Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 9 Hansard (19 August) . . Page.. 3923..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
The simple cannabis offence notice scheme simply applies to the consequences of that, as we discussed during the debate. A criminal penalty still applies to the possession of any amount of cannabis. It is just that one can avoid court, or avoid the full weight of the criminal process, by paying the fine that applies for the possession of that personal amount or personal supply within a 60-day period. If the fine is not paid within 60 days, the full weight of the criminal process is brought to bear. So, to that extent, nothing changes.
If one is found by the police today in possession of cannabis, essentially the consequence is exactly the same as it was three days ago. It is still a criminal offence. The penalty is still the same, and the payment requirements in relation to penalty are still the same. The consequences of not making the payment within the designated period remain the same. So, almost all of the consequences of the possession of cannabis remain exactly as they were. That has not changed. It is just that the upper limit of the amount that is relevant has changed, and the consequences of that are particularly significant. So, of course, we will ensure that there is a transition period, and we will ensure that we communicate as broadly as possible that the nature of the offence in relation to cannabis has changed through the reduction from five to two plants.
MR CORNWELL: My question is directed to the minister for education. Mr Quinlan announced in this morning's paper that the department of education has commissioned an independent investigator, Quality Management Solutions, to investigate serious allegations of impropriety in the department of education. The whistleblower first made his PID disclosure on January 19, but your department has waited months until now before you acted. Why is this? Why has there been such a delay?
MS GALLAGHER: It is difficult to answer the question because this matter is under investigation and I am not able to be briefed on it. We are taking advice as to whether I can now be briefed-considering the fact that it is basically public-and whether that has compromised the public interest disclosure legislation. It appears that it may have been and that I may now be briefed on the subject.
My understanding-and I have been briefed only on how the matter gets handled, not the substance of the allegations-is that, on receipt of the public interest disclosure, there were a number of allegations, apparently not made in a coherent way. It has taken some time-
Mr Smyth: Discredit the witness.
MS GALLAGHER: Look, you want the answer; I am giving you the advice I have been given. If you want it, listen to it. The advice I was given was that it was not written in a way that allowed for an easy process to be commenced straight away; that a fair bit of work went into making that process easier to happen; and that the engagement of the independent investigator occurred in July this year. It was not a matter of sitting around and not doing anything, but more about making sure that the process embarked upon was the proper process; that everyone understood what needed to be investigated; and that it was handled smoothly.