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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (9 May) . . Page.. 1409 ..

Drugs of Dependence Amendment Bill 2002

Debate resumed from 7 March 2002, on motion by Mr Stanhope:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR SMYTH (11.55): Mr Speaker, the Drugs of Dependence Amendment Bill 2002 is to tighten the current act so it more accurately reflects the original policy, and to update the act to bring it into the year 2002. There are five main points. It will simplify section 58, to make it easier to read, and it will update the medical terminology to bring it into line with current practice. A clause which says it is only to be prescribed for those under the age of 19 years will be deleted. That will bring it into line, as it is now recognised that there are adult ADD sufferers. It will then bring the fines into a current situation and also make them relative to other fines. They are in penalty units, rather than set dollar amounts. It validates approvals that have been issued by the chief health officer since 1989. I think we should look very closely at all bills where we legislate retrospectively, to make sure that what we are doing is correct and appropriate. The Liberal Party has looked at this bill. We agree with its intent, and will be voting to pass the bill.

MS TUCKER (11.56): Mr Speaker, the Greens support this bill in principle but have some unresolved concerns about details. I understand members have agreed to adjourn this debate until next week, after the in-principle stage. In particular, I am concerned about the freeing-up of the prescription of Ritalin. It says in the tabling statement that the term "hyperkinetic syndrome" will be replaced by "attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder", a term which is used internationally. The phrase "under the age of 19 years" will be deleted from subsection 58 (4). This reflects current prescribing practice, which recognises that some adults suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and may benefit from the prescription of amphetamines, and ensures that persons who commenced beneficial therapy whilst children are not disadvantaged when adulthood is reached.

That sounds fine, but I am sure most, if not all, people in this place are aware that current prescribing practice is coming under challenge. Just recently, there was an article covering the number of preschool children who are medicated. There is now an international debate about medication of children for what some people see to be no more than just the exuberance or other-worldliness of childhood.

The medicalisation of children has been increasing. I think it is time we, as a parliament or an assembly, really thought about this. We are now accepting current prescribing practices. We are changing law, and I believe we should be thinking about whether or not that is appropriate.

Staff from my office have talked to people who work in the drug abuse area. They are concerned because there has been an increase in the injecting of Ritalin. It is a drug that people trade. If we are going to start freeing-up further prescription of it, we should have that discussion first. Perhaps members will still agree that this is okay, but I would like the opportunity to have that fuller debate.

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