Page 2298 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 3 August 2022
People on the front line of health services have also raised their objections to decriminalising hard drugs. In their submission to the inquiry, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, ACT branch, observed:
Decriminalisation of dangerous drugs may increase use—
I repeat: “may increase use”. This is the Pharmacy Guild, which is on the front line of delivering health services. It said:
… may increase use and therefore increase the presentation of people at treatment centres and pharmacies, and increase the burden on the Territory’s resources over time.
That is why they did not support this legislation. They suggested instead that the ACT government continue to focus on current treatment and harm minimisation programs and increase focus on early intervention and education programs. I support that.
As I said at the outset, this is a bad bill and it was done in bad faith. The government said they would do an investigation; they did not. Instead this bill was tabled, decriminalising heroin and meth, without an investigation being done.
Bringing on these laws will not mean less harm. It will actually mean there will be more addicts, more pain and more death. If you decriminalise these drugs, the red carpet will be rolled out, as has been said, for organised crime. We will see people who are addicted to these substances in regional areas, or elsewhere in Australia, coming to Canberra. I agree with the police that these laws will make Canberra a more dangerous and damaging place.
We will not support this bill. It is a flawed piece of legislation. I am not sure whether it is well intentioned or whether it is just more grandstanding by Mr Pettersson and Mr Davis. The reality is that, regardless of its intent, it will not do what you think it will do.
MR BARR (Kurrajong—Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Climate Action, Minister for Economic Development and Minister for Tourism) (4.23): I am pleased to rise in support of Mr Pettersson’s bill, in this, the in-principle debate. As is clear, the bill is about implementing a new approach to get people who are using drugs the help they need to end their addiction. By removing the criminal stigma of low-level drug possession whilst also boosting rehabilitation and medical support, we seek to act to break the drug abuse cycle. That means less crime and it means reduced harm to the individual, their family and friends and the broader community. What it means is that police investigation and prosecution resources are freed up to focus on the dealers and the traffickers.
The criminal war on personal drug use has failed, over many decades, in Australia and around the world. Milton Friedman was banging on about this in the 1970s. I suggest to any conservative who has doubts about this that one of the greatest right-wing economic thinkers of the last century, a Nobel Prize winner, Milton Friedman, wrote about this and it is worth spending some time reading what he had to say during his life, his long life, on this issue. I would not put myself in the Milton Friedman camp