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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 9 Hansard (17 August) . . Page.. 3699..

MRS CROSS (continuing):

hard to ensure that illegal drugs do not end up in the hands of children, only to have these scenes perpetuated.

These drug cultures pose massive risks to the general health of the community through the natural side effects of substance abuse, such as neurological damage. But there also remain dangers for drug users due to the unpredictable nature of the concentration and composition of various illegal recreational drugs. Whilst drug-induced deaths Australia wide constitute only about 1 to 11/2 per cent of all deaths each year, the tragedy of this statistic is that the overwhelming majority of these deaths are well before their time. Constantly, around 70 per cent of these deaths are of people between the ages of 15 and 44. But that is just the half of it. Many more live in the torment of addiction. These people have just as much to add to their families and communities in their own way as all 17 of us here, but are constrained by their addictions.

The destruction of the illegal drug trade, and nothing less, is the primary aim of drug trafficking legislation. The Criminal Code (Serious Drug Offences) Amendment Bill 2004 provides what we all hope will be an efficient and effective mechanism for achieving just that. It is for these reasons that I will support this bill.

I shall be supporting Mr Stefaniak's Drugs of Dependence Amendment Bill 2004 for similar reasons. Mr Stefaniak's bill increases the penalties for minor cannabis offences. Whilst the changes are only minor, they are important in sending the right message that cannabis use is dangerous and unacceptable in our society.

Cannabis is a gateway drug that often leads to the use of harder and more dangerous drugs and therefore cannot be viewed as acceptable in any way. In Canberra, there is a general belief that cannabis use is acceptable because the possession of small amounts of cannabis has been decriminalised. Simply put, cannabis is used more freely in the ACT because possession and use in small amounts is allowed under law. There is no legal deterrent against cannabis use in the ACT. Mr Stefaniak's legislation goes a small way to remedying that and re-establishing the attitude that cannabis use is not acceptable in the ACT.

Debate interrupted in accordance with standing order 74 and the resumption of the debate made an order of the day for a later hour.

Sitting suspended from 12.24 to 2.30 pm.

Questions without notice

Mental health

MR SMYTH: Mr Speaker, my question is to the acting Minister for Health, Mr Wood. Minister, the federal Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission held a community consultation yesterday at Old Parliament House, with general agreement reached that Canberra's mental health system under Labor is very bad. Professor Brian Hickie, a national expert in mental health, said he was alarmed by reports that the mental health system was turning away mentally ill people, because they presented too early, and telling them to come back later when their problems were more acute. He said, "It's a nonsensical system that will inevitably lead to tragic outcomes."Why is the ACT

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