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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 9 Hansard (17 August) . . Page.. 3749..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

We need to understand, I think in relation to this group of organised criminals-that criminal element that does deal in illicit substances-it can't be gainsaid that we're dealing with perhaps the ugliest group of criminals we have in our society. I think there's no doubt about that. I think it would be almost the pervasive view of the community that amongst the ugliest group of criminals that we harbour or that we spurn or that we produce are those that deal in the grim business of trading illicit drugs.

The community must have a response to that group of criminals. This is a group of criminals who will stop at nothing; they will murder as quick as look at you; they will maim; they will kidnap; they will cajole; they will intimidate; they will corrupt without thinking, without blush. We need to be able to respond. It is a fact that we need from time to time to adjust our responses in response to the innovation and the change of that group of criminals. We must be smarter; we must continually review; we must look for ways of dealing with that group of vicious criminals who unfortunately are part and parcel or our society and our community.

This legislation seeks to do that. It's a piece of legislation that's come out of a discussion paper that was first developed and released in 1997. It was released broadly. The inquiry wasn't trammelled. Consultation engaged all of the stakeholders, all of those involved in a consideration of drug law reform. This was not an inquiry that was held in secret or behind closed doors. It was open. It was open to the nation. Enormous steps were taken to engage and to consult. That was back in 1997, seven years ago, when the discussion paper was first released, when the discussion was held. It then progressed to a report, once again through a highly consultative and negotiated contexting process.

So you can't say that this has been sprung on anybody. It's a process, a report and a direction that was consulted. At the end of the day of course there are always a range of views and a group of people who believe that the criminal process is not appropriate in our attempts to stamp out illicit drug dealing. It's an argument we're all alive to. We all know the pros and cons.

This is a jurisdiction that's committed to harm minimisation. There's a view around that there's only one definition of harm minimisation and that harm minimisation just goes to that element of support or humanity for those people within the community who have become addicted to illicit substances. There's a view about that one can see that harm minimisation has a far broader focus and definition and that harm minimisation at its heart must include a determination to deal with the supply side-not just the demand side. It must also deal with the supply of illicit substances. I think it's the bulwark of a commitment to harm minimisation that you seek to deal with the supply of illicit substances.

That's what this piece of legislation does. It deals with that first element of harm minimisation. This is not a piece of legislation or a process or a policy that seeks to deal, attempts to deal, with that other aspect of harm minimisation that occupies much of the debate around drug law reform, namely, the appropriate way of treating or dealing with or responding to the needs of people who have become addicted to illicit substances. This is that part of the harm minimisation commitment that goes to stopping the whole-scale, untrammelled supply of illicit substances.

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