Page 3296 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 20 August 2008
I will go through the specific provisions of the bill shortly but I will start with a few general remarks. We presently have the extraordinary situation in the ACT where it is possible for an individual to walk into a shop and purchase, for example, an ice pipe. There is no denying what the purpose of this currently legally sold piece of equipment is. It is to consume the methamphetamine or the drug that is commonly known as ice. Ice, in case anyone was not aware, leads to increased heart rate, blood pressure and damage to blood vessels in the brain leading to strokes, heart attacks and death. It is extremely addictive and harmful. Yet in the ACT it is legal for stores to sell a pipe that is used for the consumption of this dangerous and illegal drug.
Similarly, a Canberra resident can walk into a store and purchase a water pipe or bong to smoke marijuana. I suspect that there are some in this place, and certainly there are a number in the community, who believe that marijuana is not a harmful drug. But, in fact, significant evidence exists now to the contrary. Just as significantly, it is an illicit drug.
Our children are taught from a relatively young age that drugs like marijuana, cocaine and ice are dangerous. They are taught about the damage that drug addiction can cause. Yet those same children when walking through a shopping centre can see the paraphernalia that is associated with this sort of behaviour—and, I make the point, only this sort of behaviour—on display and on sale. This bill seeks to put an end to this mixed message. It will make the sale of drug paraphernalia illegal and send a clear message to the community that the ACT does not tolerate or promote illicit drug usage.
I make the point that the Minister for Health has this year introduced legislation to make the display of tobacco products illegal. This change, if it is successfully passed, will have a substantial impact on local supermarkets and stores. Tobacco, of course, is not illegal. Cigarettes, damaging though they may be, are a legal item that can be purchased and used, subject to age restraints and smoking in public area laws, at will by residents. This is a choice that people make but I believe that the government’s position makes it quite difficult for them not to support my bill. The minister said in her introductory speech:
Storing tobacco out of site will prevent people, in particular children, from being able to see tobacco. Research shows that point of sale display acts to promote and normalise smoking. The territory will be the first to send the message that it is not normal.
On that particular issue, the message is clear. The government believes that the display of a product normalises its use. In my opinion, and this is backed up by evidence, the dangers of illicit drug use are substantial. By the government’s own logic, the display of drug paraphernalia normalises the use of illicit drugs, especially to impressionable children. One can walk just two minutes from this building and see drug paraphernalia in public view right here in the centre of Canberra.
Clearly this bill is needed, Mr Speaker. I will make the point at this stage of my remarks that this bill is not in itself a solution to the problems that we as a society are facing because of illicit drugs. It will not stop people using illicit drugs but it is a step in the right direction.