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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 9 Hansard (1 September) . . Page.. 2675 ..

MR RUGENDYKE (continuing):

Mr Speaker, that attitude was reflected in the national drug strategy figures released yesterday. The proportion of teenage girls using marijuana increased from 20 per cent in 1995 to 34 per cent in 1998. The proportion of teenage cannabis smokers increased from 29 per cent in 1995 to 35 per cent last year. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare said that the figures indicate that cannabis is the forgotten drug. The health and education messages sent by strong laws cannot be ignored.

Mr Speaker, there were 18,224 deaths from tobacco smoking in 1997, according to the Bureau of Statistics. The number of deaths from drug dependence in the same year was 596. Therefore, why are we on this path of making another harmful product freely available? (Extension of time granted) There are other issues to consider, including the increased number of cannabis-related road deaths, businesses losing as much as 5 per cent productivity through drug misuse by employees and safety issues at the workplace. But my greatest concern is for our kids. If my proposal deters just one person from becoming an addict, it is worth fighting for. Mr Speaker, I commend the Bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Moore ) adjourned.


MR RUGENDYKE (10.56): Mr Speaker, I present the Children's Services Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1999, together with its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MR RUGENDYKE: Mr Speaker, I move:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

Mr Speaker, I table these amendments to the Children's Services Act in an effort to iron out some problems associated with the introduction of the Children's Court Magistrate last year. I am a supporter of the philosophy of having a Children's Court Magistrate. I believe that the appointment of the Children's Court Magistrate was an important and positive improvement to the ACT judicial system. However, there are aspects of the current structure that are causing difficulties in practice. Mr Speaker, these difficulties need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

The amendments I propose are minor adjustments to the system to improve the workability and flexibility of the court. The two key changes are, firstly, enabling the Chief Magistrate to assign another magistrate in the event of the designated Children's Court Magistrate being unavailable or for other good reasons, such as a conflict of interest whereby the Children's Court Magistrate needs to stand down; and, secondly, reducing the term of the designated Children's Court Magistrate from three years to two years.

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