Page 3402 - Week 10 - Thursday, 20 October 2022
We believe the answer is not less of a crime response but is in fact a no-crime response. It is also problematic that the bill and the amendments will both see these lower quantities established. When the trafficable and greater quantities were established in the code regulation, it was on the basis of robust independent analysis as to the amount of substances that people typically purchase for personal use.
There is no descriptor assigned to amounts of a substance less than trafficable quantities, but if an amount is less than trafficable I would be hard pressed to label it as being for anything other than personal use. It is not clear what the problem would be to align the upper limit of personal possession with the lower limit of trafficable quantities. We understand that this is attempting to pertain to dealers who may only have smaller amounts on them, but the fact is that trafficking remains an offence for any quantity of drugs—any quantity even below these personal amounts.
There can still be a case made where the evidence is clear that someone is trafficking in the way that the law is currently set. We believe it is a blunt and callous tool to include in this higher level, more punitive offence people who possess drugs for personal use, simply to avoid having to prove the trafficking elements of those other offences that are available.
My colleague Ms Davidson is absent today but, as the Minister for Mental Health and with her long-term interest in these matters, she did want to make a few observations as well, which I will share on her behalf as part of my remarks. The Australian national survey of mental health and wellbeing in 2007 found that 35 per cent of individuals with a substance use disorder also meet the diagnostic criteria for at least one co-occurring mood or anxiety disorder. The rate is even higher for people receiving treatment for either condition. A recent Australian study found that 70 per cent of those in alcohol and drug residential rehabilitation were experiencing a current anxiety disorder and 55 per cent were experiencing current depression. A 2010 survey of people with psychosis found that 50 per cent with a psychotic disorder requiring treatment also had a lifetime history of alcohol abuse or dependence.
Given these challenges, it is critical that appropriate supports are in place. A fundamental part of this discussion is the response that we make to provide people with those health services. It is no surprise that people with mental illness and substance use issue are a key priority group in the National Drug Strategy 2017-2026, in the ACT government’s Drug Strategy Action Plan 2018-2021 and in the next drug strategy action plan, currently being developed. It is also a key commitment that is outlined in the tenth parliamentary and governing agreement for the Assembly, which includes commitments to improve programs that target and support alcohol or other drug use and mental health together.
There are a number of services that provide integrated supports for people with co-occurring mental health and alcohol or other drug issues at different levels of need. I will touch on a couple of those. In response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in August 2021 the mental health, justice health, alcohol and drug services set up a COVID-19 community response team which included experienced mental health and drug and alcohol nurses who provided clinical supports to people in quarantine and isolation. These nurses conducted assessments, provided support to people affected by substance use and dependence and helped to manage withdrawal symptoms and mental health issues.