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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 13 Hansard (Tuesday, 30 November 2021) . . Page.. 3828 ..

I would like to thank my fellow committee members, Dr Paterson and Mr Cain, for their hard work and commitment to the community throughout this process. I am proud that the report we have worked on together will be a small part of such an important and life-altering reform. Lastly, I would like to thank Mr Pettersson for having the political courage and strength of his convictions to bring this important legislation to the Assembly.

MR PETTERSSON (Yerrabi) (11.05): I thank all the members of the committee for their hard work inquiring into this bill throughout the year. The committee process is an important and often unappreciated part of the parliamentary system. Having observed some of the proceedings and some of the submissions, I believe that this inquiry was a productive and worthwhile inquiry that will benefit our discourse on this important issue, and I most definitely look forward to reading the report.

Since I first raised this proposal, I have been encouraged by the genuine community engagement in this debate. I think that, without fail, there is genuine community concern about the wellbeing of people that use drugs and the wider societal impact of these substances. This is an issue on which good people can have different views. I am heartened that this debate has, for the most part, been void of scaremongering.

I have said a lot about drug law reform over the past year, and I do not seek to turn the tabling of this report into a debate. I will save the substantive debate on this issue for the debate on the bill itself. Once again, I want to thank all members.

MR CAIN (Ginninderra) (11.07), in reply: I want to touch on something I closed with in my opening: this bill, if passed, would conflict with commonwealth legislation. The police, therefore, would have different obligations under ACT and commonwealth law. Preferring the ACT approach with respect to these extremely harmful substances may well place them at professional risk. The Legislative Assembly, in my opinion, cannot conscionably place this burden on ACT police.

I want to emphasise that passage of this bill is not essential for effective government support for those who suffer from drug addiction. The government has an arsenal of resources and options available to it to improve support for the drug-affected community in our city.

Opposing the bill should not be equated with a cold-hearted indifference to people who suffer from drug harm. I would certainly reject that from my own perspective. Having seen what abuse of substances, of alcohol in particular, can do within a family and within a community, I want to say that opposing the bill should not be equated with a disregard for those who suffer, either the users or those around them.

In my opinion, the bill fails to offer a whole-of-government approach to this complex policy area. The bill fails to consider the risks and unintended consequences involved in decriminalisation, including the elevated risks of attracting drug tourism and further investment by local drug producers, traffickers and suppliers. The bill fails to recognise that criminalising possession is, for many, a deterrent to adopting such behaviour. The bill fails to recognise that diversion in the ACT is already working reasonably well. And the bill fails to satisfactorily resolve the issues around the conflict with commonwealth legislation.

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