation 2009 that have now been circulated will support these changes.
The bill seeks to reduce the penalties for personal possession of some of the more commonly used illicit drugs in Canberra, in line with modern community expectations—and we know that because we have asked people. The government is proposing considered, progressive, evidence-based amendments to ensure that the bill can best be implemented to achieve its goals—supporting people who have health needs to access the care they need while at the same time reducing the stigma associated with illicit drug use, to facilitate that access.
The government do not condone drug use. We acknowledge and we say regularly that the use of illicit drugs remains risky, and it is dangerous to consume illicit drugs. However, we know that people do it, and we know that threatening people with