Page 3734 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 27 August 2008

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introduced there has not been a very large opportunity to properly consider the evidence and the likely impact of bans on the sale of these items.

More importantly, there has not been an opportunity to consult with the drug and alcohol sector and the local community as was recommended by the standing committee’s inquiry. In the absence of evidence supporting the criminalisation of the sale or supply of drug equipment it is appropriate that law enforcement efforts should continue to focus on the disruption of the drug trade in the ACT. As I have already foreshadowed, Mr Speaker, the government would be willing to consider supporting this bill in principle if there was an amendment to provide for the prohibition on the display but not the sale of these items in retail premises in the territory.

Turning again to law enforcement, the advice I have received from ACT Policing is that their drug intelligence and drug investigations teams have had a great deal of success in the seizure of illicit drugs. This supports the view of the government that the current targeted approach to disrupting the supply of illicit drugs in the territory is an effective one.

ACT Policing also advises that the existing drug enforcement legislation, in terms of existing offences and penalties associated with those offences, is generally satisfactory in attending to the issue of illicit drug use in the territory. Investment in education and treatment options remains an effective way of preventing and reducing harms caused by illicit drug use. Paramount to the success of these strategies in these areas is the importance of making certain that where law enforcement measures are deployed in addressing illicit drugs, those measures are informed and underpinned by evidence. I have not seen any evidence that the sale of these items used for the administration of illicit drugs leads to an uptake of illicit drugs. I am concerned that any response we make is not a knee-jerk one.

In relation to ice pipes, I note that there remains a great deal of uncertainty about the possible harm brought about by banning their sale. Consumers of the purest form of methamphetamine, ice, often choose to inhale vaporised ice through a moulded glass or perspex pipe. Although a ban on the sale of ice pipes may lead to a decrease in the smoking of ice, it may also lead to the sharing of pipes, which brings with it an increased risk of hepatitis C transmission. A ban could also lead people to take up injecting ice, an activity we know on the basis of evidence carries a significantly higher health risk.

In conclusion, the government is looking forward to participating in the ministerial council’s discussions on this matter. The government will consider the discussion paper and the available evidence on this issue in arriving at a future position on the ban of the sale of illicit drug paraphernalia. However, Mr Speaker, there are I think good reasons to give serious consideration to the potential prohibition on the display prior to sale of these items. The argument, of course, is one similar to that adopted in relation to tobacco. If the display of the items is less obvious, maybe it could lead to fewer people choosing to consider using those items in the first place.

Whilst we approach this bill with some caution, we do not entirely rule out the possibility of banning the display of these items as proposed by Mr Mulcahy in his bill at this time. But we are yet to be convinced that a prohibition on the sale of them will achieve the outcome Mr Mulcahy seeks.

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