Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 9 Hansard (17 August) . . Page.. 3753..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
This would increase the maximum penalty for possession of cannabis for each plant from one penalty unit to two penalty units. I've already spoken on the need for an increase here in relation to these infringement notices. I just commend to members the points I made in relation to that. That would also be consistent with the amendments and the bill that I have before the Assembly which we are debating cognately.
MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Environment and Minister for Community Affairs) (5.47): Mr Speaker the government won't be supporting Mr Stefaniak's amendment or the proposals of the Liberal Party in relation to the SCON scheme. We don't believe that the fine of one penalty unit of $100 in relation to possession of cannabis should be increased simply as a result of the effluxion of time, which essentially I think is the position that the Liberal Party puts in relation to this particular amendment, namely, since it is about 10 years since this scheme came into place it's time for us to increase the penalty that applies to the possession of even a minimal amount of cannabis from $100 to $200. I might just say now that associated with this particular proposal is the proposal to also reduce the time to pay the fine from 60 to 28 days.
The thing I'd say in relation to both of these is that you could stand here at any time and argue about penalties and the appropriateness of penalties. It's an argument that can go on forever and to which effectively there is no end. I don't believe the case has been made for increasing the fine from $100 to $200 for the possession offence. I don't believe the change from $100 to $200 will have any deterrent effect at all in relation to somebody that's using cannabis for recreational purposes. It doesn't have a deterrent effect if essentially it does impact the simple cannabis offence notice scheme in any way. Particularly, if it affects it detrimentally then it shouldn't be done. I just don't think the case is made that, just because it seems like a reasonable thing to do-without any basis other than that-it should be supported at all.
I'll just make the point now that I would make in relation to the next amendment in relation to the reduction in the time to pay from 60 to 28 days: I think that's a proposed amendment that I have stronger views in opposition to. I think that the likely outcome of a reduction in time is that fewer people would pay the $100; and if it were $200, then significantly fewer people would pay. In fact, we would see a response that we seek to avoid altogether in relation to the simple cannabis offence notice scheme, namely, we don't want people to go to court. That's why we've established and why we support the scheme-we don't want them to go there at all.
By increasing the fine to $200, and reducing the time to pay from 60 to 28 days, it seems to me that you're undermining the very principle of the simple cannabis offence notice scheme. If people have only got 28 days, and if it's $200, they're less likely to have the ready cash, are less likely to pay within the 28 days and are more likely to end up in court. This particular scheme, in relation to the recreational use of minor amounts of cannabis, is all about keeping people away from the courts, and these amendments should be opposed.
MS TUCKER (5.51): The Greens would not be supporting these amendments. Basically, Mr Stefaniak appears to want to make it harder not to have to deal with the courts. He wants to make it harder by giving people less time and making them pay more